We’d Like to Hear From You: Teachers Using Historypin

Krista White, Digital Humanities Librarian and Head of Media Services at the John Cotton Dana Library at Rutgers University, leading a Historypin workshop for teachers on July 15th. Source: Twitter

Krista White, Digital Humanities Librarian and Head of Media Services at the John Cotton Dana Library at Rutgers University, leading a Historypin workshop for teachers on July 15th. Source: Twitter

I recently had the pleasure of hearing from Mary Grace Wheelan (New Jersey Council for the Humanities (NJCH)) and Krista White (Rutgers University Libraries), who helped put together a Historypin training workshop for teachers at Rutgers’ Price Institute this past July. The workshop, part of a NJCH teacher development series called “Making Local History Matter,” introduced Historypin amongst a variety of digital tools to aid students in becoming community historians. Mary Grace and Krista had some really good feedback, not only about their experiences running the workshop but first-hand experiences from teachers on using Historypin. Some examples:

  • Mary Grace stressed the importance of showing and not just telling during a workshop. “You need to let people practice.”
  • Prep work always helps (and we second this!): They asked teachers to bring in one photograph of a place in their neighborhood beforehand so they had something to pin during the workshop. They also thought about the staff they would need to assist teachers during the session, and ended up enlisting two aids based upon how many people signed up.
  • File management: Krista and Mary Grace brought up that many teachers did not immediately think of file management when going in to use Historypin. They suggested Google Drive as an option for administering their projects, where teachers can have students initially submit photos plus the accompanying information via a simple Google Form. Analog forms are also an option, examples of which we have on our schools page.
  • Speaking of Google tools: They also pointed out that you shouldn’t assume that all teachers are familiar with Google tools (some of the teachers in the workshop were not), and have a way of gauging this either before or at the beginning of the workshop so no one gets left behind.

This is a sample of some of their useful feedback, and we want to hear from you too. Do any teachers have tips on running Historypin workshops? What works for you and what doesn’t? Do you as a teacher have particular concerns over using Historypin with your students? 

Leave your comments here or via our Twitter or Facebook pages. Your feedback is extremely valuable as we continue to develop our tools and projects!

Great Historypin Resource for Teachers

Thanks to Wade Gegan and the team at Fractus Learning, Historypin has been featured as part of their Bitesize PD (professional development) series.  The short article does a great job condensing the essential elements of Historypin and how it might be used by teachers in a wide variety of settings.

After a brief overview of the site, they go into some practical applications and pull in some our various resources for teachers and classrooms, as well as examples of how Historypin has been used in various settings.  Click through to the full article below.

Incorporating Historypin Into College Coursework

After seeing a tweet about how students at Slippery Rock University teamed up with Lawrence County Historical Society to add some amazing content to Historypin, we asked Dr. Aaron Cowan to tell us more. Dr. Cowan is a historian and assistant professor of History at this mid-sized state university in western Pennsylvania, where he teaches modern US, urban, and public history.

Why did you choose Historypin for this particular project?

The Historypin project was a part of my Introduction to Public History undergraduate course; the class partnered with the Lawrence County Historical Society (LCHS) in nearby New Castle, PA to select, research, and upload historical images to Historypin.  Students worked in groups of 3, with each group member performing specific roles

Historypin seemed like the ideal platform to allow undergraduates to understand the potential of digital history, and create a presentable public history project, without the technology “getting in the way” – within the confines of a 15-week academic term, they needed to focus on historical research, not learning the intricacies of Javascript or how to work with GoogleEarth databases.   I’m also fascinated by the potential for location-based digital history for increasing community engagement, so again – Historypin was a great fit!

A photo of my students "in action" - selecting images from the archives of the historical society back in March. We set up 24 computer stations one Saturday and worked all day in their digital images – it was a fun time!

What were some of the things that worked well?

The project was great for teaching students research skills; even some of our History majors found local history research to be a new challenge – rather different than writing a standard term paper where they could pull some books and journal articles from the library and synthesize those into an essay.  One advantage we had is that the city’s main newspaper has been digitized and available through NewspaperArchive; keyword searching is a wonderful thing!  Hard to believe students may never know the tedious experience of scrolling through microfilm…

Students took a good deal of ownership with the project; they were very enthusiastic about the fact that their research was going to be publicly presented & not simply submitted to the professor.  Reflecting on the project, one student commented, “For the first time in my four years as a history major, I felt like a historian and not just a history student.”

