18 January 2009

Timelines in Geography

On Friday, my geography students were finishing up a paper timeline on the territorial expansion of the US and Canada. They had gathered the information using their textbook, then created an outline with dates and events before putting those events on a larger piece of paper. Several of the students finished early so I put them to work on two projects that I wanted to test out.

First, I put two students on Mnemograph.com, an online timeline creator that I found through Tom Barrett on Twitter. They entered their data, then added pictures and descriptions. Mnemograph allows timeline builders to rank events in the timeline, but the students hadn't gotten to that by the end of the period. The timeline can be viewed here. I'm not sure how this happened, but the events where students were inserting graphics got moved. They were also having trouble finding the graphics when viewing the timeline. It was frustrating for them to not have things "stick" where they wanted them to.

Another group of students worked on a timeline in Google Docs. We used spreadsheet, then inserted the timeline gadget. I had written last summer about my frustration with the Google Docs Timeline Gadget, but now it works like a charm! I had one student entering the data, two others searching for images that might be appropriate and two more searching for websites that would be relevant for additional information on the topic. The next class had one group proofreading descriptions and adding more detail, one checking images, another checking relevant websites, and a fourth group double-checking dates and event names. Students loved the collaborative aspect of the task and next time will use the discussion feature in spreadsheet. The second class was able to show small groups of their classmates what they had been doing and, generally speaking, they asked for the opportunity to do more lessons like that.

While some students were definitely more comfortable doing their timelines in the paper and pencil fashion, others reveled in the challenge of doing their timeline in a new way.