Tech Tool: Tiki-Toki Timelines

Veiw this article as a Tiki-Toki Timeline

How are you introducing your students to historically contextualizing texts?
Naeem, A. “The Great Gatsby and Breakfast at Tiffany’s: Feminist theory” [Image]. Retrieved from:

Historical contextualization: “the ability to situate phenomena and the actions of people in the context of time, historical location, long-term developments or particular events to give meaning to these phenomena and actions” (Huijgen et al., 2018, p.1).

Studies show that historical contextualization is a skill students must learn (Huijgen et al., 2018). They naturally view the past from a present-oriented perspective (Huijgen et al., 2014).

Historical reconstruction, or the examination of historical events through chronological, spacial, and social frames, is one way to teach students historical contextualization (Huijgen et al., 2018).

Students can use movies, visual images, and documents to examine history through these frames (Huijgen et al., 2018).

Learn More

Tiki-Toki Timelines allow students to reconstruct history.

Full Tutorial: “HOW” and “WHY” to use timelines

With a free account, students can…
  • Create one customized timeline (or more with paid accounts) that features up to 200 events.
  • Embed images, videos, and links into timelines.
  • Create up to 50 categories (or “lenses”) through which they can order events.
  • Share timelines with their peers by using a link.
  • Create timelines with their peers by generating and using a sign-in word

Visit the Tiki-Toki FAQ page

Timelines and Critical Media Studies

Timelines can support sociocultural learning, which is active, authentic, participatory, and empowering (Morrell, 2013).

  1. Active: For each “story” on the timeline, students will have to conduct their own research, determine what content to include, and decide what media products best represent their messaging goals.
  2.  Authentic: Each “story” task is part of a larger purpose of building a timeline that can helps students reconstruct events through different lenses.
  3. Participatory: Students can collaborate on one timeline or share their timelines with their peers.
  4. Empowering: Students select what events to focus on, what lenses to present them through, and how to best present them.

-This can be counter-hegemonic (Gramsci, 1971) when students use it to critique the narratives in their textbooks.

Timelines and Problem-Posing Education

“Problem posing education involves a constant unveiling of reality…strives for the emergence of consciousness” (Freire, 1972, p. 62).
While literature classes typically involve discussion of the texts, many teachers frame their texts by lecturing on their historical, social, and cultural contexts.

  • Timelines allow students to discover and then teach each other about the contexts of texts they are studying, rather than the educator “depositing” (Freire, 1972) this information into their heads.
  • Students can compare differences in their timeline’s content and the lenses through which they present it to “unveil” that the world does not exist as a reality apart from people (Freire, 1972, p. 62).
Timelines and Culturally Relevant Pedagogy

CRP “relies on the experiences and knowledge that teachers and students bring into the classroom” (Ladson-Billings, 2006, p. 32).
The category feature of the timeline allow the students or teacher to layer the events each character in a text goes through with the actual historical events that were unfolding at the time.

This feature is especially helpful for:

  • Bringing texts into the classroom that reference events some students may not know about because they are not “textbook knowledge” (ex. U.S. involvement in the Nicaragua Revolution).
  • Introducing students to texts that do not follow a linear plot.

How Teachers are Using Timelines

The Bottom Line

The Tiki-Toki timeline allows for a transformation of the classroom space, but there are some downsides to consider…

  • The Tiki-Toki Timeline allows each student to contribute to the contextualization of a novel, which redefines the classroom (Puentedura, R. 2014).
  • Students have the opportunity to challenge the idea of “official knowledge,” which greatly benefits marginalized students (Ladson-Billings 2006).
  • Students research, not regurgitate information. This is beneficial for students with lower SES, who are often taught just to follow directions (Anyon 1980).


  • Requires an internet connection
  • -The free version only allows for the creation of one timeline per student.
  • Students are limited in the type of media they can incorporate when using the free version.
  • Collaboration is limited with the free version, meaning one student may end up doing the brunt of the work in a group assignment.

