Review by Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Education | Updated August 2014
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United States History

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Huge, unadorned collection of historical and primary-source docs

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • Social Studies

Skills
  • Character & SEL
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
6–12
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (6 Reviews)

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Pros: Exhaustive but easy-to-explore info on U.S. history and American government.

Cons: Reads like a textbook; text-heavy with a few graphics, but no multimedia.

Bottom Line: Impressive collection of primary documents, speeches, and other historical documents puts a wealth of information at one's fingertips.

Teachers can use United States History as a reference source that students can access on any device in a 1-to-1 classroom when they need to get facts quickly or want to work with primary-source documents. The developer offers the app for free but welcomes donations, which can be sent in-app. Speeches, including "The Emancipation Proclamation," "I Have a Dream," Reagan's "Tear Down This Wall," and more than a dozen more, could be read aloud by students as speaking projects, or as read-alongs while watching or listening to recorded versions through other media. Primary sources can be used for research and, along with other information provided, for reports as well. Teachers could direct kids to the DYK? facts featured each day as fun pieces of daily trivia.

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This is an extensive compilation of documents related to U.S. history and American government. A left-hand column lists all available information by topic -- U.S. Constitution, Declaration of Independence, Federalist Papers, Anti-Federalist Papers, Presidents, Flag Code, The 50 States, Military, Important Dates, Documents and Speeches, The Star-Spangled Banner, The Pledge of Allegiance, Articles of Confederation, and Branches of Government. Tapping a topic brings up either a full-screen document or a menu of subtopics. A search function searches for a keyword within all documents and pulls up matching documents, but the keyword isn't highlighted within the text. A DYK? (Did You Know?) section features five quick facts from a database of thousands of facts.

The developer humorously makes clear that this app is not meant to be used for studying for tests or preparing for "Jeopardy," noting that it's a work in progress with regular updates to add new information. Still, even with some events still missing, United States History puts a wealth of information in students' hands. The speeches and primary-source documents alone are a goldmine. This is a resource, however -- mostly text with a smattering of graphics -- that's not designed to dazzle with multimedia. Information is presented statically with no links to related events or documents, which would add some depth and context, but this simple presentation is less distracting. It's like old-school history on a device rather than in print.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

The amount of historical information will prove about as fascinating as browsing an encyclopedia -- mesmerizing to some, boring to others, useful to all.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Impressive collection of primary-source docs can be used for research and reference. Some secondary resources and quick references are included, as well, to round out this encyclopedia-style app.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Documents are searchable, but keyword searches can't be narrowed to specific documents. Students will have to take notes outside the app, as there's no function for annotating or highlighting.


Common Sense Reviewer
Amanda Bindel Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

(See all 6 reviews) (6 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Karen L. , Technology coordinator
Technology coordinator
Good resource for both American history content and fun facts!
I like having an easy to use American history resource tool at my fingertips. Teachers need to be thoughtful of how to have students use it. Students should be taking that information to feed strategies that lead to higher levels of learning, not just information recall. The app itself does not promote deeper thinking - teachers need to make sure that happens. I hope it becomes an iOS app soon.
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