Histography - Timeline of History

Promising interactive timeline sourced from Wikipedia; requires caution

Learning rating

Community rating

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Expert evaluation by Common Sense

Grades

6–12

Subjects & Skills

Social Studies

Price: Free
Platforms: Web

Pros: Visuals will draw students in; access built-in videos and text without opening new tabs.

Cons: Some info sourced from Wikipedia won't be accurate; not all video links work.

Bottom Line: This visually elegant timeline tool could be useful if sources were vetted or if teachers turn its weak points into strengths.

How Can I Teach with This Tool?

Although Histography was created as an art and design project, it could be a cool tool for the classroom with some caveats. Histography will engage students, who can zoom in and out of the timeline, watching dots that represent significant events change position on the screen -- anywhere from the Big Bang to 2015. As students explore the timeline, they will notice that they can filter events based on some specific information, like inventions, women's rights, literature, disasters, wars, and more. Nearly all events have a photo when you hover over them, and many include videos. A section called Editorial Stories includes selected stories and events presented in a spiral. Most text readers should be compatible with Histography, but teachers should check in advance.

Let students observe what they notice about recorded events -- like how the closer you get to the present, the more events there are. These observations can lead to rich discussions on the flow and nature of history, who writes history, and how that impacts the displayed information. Filtering by a subject like women's rights, inventions, or literature can help students explore a more narrow thread of history, allowing students to compare information from within the same decades to get a more global understanding of how events unfolded. If students are studying inventions or events, the teacher could let students discover a topic in Histography as a jumping-off point for additional research.

Of course, the main issue with Histography is that all information is sourced from Wikipedia. That doesn't mean it's useless academically, but it does mean teachers should take care to have kids drill down to the more primary sources within a Wikipedia article. If teachers have students focusing on limited periods, they will want to vet the information to ensure accuracy. This process will not be realistic for longer swaths of time, as there will be hundreds or thousands of data points. Along with important discussions like those mentioned above, the teacher can sharpen students' critical thinking skills. While most of the information appears to be accurate, there will be inaccuracies: One event in 2011 was "Slaves Riots in Rome." Ask students whether this sounds right and how they could verify or debunk the claim that this happened. Questioning the accuracy of information is an important media literacy skill, and Histography offers a place to start. The same skills can transfer to other more commonly used sites, like news outlets and opinion blogs. Similarly, keep in mind that as the information is automatically pulled from Wikipedia, there is always a chance that inappropriate content could surface. Have a discussion with the class about handling questionable content should it occur.

Learning Rating

Overall Rating
Engagement

Histography is visually dynamic and easy to use.

Pedagogy

There's plenty to dig into and explore, but the potential for misinformation adds a layer of extra effort since teachers -- and students -- need to verify what they find.

Support

It's easy to use, but there are no supporting materials or accessibility options.

Common Sense reviewer
Shaun Langevin
Shaun Langevin Technology coordinator

Community Rating

Interactive and Engaging Design- Easy Research Starting Point

My overall opinion can be summarized in these three words; vivid, subjective, and foundational. This app is vivid and designed to catch the user's eyes. Students and teachers alike enjoy using applications that are eye-catching and aesthetically pleasing. This app is also subjective, the source being Wikipedia, the information stored within this system can often times be written under biases, however, events that are recorded are still true. Students must take it as a starting point. This app is foundational because it is a place to begin projects, conversations, and creations. I liked the way the app is laid out, and how easy it is to run, and navigate. No account is needed, it is simply a well-trained website that is a good tool for students to be aware of. I do not like that it's main source of information is Wikipedia. However, as stated before, Wikipedia can often be a good starting point.

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