Technology Integration

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

March 20, 2008

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.

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