Another reflected, “The Historypin project was my favorite project I have ever completed in college because it showed me just how much work a public historian truly does. Public historians conduct a great deal of research, which is not always easy. Sometimes, they must do some digging to find that missing element that brings the whole project together…the experience also showed our group just how much collaboration needs to be done for the end result to be successful.”

What didn’t work well, or what would you change if you did this again?

In the future, I’ll allow more time for the students’ research – several simply underestimated the difficulty of the research, and hit roadblocks.  I’ll also spend more time educating them on resources for local history (city directories, insurance maps, etc.) and connecting them to the local history/genealogy staff at the city library.  On a related note, I would probably assign fewer images (initially, each student was assigned 5) to allow them more time.

Do you think this is a replicable model? It seems like there are so many small historical societies and the like that we could help get online…

I think it’s very replicable; my hope is to continue the project each year – either with this historical society or others in the area.  One advantage for this project is that the LCHS had already digitized their entire collection, so students didn’t have to sift through disorganized prints and then worry about proper scanning resolution, format, size, etc. – though of course a project involving those tasks would also teach valuable skills!

LCHS, like most of the county historical societies in our area, is understaffed and underfunded, even though their historical resources are amazing.  They need to create greater community investment and engagement, and to connect with younger audiences.  Hopefully the Historypin project provides a way for them to begin doing just that.

Clear guidelines and expectations are essential (and I’d be happy to share mine – anyone interested can email me at aaron.cowan@sru.edu).

What were some favorite/interesting pieces of content that came from the project?

The photo of a 1925 KKK picnic in the city’s park caused quite a stir among the students; New Castle – and western Pennsylvania generally – had a strong contingent of the 1920s Klan because of nativist fears of Catholic “new immigrants” drawn to jobs in the region’s steel and ancillary industries.  Another unusual find was a photo of a 1976 bank robbery in progress (pulled from bank security cameras).

On a lighter note, a 1912 photo circus parade of elephants marching through downtown was a fun addition.

Were there any surprise social outcomes of this? 

I had hoped social connections between community residents and students would be a more prominent part of the project, but it did not materialize.  I think in part this is attributable to students’ hesitancy to use methods like interviews to conduct their research, in favor of online or library research. It might have been strengthened if the project had directly involved the community in some sort of workshop or public forum.

I was proud of the fact that this project brought attention to some stories – in this case, particularly African-American history – that don’t always get a lot of attention in the “official” local histories.

An oral history segment recorded by one of the students.

What kinds of history mysteries keep you up at night/wake you up in the morning?

I don’t know if specific mysteries come to mind, but I’m constantly surprised by the layers and complexity of local history – that even in small towns where everyone assumes “nothing happened” there are stories of conflict, activism, and linkages to the broader current of national and world history.  I’m very much motivated by fragments of evidence that hint at holes – what historian Michel-Rolph Trouillot has called “silences” – in the popular narrative of local history; these kinds of stories can often be empowering for people, or provide a model for a path forward to a better future.  To me, that’s the real purpose of history.

Update: You can find more of Dr. Cowan’s thoughts on this class on his blog

Great community sessions in Swindon

We had another couple of great community sessions collecting photos, stories and memories for our Remember How We Used To project, this time in Swindon.

First up was npower HQ with staff sharing their personal and local history.

The highlight for many of our team was a lively debate over the location of a particular power plant in an old photo, which many expert minds in the room could shed some light on, showing how much interaction, debate and enjoyment can come from crowdsourcing information about content.

Next up was a session at Tregoze Primary School.

60 students from Year 5 and Year 6 pupils brought in photos of weddings, births and various celebrations ranging from the 1940s to today and told each other the stories behind them.

