Click2Map is a simple to use tool enabling you, or your students, to create annotated maps.

We have used it with students who need to revise the battles of the Western Front. Students posted the key facts and a picture onto a map. The process of looking up the information from their notes and locating each battle correctly was useful revision in itself, and they now have a saved map to revise from for their exams.

Here is a screenshot of a map in progress:

Click2Map 2

This idea of making a map to capture key details that need revising could apply to so many topics. For example, the trails of the pioneers who moved west in North America in the 1800s, or the main events of the Cold War in Europe 1947-1989.

Students might enjoy mapping the places a key individual is associated with, such as Alexander von Humboldt. Students could identify an image from each place and write up what he discovered/ thought there. Another idea would be to map distinctive cathedrals of Europe. Students could be limited to ten cathedrals and asked to present them on a map with annotation as to why each one made a significant contribution to the development of European cathedral architecture. Students could then review each other’s maps and comment on their choices. Students could develop a tour on a particular topic for their home town. We are about to trial a project where our 12 year-old students develop different 10-stage walking tours of the city; one from the Middle Ages, one from the 19th century etc. Really, if you can map it you can do it! Students often have quite a poor sense of place, so using these maps in your own teaching, or asking them to produce maps will be a useful support to help them to think historically.

After initial sign-up at, you will have a landing page called ‘My Maps’. Here you will find the list of all the maps you have published. You can edit existing maps, or create new ones. ‘Create a new map’ asks you for a title and then enables you to set a background map from the level of very local (village/town level) to a world map. You can then go to ‘new’ and add ‘markers’ one by one. These can include text, photos, video links and other urls. The markers can be in various colours and they open when they are clicked upon. The markers are located on the map by simply adding the location in the typing box. Click2map then searches for the coordinates to locate it accurately. It’s also easy to add lines to show routes and polygons to show areas of territory in the same way. All very clever! This digital tool works on all devices, it is free to use and requires a straightforward registration process if you want to be able to save and share maps you make.

As ever, do have a go and share with us any great ideas, success stories!

Digital platforms: teaching your history students beyond the classroom!

A quick review of the landscape!

When I was at school (at some time in the far and distant past), no teacher could continue to teach me from a distance. I was a good student, so my file was always in order, but I can’t say I really had a clear sense of the whole course I was studying. All my notes were paper based.
I am increasingly a teacher who continues to teach my students when they are out of school. I organise them and show them where what they are learning fits into a course plan. I teach using a range of media. All this is possible because of the many digital platforms out there.

Digital platforms 1If you have students with iPads you can use iTunesU to build courses and share materials. It is true to say that it has amazing features, allowing you to structure a course, invite students, load up all kinds of material, see what your students have accessed and use it as a markbook. However, it is limited to users of iPads and therefore can’t be a top recommendation.
Digital platforms 2Microsoft have developed Class Notebook as part of their Office software. This has many of the same features as iTunesU and a collaboration space. After you have set it up it runs through OneNote. The advantage is that it is available on any device. The disadvantage is that you (or your school) has to have a Microsoft Office Subscription. So again, a good tool, but it can’t be my focus here.

I am going to focus upon using Google Drive with students. For this you do have to be over 14 to get a Google account. However, after that hurdle, it is free and available on any device.

Organising and promoting your students’ learning using Google Drive

Once you have a Google account you can use Drive from anywhere. It is a place for shared files and documents. My older students have a folder called ‘History 2016-2018’ (they are studying a two year exam course). Within that folder are folders for each unit of the exam course.  Within these there are then folders for each topic. It’s up to you how many folders you create and how you structure them. You simply share the first (top) folder with your students’ gmail addresses and they can access any material in that folder.

In each of the topic folders I put all the learning materials they need, such as picture sources, worksheets, reading material, essay plans and weblinks. Loading files is simple. You just click on ‘New’ and ‘File upload’. You can also upload complete folders of material. This way I can make sure they are organised and can clearly see how each piece of work fits into the whole course.

A lot of the material I put up is in the form of PDFs, Powerpoints, Jpegs, WordDocs and the like.  That is, material I am not expecting students to collaborate on.  They can download these documents and work on them on- or offline. It is especially useful if a student has missed class to be able to send them to the right folder to get the lesson materials.

