Friday, May 1, 2015

Timelines Apps & Student Engagement

By Kim Miklusak

Traditionally I have had my AP English Language students create a timeline for the plot of Slaughterhouse-Five.  The book is written out of chronological order as the main character, Billy, is "unstuck" in time.  Students often struggle with this fact; not only do they frequently have difficulty seeing the events in order, but they also have difficulty partnering up events to analyze why Kurt Vonnegut would structure his novel this way.  After the students brainstormed their timelines, we would create one master timeline on the board and use it as a jumping off point for broader discussions and clarifications.

I wanted to try this same technique on the iPad; however, I was debating with myself whether this was simply a matter of substitution of iPad over paper.  I ultimately decided to go ahead with it and see what else I could do with it.  What I ended up finding is that the individual yet public nature of the assignment helped students to more personally connect with the ultimate goals.

On the suggestion of my coworker Kristen Guth, I had my students download the RWT Timeline app.  It is free and very easy to use; I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to work with timelines in class.  Students could organize their timeline by event, add short and long descriptions, and add pictures if they wanted.   It was interesting to hear students work through the timeline with their partners.  They engaged in debates on placement of events, which led to them making individual connections between relationships.

Student sample

In the end I had students upload their timeline into a Schoology Media Album, so everyone in class could review them.  We then shared them on the screen and discussed the differences between one timeline and another.  While I can't claim that it's completely transforming through technology, I'm still happy with the way it turned out and the increase in individual student engagement.

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