Common Sense Review
Updated December 2014

BBC History

Multimedia resources address fascinating historical questions
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Common Sense Rating 3
  • Search by time period to find interactive iWonder presentations.
  • Resources are added and updated regularly.
  • Students take an active role in learning about historical events.
  • Radio broadcasts cover a wide-range of historical topics.
Interactive iWonders and news articles support student learning in class or in solo research.
The iPlayer videos are unavailable outside of the UK; some of the links to videos and articles do not work.
Bottom Line
A solid source for supplemental social studies content.
Jennifer Sitkin
Common Sense Reviewer
Classroom teacher
Common Sense Rating 3
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 4

Unique topics, high-quality graphics, and a wide range of interactive content should increase student interest and understanding of historical events. 

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 3

There are no lesson plans provided, but the articles, iWonder resources, and BBC Radio broadcasts can all be easily integrated into a history curriculum.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 3

Although there's no explicit support for how to use the site with students, the majority of the content is easy to access. When a feature doesn’t work, there are explanations and suggestions for how to troubleshoot the issue.

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How Can Teachers Use It?

Use a projector to share the various broadcasts, articles, or presentations with the entire class. For example, students can listen to a podcast on "A history of ideas" to jump-start a discussion; students might review the iWonder presentation on "How close did D-Day come to failure?" to address the key details of the WWII invasion. Students will also benefit from accessing the resources on their own devices, so consider sharing the link to your class homepage or use a QR code reader to share the link. The site can be recommended for historical research, or specific assignments can be designed around a particular resource. Depending on lesson goals and student ability level, it may be useful to develop guided worksheets for students to complete. 

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What's It Like?

BBC History is a website that hosts a large collection of multimedia resources on high-interest social studies topics. The home page changes regularly and highlights a variety of topics. There are four different types of resources on the site: iWonders, news articles, iPlayers (only in U.K.), and radio podcasts. The iWonders focus on an interesting historical question. For example, in "How did so many soldiers survive the trenches?" students read about a typical day in the trenches of World War I, view graphics, and watch videos on the topic. Many of the resources also include interactive features and links to further information. Students and teachers can search by topic and find additional materials on a number of historical events including British history, ancient history, family history, and historical figures. 

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Is It Good For Learning?

The site's content goes far beyond a review of basic history and provides opportunities to delve into some especially fascinating historical events. The videos (when they work), the podcasts, and the graphics and images should all combine to increase student interest and engagement. The iWonders, in particular, examine unique historical questions such as "Why friends fought together in WWI," "Why didn’t Christianity die out in the first century?" and "Did a Welshman discover America?" While there's no doubt that the content will be interesting, teachers will need to explore to find which resources are relevant and accessible to their specific students. For example, some of the articles and podcasts may be difficult to understand for ELL students, while others may require more context to make the content accessible for students. Overall, this is a great tool to extend your existing curriculum with some thoughtful, engaging multimedia content. 

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See how teachers are using BBC History