Student work and collaboration

I can also ask students to access a document or link that I have loaded, to work with it and share their work with me. Google Drive allows me to see who has been active, so I know before students arrive in class who has, and has not, done the work I asked for.

I also create new Docs (like Word), Slides (like Powerpoint), Forms (like Excel), Forms (reviewed elsewhere on this blog), Sites, Drawings and My Maps. All of these allow group collaboration. This can be done in class, or as home work. For example, I might have a trial exam question in Docs and ask students to collaborate to create an answer. Or I might create a Slides of pictures and ask them to collaborate to re-arrange them to create a gallery space with captions to inform the viewer and make an interpretation from the collection. All of these collaboration efforts are then available for students to download and use in their future work and for exam revision.

Digital platforms image

There are ways that you can make sure everyone is taking part. For example, I ask students to adopt a colour font at the start of the year. That way, I can see whose words are in the Docs etc. When you work online at the same time, everyone’s name pops up. We still enjoy it and think it’s a bit like something out of a Harry Potter book! It’s fun and collaborating together in class promotes discussion and debate.

This really is a very simple adaption to make to your planning. Students love it and they are gaining skills with the sort of digital tools and online organisation valued by employers. Senior managers in school like it too, as it is very easy to show parents how supported students are in their work.

VR in the History Classroom

Previous experiences of VR compared to VR today

I remember my first experience of virtual reality. It was in the early nineties and I’d have been about twelve. I went to a computer games arcade and they had a virtual reality machine. You had to put a ridiculously heavy helmet on and these weird smelly gloves. It was very exciting. And then the game began. It looked blocky, the movements were glitchy and it was frankly a disappointment. I wish I had spent my pound on another game of Daytona.

Now let’s move on to a more recent time. At Christmas I went to my girlfriend’s family home and her brother had a cheap VR set. It looked like a big pair of goggles and he slipped his smart phone into the back of it. Following my previous experience I was a little cynical but times have certainly changed. Rather than a big bulky headset this was a light small piece of tech. Where the visuals were blocky and glitchy it was now smooth. VR has clearly arrived. And what is really impressive is that it won’t cost you a fortune.

What do you need to get your virtual reality kit?

VR in the history classroom

    1. You need a headset. You can get them for about £6 for a cardboard one from Amazon (other retailers are also available!) by just searching for Google Cardboard. OR you can even make your own by following these instructions!
    2. On your smartphone download the Google Cardboard app. It is free and quite small.
    3. Open up the app and join the app to your headset – the instructions are in the app and took me 10 seconds.
    4. Whack your smart phone into the back of the headset.

You now have your own virtual reality headset. Honestly it is this cheap and easy. You can either download VR apps in the Google Cardboard app. Or if you want to use 360 degree videos go to YouTube and search 360 and then when you click play there is a little ‘Google Cardboard’ icon in the corner that if you click turns the video into a VR video.

Now the big question. How can it be used in the history classroom?

Well if I am honest I am not entirely sure! This is very new technology and clever bods are developing it all the time. But as soon as I began using it my head was full of potential ideas as it really is very impressive. This blog is really suggesting you all go out and get one and get thinking.

One initial idea – a virtual field trip to Auschwitz

One obvious use for the VR set is to run virtual field visits. There are a huge range of 360 degree videos on YouTube (the best ones I’ve found are from Discovery VR). There are a lot of videos of historical sites and more are coming up week by week. The joy of these 360 degree videos is they are truly immersive. You genuinely get as near a full experience of the site from this as being there as you can literally walk around and have a look. I keep repeating it but it is really impressive.

My Year 9s are studying the Holocaust at the moment so I did a little experiment. Whilst the class were working one by one I allowed students to take a 2 minute tour of Auschwitz thanks to this ace 360 degree video put up by the Krakow tourist board. The kids loved it and claimed they learnt more about the site than they would have by looking at a standard video or by looking at photos. After they had been on their ‘visit’ I got them to record their thoughts and feelings and they were really interesting:

VR in the history classroom 2

What was the impact of the VR headset?

