I’ve seen timelines used in almost every level of education and in every discipline of learning. Personally, I’ve had students use timelines to list the major events in a story, create an outline for a specific time period in Social Studies, and break a mathematical process up into steps in order to show how they arrived at a solution to a given problem. While I see no problem with continuing to use paper and pencil (with occasional images and clippings from magazines to add some visual “spice”) there do exist tools online that reduce the amount of paper being used in the classroom, as well as provide a much easier way to navigate, edit, and retool a timeline, greatly increasing the flexibility of timeline creation.
The Read, Write, Think timeline tool provides a way for students to easily manipulate the events of their timeline, allowing events to be edited quickly, and units of measure to be adjusted. Rather than rely on one method of measure, say listing events by their dates, students can easily change the units, insert entries, and delete entries without the mess of eraser shavings. The order of entries can even be rearranged to provide more flexibility while editing. Teachers themselves could challenge students by bringing up the webpage and creating a partially completed timeline and having whole group discussions about what should be filled in the missing entries, only to add more entries as students come up with ideas not considered beforehand. The amazing flexibility of this tool, with the addition of being able to print out your finished timeline in either vertical or horizontal layouts, makes this a great way to use technology to enhance the way both you and your students construct knowledge. Oh, and did I mention it’s free too?