20 Ways to Use ThingLink in Education

When I first learned about ThingLink late last summer, I was immediately impressed. My mind started racing about all the ways that ThingLink could be used by teachers, students and even beyond the classroom. If you’re not familiar with ThingLink, it makes images interactive. How do you make an image interactive? You upload a still image to ThingLink, and then you can add little icons on top of the image. Those icons become hyperlinks to other web media- websites, articles, videos, sound clips, and much more. Not only can you link to external content, but students can type their own responses onto an icon. I’ve embedded a ThingLink featured example by Molly below, so you can see it in action.

Now tell me that isn’t AWESOME?!

So, now that you’re hooked, what are some of the ways you could use ThingLink in your classroom? I’ve just included the tip of the iceberg below; the ideas are truly endless.

  1. Have students create one for a summative assessment in place of a typical test.
  2. Use a book cover image and have students include links about the book, characters, plot, etc. for an end of book project.
  3. Use the image of a map, and include links with information about the area, like this one, or this one, or this one.
  4. Use an image of a person or character and include links about their life and their important contributions to history or the topic being covered.
  5. Include an image of a body system and include links about how it works. For example, the skeletal system.
  6. Foreign language teachers (or ESL/ELL classrooms) could use an image of a familiar scene, like a family cooking in the kitchen, and include links to recorded sound clips about what’s going on in each part of the picture in the language being studied.
  7. Create a “getting to know you” ThingLink using a group photo and include links to teacher’s websites, bios about seniors for senior night, etc.
  8. Use it as a beginning of the year/course ice breaker by having students upload a picture of themselves and including links to content that describes them and things they like. Students can comment on one another’s published ThingLinks.
  9. Search the database of ThingLinks others have created and shared to see if there’s already something out there you can use.
  10. Create an entire lesson in one ThingLink, by including links to sound clip instructions, video content and links to assignments or quizzes.  See a great example here.
  11. Use the image of a book cover and include a video link to the book trailer to preview the book before reading it.
  12. Scan and upload an image of a worksheet, and include links to videos and websites that will help them solve the problems/answer the questions if they get stuck.
  13. Have students create a portfolio by linking to their work in all other webtools you use in class: blog posts, videos they created, scanned images or pictures of non-digital work.
  14. Depending on how big your school is, you could create and upload a map of your school. Then include a link over each classroom to information about that teacher, like their Twitter handle, class website, class LMS page(s), a written bio right in ThingLink, a recorded welcome sound clip from that teacher, etc.
  15. Create an image collage, upload it to ThingLink and then include links about each image. For example, you could create a collage of different geographic land forms like this one.
  16. Upload a picture of the periodic table of elements and include a link to a video or information about each element (or the ones you’re studying at the time). Sort of like the Periodic Videos site.
  17. Include links to videos demonstrating how to preform certain skills, like this push up example.
  18. Upload an image of your school and include links to information and videos about your school: clubs and activities you offer, your mission statement, academic offerings, promotional videos, and more. Then embed it on your school’s website!
  19. Put a twist on Friday’s current events discussion by asking students to not only find an article, but find an image that relates to their chosen event/topic, upload it to ThingLink, include a link to the original article as well as other links, videos, etc. that relate to the article and what you’re studying in class. You could even ask the students to include a link to an audio recording of themselves discussing their current event.
  20. Create instructions for a new website, device, or process like this one.

One of the things I like the most about this tool, is that no matter the project or access to technology, you can incorporate ThingLink into your class. You, as the teacher, could create one that students will use to preview/review information or complete an assignment. Students could work in groups or on their own to create one, depending on their access to technology and devices inside and outside of the classroom. If you have very little access to technology in your classroom and you still want students to create their own, you could assign individual students or groups pieces of the project to research and prepare. Then have the groups take turns adding their links to the full class ThingLink image. As you can see with how all over the board these ideas are, there are so many ways you could use this tool in an educational environment.

How are you using ThingLink with your students and in your schools? If you’re using it, please share a link to an example in the comments.

Tech To You Later!
-Katie

Takeaways from #CE14

#CE14 logo from connectededucators.org.

#CE14 logo from connectededucators.org.

October marked Connected Educators Month, and there were online events going on at all hours of the day, every day throughout the month. I took part in a number of Twitter chats, free webinars, and even a free course form ASCD on blended learning!

Of course, the Twitter chats throughout the month were worth wile and had an abundance of ideas sharing going on. I was bummed that I couldn’t attend the chat with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan this year, but hopefully I’ll be available next year!

