Category : New features

7 updates to ThingLink editor: text labels, simplified tag selector, radar, and more!

 We are very excited to share seven feature updates to the new editor:
1. Support for text labels (size limit 140 symbols)
 Short text labels are a great way to guide attention to details, introduce new vocabulary, or help the viewer understand what they are looking at.
This is a photo of the new text label
2. All custom fields are empty by default
No more Niagara Falls! The tag preview starts from an empty canvas. Just add your text, title, link or photos!
3. Tag shape automatically adjusts to your content. See examples below:
+ If you only have three or fewer lines of text, it will align at the middle of the tag:
+ If you have more then three lines, the text will align to the left:
+ Same alignment when you upload an image:
 
+ Without title and link, text shows under the image
+  Images in a tag that have text on the right side will open in full when you click them. Click again and you see the text.
  
4. Support for markdown that unlocks bold and italic in tag text
Use asterisks for *bold* text, underscores for__italics_.
 
5. New look and behavior for the transition tag 
The new version has a line underneath the icon and it blinks on hover. Clicking transitions the viewer to the next scene.  Note: Transition does not anymore have a label so that we can differentiate it from the new text label.
6. Tour has a default BACK button for easier navigation 
The button appears automatically in the upper left corner of each image or video.
7. A Radar view for 360 images and videos 
The packman looking icon in the upper right corner is a radar that shows your position (yellow dot) and viewing range. This helps you get an idea of the number and location of hotspots in a scene.
We hope you like these updates — we will be sharing more exciting product news next week from ISTE, Philadelphia!
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How to Increase Your Virtual Instruction Time Without Putting in More Hours

360-degree images and videos can help students develop understanding of real-world environments outside their classroom, but trying to successfully setup twenty-five headsets for a shared VR experience is not easy. For a while, we have been thinking of an alternative solution, based on the following three assumptions:

  1. A learner benefits from an expert introduction: a teacher guiding a VR tour helps a student pay attention to relevant things.
  2. Shared VR does not have to be live VR. Asynchronous viewing is improves access and flexibility.
  3. Students should be able to revisit the experience and explore at their own pace.

When Google launched Expeditions in 2015, ThingLink team started getting two kinds of emails from teachers. Most wanted to know if we could support 360 image annotation so that teachers could create their own expeditions and tours together with students. Shortly after, in May 2016, we launched our 360 image editor.

The second question concerned the ability to guide the tour to make sure students would pay attention to things that were relevant for the lesson. This one was tricky, because we did not think it was conceptually right to replicate the traditional classroom experience in VR.

In the traditional setup, a teacher stands in front of the classroom, and students are trying to get what the teacher says and means. It’s the same story, speed, and highlights for everyone, no matter if you are a fast or a slow learner, or if you speak the language or not.

Now, if you keep this setup and just put VR headsets on all the students, not much changes, except:

– You will need a lot of headsets, a budget to cover them, and a space to store them.

– Getting students to open the right app from the phone settings does not go smoothly. This eats time from instruction.

– Not all the devices will work properly. Not all the kids are patient.

– Some kids will stand up and bump into each other.

– It is harder for the students to hear the teacher wearing a headset.

Nevertheless, 360 viewing is a wonderful way to extend the boundaries of the classroom, but how to do that without complicating the logistics during instruction time? How can students get more quality time with their teacher in both the virtual and the physical learning space?

A narrated VR tour with sequential hotspots

The solution we came up with lets anyone record their introduction to a topic and save it in the background of a virtual tour. This also includes being able to define a sequence for informational hotspots that matches with the narration and guides viewers’ attention during a tour.

This new format came from the marriage of two existing ThingLink editor features: background audio and video editing. For lack of a better term, we will refer to it as a narrated VR tour with sequential hotspots.

Physical instruction time vs. virtual instruction time

Let’s say you have prepared a unit introduction of ancient Egypt, and the total physical instruction time for this one-time orientation in the classroom would be about 20 minutes.

Now, if you record the introduction and add it in the background of selected 360 images from Egypt, you as an educator have created yourself a presence in the cloud. From now on, views of this narrated VR experience by students will increase your virtual instruction time. Let’s continue the thought experiment and say all the students view your introduction at least once, and half of the students want to revisit the introduction from home as they are writing a related essay. In total, the virtual introduction is viewed 60 times each year (60 x 20min). This adds up to a total of 20 hours of virtual instruction time per year for this specific class and unit about ancient Egypt.

