This week marks the last week of school for many states.  In talking to my nephew about his summer plans today, I was a little taken aback by the very busy summer he’ll have (summer job, summer reading, college visits, family vacation, and activities with friends).  I couldn’t help but have him walk me through how he will do all of this.  Then, it occurred to me, that he just made a summer vacation timeline!

So, here’s an idea for something to do with your students during this last week of class – Creating Summer Vacation Timelines:

1) Ask them to detail their summer plans — each activity, how long the activity will take, what the corresponding dates will be for each (these are the “events” in the timeline)

2) Add details about each summer activity:  post pictures or videos of places they’ll visit, or create a video of them talking about what they hope to get out of their summer job or trip

3) Consider not just due dates for homework/summer assignments, but also create an event on when it needs to start in order to complete it by the due date.  For example, summer reading book reports are due on the first day of school, but when do you need to start reading those five books to get this done before school starts?

It’s never too early to start teaching time management.

We want to apologize for the problems that you have been experiencing on the website since our transition to the new version in the last week.  We tried our best to test for problems ahead of time, but unfortunately, we did not catch every issue.

In this new version, we made a number of improvements:
1) Rewrite our backend to make the site run faster
2) Shift the site to a new, better server, also to help speed up the site
3) Change “Groups” to “Lists” to make it easier to use

The good news, we believe, is that the site is more stable now.  There are a few issues which we are still resolving, but we think the site is close to the stage where we wish we had been when we did the transition.

We are a small team, and we are doing our best to maintain the site, and continue with some modest improvements.  We do read your feedback, and appreciate the comments.  We’ll continue to make changes you request as quickly as we can.

Thank you for your patience.

Best regards,
The xtimeline team

The new site is up and running!  However, the transfer process for all the photos and media is not done yet, and will take another several hours.  Rest assured nothing has been lost.  We will let you know when everything is done, and provide a more detailed update on the different changes that were made in this new version.

Thanks for your patience.

Update:  We are still handling the picture transfer to the new server.  We apologize about the delay.  We appreciate your patience.

Update 2: May 11 17:30 PST
We are still fixing some bugs in the new site.
Many, but not all, of the pictures have been transferred.
In addition, the registration process has an error which will be fixed very shortly.
Again, we apologize for the delay and we hope to get the site fully working in the next few hours.

Update 3: May 11 20:30 PST
Most of the major bugs have been fixed.

URL exceptions no longer cause the database to reset.
Registration is working.
Creating new timelines and events is working.
We have a fix for pictures, but this will be revised once more.
Again, we sincerely hope to get through the last of these issues very shortly.

Update 4: May 13 06:00 PST
We believe most issues have now been fixed. It has been a painful process, and many problems we did not catch during our previous testing. It has been a tough period, and we hope that our users were not disrupted too greatly by the experience.
There are some remaining issues which we know about, including some timelines are still missing photos. In addition, many timelines have had their permanent URLs changed. We will do our best to fix all of these problems as soon as possible.
Thank you again for your patience, and please continue to send any reports of problems to us at info at or through our feedback system.

This Friday evening, May 8, 2009, we’ll be taking the xtimeline website offline starting approximately 7:00 PM PST for approximately one day. We are rolling out a new version of the website to improve its performance. There will be some changes to the appearance of the website, but most of the work has been done on the backend. We are confident the update will improve the speed and stability of xtimeline. We also believe this version of the site will provide a better foundation for us to make future improvements.

Thank you for your patience as we make the migration, and for your patience with xtimeline’s developments generally. We’ll let you know when the site is back up!

In the countless writing assignments I’ve ever had in school, one very useful tool my instructors never used or taught me is a timeline.   Here are some ideas on how to use timelines in your writing assignments:

–         Create a timeline of the major events and turning points in the story

–         Brainstorm ideas and just throw them into a random sequence to see if that jogs any new ideas

–         Use your own life as an example – create a timeline of your life

I came across a couple of great blog posts about the value of using timelines in writing, one by Steven Savage and the other by Second Wind Publishing.  Savage actually uses the term “timeline-based writing.”  Second Wind’s post offers some important reminders:

“Timelines are also crucial because you don’t want a  “scantily-clad woman” in December…at least not in Chicago…anymore than a snowstorm in August.

