In the last five years, the Web has become an incredibly useful resource for social studies teachers. Primary and secondary sources, instructional strategies, social networks, shared lesson plans, and more are readily available and easy to find. The problem? Where can teachers store what they find and how can they share it with students and other teachers?
One answer is a powerful website called LiveBinders. LiveBinders is a free online bookmarking site that provides a unique method of storing online resources and sharing those resources with others. Think of a digital version of a traditional three-ring binder with the tabs sticking out and pages in between. LiveBinders allow you to create separate binders for each of your topics with the opportunity to create tabs and sub-tabs within that category. A good example of a LiveBinder is this one created by David Duff that highlights Civil War resources.
There are a variety of features that make LiveBinders unique. Just like a traditional binder, LiveBinders keep everything in one place, so your students won’t waste time typing in long URLs or getting lost in multiple open browser windows. Your binders can be public or password protected. All public binders are searchable, giving you the opportunity to browse the binders created by other history teachers. LiveBinders allows you to add your own Word documents, PDFs, presentations, audio clips, and video. Binders can be created that allow collaboration, perfect for group work. Use the Present mode for highlighting content during whole-group instruction. A bookmarklet, easily installed on your browser’s toolbar, allows you to add content to binders while browsing the Web. LiveBinders has also created a free app that allows access to binders via mobile devices.
Get started by going to the LiveBinders website and creating an account. Once your account is created, the first thing you should do is add the LiveBinders bookmarklet to your browser’s toolbar. In the top-right corner of your screen, click on the link titled “You can also bookmark to a binder while you browse.” You see detailed instructions about adding the bookmarklet. This makes it very easy to add content once your binders are set up.
Back at the main screen, you’ll see a menu of options along the left side of the screen. Clicking “Start a Blank Binder” will give you the chance to name your binder and make it public or private. Once in your blank binder you can rename tabs and add content to individual tabs. Clicking the Edit Menu button in the top right corner of your binder allows you to upload files, add additional tabs, insert media, and create a cover to your binder.
After your binder is saved, go back to binders by clicking the “My Binders” tab across the top of the window. You’ll see all of your binders. Your binders also live on shelves—public, private, and collaborative. (You can also create your own shelves.) The Options button under each binder allows you to share and embed your binder, create a collaborative binder, edit, and delete binders.
The easiest way to use LiveBinders is to create binders for specific units of study. Share the URL with your students or embed the binder into your website to direct students to useful sites and resources. Upload your favorite websites, assignments, graphic organizers, video clips, and primary source analysis worksheets for a one-stop shop for your kids.
Create collaborative binders for students or groups of students. They can then use these binders for project presentations that include their research, bibliographies, notes, and final product. Students can also use these for e-portfolios. Students over age 13 could even create their own LiveBinders account.
Use LiveBinders to create collaborative “resource packs” among teachers in the same social studies department. All the American History teachers, for example, could share materials and websites strengthening everyone’s instruction.