In the Spring of 2014 I had the opportunity to work with 3 different faculty members in the History department who wanted to experiment with having their students visualize data using maps and timelines. While they each had different goals and objectives the guiding principles were the same. We wanted the students to be able to get a better understanding of the materials by visualizing it either on a timeline or a map or both. We also wanted this to be fairly low tech. We didn’t want to make the students learn GIS and we certainly wanted to avoid any tech heavy solutions involving custom code.
After looking at a few options we decided to make use of our existing WordPress platform and use plugins to make timelines and maps.
The solution turned out to be quite simple for the students yet flexible enough to give use a variety of options for displaying the information. Both the timeline entries and mapping entries were simple fields added to regular WordPress posts. The training required was minimal. The students quickly picked up how to add locations to their posts using the simple Google maps search interface. Setting the dates on timeline posts was even easier – just enter the date where the item should go on the timeline.
HIST-311: Place in the Native Northeast
Tom Wickman, Assistant Professor of History and American Studies: http://commons.trincoll.edu/nativenortheastplacenames/
In this course students posted their work on the class WordPress site and had to post a number of map points connected to their posts as part of various assignments. This site will be added to each semester covering a range of topics associated with Native Americans in the Northeast. The site hosts a map containing all points created to date as well as individual maps created by each student as part of a final project. The geomashup plugin makes it simple to add a location to a post using a standard Google maps search interface. By using categories and tags we can display maps on specific topics and the readers can also decide which categories they want to display.
HIST-303: Modern Ireland
Jennifer Regan-Lefebvre, Assistant Professor of History: http://commons.trincoll.edu/hist303/
This course made use of both maps and timelines in WordPress. We wanted the students to get more background knowledge of the history of Ireland for the course so the goal of the WordPress site was to have the students generate content that when pooled together could serve as a source of information useful to all of them. Each student was assigned a specific topic to share with the class. The hope is the students can build on this first step in future classes.
HIST-300: History Workshop
Sean Cocco, Associate Professor of History: http://commons.trincoll.edu/historychart/
This course focused on the concept of night time in Europe from 1500-1800. The goal of this project was to visualize information based on both time and place. Utilizing categories and tags helps link the various posts and topics together. Each semester the course topics changes and the hope is students will be continuously adding to the site to create a rick recourse of historical information.
More information on the plugins:
- The maps were created using the geomashup plugin http://wordpress.org/plugins/geo-mashup/
- The timelines were created using the SIMILE plugin https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-simile-timeline/
There are many approaches to both maps and timelines available. We chose these solutions because of their simplicity and seamless integration with WordPress. There are other timeline options that are more feature rich (Timeline JS for example) and many more options for mapping such as Google Fusion tables and ArcGIS software. If you are interested in possibly using timelines or maps with your students just contact your Instructional Technologist and let us help you get started!