Monday, October 13, 2008

The Order of Things

The latest version of Timeliner does a lot more than make timelines. In fact, as we were working on it we tossed around lots of different product names such as "Sequencer" and "Idea Liner". Ultimately we stuck with Timeliner because the brand is so well known. But we seriously considered changing the name because we want people to know about all the other things the program can do.

Probably the most significant new feature is the ability to make "sequences". Other terms for sequences include "flow charts" and "process diagrams". Basically, we're talking about diagrams that show a sequence of process, order, or intensity. In all these examples, the sequential order is important but the exact date or time when things happen is not.

For example, the plot of a story is a sequence. With Timeliner XE you can make a sequence diagram that shows the order of events in a story. The diagram shows a series of boxes describing key parts of the plot connected by arrows. These boxes can be moved up and down to illustrate elements in the arc of a story such as rising action, conflict, and climax.

Another sequence in language arts is a vocabulary sequence. The idea for creating vocabulary sequences came from Dr. Kate Garnett a professor at Hunter College who specializes in special education. After showing Kate an early prototype of Timeliner XE, she told us that many struggling students have a hard time understanding the distinction between different adjectives that describe similar attributes, such as large, huge, and gigantic. She described these as "sequences of intensity." She pointed out that this is also a difficult area for ELL students. The image below shows a vocabulary sequence of intensity from small to big.

Science is full of sequences. For example, the food chain or mitosis, are examples of process sequences that can be illustrated by a horizontal left-to-right sequence. Horizontal sequences are also helpful to show spectrums, or sequences of intensity such as the pH scale and Mohs scale of mineral hardness. Vertical sequences work well to illustrate hierarchies in science such as classification of species or cellular organization.

Circular sequences are great for illustrating cycles found in nature such as phases of the moon, the water cycle, or the life cycle of a butterfly.

Math also has sequences such as skip counting or the steps to follow for solving a word problem. Many teachers told us they use Timeliner to help students with organizational skills. Students create sequences to plan out the steps for completing a project or the steps necessary to get a driver's license.

Tell us how you're using Timeliner. I'm sure you've come up with ideas we haven't thought of yet. That's the beauty of an open-ended tool. It's as powerful as your imagination. To share ideas go to our community site. We look forward to seeing your creations.

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