Claire Bowen, assistant principal at the school, said: “The children had to speak to their families and neighbours about the stories behind the photos. The children and teachers [then] spent the afternoon sharing memories of the past. They had photos of their grandparents and family celebrations from years ago. Some children brought pictures of when they were born in hospital with their mums and dads, which was really nice.”

South Swindon MP Robert Buckland, also visited the school to take part in the workshop.

Miss Bowen said: “It is a whole different way of remembering the past. They had to talk to people about their photos and find out the stories behind them and then recount the story as they heard it. They were so enthusiastic about sharing their stories.”

Clare McDougall, head of community and education at npower, said: “By asking the children to speak to their families to learn more about how they grew up, we hope that their imaginations will be sparked and they’ll want to know more about life 60 years ago.”

To explore the archive and add contributions go to www.historypin.com/rememberhow.



Remembering how we used to … with Llanilltud Primary School

A few weeks ago the Historypin Team headed to Wales for a series of community workshops with schools and retirees as part of our latest project, ‘Remember how we used to’. We were joined by some super volunteers from npower and we visited pupils at Llanilltud Fawr Primary School in Llanwit Major to capture photos and stories about how our home and work lives had changed over the decades.

The Old Swan Inn, Llanwit Major, 1930s

Llanilltud pupils had been given the mission to speak to their parents and grandparents about what technology, devices and toys they had growing up. We started off with one pupil’s observation that of course the past was very different as colour had not been invented and everything was in black and white. Once that was clarified, we got stuck in talking about what the pupils had discovered.

1990s technology figured largely, with discussion about parents who had laptops and Motorola mobiles. As we delved deeper into the past we started to talk about things that were probably familiar to only some of the adults in the room. Declan’s parents had one of the earliest personal desktop computers on the market in the 1970s, the Radio Shack TRS-80 and Iona’s Dad received the handheld game Blip for his birthday in 1977. A far cry from the iPads that many pupils’ families now have.

As we turned to toys, we established that in the old days not only did they not have Playstation 3, they didn’t even have Playstation 2! The kids had lots of fun discussing their parents’ toys – one Dad had a Big Trak as a boy, and another had an electric racing car with a hand held controller.

Many students had also brought in their own photos photographs and you can see the stories shared on Llanilltud Fawr Primary School’s Channel. Lily had delved particularly deep into the past, bringing in photos of herself and her Mum, Nana, Great-Grandmother and Great-Great Grandmother!

As talk turned to Grandparents, Caitland told us an amazing story about her Grandfather who fought in Second World War and whose life was saved by a silver coin in his pocket which deflected a bullet. Her nanny still has the coin. Declan’s great-great grandfather had an electric car, whilst Lily told us how the silk bridesmaid’s dresses seen in her family photos from the 1990s would have been very unusual during World War Two because silk was very rare as it was used for parachutes.

So, from fashion to computers there was plenty of discussion about how things had changed over the years and everybody involved had a great time – whether it was volunteers’ nostalgia about 1970s gadgets or the kids finding out about the toys their parents played with.

Historypin on the Radio, plus how-to’s in Australian!

We’ve been getting lots of love in Australia lately! Most recently, one of our partners, Museum Victoria, did a radio interview about their contributions to Historypin.

The fabulous Ely Wallis alerted us to it with a Tweet.  Thanks Ely and Gerard Callinan at the ABC! You can have a listen to it here: gc-history-pin-23-7.

And if that wasn’t enough, we heard from our friends over at the Bright Ideas Blog, which is a fantastic resource from the School Library Association of Victoria and the State Library of Victoria.  It turns out they’ve used Storify to create an embeddable resource guide on how to get started pinning on Historypin, full of all sorts of video tips on using our site!  Thanks for creating such a great resource–you guys are the best!  We’ve embedded the videos below–very clever!

Amazing stories discovered by QMPS students in Labrador, Canada

Last week students from the Queen of Peace Middle School in Labrador, were awarded ‘pinners of the week’ for their fantastic Historypin project that Grade 6 Classes have been doing this Semester. Their project explored the students’ family history and the social history of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada.

