This review reflects the observations and experiences of independent teacher volunteers, and is provided as a service to Education World readers. The review in no way constitutes an endorsement of the product or its manufacturer by those teachers or by Education World.
TimeLiner by Tom Snyder Productions allows students in grades K-12 to create timelines by simply entering events and dates. The program includes a large library of historical images and other clip art, and allows users to import additional images from the Web. Students can also add movies and sounds to create multimedia timelines. Completed timelines can be printed, posted to the Web, or presented in slide shows.
Recently, Education World asked five reviewers, all teachers or educational technology specialists, to check out TimeLiner with real students in actual classroom situations. Each teacher was asked to use TimeLiner with his or her students for a period of at least one month, note specific strengths, weaknesses, and/or quirks of the program, record personal observations or suggestions -- both positive and negative -- and rate the software on a scale of 1-4.
The results are in -- and this is what our reviewers had to say!
"This software is relatively expensive as a stand-alone application, but more economical when purchased as a network or site license."
"With a little instruction, TimeLiner can be used by students as early as second grade."
"I would purchase this program for high school level use and would definitely recommend it for middle school as well. For those folks who use Inspiration, it is a logical companion program."
"With the recent marketing promotions offered by Tom Snyder, several schools in my district are planning to purchase this software. It is an excellent value."
"As with all Tom Snyder programs I've used, I would highly recommend TimeLiner to my teachers."
"I would like to purchase this program, although the price is high. That would limit the number of copies I would purchase, especially because I don't feel the program would get enough use to justify purchasing a site license. I would recommend this program, however, if teachers feel they would use it frequently as a supplement to their curriculum in the classroom. A five-pack is reasonably priced and would fit well in a classroom for independent work."
"The program was very easy to introduce and would be effective for small group projects. This simple visual tool can be used with writing and science activities, as well as with social studies."
"This program easily lent itself to collaboration. I also like the open-ended nature of the program. Most importantly, TimeLiner allows the teacher to set parameters and a framework, while providing students with lots of freedom to explore and be creative within that framework."
"My students were excited about using this program. They worked hard and asked to do more projects with it when we were finished. They were particularly excited about adding graphics, sounds, etc., from the Internet."
"As a result of my use of TimeLiner, my school is considering purchasing the software. In our middle school, we tend to favor software that is open-ended and allows students to produce work, rather than games or simulations. TimeLiner 5.0 fits our needs perfectly. I anticipate that many teachers will want to use this application after seeing it demonstrated."
"I installed TimeLiner on a G4 Mac with 256 MB of RAM. Previous versions of the software required that the desktop be rebuilt on a Mac, but that bug has been fixed."
"TimeLiner installed quickly -- about one to two minutes from the CD -- without adding QuickTime. Downloading the latest version of the QuickTime player typically took another two minutes, although I ran into an error installing it on some computers. TimeLiner ran just fine on older versions of QuickTime, however."
"Installation is a cinch. I installed the program on one computer, then copied it to the remaining computers in my lab using Network Assistant."
"This is not an intuitive program (you really need to read the documentation); however, the directions and walk-throughs are very clear and easy to follow. Most teachers probably would have to teach their students how to use the program (or provide students with the documentation and then allow them to teach one another) before setting them loose with it."
"Documentation was included, but wasn't necessary for me. The program is very easy to use. All buttons do what you expect them to and include the typical mouse-over description of their function. I had a group of veteran teachers using the program within 15 minutes; students picked up the program even faster (which is typical)."
"Adding new events is as simple as typing a When and a What. Short, clear directions are provided for the optional media functions, which appear as tabs when the user creates a New Event."
"Pop-up explanations clarify labeled and unlabeled icon buttons."
"This is a cross-platform application. Macintosh users need to know that they have to add the .tl5 extension to file names; no prompt is provided for this."
"The software comes with a library of clip art; creating a custom clip art collection for student use also is easy. Imported graphics must be stored in the TimeLiner Custom Clip Art folder on the hard drive, however. Supported graphic file formats are .jpg, .gif, .pict and .bmp. Animated .gif and Flash files are not supported. QuickTime, .avi, and .mpeg movie files also can be imported, and all major sound formats are supported. The QuickTime plug-in is required to play QT movies or sounds, many of which are included in the sample timeline files."
"The program includes a set of sample timelines that span most middle school academic subjects. Additional sample timelines can be found on the Tom Snyder Web site, which also provides links to clip art collections and timeline Web pages."
"My students used TimeLiner to create timelines of California history. The activity was an overwhelming success; students were very interested in, and motivated by, an activity that would have been tedious and time consuming if done by hand. After entering the dates, students added Web links and graphics and created slide shows. I found that the program was very easy for students to use independently. My fourth graders easily found and imported pictures appropriate to their timelines."
"We really liked the timing feature -- the fact that the program automatically sorts events by date. As one student explained to another: 'As you type, the computer puts the dates in order for you.' The students were able to help one another with the program, instead of constantly asking me for help."
"I was not pleased with a few things about TimeLiner. Formatting the layout of the banner is difficult. Although it is possible to change the size of the flags, users cannot move them below the timeline or to the left of the date line in order to fit more information in a smaller space. I also found that the Start menu bar remains over the timeline during the slide show, making it difficult to see it and navigate. In general, I prefer more open-ended programs, but I think this was appealing to students because it was more limited and easy to understand. I also think it would be appealing to teachers new to technology because there are few buttons or extra commands to be confusing."
"The software includes many graphics that students can use to illustrate their timelines. Graphics can also be added from the hard-drive or from the Internet. Several video/audio clips are also included. Students included hyperlinks in their timelines to show where they found much of their information."
"The manual is clear and concise. Basic and advanced instructions are given, along with curricular ideas. I liked the suggestions, particularly about using TimeLiner 5.0 for guided research and test. I also liked that content can be customized by adding graphics, sound, and video clips."