My question is how much was this just a novel experience and did it lead to greater learning than a less technological method. My answer at the moment is I simply don’t know. But this technology is too good for this price to simply dismiss it.

Grab a headset, give it a go and let us know what you think about how you might use it.

Skitch: having a quick sketch to improve history learning

Quite often in my class I want to draw on top of a source, or onto a bit of writing I have on my whiteboard. I cannot quite work out how the complicated interactive whiteboard pens work. That was where Skitch came to the rescue.

Skitch is a free iPad or Android app that allows you to draw or write on top of photos, webpages, maps and pdfs.

It’s so easy that I am not going to give instructions on how to use it as it is best if you just have a play. But for the technophobes amongst you here are the briefest of brief instructions. Continue reading Skitch: having a quick sketch to improve history learning

MindMup: An effective digital tool to support historical thinking

One day as a home assignment I set my students the task of creating a mind map. Next day during the lesson one student said that she had found a really useful online tool for mind maps. She shared it with us and now I am sharing it with you. It’s called MindMup.

Why should I use MindMup?

Do it digitally to combine a mind map with depth of notes and other links:
The use of mind mapping during lessons is a well-known and effective tool to brainstorm ideas, show connections in thinking, and to revise ideas or concepts. We suggest using MindMup as an effective way to do this online. At its simplest, Mindmup is the same as a paper-based mindmap, just online. Mindmup is available with no ‘sign up’ at first.

The icons at the top of the screen make it straightforward to create a ‘root node’, ‘a sibling node’ and ‘a child node’. It is not possible to copy-paste large amounts of text and this forces students to summarise and select the most important information. The Mindmup has the advantage that you can add notes to each box that only appear if you click on the box. The overall connections are clear, but there is detail behind the basic structure. Summary notes can be linked to more detailed notes. In addition, pictures, web articles and film clips can be added. This means that very useful sets of revision notes can be constructed, from overall summary to greater detail. It would be useful to have a textbox function to add a title to the screen, but with this minor quibble, Mindmup is a good way to develop structured and layered notes.

Here are some other benefits:

  • Students are able to collaborate together as a group on one mind map simultaneously. Students just need a Google account. Students share thoughts and discuss improvements, then share their final product.
  • Students and teachers alike can save or share the material on Google Drive or print MindMups out for class discussions.

Where should it be used?

  • ‘Wherever you usually mindmap!’ is the simple answer. Older students who have to make revision notes are likely to find it most useful. There are many complex topics that MindMup could help with. The complex causation of war in 1914, the different aspects of the Weimar Republic, and the consequences of the fall of the Berlin Wall for European politics are just three that spring to mind. Use MindMup wherever you require students to show and explain connected thinking.

How do we actually use MindMup?

MindMups are created via You get the choice to create or open a MindMup. The best way to get to grips with this tool is to experiment for yourself with creating a MindMup. Start simply, just playing around with the three node functions: root, sibling and child. If you create a MindMup for use in class, simply put it on Google Drive and then ask students to click Open in MindMup Google so that they can work with what you have prepared for them.

(Natia Pirtskhalava)
(Natia Pirtskhalava)

There are many different structures on offer. There are structures to assist summarising, to enable comparison, to build arguments and many more. You can change the presentation structure of a pre-created MindMup to enable students to take a different perspective on the same material. For example, here is the same MindMup as before presented in a different format. You could, discuss with students which presentation is most effective for their argument. Ask them how emphasis changes in each presentation. Get them to see that the way they present ideas affects the impact they will have on their audience. Get them to see that their purpose will define what structures they choose to adopt. Making all this clear helps students to see the processes of historical thinking more clearly.

A MindMup presenting a much more complex argument (Natia Pirtskhalava)
A MindMup presenting a much more complex argument (Natia Pirtskhalava)

Finally, don’t trust me, here’s a student view!

MindMup helped us to discuss and sum up the different reasons for the collapse of the Weimar Republic. In cooperation with the whole classI found it amazingly effective to see the global picture in combination. I was able to organise all the information so that I could use it as effective evidence for my arguments. We could also go deeper, point by point to determine which reasons became more important and why. Argument mapping helps me to apply argument building strategy in my daily life.