ThingLink: Engaging Students in Learning and Discovery

“I became a teacher because I wanted to make a difference in the lives of young people. I wanted to empower them to have a voice through creating, collaborating, and connecting,” writes Shannon Miller, a librarian, teacher, and technology specialist in her blog, Van Meter Library Voice.

ThingLink turns images into a platform for rich media. Educators and students can take any photo and add video and audio clips that play inside the image. You can also add Wikipedia links, Flickr images, annotations, and include social touch points like Twitter and Facebook.

Images now become a platform for creating, collaborating and connecting, because ThingLink images are far more engaging than static jpgs with viewers clicking through to content as high as 50% of the time.

Lets take an example from one of the key moments, or maybe The Key Moment in American history; The Declaration of Independence. John Trumbull’s famous painting –pictured below– is often identified as a depiction of the signing of the Declaration, but it actually shows the drafting committee presenting its work to the Congress. However, it’s rich with taggable content, and a great example of how ThingLink can be used as a fun participant/community driven educational tool.

“Tools like ThingLink “have potential for increasing our own productivity, for enhancing our teaching, for organizing our information resources and/or for helping students learn,” says Donna Baumbach who publishes WebTools4u2Use, a popular wiki for school library media specialists.

A large quantity of historical imagery is available for educational use without charge. Using images in education is a great way to get students to interact and enhance peer-to-peer learning. Let us say students in groups of two or more each choose an image filled with taggable content, research the image and tag it accordingly during a set period of time. They can then give the image over to another group who can further explore the image and learn about what the previous group created in the image. In the process a great deal is gained; learning to do research, using technology, spurring team work and last but not least, digesting the educational content in the image at hand.

 

Teaching and learning through images

Returning to the image above; as you can see, the tags have been used to virtually demonstrate not only the people behind the Declaration, but also provide the viewer with other rich media content, demonstrating there is only the limit of creativity. Not only does ThingLink make your teaching more fun, it helps establish two-way communication inside classrooms. Everyone can be a teacher and a learner with ThingLink. It can drive students into a concise, creative group, and help spur rich ideas and new interest by the dozens.

To use ThingLink, educators have to simply connect their website or blog. Tumblr blogs work great with ThingLink and they are easy, free and fast to set up. ThingLink tagging tool is provided at no cost, with an embeddable code to make all or individual images taggable. The installation takes a few minutes and is done by following the easy install instructions. You can also close and open images for tagging, i.e. enable anyone or no-one else but you to tag your images.

 

ThingLink Freemium account enables these features:

1) On-site tag editor: ThingLink tag editor lets you define interactive hotspots inside an image — from a THING (an object, a person, or a place) to a LINK (a site with more information, a blog post, or anywhere you like). The editor works on your own enabled site as long as you are logged in to ThingLink.

2) Easy Sharing: ThingLink makes images shareable: anyone can share a favorite image via Twitter, Facebook and email, and embed them on websites and blogs with tags.

3) Image community: ThingLink provides real-time statistics on user interaction with images. We measure image and tag-specific views, hovers, and clicks. This helps you evaluate the successfulness of interacting with you participants, i.e. students.

Thinglink could be a good way to have students take group blogging to a new level. Students working on a group blog could upload images then work together to add more information to the blog post in the form of image tags,” suggests Richard Byrne in his popular blogFree Tech for Teachers.

 

Lets sum up why ThingLink is so great for education:

  • Free of charge for educators;
  • Easy and fun to use;
  • Involves two-way communication;
  • Spreads information through social networks;
  • Everyone can be a teacher and a learner;
  • Community- and participant-driven; and
  • Can be used for either an ongoing forum or one-time exchange.

ThingLinktag, explore, and learn.

How could you and your students benefit from using ThingLink in your educative work? Here is an evolving document with tips and interesting reflections from teachers using the tagging tool in their work. Thank you @AuntyTech for creating the document and engaging our community.

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