Additional Resources

Advanced Tutorial: Learn how to create a presentation

Vanderbilt Center for Teaching’s Digital Timelines Resource

Reflection: Creating a Tutorial

By the time I introduce a new technology tool to my students, I have spent more than a few moments learning its features, experimenting with its abilities, and digging myself out problems. In the classroom, it is easy to gloss over the fact that, like all of my students, I start using each tool with a high level of incompetence. Many times, I have privileges that my students do not hold, which help me in learning a tool. The fact that I am learning a technology tool out of my desire and not because I need to complete an assignment means I will have more of an intrinsic motivation, or inclination to “develop skills and engage in learning-related activities” on and about the tool than my students will (Stipek 2002, p. 120). Likewise, I am typically under less strict timelines and have less formal objectives to complete when I am learning a tool. Toshalis (2015) writes that students may avoid challenging themselves when using these tools because they want to avoid the shame or humiliation of looking “dumb.” He challenges teachers to “share stories of how we experienced difficulty in some activity first but then worked through it” and “reinforce the fact that none of us were born competent at anything” (p. 100). I have found creating a tutorial is a great way to remind myself of just how much I had to figure out when working with a new technology tool so that I can bring those discussions to the classroom. It also provides my students with some assistance I did not have while learning the tool, which hopefully eases some of their fears about “how will I get this project done?,” so that they can consider “with this tool, what can I do?”.

One of the most difficult things about using the Tiki Toki Timeline is navigating the ways the website restricts free users in order to convince them to buy a paid plan. For instance, the “free” user has to insert all photos and videos using a link. That means, if students want to embed their own photos in a timeline (which I think most teachers would encourage them to do), they have to know how to host their photos online. In this sense, a timeline technology that seems fairly easy to use has quite a large learning curve. To understand how to navigate these problems, I explored the blog on, which provided some great tips about how to find problem-specific Tiki-Toki tutorials. The timeline has many features, so giving students the time to explore it is an essential variable in ensuring their success. With proper time, students will discover what they can and want to do with the timelines, as well as be able to research how to create what they value producing in the timeline maker. Teachers should give students time to make a practice Tiki-Toki in class so they can ask questions to each other and problem-solve together as difficulties arise.

While I created the tutorial above for teachers, I recommend that teachers create a short and basic tutorial for their students. This tutorial by Mrs. P is a great example of a student-directed tutorial because it shows the basic steps in timeline creation and then prompts students to explore more advanced features, as well as highlights that teachers sometimes have difficulties when using a new tool.


Anyon, J. (1980). Social class and the hidden curriculum of work. Journal of Education, 55 (1), 1-11.

Freire, P. (1972). Chapter 2. In Pedagogy of the oppressed 20th edition

Huijgen, T., Van Boxtel, C., Van de Grift, W., & Holthuis, P. (2018) Promoting historical contextualization: the development and testing of a pedagogy. In Journal of Curriculum Studies. 50(3), 410-434, DOI: 10.1080/00220272.2018.1435724.

Huijgen, T., Van Boxtel, C., Van de Grift, W., & Holthuis, P. (2014). Testing elementary and secondary school students’ ability to perform historical perspective taking: The constructing of valid and reliable measure instruments. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 29, 653–672. doi:10.1007/s10212-014-0219-4.

Ladson-Billings, G. (2006). Yes, but how do we do it? Practicing culturally relevant pedagogy. In White teachers/diverse classrooms: A guide to building inclusive schools, promoting high expectations, and eliminating racism (pp. 29-42). Stylus publishing.

Morrell, Ernest. (2013). Critical media pedagogy: Teaching for achievement in city Schools. Teachers College Press.

Naeem, A. “The Great Gatsby and Breakfast at Tiffany’s: Feminist theory” [Image]. Retrieved from:

Puentedura, R. “Find out how you can use technology to engage students in rich learning experiences” [Image]. Retrieved from: assembling-the-puzzle.

Stipek, D. J. (2002). Motivation to learn: Integrating theory and practice. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Toshalis, E. (2015). Make Me! : understanding and engaging student resistance in school. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard Education Press.