If you are a teacher with a passion for teaching, ThingLink is an essential tool for your toolkit. This flexible tool is well-suited for helping students dig deeper into content as they create. Learning to use ThingLink is an adventure worth exploring.
Getting Started with ThingLink
To find your starting point for learning to use ThingLink in the classroom, it’s helpful to examine the tool through the lens of the SAMR model of tech integration, developed by Dr. Ruben R. Puentedura, Ph.D. This model is extremely useful for the work I do to help teachers leverage the power of technology because it’s simple, easy to gauge, and something to strive for.
Teachers in the substitution and augmentation phase use technology to accomplish traditional tasks and enhance learning. These stages are necessary and should not be skipped, but the learning gain for students is the same with or without the technology. At the modification and redefinition levels, technology is used to transform learning and embrace opportunities that are not possible without technology. At these levels, the task changes. This means that ‘Teaching Above the Line’ is where the real learning gains occurs.
ThingLink Through the SAMR Lens
ThingLink itself is a tool that starts “Above the Line” because creating a multimedia enhanced interactive image requires technology. It is important to go through each of the stages of SAMR to avoid the pitfalls of chaos that can result by jumping in too quickly. This includes acquiring knowledge and skills to prepare for responsibly creating and publishing interactive images. Keep in mind that the goal is to “Teach Above the Line”, but when you and your students get there, you will want to be comfortable with attribution, copyright and publishing. Start by creating and working with images.
Substitution: Create an Original Image
At the substitution level it’s important to remember that teachers are engaging in tasks that could be completed without technology or with limited older technology. There are opportunities at this level to introduce students to the concept of copyright and intellectual property as they create original images and work with their own photos to present knowledge and ideas. All too often in school, students create posters that consist of printed images from the web, so this is a good time to stop and help them understand that those images are the intellectual property of the creator and, unless they are in the public domain or licensed for reuse, they are not free to use.
Augmentation: Create an Original Digital Image
Perhaps the most tremendous benefit of technology is the ability to provide students with equal access to virtually unlimited resources available on an Internet connected device. At the augmentation level, technology greatly enhances the process of creating an original image because of the increased number of flexible options available. In simple terms, all student have access to an unlimited number of colors to draw with, which exceeds the number of colors that could be available in any classroom. More importantly, the eraser is a game changing tool, unmatched with paper and pencil.
To make good use of working at the augmentation level, teachers should continue to explore digital citizenship with students and help them understand the concept of public domain and copyright free image use. Students can explore drawing and painting programs to create original digital images, and they can explore resources for finding images that are in the public domain or licensed for reuse. Additionally students can explore online resources to manipulate photos and create digital posters that they label with simple text.
The best way to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to responsibly create and publish images is to learn through constructive play. Engage students in tasks that require them to create their own original digital images to communicate ideas and demonstrate learning.
Modification: Create Interactive Images
When teachers and their students are comfortable creating and working responsibly with images, it’s time to “Teach Above the Line” with ThingLink! The flexibility of this tool makes it well-suited for a variety of uses in the classroom. Custom icons can be used for differentiation and multimedia can be used to meet the unique learning needs of students.
At this level there is a lot of room for growth. Teachers and their students should start by creating simple interactive images about familiar concepts to get a feeling for the ease of use of the tool. After that, the sky is the limit. Start with an image. Define it through multimedia. Present ideas. Pack it full of content. Create links to amazing sites. Explore, share and create at the modification level with ThingLink in the classroom!
Redefinition: Invent, Innovate and Inspire
At the redefinition level, teachers and their students have the ability to design a learning task or identify a goal, then make it happen with ThingLink by integrating appropriate tools from their own toolkit. ThingLink is an amazing tool at this level because it can be used to weave together a web of tools to support just about any learning experience imaginable. Use of technology at this level is seamless because it has become natural and comfortable. ThingLink provides teachers with the power to invent, innovate and inspire.
Here is an example of my most recent ThingLink invention designed to extend a One School, One Book initiative into the homes of families. In addition to sharing recorded chapters for all to enjoy, the interactive image is used to meet a variety of my own goals for integrating technology at the school. The best part about this graphic is watching it grow as new ideas develop.
Putting It All Together
Explore this SAMR and ThingLink Ladder for a big picture view of the ideas presented here.