This post continues the theme of using digital storytelling tools for instruction. Good stories are usually about change or a journey that’s been made. Sometimes stories describe change in the context of events that have occurred over time. That’s where timeline tools come in handy. In this post, I’ll review some interactive timeline generators. What does this have to do with instruction? Sometimes it’s useful to show prior ways of doing things to see where innovation can and should occur.
At the top of my list of timeline generation tools is Dipity. This easy-to-use, versatile timeline generator allows you to place objects (e.g., representations of people, events, technology, etc) on a timeline interface that you can pan around. Clicking on an object allows you to view its associated information. In addition to a timeline, Dipity automatically creates different views of the objects you’ve generated, including a flipbook view, list view, and map view (relevant only if your objects are associated with locations).
Your objects can include text, photos, videos, and urls. The amount of information and types of media you associate with an object are really up to you. Dipity also can automate the collection of objects for you by searching various sources (e.g., like YouTube or Flickr) using keywords you provide.
Dipity is collaborative. You can invite learners via email to contribute to your timelines. You can challenge learners to identify pivotal moments in a period of history you’re examining and/or to comment on moments you’ve identified. Because you can link to any other site, you can use your timeline objects to link to web pages with quiz questions, discussion forums, and chat rooms, making your story of events even more interactive. You can share your timelines to a variety of social media sites and you also have the option to embed a timeline in your own Web site. If you want to limit your timeline to a smaller learning environment, make your timeline private and share it with a more limited group of people.
Like Dipity, xtimeline is an interactive timeline tool that allows users to view text and media associated with timeline objects. The initial view of xtimeline is very streamlined because it’s anticipated that a timeline can become quite crowded. Clicking on timeline objects lets you view a small black screen with more information. You can also go into the event list to get a larger view and to access a discussion forum. The xtimeline interface allows you to add an end date to your object and to add tags to individual objects. It’s not quite as visual or as intuitive to use as Dipity, in my opinion.
TimeGlider has more bells and whistles, which also means it has a steeper learning curve. However, if you need help there are plenty of visual cues and instructions provided on the site.
Like Dipity and xtimeline, you can associate text, links, and images to timeline objects. You also can import content automatically from a variety of sources including RSS feeds, Wikipedia, and Flickr. Like Dipity and xtimeline, you can make other users timeline editors via email invitations. You also can share your timelines with a larger audience.
What’s quite different about TimeGlider is that you have the ability to change the focus of your timeline and to assign different levels of importance to different timeline objects to make them appear larger or smaller relative to other timeline objects. Higher numbers create larger images. By shifting and clicking on an image, you can alter its vertical position on your timeline to avoid crowding when events are close together.
TimeGlider doesn’t “get” that you might not know the month or day of a particular timeline event so you’ll have to fill in some value. It also doesn’t allow you to associate videos with timeline objects. However, like Dipity and xtimeline, your can play with the links you associate with particular timeline objects to create additional interactivity and you can certainly link to a Web site that includes video content.
More timeline tools
Other examples of timeline tools you might want to explore include:
- TimeRime: allows you to associate images and text with timeline objects (how-to video)
- TimeToast: associate images and text using this slick, uncluttered interface (how-to video)
- Preceden: free with caveats; you’re limited to five events per timeline as you check it out
- Capzles: a social photo and video sharing site that also allows you to create timelines
- Allofme: create a timeline from digital assets including images, videos, blogs, and any web page (overview video)
- Timeline Builder: From the Center for History and New Media, this is a bare bones timeline creation tool but it’s free and easy to use.
Have any other favorite timeline tools?