Also, keep your timeline handy for comments in the story. If something happened a week ago, you don’t want to say a few days…even more important the other way around.”

Here is also a specific lesson plan idea for writing:

Happy writing!

Learning science isn’t just about doing experiments or memorizing periodic tables.  Timelines are a great way to help students understand the history of scientific thought and the people who’ve contributed to this over time.

Some lesson plans for science classes that you might find helpful:

The Five Biggest Ideas in Science
The Art of Teaching Science
Evolutionary history
Dinosaur discoveries

For younger students, check out this lesson plan for learning lifecycles.

There are also some great science timelines on xtimeline:  Medical Discoveries timeline, Astronomy timeline, and others in the Scientists group.

This Saturday, April 4, 2009, we’ll be taking the xtimeline website offline from approximately midnight to about 8pm PST. We’re rolling out a new version of the website to improve its performance.

Thank you for your patience as we make the migration. We’ll let you know when the site is back up.

Update: Unfortunately, we have not put the new version of the site up. We discovered some areas that were in need of further improvement. We are very disappointed to say that there will be a further delay. We hope you’ll be patient. Thanks, and sorry about the wait.

The xtimeline server went down on Wednesday afternoon (PST). No data was lost, but the site was unreachable for several hours. The problem has been fixed. We apologize for any inconvenience it caused you. We recognize that xtimeline has become a tool that people depend on, and we are working hard to improve our service to meet those expectations.

One improvement you will soon see is a new version of xtimeline. Changes are modest from a surface perspective, but the backend has been improved significantly.

Here’s what to expect:
* The site will be faster
* The site will be more stable
* Changes in groups
* No new timeline, yet

We hope the new version will be ready as early as next week. Given the economic environment, we haven’t been able to produce this new version as fast as we would like.

Thank you again to all the xtimeline users who wrote to us alerting us to issues on the site. Your emails and feedback really help us to know what we have to work on. We’ll be asking for more of your feedback soon in the coming week.

Thanks for your patience,

The xtimeline Team

When it comes to timelines, the most natural use is for studying or understanding history. For any teachers out there that may be looking for ideas on how to incorporate timelines into their assignments, here are some lesson plans that might help:

Build a Black History Database/Timeline
(Note: xtimeline African American History Month Group contains a list of timelines of African American leaders and influencers)

Cyberspace Explorer: Getting to Know Christopher Columbus

Using Timeline Games and Mexican History to Improve Comprehension

The First American Party System:  Events, Issues, and Positions (Note: Timelines of Democratic Party history and Republican Party history might be helpful)

History of Automobiles (Note: we have a pretty good Automobile timeline)

If you have timeline lessons for your history classes that you’d like to share, please let us know!

Study finds digital timelines help students engage and enjoy learning history more

I came across a very interesting study today about the use of digital timelines in the classroom.  The report, “The Impact of Using Digital Timelines in the Social Studies Classroom,” was published in the Social Studies Research and Practice Journal.  The study itself was focused on two U.S. History Grade 10 classes in a southwestern school in the U.S., with about 60 students total. Given the large number of educators and students who use xtimeline in their classrooms, we’ve already known anecdotally that digital timelines are a fun way to study history, map out a book, or learn about various people.  I’m not in high school, and I still always learn a lot going through the timelines we have on xtimeline.   That’s why the findings of this study didn’t surprise me:

“Most of the students participating in this digital timeline activity were more engaged and enjoyed studying history (Saye & Brush, 2002; Tally & Goldenberg, 2005; Van Scoter, 2004) more than during previous history units. Although it was not our intent to examine differences of students at the different class levels (advanced and non-advanced), results revealed that this project especially motivated the students in the non-advanced class and apparently provided confidence to them in terms of learning historical content as evidenced by student attempts to respond to essay questions on later tests.”

This also brings to mind an article in New York Times today about a librarian who’s integrating the latest web technology into her work with students.  Amongst other things, she’s teaching them how to make Powerpoint presentations and online videos.  Just goes to show that students today live and breathe technology, and in order to engage them, we have to keep up with the times and use tools that they find interesting and relevant.

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