I was also very pleased with a number of the free webinars I watched.  It’s easy to start feeling like you hear the same thing over and over sometimes, but many of these webinars offered refreshing new insights and ideas (and weren’t just a sales pitch for a product)! The three I liked the most from the month were Quick Tech Ideas for Quick Writes by Joan Sedita and Alise Brann; the Disruptive Innovations in Education: Classrooms Without Walls radio show with Mike King and Tom Murray; and Flipping for Professional Learning: School Leader’s Guide to Improving Professional Development with Steven Anderson.  If you have a chance to catch any of these archives, they’re worth the time!

The ASCD course authored by Caitlin Tucker gave me some great new ideas to help teachers introduce a blended learning environment in their classrooms. I will admit I was a bit skeptical about how much content would really be provided in a free course, but I am happy to report that I was very pleasantly surprised!  It would have been a fabulous course for teachers and administrators who had little to no experience with blended learning environments. I would definitely recommend this course if it is offered again- and even if there is a fee associated (my certificate of completion says it’s worth 20 clock hours).

I was really pleased with the amount of sharing and free resources that were truly available to educators all over the world through the CEM initiative. If you missed it this year, mark your calendar for next year and start connecting now, so you’ll be ready for #CE15!

Did you participate in #CE14? What did you think?

Tech To You Later!
-Katie

5 Ways to Prepare for Connected Educators Month

In addition to Photographer Appreciation Month, National Roller Skating Month, National I Love Lucy Day and National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day (just to name a few), October also serves as Connected Educators Month!

connected educators month 2014According to the Connected Educators Month website, CEM is, “a celebration of community, with educators at all levels, from all disciplines, moving towards a fully connected and collaborative profession. Convened by the connected education community, with the full support of the U.S. Department of Education, building on the success of previous years with hundreds of new events and activities from dozens of organizations and communities. We’ll be working together, in October and beyond, with all stakeholders, leaving no device unturned, no country or learning environment unexplored.”

In short, it’s a great time to make connections with other educators around the world through formal and/or informal opportunities sponsored by CEM and the CEM partners. Last year, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan even hosted a Twitter chat in honor of CEM!

So how can you get ready to join the conversations about education with people from all over the world, expand your PLN (personal learning network) and learn a thing or two in the process?

  1. Explore the Connected Educators Month website to become more familiar with the initiative.
  2. Look at the full calendar of events and add some of them to your own personal calendar. The CEM website even tells you how you can download your personal CEM calendar to your Google calendar or your iPhone/iPad (if you register for free).
  3. If you have a Twitter account, start searching and using the hashtag #CE14 to join the conversations on Twitter.  I would recommend using Tweetdeck or another similar service that will allow you to add a column to help you filter through all the Twitter chatter and keep the CEM conversations together. If you don’t have Twitter, check out my resources and create an account… yesterday!
  4. Sign up on edConnectr to get connected to other educators who share your interest.  You fill out a handful of questions when you sign up that ask you about your interests, your areas of expertise, areas you could use some help with, etc., and then the site suggests people to connect with who fall in those same categories as you.
  5. Bring up Connected Educators Month at lunch, in the faculty room, at your next meeting, to your teacher friend from another building.  Talk about it to anyone that will listen and anywhere that you can spread the word! After all, the power of CEM comes from millions of educators actually connecting with one another.

These are just a few of the ways to get ready to participate in Connected Educators Month.  How will you get ready to participate and connect?

Tech To You Later!
-Katie

Tech Teacher of the Year Award

This year was the inaugural year for a Tech Teacher of the Year award at our school.  It was decided that the winner would receive new classroom furniture.  Luckily, our school PTSA was very generous and found this to be a good cause, so they offered to fund a second classroom with new furniture.  We were able to award two teachers this year.  Teachers were asked to nominate a colleague and students were asked to nominate a teacher if they qualified for one or more of the following criteria to be this year’s Tech Teacher of the Year!

  1. Creativity and innovation in the classroom through use of technology
  2. Shows growth in his or her teaching through use of technology
  3. Commitment to digital citizenship and information literacy
  4. Commitment to life-long learning
  5. Vision for the future of technology in his or her classroom

In a 1:1 environment, you have to think a lot more about the devices you get, the software you put on the devices and the training you provide.  There are countless infrastructure considerations that must be made as well.  While things like wifi/internet access must be made a top priority, classroom furniture is sometimes overlooked or deemed as a project to get to down the road because it can be put on the back burner.

old student deskWhy does classroom furniture matter?