The Grade 6 classes at QPMS were very excited to become the first students in Labrador to pin their communities’ photos and stories to the Historypin creating an amazing Channel. Technology Itinerant Teacher, Susan Lamond, was inspired to run a Historypin project after hearing about Nelson Rural School’s Historypin project at the 21st Century Learning Conference.  She  immediately became hooked and brought the idea back to classes in Labrador.

The grade 6 students and teachers were eager to get started collecting pictures, and after getting tips from an archivist from Them Days magazine on interviewing skills and how to get the “story behind the photo,” they started conducting interviews. Students then learned how to scan and edit their photos before pinning them, and got more great ideas when they Skyped students  and staff from Nelson Rural School in Miramichi, who did a great Historypin project earlier in the year.  By the end of the QPMS project students had pinned 90 photos and stories!

We were delighted that the students were particularly enthusiastic about interviewing older family members about their personal stories. Abigail ‘liked being able to preserve old stories and learning about all of our family history’ and Timothy thought it was great that the stories he heard would ‘spark a new story that sometimes wasn’t related to the photo but was interesting to hear.’ He also said the seeing the photos meant it ‘was easy to imagine what actually had taken place’ and pinned a fantastic story about his Great Aunt Enid coming from Scotland to teach a primary class with no formal training in Makkovik, Labrador, meeting her husband Charlie, and proudly becoming a Canadian Citizen in 1996.

The project finished with a Skype session with Natasha and Freddie from Historypin and all the students got a special certificate celebrating their work. The project has been a huge success, and the school is going to do it with more classes next year.

This fantastic project inspired everyone involed, and Victoria, a grade 6 student, summed up the feelings of the class saying, ‘I think that learning about all the things about your family is really great! I liked hearing all the stories about the pictures.’


We’ve won an award!

Historypin has been named one of the Best Websites for Teaching & Learning by the American Association of School Librarians!

Historypin is being used by heaps of teachers, students and educational groups around the world. As well as teachers using it in lessons, students have turned into archivists gathering and pinning photos from their family, whilst others have run inter-generational storytelling sessions to capture stories from members of their local communities.

For tips on how to use Historypin in the classroom and to download our free resources & activity packs, visit our schools resources section.

Are you using Historypin as a teaching tool? Got ideas for how to use it in the classroom? Let us know and we will add you to our blog of good ideas.

Historypin in the classroom

Teachers around the world have been using Historypin in all sorts of innovative and exciting ways. On this blog post we’ll be gathering some of the best examples to give you ideas about how you can use it.

We’ll add to it as we find more great stuff, so keep checking back. And if you’ve blogged about ways of using Historypin with students, send an email to us at historypin@wearewhatwedo.org.

You can also find more ideas in our Schools Section.

Using content on Historypin

From Aubrey and Emily on Where the Classroom Ends

In Historypin: Classroom ideas, Aubrey and Emily outline how you can use photos and curated content from the US National Archives and the Smithsonian if you are teaching US history. They also suggest ways of using the Tour tool to help students construct narratives.


Using Historypin for document based questions

From Peter Pappas on Copy/Paste

In Make DBQs with a Digital Time Machine, Peter outlines some ways to use Historypin in teaching sessions focused on document based questions. Here’s an extract:

In Historypin’s story section, I provide a brief history of the canal’s impact on the growth of the city. Then I pose a question.”I wonder if the people in the old photograph still appreciated the canal’s role in creating the city of Rochester, or if they had come to see it as outmoded nuisance which divided the city in half?











Using Historypin for a session with language students

Connecting with Historypin from Barbara Lindsey

Are you a language teacher? Check out this overview form Barbara which introduces you to Historypin and how you can use it with your language students to identify activities and meet one ACTFL Standard and one 21st Century World Language Skill. Includes Tours of 19th century Paris and photos from Connecticut.

All new Historypin Community pages!


Are you a pinner? A teacher? Someone looking to run a Historypin project in your local area?

Have a look at our brand new Historypin Community pages where you can find the  latest news such as who’s been chosen as Pinner of the Week and what Historypin Challenges you can get involved with.

We’ve also got how to guides and a heap of other materials to give you some ideas and tips on how to use Historypin.

If you’re a teacher, check out our schools section which includes:

If you’re interested in running a project with your community, check out our Local Projects section which has lots of useful materials: