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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Timelines 2.0: A Fun, Easy, and Free Classroom Tool

Chris O'Neal

Educational consultant and former Edutopia.org blogger

Timelines are one of the most useful and effective tools I've found that can fit in nicely with any classroom's content area and grade level. They are fantastic vehicles for doing research, being creative, and sharing and publishing information.

In addition, they are easy to use for simple classroom projects such as tracking birthdays, major significant events, and holidays. Furthermore, they offer a rich opportunity to explore the goings-on behind significant events, allowing students to uncover what led up to wars, significant scientific breakthroughs, changes in culture, or shifts in art styles and music. The possibilities are endless.

A fantastic new timeline tool I've been playing with is xtimeline. This free Web-based tool makes it simple to create timelines, and it has built-in capabilities that allow you to conduct research, embed photos and videos, do group editing, and engage in social collaboration.

Imagine combining the power of a traditional timeline tool with the history and edit features of a wiki while making it a social, globally published, living online document. It doesn't get much simpler, or more effective, than this.

Getting started is easy. Just register, log in, and hit Create. Fill in the basic information for your new timeline, then click the next Create button. From there, it's simply a matter of adding your events. You can customize each event with data, images, embedded videos, links to source information, and so on.

Each timeline has a discussion section, so a class can debate certain topics, justify the order of events or their significance, and share more details and suggestions. Users can also embed the timelines into blogs, discussion forums, and emails.

To make things even more classroom friendly, you can set timelines so only selected users can view and discuss them. You can create groups as well, and you can set up a timeline in such a way that anyone can view it, but only invited users can edit and discuss it.

I am having a blast with these timelines, and my daughter is already creating one about her life that makes use of photos and videos. I think this tool is going to be hugely popular in classrooms as teachers begin to notice it. Please share with us what you think. Create a sample timeline and post it here. How would you use this tool in your classroom? How about personally?

While you're exploring, be sure to check out a timeline called Significant Persons of the Renaissance. I find this timeline to be especially well done, with a nice combination of research, images, and well-written details.

Chris O'Neal

Educational consultant and former Edutopia.org blogger
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Comments (36)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

tawnee's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Thanks for your insight on xtimeline web-based tool. I have been experimenting with creating timelines and have decided to try it with my 5th graders when they do their research projects on their famous American. I have always used a simple word program to create timelines in the past, but this Web-based tool will help modernize, help individualize, and encourage differentiating as each child creates their unique timeline for their history project.

Amanda's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I also agree that timelines are great in the classroom. Our upper elementary teachers are having children create timelines as a way to plan for their writing. Some of the children are really getting into it. I think the website offered would give students wonderful examples of timelines. Modeling is essential, and the content can be tailored to the students' interests.

fhgoin's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

After exploring this site, I can see using it to document mathematicians and their contributions to content being studied. Students often ask about who created the material. A timeline site that they could link to and read on their own time or during computer lab time would be interesting as well as educational.

Kimberley's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am new to this blogging idea. I was researching different blogs for a class I am taking and found your article on timelines. I am going to check out the free website you mentioned and see if I can adapt it to my reading class. How do you manage to find time to look for valuable and safe sites to use in the classroom?

Anvil's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I have always taught history and author studies using timelines. This website is outstanding. I am creating a timeline right now for the buildup to the War of 1812...Thank you!!

Carol B.'s picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Thank you for sharing this wonderful resource with other wondering teachers like myself. I can see many uses for this teaching tool. I would use it mainly in social studies, but it would be helpful in reading also. Timelines are on
most states' achievement tests so the students could use this fun tool and still prepare for the "big test".

Chris ONeal's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hi there,
I'm so glad everyone is enjoying this site. I think it's such a fantastic resource. I have time just because that's my main job! I work with teachers and administrators all over and am constantly searching and scanning trying to find stuff to help! Plus, my biggest motivation is my own daughter - trying to find great resources that help her learn in a fun way!

~Chris

Patricia's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

thanks so much for the information on timelines. I am always looking for ways to teach the concept of time and sequence and ways to document personal history. i am anxious to navigate my way through this website. i am also gratful that there are others who are willing to explore the internet and share what they have found. i truly appreciate your help and support.

jks's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

What a great tool! I love finding new and interesting websites that help make learning fun and there are so many websites out there these days it is hard to keep up. My students are really going to enjoy using xtimeline.com.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Thanks for showing me this amazing tool. I teach 7th grade science and we are beginning an Archeological Dig in a couple of weeks. Unfortuantely (or fortunately)all of our computers are being used, for testing, during our Archeology unit. Normally we conclude our Archeology Unit with a power point presentation by the students based on the fossils they have found. Since we are unable to do the power point this year we decided to do a timeline. With this site and the software I will present this to my science team and see if we could use it. Again thank you.

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