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Exploring the History of Everything with ChronoZoom

by Lori Gracey

Microsoft’s beta website tool ChronoZoom is amazing. There are no other words to describe it. So I’ll let their description explain it:

“ChronoZoom enables you to visualize the history of everything—the cosmos, Earth, life, and humanity—in your Web browser. You can browse through history to find data in the form of articles, images, video, sound, and other media. By drawing upon the latest discoveries from many different disciplines, you can visualize the temporal relationships between events, trends, and themes. Some of the disciplines that contribute information to ChronoZoom include biology, astronomy, geology, climatology, prehistory, archaeology, anthropology, economics, cosmology, natural history, and population and environmental studies.”

Designed primarily for secondary students, ChronoZoom will be fundamental in helping kids understand the big picture. It’s set on the broadest possible scale from the Big Bang to today. There is a lot of featured content already developed and available, with more coming every day.

To make it easier to use, Microsoft provides a good set of lesson plans and a user guide, along with a really nice quick reference guide. There is an introductory tour to get you and your students started with ChronoZoom. And there’s a special section of the website just for teachers. If you create a free ChronoZoom account, you can design and upload your own customized timelines and exhibits. Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating your first timeline.

ChronoZoom is the kind of tool that companies normally charge a lot for. So I commend Microsoft for making it open source and providing it free to the world. Take some time today and play around with it. Then get it in front of your students and let them make their own discoveries.

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