Exploring Local History with Clio
Named after the Greek muse of history and funded in part by the NEH, Clio allows you to explore the history of the world around you. The website and app provide engaging, in-depth discussions of historic places, including both established monuments and locations whose history is not so visible.
Clio is designed so that users can interact with it in a variety of ways, which opens an array of possibilities for using it in the classroom. Working with existing entries, students can learn about specific historical places (such as field trip sites or even locations in their neighborhoods and communities), go on walking tours that include a selection of historic places, and create their own walking tours to guide other users through a narrated historical journey. They can also create original entries in Clio, an exercise that involves selecting a location, conducting historical research, and composing the entry for their chosen site with pictures, text, a bibliography, and links to additional resources.
Using Existing Entries
- Explore your local area. Students can select a local site from Clio and use the provided entry, along with their own research, to present the place to the class. Time permitting, the class could go on a walking tour of students' selected sites so they can present their work on site.
- Create a walking tour on Clio. If your location has enough places listed, students can curate a walking tour of the area. These walking tours can be simply place-based or have a particular theme. Students will need to write brief introductions for each site to explain how it is connected to the other places on the tour. Students can also narrate segments of the tour and add these audio recordings to Clio.
- Create a virtual tour on Clio. If there aren't many entries for your location, students can create a thematic virtual tour that links up places from a much wider geographic area.
Creating New Entries
- Create a public Clio entry. This option gives students the chance to conduct original historical research and share it publicly. Clio provides documentation about how to create new entries in the classroom, as well as a series of videos that walk viewers through the process of selecting a location and creating an entry. Students might select locations based on place alone or work with a particular theme (women's history; Black history; Latinx history; histories of consumption; political history; and so on).
- Model a Clio entry. Writing for publication may be too challenging for younger students or take more time than you have. In this case, Clio can serve as a model for student research projects, with the steps in creating an entry adapted to learners' abilities and the class's time constraints.
- Selecting a location: Students can choose from a predetermined list of locations, rather than finding a suitable location on their own. Some ideas include field trip sites, local monuments or attractions, and the names of neighborhoods, streets, and schools.
- Researching the location: Students can work with a set list of sources (Clio provides a general list of resources for historical research). This approach reduces the volume of resources students might consult and can help the research process feel more manageable. It also supports students by making sure the resources they consult are of high quality.
- Writing about the location: The Clio format (a 4-6 paragraph backstory and a 1 paragraph introduction) is one option for students to present their research. Others may be suitable for younger students or classes with limited time.
- Guiding questions: Clio entries are quite open-ended, which allows authors the freedom to explore the places they have researched, but which can also be daunting for students embarking on their first research projects. Using a template like this one can help students narrow their focus.
- Alternative modes of sharing research: In lieu of the 4-6 paragraph essay, students might create a short slideshow, a brief audio or video recording, a mock visitor's brochure, or a poster about their chosen site.