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New Teachers Online: How-To Articles: Use New Technology to Reinforce Instruction

Time for Timeline
Carl Sannito

As the computer teacher for an elementary school, I often have difficulty purchasing software for my students and teachers. Teachers at my school have different needs each year depending on what they are trying to accomplish. It also depends on what the students need. Some schools have new teachers on a regular basis and the new teachers don’t follow the protocol of their predecessors. You can see how trying to stay on top of software is quite a task.

Another problem is selecting software. Here a few things you should consider:

  • You have to select programs that cover the content that your students need to work on.
  • The software has to be engaging, yet still educational.
  • You have to anticipate student needs for years down the road, because you don't want to purchase new software every year.
  • You may have to purchase software for classroom teachers, this means anticipating their needs as well.

Once you know what your needs are for your school,trying to find software that lives up to its claims can be a chore too. If this sounds all too familiar, then this article is for you.

One of my favorite pieces of software for students of all ages is TimeLiner. This software was created by Tom Snyder Productions. I have to say that although I am in no way, shape, or form affiliated with Tom Snyder Productions, I am a big fan of their software. Everything that I have purchased from them has been wonderful. For starters, they are all easy to install and come with well-written and complete manuals. The softwares use sound and graphics to keep the children engaged, but there were plenty of opportunities for small groups and collaboration. None of the software was so complicated that it scared me away; I found it all to be very intuitive. As for pricing, most quality software isn't cheap; however, this was well worth the money. You can check out prices on their website.

TimeLiner is a very simple piece of software that does what its name suggests: it helps you create timelines. The timelines can be simple or complex. You have the option to create a timeline that runs in increments of minutes (if you wanted to create a chart of the events of a particular day or a schedule) or days or even years. You might create a timeline of events in a story to create a graphic organizer. You could easily use it to simplify events from a history book.

The timelines that you create can be printed out on banner paper or regular 8 ½ by 11 paper (although you’ll have to tape them together). You can even get fancy with them and change fonts, explore different colors, shift events around and even add graphics!

One thing I like about the software is its versatility: special needs teachers can use it as well as general education teachers, it is simple enough to use with fourth and fifth graders, but not too easy for middle school students. And once the middle school students learned how to use it, TimeLiner became another tool in their tool belt. They found new applications for it in the classroom and turned their teacher on to those applications. The program can also be used with younger children, but you might want to use it in a whole group lesson. With my students, I might work with a projector for a whole class assignment. Alternatively, I might work with a small group at one computer. The interface is somewhat complex for primary students, but the idea of creating a timeline works with every grade.

My favorite lesson was this January when my students created timelines about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I searched the Internet for photos from his life and I saved the image files on the students’ computers. Then we discussed important events in Dr. King’s life. (This part tied in nicely to what the classroom teachers were already doing.) We had to type in the events and dates, but we didn’t have to do it in chronological order because the computer did that for us! The students had to determine which events they felt were important enough to include and which photos matched the events. Once the students were finished, I printed out the timelines and presto! we had wonderful graphic organizers which helped students synthesize a great deal of information.

Tom Snyder Productions has a great website with resources for users of TimeLiner. There is even a monthly challenge which you can take. They draw monthly winners for a free copy of TimeLiner. There are plenty of lesson plans and ideas in the documentation that accompanies the software.

If you’re looking for something new to try with your students or something exciting to try with your teachers, check out TimeLiner.

You can e-mail Carl at carlsannito@yahoo.com.


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