Monday, October 22, 2018

Scramble for Africa - Making Timelines With The Knight Lab Tool

Making good digital products is so important for kids to learn. That's why I have my students do at least half or more of their timeline and map making through digital means. We've tried different timeline apps and even made them more organically with Google apps, but none of those options turned out great results.

Knight Lab by Northwestern University provides several templates for making a variety of presentation formats that pull information from Google Sheets. The lab has easy-to-follow directions and a simple process to take a Google Sheet URL and make a front end for it to embed in your website. Sites like Time magazine and the U.S. Department of Energy have been known to use the Knight Lab tools.

Here's our process for making the following Scramble for Africa timeline. It's not perfect, but there was a lot discuss and learn from this activity and final product.

The Template

The template can be found on the knight lab website. Click the button that says "Get the Spreadsheet Template." Make a copy of the template, add it to your drive, and share it with your students.


Students can complete the template, but make sure they are careful about following directions. The timeline won't come out the other end properly if there are small mistakes in the spreadsheet. If you run into trouble or don't what to write in a cell, hover over the column headings to reveal the directions.


Publish the spreadsheet to the web and grab the link to paste into the Knight Lab "machine." Follow the directions carefully on this one because it's already changed from one year to the next. The directions worked as they promised, however.


Grab the link to the timeline or copy the embed code to paste it into your html editor. And that's it. You may have to fine tune the information on the Google sheet, but that's all.

Here's our class's finished timeline. 

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