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Timelines 2.0: A Fun, Easy, and Free Classroom Tool

Chris O'Neal

Educational consultant and former Edutopia.org blogger
Related Tags: Technology Integration
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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

J. Martin's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am new to blogging and this whole concept of sharing online. However, I am excited to learn about the tool you mentioned. I am going to be exploring it for use in my classroom. Thank you for the idea.

Lindsay T.'s picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am a High School Biology teacher, and I have used or seen timelines used in a few different science disciplines. When I was in high school, my Earth Science teachers taught a unit on the history of the earth, and we studied the timeline for the earth's eras and periods, etc. They had us think of the timeline as being the length of a football field, and we had to determine where on that football field we should mark the changes of eras and/or important events in the world's history. We then actually went out to the football field and marked these events so we could get a picture comparing the length of each era and the relative times certain events (especially major extinctions) occurred.

I think that timelines also help with the discussion of the history of genetic discoveries, as it reveals how slowly scientists worked to obtain this information at first, and then, in a more technologically developed world, the information is now all overlapping and being discovered so much more rapidly. Also, in evolutionary studies, I have my students, as a class, make a timeline of the estimated dates different species of humans arose, so they can appreciate the diversity that humans once had, and we can make hypotheses of their possible interactions.

Brooke's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I was just cruising the internet looking for some teaching ideas for my classroom and came across your article on timelines. This seems like something very beneficial for kids to participate in and learn about. I also took a minute to explor the xtimeline website that you shared and it is such a great resource (and huge timesaver)! I'm definitely going to use this to model what my first graders birthdays look like on a timeline to get them interested in the idea. Thanks!

Jennifer's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I liked the idea of using the time-line to highlight key events in content area. After reading the other postings and thinking about skills lacking in my 7th grade students I have an idea about how to use this wonderful website. My plan is that next year I will have them for extra credit find different key dates that correlate to important math discoveries and they have to find and summarize an artical about the key concept. One of the areas my school is pushing is increasing reading in all the content areas and I have struggled with incorporating this into math. But this gives me an avenue to research over the summer to provide my students with for next year. So thanks.

Julie's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree that time lines are great tools for the classroom. You can even use time lines to do some math activities in the classroom. I really enjoyed the xtimeline site and I will be looking for ways to implement this information into future lessons.

Deborah's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Thank you for posting this. This will certainly prove to be a valuable and exciting venue for learning. I have tried my hand at a simple timeline. It's very motivating given the options to personalize things.

Deborah's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Students get a greater perspective on facts when they are afforded the opportunity to see facts in relation to other facts of the same era or time period. For instance, when students are studying art movements they discover many things happened and what other events might have impacted ideas of the time. Most notably would be how the invention of photography changed the face of art to give us modern art movements from impressionism to today's post modern era.

This sparks some lively conversations where students can explore their own ideas of how things effect each other. Using appropriate prompts to start the conversation - such as "the notion of a starving artist is a 20th century phenomenon..."" Students are encouraged to look outside of the simple facts and they begin to assemble a bigger picture of a time period.

Tina's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree that timelines are so great to use with students. I recently did a social studies timeline lesson and then had my students make their "life timelines". They had a wonderful time creating their timelines but I wish I knew about the site, xtimelines, before I did this lesson. I would have loved to see what the website had to offer. Thanks for the information. I will definitely use that website next time I present a timeline lesson.

Sonia Camacho's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I have practiced making a timeline on the xtimeline site, and I am very impressed on how kid friendly it is. I would use this online tool to create a class timeline on the field trips taken during the school year. By using this site, the students would be able to practice their writing skills and typing skills. Additionally, this online tool will allow them to develop a sense of ownership as they participate in the development of their own timeline with the pictures they select and their most memorable field trips.

Also, another great idea that came to mind on how I can implement the use of this site in my classroom is through my language arts class. My students have several book report projects throughout the school year. Using the xtimeline site will provide my students with an alternative way of presenting their book reports. Maybe they can choose to do their book report as a biography on the main character, describe it, and illustrate it on the timeline using pictures off the internet. Another idea could be that they choose the main events in their books, describe them on a timeline, and illustrate them.

smckay's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I want to try this for creating timelines for both Twain's and Poe's life as I teach 7th and 8th grade LAL. I have recently tried Timeliner for the first time with the Smart Board for notes using the timeline of the Nazi rise to power as I teach my Holocaust unit. Timeliner provides many web links which are useful for research projects. Does anyone have any other suggestions for LAL using Timeline 2.0?


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