Dipity is a chronological timeline builder that takes useful information on the Internet—from social media, traditional search services, and RSS—and aggregates them in a single, easy-to-use, fun-to-navigate interface. These timelines not only cover a wide variety of history and social sciences topics (World War II, environmental disasters, popular culture, and elections), but they are also excellent for encouraging students to edit, evaluate, collaborate, and generate projects that can personalize history.
Dipity timelines use the power of multimedia and social media content with trends like timestamps, geolocation, and realtime updates. You can manually create timeline events, or easily import content from YouTube, Facebook, Google, Twitter, Pandora, Flickr, and Blogspot to your free timeline.
To get started, new users set up a free account and are then directed to the dashboard. The first step in creating a timeline is to provide a thumbnail picture, name, and description to the timeline. This is also the place to establish permissions for the use of the timeline; teachers should consider how to best use permissions for collaborative projects but settings can be changed at any time. Once the timeline is established, adding each event to the timeline is easy enough. Each entry asks for an image, title, date, and description of the event, as well as any web links that are relevant (video, website). Users would be wise to collect all images and research information ahead of time. It should also be noted that when users enter dates for each event, a month, day, and year is required for accurate placement on the timeline (we found that a month and year alone keep defaulting to the year the timeline is created, not the year in history).
Users can also modify timelines using the advanced settings. To access these settings, click the "Topic Settings" link to the right of the site title. Here, users can select the scope of the timeline zoom (which depends on the range of the chronology), the date at the center of the timeline, tags to use, permissions for comments, and the theme style to use for display. Below these advanced settings are tools that make it easy to fetch media—either across the Web or from user accounts—such as blog postings, photos from Picasa or Flickr, videos from YouTube or Vimeo, music from online stations such as Pandora, Twitter or RSS feeds, and more.
Dipity's site contains several examples that demonstrate the benefits of multimedia timeline builders: a fairly thorough
World War II project, a multimedia look at U.S. Presidents, and a look at immigration and deportation policies.
We also tested Dipity by creating a timeline of modern cultural American history related to comic books, designed for a blog posting on this site.
For educators, the benefit of timeline builders is the ability to work with students on developing their decision-making skills. Students constructing timelines have to decide which events to add and which to omit, what text should be displayed, which images to embed, and most importantly why the particular starting and endpoints were chosen on historical merit. In many ways, tools like Dipity provide teachers with an insight into student decision-making processes and open up dialogue about what historical work entails.