A few years ago I published a list of my favorite tools for social studies teachers and students. Since then a few things have changed, namely Google has shuttered a couple of cool tools, so I think it’s time to update the list. In no particular order, here are my top ten tools for social studies teachers and students. 

Timeline JS
Timeline projects as as old as history classes themselves. It used to be that timelines were only made on paper. Today, students can build timelines that include videos, audio recordings, pictures, and interactive maps. Timeline JS is the best tool for making multimedia timelines today.


One of the challenges of giving students primary or secondary source articles to read on their own is knowing how long it actually takes them to read the articles and how well read them. Readlee is a service that solves that problem. With a free Readlee account you can assign articles to students and they have to read them aloud to their computers. Readlee tracks the speed at which students read along with information about total words read and unique words read. Here’s a video overview of Readlee.  

StoryMap JS
StoryMap JS is produced by the same people that make Timeline JS. StoryMap JS enables students to tell stories through the combination of maps and timelines. On StoryMap JS you create slides that are matched to locations on your map. Each slide in your story can include images or videos along with text.

Google Earth
Google Earth is available in two versions. The Pro version is the version that you can install on your desktop. That’s the version that I prefer if given a choice because it includes more features that the web browser version. Google Earth Pro can be used by students and teachers to record narrated tours and to layer historical imagery on top of current map views. Here’s one of my favorite Google Earth activities for middle school and high school. And here’s my online course all about Google Earth and Maps. 

Google Books
This is an often overlooked search tool. Google Books provides students with access to millions of free books and periodicals. Google Books really shines when you start looking for work that was published in the 19th Century and early 20th Century. One of the best features of Google Books is the ability to search within a book for a phrase or keyword.

DocsTeach is a free service provided by the U.S. National Archives. Through DocsTeach you can create online activities based upon primary source artifacts from the National Archives. Your students can complete the activities online. Don’t let the fact that the service is provided by the National Archives fool you into thinking that it can only be used for U.S. History lessons. You can upload any primary source artifact that you like to your DocsTeach account to develop an online history activity. DocsTeach offers more than a dozen activity templates that you can follow to develop your primary source-based lessons. Watch this video to learn more about DocsTeach.

When I taught social studies I liked to use video clips as part of current events lessons. I also liked to use excerpts from documentary videos. If you use videos in the same way, EDpuzzle is a tool that you need to try. EDpuzzle lets you add questions directly into the timeline of the video. Here’s my video overview of how to use EDpuzzle

If you want your students to make short documentary-style videos, WeVideo is hard to beat. It works on Chromebooks, Windows, Android, iOS, and Mac (though if you have a Mac, iMovie is just as good). Those who have upgraded WeVideo accounts can even use it to make green screen videos.

Scribble Maps
Scribble Maps is the multimedia mapping tool that I recommend whenever someone asks for an alternative to Google Earth or Google Maps for students. Scribble Maps is a free tool for creating custom, multimedia maps online. Scribble Maps provides a variety of base layer maps on which you can draw freehand, add placemarks, add image overlays, and type across the map. Scribble Maps will work in the web browser on your laptop, Chromebook, iPad, or Android tablet. In the video embedded below I provide an overview of how to use Scribble Maps.

Canva can be used for making everything from an infographic to a presentation to a website to a video and a whole lot of things in between. In the context of social studies I’ve used Canva to create multimedia timelines and to create vintage travel posters based on public domain imagery found in these collections.