Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Using Timelines

Teaching kids the proper way to make time lines is like a rite of passage for history teachers. Choosing what increments of time you'll use, how those will be represented (inches? centimeters?) and the trial and error. Sometimes it seems like the whole point of the lesson - to see when events occurred relative to other events, to create a custom time line, or to analyze events - gets lost in what you never intended to be a weak math/art activity. And let's face it - when they're done, they are not too exciting.

Internet to the rescue! Thankfully there are now some easy time line tools that are very accessible on the web, easy for kids to use, and you get what you want - the results for kids to look at, compare, and analyze. Best of all, kids can really bring some creativity to the table with these time lines. They have the opportunity to make sense of historical events in ways they can see, hear, and explain to others. If they made some new connections, or have some new theories, these tools are the ultimate way for them to express this new learning.

But where will they put these beautiful new time lines? Who will see them? Easy - more and more of you are building class blogs and wikis (haven't done this yet? Ask me how and I can help you set one up in less than 5 minutes), so that's where these beauties will go. If your students have their own blogs, they can go right there. One thing you will NOT end up with is a whole bunch of same-same generic time lines. All of them will be unique interpretations of a particular student's understanding and connections of that time.

Here is a time line tool called TimeRime. TimeRime is a nice "starter" time line, in that it looks a lot like what we expect time lines to look like - a line with spaced out increments. BUT TimeRime brings more to the table, like the ability to add pictures and pop-out information. Here's an example of a time line made on TimeRime about the history of immigration (scroll along the bottom)...

Xtimeline is another fun time line tool that is similar to TimeRime - kids can incorporate images and more pop-up information into their time line. A cool feature of xtimeline is viewing it as a scrolling time line by moving the cursor along the bottom - when you click on an event a slide can pop up with more information and pictures. This is an xtimeline of the history of Coca Cola (scroll along the bottom)...

Finally, the rock star of online time line tools - Capzles! Capzles is by far the most creative of the 3 tools presented in this post. Students can choose a background for their time line, build the time line with information, pictures, and NARRATION! Yes - that's what I said - students can record music, text, or their very own voices to guide and narrate this slideshow/timeline. Here's a great one about Paul Revere - it is the history of events in Boston involving Paul Revere. The background is an old map of the area, and the time line pictures and events are guided by a voice narration reading of "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere". Soooooo many possibilities with this! (Click HERE to see this one).

So let's change up those old boring time lines - make them what we always intended them to be - a learning tool created by students that presents their unique point of view of a history.

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