One of my favorite activities when I was teaching adult English language learners involved using a timeline. I would draw a timeline on the board. I labeled it with years that ranged from the earliest birth year possible, considering the average age of the class, and ended it with the present year. I would then give a number of sticky notes to each student. If I were working on listening comprehension, I would ask a question about learners’ lives and the date of its occurrence (When did you arrive in the United States?) or perhaps I would ask them about recent historical events. Students were then asked to come up to the board to place a sticky note in the appropriate location on the timeline. If I were working on writing, I would ask learners to respond to a question about when they were born, etc. They would write the complete response on the sticky note and place on the timeline. You get the idea. There are a lot of variations.
Depending on your objectives, the use of technology may or may not be called for here. The activity itself is already quite engaging, but certainly technology can be easily integrated. In fact, the exact same activity can be executed with a very simple technology tool - an online timeline maker. Using this website fits under the “substitution approach” of tech integration. The example above includes the basic activity staying the same (using a timeline) and the new technology tool (web-based) replacing an old one (line on a board). Read this explanation of SAMR for further illustration and other approaches to technology integration.
Those with more experience in technology integration often more deeply incorporate technology in the teaching and learning. They use technology to create new tasks with the activity. For example, teachers might encourage learners to create a YouTube video about an event in their lives or if they create a timeline on the life of Cesar Chavez, students post it to a blog and elicit comments from others. If you are interested in an advanced timeline maker and seeing potential ideas for timelines try Tiki-Toki timeline maker or read this blog post from Mr. G Online.
Please share how you have used timelines with your classes and how you think a new technology could be used.