Take an older style chair and desk combo for example (image to right).  These desks currently make up many of our classrooms.  Our students have tablet PCs that take up a large portion of the desk space.  There is little room to have anything else on the desk, not to mention they constantly fall off the desk if the desks are bumped or students walking up and down the isle are wearing a book bag and accidentally bump into another student’s tablet.  Obviously these desks are not conducive to a tablet environment, but they also don’t lend themselves to a collaborative, creative working space either (2 of the 4 Cs of a 21st century classroom).

As a technology department, we felt it was important to focus on revamping the current classroom setup for teachers and students to take full advantage of our tablet program.  The new desks will be longer and wider and will allow for group work to be done much easier.  Chairs will be separated from the desks.   We worked with School Outfitters to order the new furniture;  they’ve been really helpful, and I highly recommend them if your school is in the market for new furniture.

A BIG congratulations to John Norman and Michelle Semancik as this year’s TTOTY winners!

Norman has really pushed himself this year to try new things and enhance his teaching.  Norman has implemented many new technology tools into his teaching repertoire this year, including voice recordings in his PowerPoint presentations so students who were absent or on retreats could get caught up on his lectures from home, to completely transforming a long standing senior project to include a classroom wiki, Google forms, and different web tools of students’ choosing.  Norman was very dedicated to his own learning this year and attended almost every Lunch & Learn as well as had many one on one meetings with me to see how he could best implement technology into his teaching.  With more than 30 years of teaching experience, Norman is a great example of continuously striving to improve himself, his teaching and his students!

Semancik is constantly working to learn and grow, her own personal motto and resolution this year.  Semancik always actively attends and participates in technology professional development and it is clear that she takes what she learns and applies it to her classroom.  Sometimes skeptical at first, she closely evaluates and tests new technology before implementing it into her lessons.  She served as the social studies PLC leader this year, and worked with her department to figure out a way to include more educational games and simulations into their teaching, while also including meaningful assessment.  Semancik fully embraced Schoology this year, including many discussions boards and assignment submissions in all units.  She frequently uses Twitter to extend her classroom culture outside of the school day, find resources and connections for her own PLN and support the Academic Team. Through microfinance organization Kiva and the help of technology, Semancik has connected her students with people all over the world to help alleviate poverty through monetary lending, rather than direct donations.  These are only a few examples of the many ways Semancik utilizes technology and web tools in her teaching. It is exciting to watch Semancik constantly challenge herself, her teaching and her students through effectively implementing technology into her classroom!

Thank you to all of our teachers for continuously working to learn new systems and tools to use in your teaching! A special thank you to all of our 19 nominees, John and Michelle for doing something extra (or many extra things) to be noticed as taking full advantage of our tablet program.  And of course, a special thanks to PTSA for funding a second classroom with new furniture.

How do you think classroom furniture and setups contribute to a 1:1 or BYO environment? How do you recognize teachers in your building for their effective use of technology in the classroom?

Tech To You Later!
-Katie

Personalized EdTech PD

You’ve seen it before.  In fact, we’re all guilty of it. Telling teachers to personalize/individualize/differentiate (insert your preferred buzzword here) learning for students. But then when PD time rolls around for teachers, we give them the all the same thing. How can we personalize PD for teachers when we only get such limited time for PD?

After participating in a Webinar with Tom Murray this past winter, I feel relieved.  He gives so many great suggestions and answers to this question.  You can watch the webinar recording here, and I highly suggest you do (and encourage your administration to watch it too)! Skip to slide 8 if you want to skip the introductions.

One of my favorite ideas from Tom, is to take full advantage of anytime/anywhere PD by allowing it to “count” for your teachers.  This would include Twitter chats.  If you’ve participated in one, you’re probably going-great idea!  You have witnessed first hand the idea and information sharing that takes places during educational Twitter chats.  If you haven’t, you need to.  Almost anything should count for PD credit as long as teachers can show evidence of what they learned or took away from that experience.  After all, the goal really is that people learn something they can apply to their teaching as opposed to sitting in a room for a designated number of hours, right?

Secondly, I love that Tom suggests allowing teachers to create their own edtech goals (with input from tech coaches and admin). Great idea again, Tom! With input from the administration and tech coaches, goals will be aligned with the school’s mission and each teacher will focus on something they’re interested in and directly relates to their classroom/teaching.  All teachers will be appropriately challenged and choose goals in their zone of proximal development- less tech savvy teachers can focus on smaller tasks and ways to integrate technology while advanced users can push themselves.

personal edtech goalsAfter this webinar, I created a personalized goal sheet for teachers.  My idea is to have teachers create 2-3 goals and write them on the goal sheet.  One goal would have to relate to PD-anyway they saw that being accomplished. The other goals would need to relate to their teaching and classroom environments.  Teachers would need to show evidence of all goals during end-of-year evaluations, whether that be through a blog (which could be a goal in and of itself), a portfolio, or example of students’ work.  Once all goals had been decided and submitted, I could assess the wants and needs for next school year and find commonalities to plan group PD sessions like Lunch & Learns. (unfortunately, do to forces beyond my control, I wasn’t able to implement this for next school year, but I’m definitely hanging onto it for the future.)

