Critical Review Resource Number 1: Thinglink

Thinglink is a tool to create interactive pictures. Photographs or pictures will have hotspots which can be clicked to access information, further pictures, videos or links to external websites.

Self-Review Lens: The beauty of this tool is that the resources can be created quickly and easily, and can be embedded into blogs, or virtual learning environments such as Moodle.

My initial thought was to use Thinglink pictures as an overview of a topic, perhaps to be used in a flipped learning format, so that the students view the picture and its content before the lesson, in order to have a good level of understanding of the topic. However, after using the tool for a while I have realised that it could be used to a much greater extent. My long-term aim will be to create short, interactive books, with one Thinglink picture linking to a further one, and so on, with extra content available with each picture. Of course, this takes much longer to create, but can lead to a much more interactive viewing experience.

There is also the matter of copyright to think about – rather than trawl the internet for copyright-free pictures I decided to use my new iPhone and start snapping. I suppose that with a little time and effort it will be possible to create totally self-created interactive pictures.

I have encountered one or two small issues. While it is a straightforward process to embed the Thinglink picture into Moodle, once the link is clicked to view another picture, then this opens in a new browser window and slightly disrupts the experience. However, it is not a major issue, as all of the content is still available.

My other issue is how to link to all of the other pages without over cluttering the amount of links in the picture. I have included ‘back to the front page’ links on each picture, but felt that links to several different pages at once made the interaction more confusing. Perhaps by minimising the links helps to focus the student down the path you want them to take, whilst allowing them the freedom to choose which information to access is the best way to proceed.

Student Review Lens: Through individual and group discussions, Thinglink has been very well received by the students. The opportunity to explore topics further, as each link can give rise to further research allows the students the flexibility to delve more deeply into a topic or not depending on their current level of understanding. The embedding of the Thinglink on to the virtual learning environment was also well received – the initial ‘home’ picture has a good level of impact and was very inviting to explore further. However, the embedding on to the social network was far less successful – some students were unable to access the information and the picture itself was not embedded, just a link which opened up the Thinglink picture on to the Edmodo platform.

Peer Review Lens: This student impact has been equally well received in other institutions. The Edutech blog (2012) commented on the use of Thinglink very positively, ‘Students not only love being engaged, but they also appreciate having the opportunity to discover new content’. I originally went to a training course on the use of Thinglink with other relative novices to the tool. I noticed from my colleague some apathy as she felt it would be difficult (with relatively little computer knowledge), to create pictures. I’m not sure I agree with this, as I found the process quite straightforward.

What the same colleague was impressed with was the impact of the picture once embedded into the Moodle learning environment. Being an anatomy teacher, she was more concerned with the ability to find copyright free pictures which could be used effectively, as it was not necessarily a topic which could be easily photographed.

Other teacher review sites have suggested the opportunities to use Thinglink as Student-centered learning to create their own ThingLinks. ‘Beginning with the selection of “just the right” picture or graphic to use sparks students’ creativity and critical thinking skills.’ (Web2teachingtools, 2009, Online)

 

Theoretical Review Lens: The use of pictures in education is certainly not a new concept. However, its benefits are well reported for many learners. Cavanaugh (no date. Online) stated that spatial learners create and use mental images and often remember in pictures. In order to help these learners, then spatial activities should be used. The idea of using visuals is also supported by Stokes (2001), who stated that using visuals in teaching results in a greater degree of learning‘. If the goal of lifelong learning is, indeed, the lifelong aspect, then the use of pictures is thought to work within the long term memory, although the pictures used must be memorable (Jisc, 2014)

The learning review site Graphite (2014) has stated some of the downfalls of Thinglink, suggesting it gives little opportunities to deeper learning, and that the learning is dependent on the imaginations of the teachers and learners rather than the tool itself.

Overall, it is a tool which I will certainly continue to use. Hopefully my imagination can help to bring the best out of a simple but effective tool which undoubtedly can have a positive impact on the learning of the students.

To end on a bad note. I am unable to embed my Thinglinks into this blog, as WordPress does not allow it. SO, you will have to make-do with the link to one of my Thinglinks and a screenshot

 

http://www.thinglink.com/scene/507571604377567234

thing

References:

Cavanaugh, T. (ND), Images in Education [Online.] Available: http://www.drscavanaugh.org/digitalcamera/images-in-education.htm [Accessed: 18/05/2014]

Edutech. (2012) Interesting Ways to Use Thinglink in the Classroom [Online.] Available: http://edutech4teachers.edublogs.org/2012/11/24/thinglink-4/ [Accessed 18/05/2014]

Graphite. (2014) ThingLink: Multimedia storytelling sparks imagination; can help visual learners [Online.] Available: https://www.graphite.org/website/thinglink [Accessed 18/05/2014]

Jisc. (2014) Using images to reinforce learning [Online.] Available: http://www.jiscdigitalmedia.ac.uk/guide/using-images-to-reinforce-learning [Accessed 18/05/2014]

Stokes, S. (2001) Visual Literacy in Teaching and Learning: A Literature Perspective. The Electronic Journal for the Integration of Technology in Education. Volume 1:1

Web2teachingtools. (2009) ThingLink: Linking Learning and Creativity [Online.] Available: http://www.web2teachingtools.com/thinglink.html [Accessed 18/05/2014]

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