There are several timeline tools available on the web. My favourite is Dipity; it's simple to use, collaborative and free.
My Year 5s have been studying the Victorian era in class, so in my rather short weekly ICT sessions with them I thought I'd try to put a bit of chronological context to their study. We've started by setting up a timeline of Queen Victoria's life. Once the children got the hang of adding an event to the line, they rapidly started to add the births of Victoria's nine children, important wars, deaths etc. They all worked on the same timeline concurrently and I wasn't worried if several children put the same event on the line - it allowed us to compare entries on the whiteboard, highlight common mistakes, and agree which was the best one. The remainder were deleted.
In the second lesson, I showed children how to add images and links, and I'm particularly pleased that all the images displayed are fully copyright checked and free.
Head over to Creative Blogs for a quick "how to" on this excellent and simple tool.
Over the last year or so a number of online whiteboard tools have appeared. For most people in school these would seem to be an unnecessary tool and not worth looking at as they are inevitably much simpler than the powerful software that comes with their whiteboard. Yet that simplicity might be a reason to have another look, as might the ability to create an online space for simple collaborative homework projects.
Click on the screen shots above for a full size view of the respective products.
The first question is: why would you want to share a whiteboard online in a school? The answer is simple: suppose I used my whiteboard to explain a homework task? Wouldn't it be useful for children to be able to access that whiteboard from home? This isn't really practical using Smart Notebook or Promethean, as you would need to have a copy of the software on your home pc to do any work on that whiteboard. Instead, give your class a weblink to their homework whiteboard and they have access to a reminder of what you discussed in class. There are plenty of other possibilities too: get groups of children collaborating online using the same whiteboard - maybe collecting notes about a research project. You could hand round a few laptops and get children to add to the notes page. I also think it might be a simple way to introduce the concept of online collaboration - I suspect children might find this more intuitive than, say a wiki, or a Google Docs page. This is something I'll definitely try next academic year. And finally, one for the peripatetic teachers like me whose heart sinks whenever I go into a classroom with an unfamiliar whiteboard - get good at one of the above and you can use any whiteboard in any classroom (as long as you've got a web link).
Second question: are they any good?
The short answer is yes. They are obviously limited compared to Smart Notebook and ActivStudio; you simply don't have the vast array of tools and, especially, resources at your fingertips that you do with installed applications. That said, less is often more.
Imagination cubed is the simplest of the three tools, it does have a set of basic tools including text and shape and it is incredibly simple to use. It has a few nice backgrounds including graph paper and lined paper but there seems to be no way to upload images. I'm thinking that this tool is a work in progress because when you right click and click on settings it asks permission to allow access to webcam and microphone. Also there is obviously going to be a site where finished boards are stored, but it's not live yet. In its current form it's a nice doodle pad that you could maybe use to share notes as described above.
Twiddla is much closer to what you might expect an online whiteboard to look like with a cool modern user interface. It's got most of the tools that you might expect from a Smart Notebook or Promethean app, but it does have a couple of cool extras. One is the "Twiddle This" browser button that automatically uploads the webpage you are on into a Twiddla whiteboard - even easier to use than a screen capture tool. The other is Twiddla's ability to embed widgets so it's easy to create a whiteboard page witha Voicethread, Youtube video, Voki, or whatever embedded in it. Here's an image of a Twiddla page with a fully functioning Voicethread embedded in it.
This makes it a great tool for setting up some kind of collaborative activity. Embed a video and get the children to write their reactions on the whiteboard page.
Sharing is simple, simply give your class the weblink, or, if you want to make your whiteboard private, change the setting and send the link to your class via their email address (if you're using individual email addresses in your school).
Finally, Twiddla also has a built in chat facility That I haven't yet tested, but it should mean that teams can chat live whilst using the site (assuming they have a microphone).
Skrbl has a slightly old school feel, but is extremely simple to use. You need to register to upload files such as images and documents (which you access by clicking on the "File" option. And sharing is equally simple - give the children the weblink and if you want privacy, set a class password on the page. Doesn't have some of the neat features such as embedding and chat, but if you think those might be a step far for you, start with Skrbl.
In summary, Imagination Cubed is a fun doodle tool, but doesn't really compete on features with the other two. Twiddla is the most richly featured product and has the slickest interface, but is not quite as simple to use as Skrbl. Have a play: you might find these tools an enjoyable extension to your repertoire.
Postscript 22nd July
Just found another one called Dabbleboard. First impressions are very good. Easy to upload images from your pc and to share, but it does have one great feature: if you draw a freehand circle, square, triangle, or line etc, it recognises them automatically and converts them into regular shapes.