In social studies classrooms around the world, teachers use documents and images as a daily part of their curriculum.  History is built on the analysis of first hand accounts.  The interpretation of the meaning behind the words and images is archived for modern day historians to retell stories.  While teaching high school history, I wanted to continually engage my students in this type of thinking and self-directed learning, allowing the student to become the historians in my classroom.  In order to accomplish this task, I made it a goal to use as many different sources and documents in my classroom as possible.  With this task came an amazing waste of paper!  I found that printing out primary sources, images, and maps was an ineffective way to engage my students, and I needed a better solution.  That solution is Kami, an amazing web-based PDF and document annotation tool.  

With Kami, students can take advantage of a toolbar that is loaded with features, all of them allowing students to control their learning while reading and analyzing a historical document.  With its simple but powerful interface and direct connection to Google Drive, Kami is ideal for use in a classroom using the G Suite for Education apps.  Below, we will explore three ways Social Studies teachers can use Kami in their classrooms!

1 – Annotate on Primary Source Documents

Primary sources give students access to information and content that may be left out when just studying secondary sources.  Most history classes encourage students to explore primary source documents such as journals, news articles, and autobiographies.  When students utilize these sources, they can analyze them forming their own opinions on the topic in class.  In a history classroom using Kami, students can download a PDF file of a primary source, and annotate on the document to further evaluate questions posed by the teacher.  Some examples of this may include:

  • Students can open the source document and use the highlight tool to highlight important passages.
  • Students can add comments next to passages in the document analyzing tone, implication, and author objective.  
  • Students can use the strikethrough option to eliminate any content they consider not pertinent to the essential questions of the assignment.  
  • If the historical document does not have images, students using the full version of Kami, can find and add relevant images to the document for final submission.

2 –  Annotate on Images

In some instances images are essential to student understanding as they can provide a look into the past that is deeper than words.  While many pictures offer us this window into understanding the past, it is important that students analyze each image with a neutral eye, to potentially discover if the photographer had any alternative intentions.  With Kami, students have the ability to import a photo and annotate directly on the image.  Some strategies may include:

  • Students can draw two lines, one vertical and one horizontal to split the image into quadrants.  Then using Kami’s other tools, including drawing shapes to locate particular aspects of each region that stand out.  
  • Students can use the comment or text box feature to describe what they are locating in the image.  
  • Students can use the zoom feature in Kami to get an up close look at parts of the image.  

3 – Annotate on Maps

Maps are an essential part of social studies curriculum, but often times they are left to the teacher pulling down a large map at the front of the room or handing a student a worksheet for them to draw on.  With Kami, teachers are able to put map creation in a digital space where students can add more than just handwritten notes.  By distributing a PDF map and having students open it in Kami, students can now annotate the map like never before.  Here are some strategies for using Kami with PDF Maps in your classroom:

  • Students can add text in text boxes and comments, describing various regions on the map.  This will allow students to elaborate further on topics, more so than writing on paper allows.  
  • Students can draw routes directly on the map using the drawing tool, outlining the ways in which explorers or groups of people traveled.  
  • Students can insert images onto the map that directly relate to the area studied.  These images could include a primary source image the students had previously annotated.  
  • Students can collaborate with other classmates on annotating the map.  When only using paper, it may have been difficult to achieve this, however, with Kami students can annotate the map in real time with each other!

Kami offers teachers and students an amazing set of tools for PDF and Document annotation and can really revolutionize a history classroom.  The abilities of Kami are not limited to this list of ideas and the possibilities are many.

 During Summer 2017, I’ll be diving into Kami and many other ways to use technology this summer in Chicago June 15th and 16th at the EdTechTeacher, Teaching History with Technology Summer Workshop.  I’d love to see you there!

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