Elementary classroom.
Elementary classroom

Running Reality for Teachers

Running Reality can be a fun, safe, interactive addition to the classroom environment, that is also perfect for remote learning. It can be used at the middle school, high school, and college levels.


How do you effectively integrate new kinds of digital history tools, like Running Reality, into your already crowded classroom schedule? Pedagogy is the art, science, or profession of teaching and we closely follow research advances and best practices for teaching digital history and digital humanities. It seems every digital history website has a section on pedagogy because integrating these new kinds of tools with the learning objectives teachers must meet and into the daily life of classrooms is new and complex without much historical precedent.

At a theoretical level, we at Running Reality believe that we can use the power of today's computers and mobile devices to bring history to life in an accessible, immersive, and engaging way for students. Some students learn very well through traditional narrative history. As a work of historical context, we cannot ever express the level of narrative detail that a work such as a book can. Most historians work in the narrative form and Running Reality doesn't fit this form. Most of the time it has fewer words on the screen than even a historical atlas has on a map page. However, Running Reality has what we call an "emergent visual narrative."

At a practical level, we want to provide simple, clear tools that feel natural for digital natives -- like today's students. Digital tools are now everywhere and they are especially in the lives of students. Further, ubiquitous, powerful computer graphics are making things like ancient battles and cities come to life on movie screens and video game screens. Google Maps has made maps of every spot on Earth available on nearly every device with an Internet connection. These trends are only accelerating. For students, the future of history is digital. The future of digital history is tools that can match the flexibility, accessibility, and convenience that students now expect with rigorous attention to historical accuracy and integration with other tools.

Use in the Classroom

Buy Lesson Plan

Teachers have learning objectives and new tools and techniques must help meet those objectives to be useful in the classroom. We have provided a list of sample activities paired with standardized skills and learning questions to show how to meet common learning objectives for middle and high school history students around the world.

Free Form Share or project your screen and explore freely with your students. Provide links for homework research. Ad free option
Lesson Plan Stepwise journey through your learning objectives, pre-scripted to simplify a chaotic classroom. Ad free, pre-scripting, device synchronization

You can use Running Reality free-form, but a classroom (especially during distance learning) can be a chaotic, dynamic place. So you want your technology to do exactly what you expect it to do and not require a lot of mouse movement or remembering exactly what and where to click. A lesson plan simplifies presenting because it pre-scripts the steps through history that you will be taking -- no need to remember dates or lat/lon values or fine tune your zoom levels. It makes a fully interactive map operate as simply and precisely as a slide show. It also gives you sharing and integration features, such as synchronizing multiple student tablets to the instructor tablet and integration to your classroom learning platform.

Go Ad-Free

We know that teachers use Running Reality in a group or presentation setting or in distance learning. So, we make sure that you can eliminate ads from your screens by signing in to Running Reality for free.

Also, when providing links for students to use, you can insert the code student into the URL so that they do not see ads. See the Linking and Embedding section below for how.

Ads can be very confusing for younger students, especially when the ad has some kind of prominent "Click Here" button. We do run ads for general visitors to help offset our server costs. However, we do not permit sensitive topics from our ad provider just in case students might be visiting without the ad-free code. We periodically review the list of ads our ad provider has shown to limit the reach of sensitive or deceptive ads that might not be filtered by their sensitive topic review.

Device Availability

Running Reality is available as a web app for mobile devices including Android, iPhone, and iPad and for desktop computers including Mac, Windows, and Linux. The web app for mobile devices requires only an initial download of about 1Mb of data, which can be more accessible to global classrooms, especially those rural areas without fast Internet or strong mobile signals. A downloadable mobile app can be 100Mb and difficult for all students to download.

Running Reality can be shown on a range of devices that might be available in a classroom.

Tablet Multiple tablets can explore from the same starting point to follow along.
Large Flat Panel or Projector Take a class on a journey using a full-screen web browser and a good internet connection. (Or use the app)
Large Touch Screen Timeline and map are both touch responsive for interactive exploration.

Distance Learning

Distance learning during COVID-19 is especially important

Many schools and universities have continued to use distance learning or hybrid learning, often with tools that are only partially ready. Running Reality has taken specific considerations regarding distance learning that will hopefully mitigate problems for you and better integrate with your other tools.

Integration with Learning Platforms

A Running Reality URL can be added to your class resources page. A free-form URL can be configured per the configuration section below, especially with an ad free tag. A lesson plan URL includes the student key id code so that it is seamless for a student to start on your learning platform page and then transition to the lesson plan and back without any further log in.

PlatformFrom Running RealityFrom the PlatformInstructions
Blackboard Use the share button in your lesson plan editor Add the student-access URL to your Blackboard class resources page. Instructions
Google Classroom Use the share button in your lesson plan editor Add the student-access URL to the class materials using "Classwork" tab -> "Create" button -> "Material" menu item. Instructions
Schoology Use the share button in your lesson plan editor Add the student-access URL (which includes an access key if sharing a Lesson Plan) as a Schoology "link", by copy-pasting any Running Reality URL or iFrame. Instructions

Linking and Embedding

You can link directly to a map of any date or location in history on your blog.

The basic parameters are:

If you want to hide certain parts of the interface, you can add parameters to the Running Reality URL. These can be helpful to remove distractions:

Map Images and Videos

From the share menu of the app version of Running Reality, you can embed an image or movie into your own work. You can copy-paste an image of the map directly to your computer's clipboard. You can save a JPEG image of a point in time or save an MP4 movie or GIF animation of a span of time.

Note that the web map uses a Mercator projection but the app uses an equi-rectangular projection. In most cases, you might not notice a difference, but at street level, Mercator keeps right angles looking correct and equi-rectangular can show some distortion. Eventually, we will migrate the app to Mercator.

Use as a Source

Running Reality should not be a primary source. Like an encyclopedia or a historical atlas, it provides a broad context. You can use that context to figure out new avenues for research, following links to cited reference works on topics that might be of value. Unlike other historical maps, every single piece of data in Running Reality has a citation and you and your students can follow those citations.

If you or your students use Running Reality for your research, we would ask for proper attribution and citation in line with any other cited work.

You can expect there to still be blank areas or bugs in our model of history, so definitely check yourself against the works cited by the model's factoids. See below if you or your students might see a blank area as an opportunity to contribute data, for example in your hometown or near your school.

How your help can be valuable

Running Reality is both a software challenge and a historical research challenge. We need your assistance to help our team ensure that the latest developments in archaeological research can be accessible to our audience. Contributing factoids to the history model will be very valuable to the project and will provide citation links back to your primary sources and research material. Running Reality's timeline branching is meant to facilitate exploration and discussion of new and emerging research.


If you can not find an answer here, please feel free to ask us for help. Send us an email if you would like us to get back to you with a response:

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