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Using a 360 Image to Tell an Immersive Story for VR

Using a 360 Image to Tell an Immersive Story for VR

pedagogy and ideas from the designer and facilitator of The ThingLink Teacher Challenge

The 5th Annual ThingLink Teacher Challenge is up and running! If you haven’t joined us yet, this is a great time to start. The early adopters are making their way through each of the published activities and we are excited to be collecting results to share.

We started our introduction to ThingLink’s 360 image editor with a familiar topic, telling a story. Walk into any classroom in the US, and you will find a teacher with a story map, storyboard, or planning guide, and an instructional method. We’ve learned that our students write better and they create better multimedia projects when they have a plan. For creating your first ThingLink, you will appreciate the plan to save you a lot of time, especially when recording.

Start with a Simple VR Story

Viewing an interactive ThingLink 360 in a VR headset is a different experience than exploring a ThingLink 360 on a Chromebook, iPad, or laptop because of the way the device is used. A ThingLink 360 designed for VR is viewed in a headset that sits at the explorer’s eye level, changing the ability to fully manipulate the controls. For VR, the headset is used to navigate around the 360  image, point to a tag to open it, and uncover the story through the media on the tag. For this reason, the types of media on tags is limited to features that support the best immersive viewing experience. Be sure to use the chart to learn what types of tags to include for VR. 

And if you are disappointed about not being able to integrate your favorite 3rd party tools in this first activity, don’t worry. We will get there in the next activity.

VR vs 360 Tags





In headset In hand

Native Tags

Text Use for navigation and attribution
Upload Video Short clips / Robust Internet 
Background Audio
Links to

External sites

ThingLink 360 images

ThingLink images

3rd Party Tool Integration on Tags

Requires embed code.

Popular examples






Your favorite tool with an embed code

Embrace The Design Process

Every ThingLink starts with an image. To simplify the first 360 content creation process in the beginning of the Teacher Challenge, we are starting with images from our library of professional 360 images. Participants are challenged to design a story for VR viewing as student participants, which sometimes includes using assigned images to create a ThingLink. We are choosing this option first for three reasons

  1. To introduce participants to our library of professional images for quick use.
  2. To avoid introducing more complex topics in the beginning so we can appropriately introduce topics related to 360 image capture, attribution, and use when we can fully devote an activity to this important topic. In week 4 we will take a MidSummer Break to focus on working with 360 images.
  3. To help users focus on the design process.

Discover the Story

When you look around and explore a 360 image, it is important to consider the intended outcome to uncover the story you want to tell. Your first inclination might be to add tags to the objects you see in the image, and this is one strategy, but the tool is more flexible if you consider adding tags that are not already there. Consider this example submitted to the Teacher Challenge this week by Patricia Merlino, a longtime, highly talented ThingLink Certified Educator.

Hemingway in Cuba, by Patricia Merlino

Patricia has crafted this immersive VR story based on the ability to bring viewers to a location in Cuba. She adds tags with assets on top of the image to tell the story, but you will notice, these assets are not pictured in the image, they have been added with ThingLink. Please explore this exemplary example of an interactive image in a VR headset if you have one. Many thanks to Patricia Merlino for continuing to share so many great examples to help guide the learning!


Consumption vs Creation

Creating and exploring 360 immersive stories for VR allows Teacher Challenge participants to experience the power of ThingLink on two different levels to discover the possibilities for effective instruction.

As you create your own ThingLink VR story, you will undoubtedly learn a lot and the end product will be a demonstration of your learning. To tell a deep story, you will need to do research or tap into your existing wealth of research. You will need to plan, organize, revise, edit, and publish. This is the goal of using ThingLink with students; shift the from consumption to creation.

As you explore ThingLink VR stories that have been created by other participants in the Teacher Challenge, you will experience ThingLink as a consumer and introduction to using VR immersive learning experiences. You will notice it does not take very long for a high level of student engagement, but you will also notice it does not take long for students to explore.

You might already be able to envision building in a framework around the exploration to make better use of the experience. We hope you will consider how these ready-made activities can be used with other educators in your teaching environment as a starting point.

If you don’t have access to VR headsets and devices or if you are not interested in using the VR mode, you will learn to easily fine-tune and adapt the lesson you create this week in the next activity.




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Susan Oxnevad
Susan Oxnevad strives to build a powerful network of educators who share a passion for using ThingLink to transform teaching and learning. In addition, she also hosts ThingLink webinars for educators and blogs about thoughtful ways to leverage the power of technology for teaching and learning on the ThingLink Blog for Education. Follow her on Twitter @soxnevad
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