History timelines as visual learning


Timeline.tv is a British educational website focussing mostly of the history of Great Britain but also including Seven Journeys in the American West and an extensive coverage of the history of Smallpox Through Time,  1045BC to 2010.  The History of Britain section is divided into categories dealing with lives of the people, rulers and government and the Empire.

This is a content-rich site with a mix of short videos  (7-12 minutes) with external links to quality related sites.  The videos present historical subjects in a variety of ways with associated primary artifacts, such as drawings, documents and artwork along with contemporary footage of the locations, buildings and historical landmarks.  The narrator also makes the link between historical and contemporary times in an easy explanatory tone.

Timeline.tv is easy to negotiate and ideally suited to individual or small group student work.  The association between events is assisted by their placement in the timeline across the bottom to the screen.  So visually supportive!  Students could create their own time lines from the content.  This educational resource award winner from 2010 is certainly worth revisiting if it has slipped off your radar, or exploring as a new discovery.

There are many timeline tools.  A couple of my favourites are: Time Rime | Timetoast
See also tools mentioned in the previous post Timeline Generators

Google Cultural Institute

With History Week kicking off in Victoria today seems like the perfect time to take a look at the new Google Cultural Institute. The project brings together a number of historical and cultural resources from cultural institutions around the world. The site features a range of digitised items, curated timelines and a number of interesting digital projects.

The Cultural Institute features resources from institutions such as the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory and Anne Frank House, along with photographic archives from organisations like Life and Getty Images. You can select the institution or decade you are interested in by clicking on the Explore button. Context is provided to many of the digitised items in the form of curated timelines produced by the relevant institutions.  A great example of this is the Imperial War Museum’s D-Day timeline.

Curated timelines provide context to the items displayed

The site also brings together a number of digital projects that you may already seen, such as the Google Art Project or  World Wonders (with streetview images of the Great Barrier Reef and Scott’s Hut). A particular favourite with library staff has been the Versailles 3D project, where you can help Louis XIV build his palace.

While the curated timelines and digital projects offer a great deal of value, you can also browse archives using a general search term. Items can be narrowed down with a date slider and modified by topics such as place, event or object type. It’s a similar process to a standard Google search and may suggest that soon the Cultural Institute will be a standard Google search option in the same way News, Images and Video are now.

It’s clear that Google aims for the Cultural Institute to become a repository for a range of artefacts from across the world, moving items from individual websites to a single archive. It is an interesting move to try and create a place where all cultural material can be stored and seems to continue Google’s attempts to position themselves as the holders of culture and knowledge (as they are also doing with their book scanning project). Whether their lofty ambitions are successful remains to be seen, while some may again call into question the true motivations of the company. But for the moment there is no doubt that the Cultural Institute is a useful site and well worth exploring.

Test drive: MyHistro

There is a new timeline tool in town! Actually MyHistro is more than just a timeline – it has a  built-in mapping tool too.

MyHistro allows users to build timelines around a theme or story with options for including text, video and photos. Every ‘event’ the user adds to their story can be geo-located on a Google Map. Stories can be developed by individuals or as a collaborative effort; the owner simply invites others to co-author a timeline. Comments are limited to registered users only. Registration is free with unlimited space and number of timelines you can create.

And if that isn’t wonderful enough, MyHistro has the added bonus of allowing your audience to view your ‘stories’ three different ways. Present them in a slideshow format, as a chronological stack or as ebooks with turn-able pages.  Stories can also be embedded into blogs and websites or exported for uploading onto Google Earth.

Have a look at what others have been doing with the tool. The site offers three search options as well as a tag cloud for browsing the gallery. The gallery of stories is growing daily. There is a free app available for iPhone/iPads that allows you to edit your own stories and search others’.


MyHistro was initially blocked by our school’s filtering system because it was classified a social networking site. I asked and had no problem getting it unblocked.

I found it very easy to use once I understood the difference between events and stories. The Help section covered most of the questions I had and there is a new MyHistro blog with useful articles.  I found the Terms of Use were a little confusing; when joining I had to tick a box confirming that I was old enough to use social networking in my country but on reading the Terms of Use it is very clearly written (in all caps!) that users must be 13 years old to register.

I can really see our History and Integrated Studies students using this to map migration stories, global events and issues, the spread of ideas from one culture to the next.  English students could map out story-lines and hero’s journeys (or author’s journeys). I can also envisage uses in health studies such as tracking epidemics.

With so many possibilities you’ll want to pass this one on to colleagues in all subject areas.


An interesting Web 2.0 resource that could be useful for the beginning of the school year is thisMoment.

thisMoment is a type of digital portfolio that can chronicle events in a person’s life. As with all of the best Web 2.0 tools that can be used for educational purposes, thisMoment has privacy settings so that students’ work can be shared only with selected people.

‘Moments’ appear in the form of a timeline, with the ability for you to upload photos or videos alongside the text that you write; a description of what the moment is and how it made you feel. Getting students to create their own moments could be a great way of getting to know them at the beginning of the year. If thisMoment was introduced to year 6 students on orientation day, they could collect moments over the Christmas holidays ready to upload and share with their new school mates and teachers. For those schools with pets, accounts for pets can be created and (for example) the life cycle of a pet could be chronicled. This type of activity has applications for VELS areas such as Science, English, Humanities, ICT and Personal Learning

There are lots of social networking tools that users can tweak to add to their thisMoment experience.