 

The introduction that was previously available for students only once in a certain physical space is now available and accessible to students any time. The teacher does not have to stress about giving the introduction on the spots while helping students to set up their headsets. Instead, this time can be saved for individual and group discussions.

Accessibility, flexibility, and cost savings

To sum up, a narrated VR tour with sequential hotspots is an asynchronous shared VR experience that benefits teachers, students, and schools in three essential ways:

1.It takes learning out of the classroom, but keeps the teachers guiding their students. Just like in any other environment, teachers help students to pay attention to the things that are relevant to their learning process. This can include introducing key concepts, giving general instructions for viewing, or inviting the classroom to think about certain questions as they explore the tour.

2.Narrated VR tours increase accessibility and flexibility in learning. A recorded VR introduction can be explored at any time, on any device, and from any location. This leaves more time for group and individual discussions.

3.Viewing VR tours in small groups or individually saves money: Not every student needs their own headset. Headsets can be kept clean and shared with multiple students. This makes immersive learning experiences possible for schools with smaller budgets.

5 steps for creating your own narrated VR tour with sequential hotspots

1. Upload a 360 image to ThingLink or select one from ThingLink image library

2. Record your introduction using a voice memo app on mobile or desktop

3. Open ThingLink editor and add the voice memo file (mp3, m4a) as a background audio to your image

4. Click “Play” to listen to your audio in the background and start adding informational hotspots

5. Adjust duration for tags, when you are done, click Save and share via LMS or link.

We look forward to seeing your work so please keep sharing projects, ideas or comments to ThingLink Education Facebook group or ThingLink Education on Twitter!

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Upcoming: Five Major Product Updates

We have very exiting news: in the next couple of weeks ThingLink is launching:

  • a new Premium teacher plan
  • a new school package
  • a new student management interface
  • a new version of the image editor, and
  • a new mobile creation experience.

Here are the main highlights for each:

A new Premium Teacher plan: all features for one classroom

The new individual teacher plan includes all features such as 360 editing for one classroom (35 students) at $35 per year. The plan will be available for new signups already this week! Read more about who should sign up or transition to the new plan. 

 

A new school package

Our new school starter package at $500 includes 500 accounts for use by teachers or students. This means new teachers in a school can now try ThingLink at much lower price ($1 per user). The school plan is designed to grow throughout the adoption phase, with the option to purchase additional accounts in increments of 250, or professional development on demand.

A new student management interface

The new interface offers more flexible ways to manage students and groups for individual teacher and school accounts. For example, teachers and school admins can now easily add more students to their account and see how many students have signed up. The new interface is available for teachers on Wednesday, May 2nd. 

New ThingLink editor

This new streamlined editor supports flat and 360 images with the same feature set. It features a new selection of layout templates for different types of content, which makes the creation flow faster and easier. The new editor will be available to our beta users users in May and all users in June.

 

New mobile creation experience

In addition to a new look and feel, the mobile editor supports direct audio recording to camera images. The iPad version that will be in the App Store in May, will support  audio recording to 360 images as well!

 

This is a lot to digest, but we believe these new features, packages and improvements will make ThingLink the most flexible and affordable immersive storytelling tool to improve digital literacy skills.

In the next weeks we will be writing about each feature in more detail based on the questions we get. We would like to invite you to join the discussion about new features on the ThingLink Education group on Facebook!

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5 Enhancements to ThingLink 360

5 Enhancements to ThingLink 360

Since we released ThingLink 360 last year, our team has gathered tons of feedback from many user groups.  We’re excited to share 5 enhancements to ThingLink 360, based on your feedback.

We have more enhancements planned as ThingLink 360 continues to grow more powerful in 2018.  We take user requests very seriously, and they play a big role in what we create.  Feel free to drop us a note with requests for new features for ThingLink 360, and be sure to stay tuned to this blog for news as we release new features based on feedback from our community.

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How To Use Preloaded Icons in ThingLink 360/VR

At ThingLink we spend a lot of time working with educators and we collect valuable feedback about our tools along the way. One of the biggest requests about our 360/VR editor has been to add preloaded icons, similar to the feature that is available in our regular, “flat” image editor. We are pleased to introduce this new feature!

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Image of the Week: Bringing Media to a Graphic Organizer

Sometimes a movie clip, an image, or an audio track can explain a point or idea better than our words. Graphic Organizers, on paper, can be limiting in this regard. Our image of the week comes to us from a great ThingLink educator: Brandi Argentar.

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New feature alert: Filter your search!

