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Use Timeline JS and Juxtapose for historical thinking awesomeness

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Several weeks ago, I gushed about a new tool I had just run across called StoryMap JS. It seemed like an easy to use, nice to look at tool for creating interactive, multimedia historical accounts. Perfect for pushing out teacher created content to students and for pulling in student created content.

And guess what?

That’s right. KnightLabs at Northwestern University, the makers of StoryMap, have some other tools as well. They’ve created something called Timeline JS and Juxtapose. Both are easy to use, are designed to be used with Google tools such as Sheets, and can be quickly embedded or shared via social media.

We know that timelines can be powerful visual hooks for our kids. And TimeLine lets both you and kids create rich, interactive timelines using a Google spreadsheet. The process is pretty simple.

  • Download and copy their sample Google Sheets template to your drive.
  • Paste and type content into the cells of the spreadsheet.
  • Publish the spreadsheet to the web.
  • Paste that link into Timeline.
  • Embed the finished product on your website or share the link. Interactive timeline now viewable by everyone. Done.

Each row of cells in your spreadsheet represent one slide in your timeline. You can add specific date and time, title, text, multimedia in all forms (YouTube, Google Maps, Vimeo, SoundCloud, images, websites, Wikipedia, Twitter, Flickr, etc) and captions for your multimedia.

Some suggestions:

  • Keep it short. We recommend not having more than 20 slides for a reader to click through.
  • Pick stories that have a strong chronological narrative. It does not work well for stories that need to jump around in the timeline.
  • Write each event as a part of a larger narrative.
  • Include events that build up to major occurrences – not just the major events.

The site provides step by step instructions. I created a quick example using Civil War battles and while there was a bit of learning curve as I experimented with the process, pretty simple stuff. If you get stuck, they provide a video and a useful help section.

timeline js 1

Two other examples follow Nelson Mandela and the 2012 Republican primaries.

And with any timeline tool, you can adapt the process in a variety of ways. Maybe provide a topic and 20 possible events. Kids have to select ten and provide rationale why they selected that subset. Have kids develop their own list from scratch. Provide a timeline of primary sources that are out of chrono order as a hook activity – working in groups, kids must correctly rearrange the sources.

Use Timeline as a remediation tool. Use it to flip your classroom instruction. Require a variety of media types. Use Timeline to share primary sources and require your students to integrate the sources into their own timeline.

The second tool created by KnightLabs is something called Juxtapose. You may have seen similar tools before. It can help you and your students compare two pieces of similar media, including photos and GIFs. It seems perfect for highlighting then/now stories that explain slow changes over time (growth of a city skyline, regrowth of a forest, etc.) or before/after stories that show the impact of single dramatic events (natural disasters, protests, wars, etc.).

It’s easy to use and works on all devices. All you need to get started are links to the images you’d like to compare. Copy and paste image URLs, give it a quick preview, and publish. You’ll get a handy web-based combination of images with a slider in the middle. You and others can now grab the slider and view before and after.

greensburg before after

Greensburg Kansas before and after a F5 tornado.

The brain loves visuals. When we can connect content with media in a variety of ways and ask students to interact with that content, we have a better chance of making things stick. I talk about finding ways to create “mental velcro” that our kids can use to make sense of historical data. Both of these tools provide an opportunity to create a variety of questions and problems for students to solve, increasing the size of the mental velcro.

And since I’m just starting to use these things, I would love to hear how others might integrate TimeLine and Juxtapose into instruction.

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