T is for Timelines

Timeline tools for transformative learning

timeline tools for transformative learningTimeline tools can serve two important purposes: concrete help with project planning (for PLPs, 1:1 rollouts, PBL) and for displaying evidence of learning in an easily digestible format.

But the online, anytime/anywhere, collaborative nature of such tools can unlock meta-learning for students, providing them with a platform for bolstering collaboration and project-planning skills.

Timelines can connect content areas and broaden learning

Even just with pen and paper, timelines have long been used as logical graphical organizations of learning. But when combind with tech, the student engagement factor goes way way up. Check out these students crafting timelines in Popplet as they read:


Mark Olofson lays out a full lesson plan for using the timeline tool Timeglider to study the history of atomic theory:

Session 1: Students in small groups research one scientist involved in the development of atomic theory (Biographic information and description of important discovery)

Session 2: Students synthesize research and make a stand-alone presentation with the relevant information (If you want students to practice extract information from spoken presentations, you could have these be presented by the group). Presentations are collected online.

Session 3: Students work individually to construct timelines based on the information presented by their peers. They must add historical events to the timeline that they believe are relevant.

Session 4: Share timeline and write reflectively to report out. Possible writing prompts include: How did earlier scientists affect later scientists? How do you think scientists who were working at the same time communicated their findings with each other? Why did you choose to make some events larger or smaller on the timeline?

Olofson also talks about other ways tech-powered timeline tools can be useful in deepening reflection on other areas of science-related content while making connections to other disciplines.

Teaching project planning with timelines

These students are planning a garden with the Chrome extension Read Write Think:

timeline tools for transformative learning


Timelines are so much more than tools

the ABCs of edtechAs with all edtech, the focus needs to move beyond the tool to how it’s implemented. Being able to collaborate on online timelines allows young adolescents to take the lead in project planning while bringing in community partners and families in collaborating on projects with real-world meaningfulness. Involve students in planning for 1:1 rollouts. Serve as advisers to them as they plan out their first student-led conferences.

Check out this student-led conferences timeline made by Tarrant Institute professional development coordinator Scott Thompson with TikiToki.

Take it to the bridge. Everyone!

There is no legitimate pedagogical reason for this video. The song just got stuck in my head while I was writing this post and I wanted to spread the love.

You’re welcome.

Need to catch up on your edtech ABCs? Check out the full series here.

Audrey Homan

Audrey Homan is a Vermont-based digital media producer, and producer of The 21st Century Classroom podcast. She's worked in non-profit communications for more than a decade, and in her spare time writes tiny video games and mucks about with augmented reality and arduinos, ably assisted by five dogs. Interviewing students and yelling in PHP are the best parts of her job.

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