"The print options are very useful. With a few changes, students were able to print their timelines on one page of paper to keep in their notebooks and make a poster-sized timeline that printed on several pieces of standard paper, which they then taped together to hang on the classroom bulletin board."
"Completed timelines can be expanded and compressed for printing, and then printed in part or as a whole. Printing options accommodate a variety of printers and formats, including posters and banners."
"TimeLiner really motivated my students to help one another and share their ideas. One student suddenly cheered and announced, 'I found out how to import my own mission picture into my timeline!' He then showed several of his classmates how to do the same, though he did tell me, 'That was complicated.' Most often I heard, 'That was fun!'"
"Navigation needs to be taught."
"Navigating to various views of the timelines is very easy and intuitive."
"A frame-like interface makes navigation within one timeline and between views of one timeline effortless."
"Timeline was very easy to navigate. I found that the simplicity of the navigation encouraged my students to experiment and help one another before asking the teacher for assistance -- an independence I try to encourage."
"The program was fast and efficient."
"The program ran consistently with no errors, even though I did not increase the memory settings. After installation, the program runs from the hard drive. The QuickTime movies loaded quickly and ran without pause in the slide show window."
"Fonts can be altered by the user. Setting up different fonts, styles, sizes, and colors is easy; this applies equally to labels and timeline items. Users also can change the shape and fill color of time item 'flags.' Sounds, graphics and videos can be imported into the program by copy-paste or by browsing a stored file. Sounds can be recorded with a simple interface. These are embedded in the timeline and the quality is acceptable. My attempts to record from a CD failed, but recording through the built-in microphone was successful."
"The ability (in Preferences) to choose to either link to or embed graphics allows users to avoid overly large timeline files."
"Links within the software are few and clearly labeled. One user-friendly feature is the notification in the actual menu of what will not be possible. (For example, graphics that are linked to a timeline will not print.) Users still need to experiment in order to locate all possibilities and limitations, however. Differing capabilities and menus in timeline formats can be confusing, although the manual explains the capabilities clearly."
"A few features were somewhat disappointing:
"Sound effects were very popular, maybe even the highlight of the program, from the students' point of view. Finding buttons to edit, enter, and navigate the program was simple. It even includes a clock!"
"No problems -- it just takes a bit to get used to the interface."
"One of the really good things about this program is that users can build customized displays, posters, and slide shows from one data entry."
"This program works across the curriculum."
"The program also includes a Spanish option; moving from one language to the other is easy."
"One of the strengths of this program is that it allows for repeated, non-repetitious use. Students can use the software in a variety of classes for many different topics. This is not a program that teaches students specific facts, but a tool they can use to organize and present their information."
"Tom Snyder aligns TimeLiner to national and state standards. The manual lists many alignments and support for state standards is kept up-to-date on the Tom Snyder Web site."
"TimeLiner is flexible in terms of event labeling, allowing for daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, or custom axis labels. This makes the program appropriate for a wide range of classroom assignments, as well as useful for administrative tasks. For example, the review used it to outline a year-long implementation plan."
"The range of support for media files means that students can use the software creatively in a multi-media lab or classroom."
"The program's 'merge timelines' feature, coupled with the ability to label timeline events by category, makes it very useful for cooperative projects."
"Timelines can be saved as stationery (for distribution to many users) and as graphic files, although not all graphic formats are available in every view. Completed timelines can be saved as .jpg or .gif files and inserted onto Web pages."
"For the few sessions that we used this program, students were very interested, but I don't think I could use it for more than three sessions in a row without interest lagging. I plan to use it again later in the year. TimeLiner offers an excellent way to tie together different units in history."
"Students easily found appropriate graphics in the program for their timelines and seemed to be very engaged in the project. I personally prefer programs that require more student creativity, but using TimeLiner did lead to some interesting discussions about time and history, so as a prompt for a social studies lesson, the program met educational objectives. I'm not certain that the program extended student learning, but I found it to be a very engaging alternative to pencil and paper timelines, one that offered a visual representation of history."
"Menus and buttons can all be changed to Spanish. This is helpful for ESL students or schools teaching a bilingual curriculum. Data can be imported from a spreadsheet or word processor document. Multiple timelines can easily be merged into one. This feature is useful for students who are creating separate timelines and want to see how they overlap."
"This piece of software is unique and invaluable as a tool for both teachers and students. The program is flexible in that it can be used to meet a variety of objectives. Students really need a visual tool for understanding events, and TimeLiner makes it easy for students to see connections."
"The built-in help tool is not a substitute for the manual."
"The in-program help is not very useful, but the documentation that comes with the program is excellent."
"The program includes a number of activities and teacher utilities, as well as example sheets that can be run off as black line masters for groups."
"I didn't have the need for technical support. This program is not complicated and works smoothly. All features are well documented in the included help files."
"I phoned the tech support line in the late afternoon -- they picked up after the first ring. In addition to answering my question, they encouraged me to make suggestions for improvement of the product and then to clarify those suggestions."
"An Easy Start Guide and a Teacher's Guide are included as .pdf files. The manual that comes with the software contains a Walkthrough, a description of Features and Functions, and suggested Classroom Activities. Tom Snyder also maintains a Web site for the product. The site includes research links to online timelines and subject-specific information and to clip art collections."
"The help contents were easy to follow but limited. I tried using them to find a way to shift the timeline banner, but it seems to be impossible. I did not try technical support, but I would rate the help tool as average. The program comes with a binder full of instructions and sample lesson ideas."
"TimeLiner has an accompanying Web site that contains many helpful links, including an online TimeLiner challenge. Online tech support is minimal, however."
"The included help file covers all aspects of the program and is very thorough."
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