ChronoZoom: Teaching history through technology
ChronoZoom is an online tool that shows how time is both horizontal and vertical, meaning that multiple events are taking place at the same time in different places, impacting one another. These lesson plans demonstrate how teachers might use this tool.
The ChronoZoom curriculum (ZIP, 21MB) is supported by the National Council for the Social Studies, Organization of American Historians, American Historical Association, and the National Council for History Education.
About ChronoZoom and the curriculum
ChronoZoom is an online tool that shows how time is both horizontal and vertical, meaning that multiple events are taking place at the same time in different places, impacting one another. ChronoZoom shows causation of events across time by displaying multiple simultaneous events. This helps students visualize time as both a horizontal line and as interconnected vertical lines. ChronoZoom allows students to visualize all of history on a scale of 5.7 trillion zoom factor, like a microscope allowing students to zoom in and out of history. The site is open source, free, and easy to access.
Microsoft Research contacted LEARN NC and asked us to help them create a curriculum to showcase how the tool might be used. To create the showcase curriculum, LEARN NC recruited two historians and four practicing teachers to work in two teams developing and piloting curriculum modules within a school. One team focused on World War I, showing how the war started not with a single assassination or the sinking of one ship, but through a host of events and conditions within major countries. Teachers asked small groups of students to create timelines for individual countries. Displaying the individual country timelines together showed students that multiple events in multiple locations led up to the war.
The second team focused on Early Encounters, periods of time when different cultures mingled and met through a variety of causes and with different motivations. This team’s work showed how cultural collision is a long process that happens across different times and locations. Students worked in small groups, focusing on creating timelines for an individual country. By identifying when different groups came into contact, students were able to see how specific places and times influenced one another. Students also discovered surprising simultaneous events. For example, students learned that the first McDonald’s was opening at the same time as the first prisoners were entering Auschwitz.
Teachers and students piloted these two modules in a middle school in Greensboro, North Carolina and a high school in St. Louis, Missouri. LEARN NC staff, host teachers, team members, and Microsoft researchers observed the classes and teachers as they implemented the modules. The observations and collected data, as well as suggestions drawn from them, were sent to Microsoft Research so that they can continue to improve ChronoZoom as an effective teaching tool.
There are no hard and fast rules about how to implement ChronoZoom into a classroom, The site lends itself naturally to differentiation based on different ability levels, allotted time, interests, and accessibility. Visit ChronoZoom and familiarize yourself with the site. Check out timelines that other teachers, students, and history scholars have created. The ChronoZoom authoring guide helps site visitors create a free account, tour the site, and learn how to create your timeline. Read more about ChronoZoom at the Microsoft Research Connections blog.