June 22, 2015

Free Digital Tool Improves Reading and Writing in U.S. History Class

WALTHAM, MA | In the push to create digital learning resources for schools, developers say social studies have largely been ignored. Now that vacuum is being filled by EDC’s Zoom In, a free online tool that helps students learn U.S. history while also strengthening their literacy skills.

Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Zoom In was developed in collaboration with history educators at the American Social History Project, literacy experts, and media designers. It will be available for use in the upcoming school year.

Zoom In complements existing U.S. history curricula and helps students build literacy and historical thinking skills by using primary and secondary sources. With Zoom In, students closely read authentic primary documents, compare their perspectives, and write their own historical arguments. Interactive supports are embedded in 18 content-rich units, guiding students as they read, discuss, and write about compelling questions in U.S. history, such as Would you vote to ratify the U.S. Constitution? Why did Lincoln really issue the Emancipation Proclamation? and How did activists raise awareness of the AIDS crisis?

Social studies teachers tell EDC that Zoom In enables them to shift their teaching practices to meet the goals of the Common Core and other new standards by helping students learn required skills such as reading documents closely and critically, identifying point of view and purpose, engaging in text-based discussions, and writing explanatory and argumentative essays grounded in evidence.

“There are lots of new tools for improving math, ELA, and STEM instruction, but social studies has been left out,” says EDC’s Bill Tally, lead developer. “Zoom In is filling that gap, helping students delve into compelling human conflicts throughout history, and read, write, and argue with evidence about what the past means and why it matters.”

Zoom In has been field tested by middle and high school students in 10 states with results expected in August.

EDC designs, implements, and evaluates programs to improve education, health, and economic opportunity worldwide. Visit www.edc.org.