Since 1999, The Bill of Rights Institute has been helping teachers educate the next generation of students about the U.S. Constitution and America’s founding history. As the humanities become increasingly eclipsed by the sciences in classrooms nationwide—and as technology becomes more important to teachers and students alike—the Institute’s mission is more urgent than ever. We set out to understand the rapidly changing needs of the Institute’s diverse teacher community and then we used our web expertise to create an innovative solution.
When the Bill of Rights Institute needed to bring history to life through technology, Viget was poised to answer the call. Together, we’ve created an exciting, interactive digital course for teachers to discover, organize, and share American History and Civics lessons with our nation’s youngest minds.
What we did
A NEW WAY TO TEACH HISTORY
WE THE TEACHERS
How do I make dynamic lesson plans and activities for students at different learning levels? What about meeting my state’s curriculum standards? How can I easily incorporate online learning?
These are just a few of the questions teachers ask as they prepare coursework—and that we asked them in a comprehensive survey-based study. We then used our survey to recruit a small number of qualified teachers for in-depth, one-on-one conversations. We learned that teachers often prefer topic-based curricula to the chronology of traditional textbooks, and that they often run Google and Youtube searches to find engaging supplementary material and activities.
We also heard firsthand from a cross-section of teachers about the technology—or lack thereof—that they have access to and how they use it in their classrooms.
Gaining a better understanding of their behaviors and environments helped us craft a product to meet their needs. Their number one need overall? Flexibility.
THE TEXTBOOK, REDEFINED
Based on the findings in our initial research, we designed and built a comprehensive but flexible digital Civics course. As with a traditional textbook, teachers find all the materials to follow a complete course. But, because it’s all online and digital, teachers can decide how to use the course, choosing which portions work best for their students, and in what order.
Teachers simply log in, identify their curriculum standards, and instantly gain access to the Institute’s rich and dynamic content: topic-based lessons, including readings and activities; student assessments for each unit; a “My Favorites” list to save items for later; and a Table of Contents that can be viewed as a series of compelling images or in a conventional list format.
Regardless of a student’s learning level, studying historical documents can seem daunting! So our front-end developers created a customizable, online experience just for students. Students can change font sizes and styles for easier reading. The app automatically saves your settings for next time. There are plenty of images and videos throughout, and students can gauge their progress with an interactive quiz at the end of each reading. The result is a fun, engaging digital experience that puts history at the fingertips of all students.