Product Review of World History Encyclopedia
World History Encyclopedia is a free, web-based encyclopedia with a vast library of resources for educators and learners studying ancient history and ancient cultures. All submissions go through editorial review, and the site is endorsed and recommended by Oxford University, European Commission’s e-Learning Initiative, School Library Journal, MERLOT, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The resources are divided into many sections, but two in particular — the encyclopedia and education sections — will be useful to classrooms. The encyclopedia section features an easy-to-navigate alphabetical index of key topics, locations, historical figures, and more. Clicking any of the listed entries takes you to a cleanly designed page — reminiscent of Wikipedia — that balances images with middle school reading-level text that is organized into large, bolded headings and pull quotes. Images — including the timelines and maps — are high quality, with an entire section of 3D models inviting interaction and manipulation. Outside of the index, information within the encyclopedia section can also be browsed by media library, timeline, maps, weights and measures, or audio articles.
The education section offers a variety of supplemental resources for putting the encyclopedia to use. There are grab-and-go-style lesson plans and curated collections with teaching tips, a media library, primary sources, articles, 2D/3D images, and printables.
World History Encyclopedia is a good place to go for research and inspiration, both for educators and learners. Teachers will appreciate the ready-to-use lesson plans and curated collections as well as the many ways learners can engage with the content (watching, listening, and interacting). All the teaching resources try to appeal to different ways to learn content, and are organized by specific themes or time periods. Many also connect with contemporary topics like climate change. If educators prefer not to use the prepared materials, they might use the images, videos, or audio articles to introduce or supplement units. This might work especially well for younger or reluctant learners.
Students can use the site for research and project development. And, with so many ways to explore content, World History Encyclopedia could be a particularly great resource for group research projects. Teachers might assign each member of the group a different feature or type of content to explore. Advanced learners — such as those in AP courses — could be challenged to draft their own submission following the site’s guidelines, as a summative assessment.
Given some of the nervousness educators have around using web-based, crowd-sourced resources for learning, educators might question how trustworthy World History Encyclopedia is. Many of the resources are created by World History Encyclopedia’s staff, and anything that’s submitted undergoes editorial vetting. The site is also very transparent about the sources behind each resource, so learners and educators can explore the biographies of authors behind each resource and consult the citations they’ve used. There are also quite a few educational institutes backing the site, including Oxford University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In 2016, it won the .eu Web Award for education. Still, it’d be useful to go over how the site vets and curates information with your learners, and use it as a news and media literacy learning opportunity. Encourage learners to investigate and validate the sources of information they find. In general, the information is extensive and well developed, and learners — as well as educators — are likely to find useful content to fuel lessons and projects.
The World History Encyclopedia is also notable for how many different types of media and formats it features, and how it combines all of them. This gives learners a variety of ways to explore and understand topics, and it could be an indispensable supplement to classrooms digging into ancient history. The curated collections with teaching tips are especially useful, not just because they are ready-made units, but because they also model multimodal learning. There’s some room for development, though. As of this review, the content devoted to ancient civilizations of Asia and Africa is not quite as extensive as that of Europe, especially when it comes to teaching materials. Still, there are resources for many of these civilizations that could provide a starting point for learners.
Overall User Consensus About the App
Students can go straight to the index to find what they need, use the media library, or consult maps and timelines.
Curriculum and Instruction
Well-researched information just a click away, including articles, images, maps, videos, and 3D models. That said, African and Asian ancient history is not as represented as European.
The option to consult image-based and audio-based information instead of text-dense articles will support more reluctant learners. The site is seeking to offer translation; for now everything is in English.