Round one of doing digital classroom resulted in some pretty fabulous stuff, but some challenges.

The students and I quickly discovered that Timetoast, while incredibly easy to use, mostly because of GUI, didn’t meet all of our needs.  Specifically, there is no way to back up or archive the timeline which is worrisome when working collaboratively.

One student Michael Cuomo* then found TimelineJS, (from this fab link that someone tweeted but I can’t remember who!) which is incredibly attractive, although somewhat more complicated.   A spread sheet  is used to enter information for the timeline instead of GUI.   At first some students were put off by that, but we pushed on.

He and I then worked to figure out where to host the timeline.  While TimelineJS has a great WordPress plugin, you need the hosted version which costs $$$$ so he created a free weebly site for us.

Because not all of my students have devices they can bring to class, I booked into one of the few classrooms with computers.  Thankfully my course is small because the lab has only 12 laptops, and they are not at all up to date.  Students ran into browser issues as well as software updates that haven’t been installed and that only people with admin privileges can authorize.   I was incredibly lucky that the room was available at the time slot of our course.  The issue of BYOD is a huge potential barrier to this sort of class project. 

The next issue was how to collaborate on the spreadsheet.  Our campus email is compatible with skydrive, but TimelineJS works better with google docs drive.  We discussed the issue of everyone having to have their own Google accounts, but students decided that they would make burn accounts if needed.  It turns out some students already had old accounts that are compatible with Google drive.

Again, my fabulous student Michael Cuomo set up the spreadsheet and walked the rest of us through entering in the information.  We discovered that while Timetoast had a dedicate spot for source of information that could be hyper-linked, TimelineJS did not.  We agreed on a work around.

We all set to entering information.  I erased someone’s entry.  WHOOPS.  We decided to assign lines of the spreadsheet for entry purposes, (we later realized  that meant that we wouldn’t be able to keep the live as blank lines in the timeline cause problems).

It turns out as Michael worked on our spreadsheet he discovered that there is also a limit to 6 tags, which doesn’t allow for each student to tag their entries.

So far the biggest barrier to TimelineJS is the cap at 200 entries.  I had envisioned this as an ongoing timeline that could be collaborated on over many semesters.  Michael  tells me that there is a hack to make it longer, so hopefully that is true!

*I got Micahel’s permission to give him credit here.

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