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ChronoZoom and zombies head to SXSWedu

ChronoZoom and zombies head to SXSWedu

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Microsoft Research and Zombie-Based Learning @ SXSWedu

I can’t believe how much has happened in just one year. This time last year, we had just released the beta version of ChronoZoom, and the content and development community had created two mini-releases on their own. Key members of the ChronoZoom team were heading off to SXSW Interactive in Austin, Texas, to accept the SXSW Interactive Award for Best Educational Resource.

Not content to rest on their laurels, the cross-functional, collaborative ChronoZoom team—made up of people from Microsoft Research; the University of California, Berkeley; the University of Washington; and Moscow State University—immediately began working on ChronoZoom’s next release. The team was eager to add an authoring tool so that anyone—teacher, student, or researcher—can create timelines and tours inside ChronoZoom.

ChronoZoom is being used to help teach historical thinking
ChronoZoom is being used to help teach historical thinking

And while we were hard at work on this, outside developers were building creative applications with ChronoZoom. For instance, a team at the University of Alberta created Dino101, a specialized version of ChronoZoom that focuses on important events in Earth’s geological history. Then in the fall of 2013, a group of advanced placement high-school students in St. Louis, Missouri, used ChronoZoom to create a collaborative timeline on world religions. The pedagogical value of ChronoZoom shines through in their comments, such as this from student Dimitri Rucker:

ChronoZoom changed the way I thought about history, because of the format it’s displayed in. With the zooming capabilities, you can quickly and visually learn about history, all the way from cosmos to humanity now…With ChronoZoom, we incorporated the timeline of religion and philosophy and how they have affected history throughout time. And by using ChronoZoom, it is easier to show the large timeline of events to help explain how religion has affected the world.

We were elated to see ChronoZoom being used to help bridge the gap between science and humanities. It confirmed our belief that this visualization tool can serve as a great open education resource.

In March 2013, we launched ChronoZoom 2.0, which has gained even more traction in the education community. Working with our curriculum partners at the University of North Carolina’s School of Education, we’ve developed showcase curricula that really demonstrate the education potential of ChronoZoom.

Now we are excited to be represented at this year’s SXSWedu event, where curriculum designer David Hunter will present his Zombie-Based Learning Curriculum as well as the ChronoZoomers Guild project that utilizes ChronoZoom and teaches historical thinking in a time-traveling scenario. I am happy to hand this blog over to David, who will describe his session and his work with ChronoZoom.

Rane Johnson-Stempson, Principal Research Director, Education and Scholarly Communication, Microsoft Research


One year after the launch of ChronoZoom, we’ve made significant strides in utilizing the ChronoZoom open education resource tool to help teach historical thinking in today’s K-12 classrooms in the United States. Implementing any new tech tool in the classroom can be a challenge, so we worked hard to provide support for teachers as well as an engaging experience for students.

Click to read a memo to the time-traveling members of the ChronoZoomers Guild (courtesy of David Hunter)Working directly with the ChronoZoom team at Microsoft Research, we’ve recently launched a free curriculum that I developed to teach historical thinking by immersing students in researching the effects of manipulating history. To engage students, we’ve created an original story that complements the curriculum. In the story, an organization from the future, known as the ChronoZoomers Guild, is working to prevent historical atrocities for the betterment of future timelines. Within the story framework, students create their own timelines by using ChronoZoom to present and support their historical arguments.

Based on my experience as a middle-school humanities teacher, I designed the story, projects, and lessons to teach students not only historical content, but also how to think like historians. These historical thinking skills, such as understanding causality or historical research, meet the latest standards (CCSS, C3, and National History) in teaching history and social studies. Using the ChronoZoom tool with this curriculum greatly helps teachers meet those standards authentically. The curriculum also supports project-based learning and has proven to engage and excite students in developing critical, historical thinking skills.

With the options to use the free tool, curriculum, or story, K-12 teachers have several choices of how to integrate ChronoZoom in their classroom, allowing them to discover strategies to enhance student learning experiences by engaging in deeper thinking about both historical concepts and technology. We'll be discussing strategies to support teachers and engage students at our SXSWedu workshop this year. Be sure to check it out!

David Hunter, Chief Survival Officer, Zombie-Based Learning

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