Did you know that there are over 6,500,000 images, videos, and 360s on ThingLink? Not only is ThingLink the place to create interactive masterpieces, it’s also the place to find inspiration from others. Now, not only can you search our database of images, videos, and 360s, you can also filter your results to find exactly what you’re looking for! Use this feature when searching for that perfect content to remix.


How to filter

#1 Enter a search term

ThingLink users have made projects on everything from art history to zoology. Enter a search term in the box at the top of ThingLink.

#2 Choose media type

Now, with the new search filter, select the type of media you’re looking for. Use the check boxes for images, videos, 360 images, and 360 videos to determine your results.



Reasons to filter

#1 Remixing

When tagging 360 images, often the hardest step is the photography, or finding images to tag. Before creating your own images, use the search to see what other ThingLink users have already created. If a user marks their image as public, you will be able to use the remix function to copy their image into your account. Delete the previous person’s tags and get started on your own creation!

#2 Get the right inspiration

While the most popular ThingLink format is standard images, there are also thousands of videos and 360s already tagged. If you’re new to tagging videos and want some guidance, searching without a filter may leave the video results lost in the crowd. Filter to get exactly what you’re looking for the first time without too much sifting.


Now that you’re acquainted with the new search features, get searching and start tagging! If you want to learn more about our advanced features for join us for an upcoming webinar.

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Use the Teleport 360 Editor App on a Chromebook

Great news! Teachers and students can use the new Teleport Editor App on a Chromebook to create interactive 360 learning experiences. Now it’s easier than ever to create engaging 360/VR lessons, field trips and student projects with access to a library of pre-loaded 360 images. The Teleport Editor App for Android is available to download for free from Google Play with a ThingLink Premium Teacher subscription.

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New feature: Upload Your Own Sound Recordings (or other audio files) to ThingLink Images!

Starting today, ThingLink PRO and PREMIUM users can upload MP3 and M4A audio files directly into ThingLink tags. This means you have another cool way to make your images truly engaging with narration, interviews, nature sounds, music, or sound effects. The audio files will autoplay on mouseover.


 

How to create Audio Tags

Creating Audio Tags is as easy as creating your standard image tag. Click to create your tag, then in the tag editor, click the Upload Audio button. Select an MP3 or M4A file from your computer to upload and you’re ready to listen! Audio tags will autoplay when opened, so you can also add an image and text, and let the audio play in the background.

Ways to Use Audio Tags

Audio tags are great for adding narration, nature sounds, interviews, your own music, or editorial comments that give context or create a special ambiance for your image.

Here, an audio file from NASA takes this image from purely visual to a multi-sensory experience. The audio also increases the time the viewer spends on the tag as they listen to the clip instead of just glancing at the image.

In this 360 image, the creator narrates the text in each tag. Not only does this create a more rich experience, it results in a more accessible image that can be enjoyed by those who may not be able to read the text. For teachers, this is a great way to encourage your students to create in many mediums.

Try it Out

Ready to test it out? Here’s a project to help you get started with audio tags. Make sure that you have one of our paid plans to access this feature.

Introducing Your Class

In this project, we’ll be using ThingLink and audio tags to provide a brief introduction to your class.

To start, upload a background image that represents your subject. I’d just suggest an image of your classroom or school.

Now, record a few audio clips that will help give the space context. I suggest using Sound Recorder on a PC or Quicktime on a Mac. If you have an iPhone, you can use Voice Memos, and send them to your email.  Here are some prompts to help you come up with some audio clips:

  • Why did you get started in teaching?
  • Explain the space around you. What can we see in this image?
  • Where is this space located? If someone wanted to visit your school, how can they?
  • What do you teach? Tell us all about your subject.

Back on your image, click to add a new tag. In the icon selector choose the play button, audio symbol, or microphone so viewers receive a visual prompt to what they’re unlocking. Now, use the Upload Audio button to add one of your clips. If you want, add an image and text as well to give your audio a label.

If you’d like to add a sound you can’t record yourself, try searching freesound.org. They host thousands of audio clips sourced from members that you can download and add. Find anything from the wind in the trees, to a helicopter whirring, to the sound of a barbecue being opened.


Now that you’ve learned all about audio tags it’s time to get started! If you don’t yet have the feature you can purchase a plan that includes it here. If you want to learn more about how to use this and all our other features, schedule a demo with a ThingLink expert. Happy Tagging!

 

 

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ThingLink launches Virtual Reality Lessons App For Education

360_giphy-3

We are excited to launch VR Lessons, our first virtual reality content app. The app is designed for elementary school students, their teachers and parents.

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