To download the goal sheet, click the image to the right.

What are some ways you personalize educational technology PD for your teachers? What do you think of the personalized goals or non-traditional forms of PD counting for PD credit?

Tech To You Later!
Katie

 

5 EdTech Tools in 5 Minutes: Episode 7

It’s that time again: time for the next episode of 5 EdTech Tools in 5 Minutes.  Normally I feature 5 edtech tools, but this month I decided to do a spin on the normal screencasts.

This episode features 5 edtech books to read this summer! I won’t be creating a new episode in June or July, so I thought I’d share some of my favorite edtech books and some books on my own to read list.

5_in_5This episode features the following books:

  1. Untangling the Web
  2. Web 2.0: How-To for Educators
  3. Flip Your Classroom
  4. Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative
  5. Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times

For the videos, the Prezi, Diigo links to all the books featured in the episodes and more, visit my website. If you don’t want to miss another episode, subscribe to the iTunes podcast channel here.

Tech To You Later!
Katie

5 EdTech Tools in 5 Minutes: Episode 6

It’s that time again: time for the next episode of 5 EdTech Tools in 5 Minutes (okay, okay, less than six minutes).  By no means are these five minute episodes a comprehensive overview of the tools, but it should be enough to let you know what the tool is, what it can do, and if it’s worth your time looking into and learning more about.  I’m all about helping teachers save time where they can!

5_in_5This episode features the following tools:

  1. OneTab
  2. Weebly
  3. Google’s search by reading level feature
  4. IFTTT
  5. Symbaloo

For the videos, the Prezis, Diigo links to all the sites featured in the episodes and more, visit my website. If you don’t want to miss another episode, subscribe to the iTunes podcast channel here.

Tech To You Later!
Katie

Twitter Chat Key

Every chance I get to tell someone about the benefits of Twitter for an educators’ PLN, I take it.  Twitter has truly become my go-to source of real time ideas, feedback, Q&A, etc., which allows me to connect with people from all over the country and the world.  This is mainly a result of Twitter chats. In my opinion, Twitter is honestly the world’s best faculty lounge!

The biggest difference between a Twitter chat and just using a #hashtag in a Tweet is the chat takes place (usually for one hour) at the same time and day of the week every week (or every other week/once per month).  During this hour, people are actively on their device, looking at the feed of tweets using the hashtag.  You can do this by clicking on the hashtag in Twitter, which will create a feed of all tweets using that hashtag. You can also set up a search column in TweetDeck for the hashtag, which is essentially the same thing but is much easier to manage, especially in a very active chat. In order to keep the conversations connected, every participant includes the hashtag somewhere in each tweet.  Anyone can use the chat hashtag throughout the week to connect with like-minded people, just know you’ll receive the most interaction during that designated chat day and time.

Last year, I led our faculty in professional development for Twitter.  Last night I was participating in #edtechchat, when I received a notification from one of my teachers. She was participating in a chat on her own- I was really proud of her (go, Katie!) and excited to see another teacher reaching out, trying new edtech things, and growing!

twitter chat keyShe sent me a message and asked what is all this Q1, Q3, A1, A4 stuff? I was immediately taken back to the days when I first started chiming in and participating in Twitter chats.  Catching on to all the character-saving lingo took some getting used to, and I still find myself Googling certain abbreviations every now and then to stay in the know. This inspired me to create the image in this post using Photoshop for a quick key/legend of some commonly used lingo.

If you’re interested in more resources for teachers to build their PLNs and classroom ideas using Twitter, check out my Twitter resources page. Cybraryman also (always) has some great resources you should check out, too.  And of course, for a comprehensive list of educational Twitter chats, check out this list.

So, what popular Twitter chat terms did I miss in my key? How have you found Twitter chats helpful?

Tech To You Later!
Katie

E-waste Recycling Poster Contest for #Digcit Day

As part of our school-wide Digital Citizenship Day on February 24th, all science classes had a research/poster contest (special thanks to one of our science teachers-Lauren Wulker- for the idea!).  The students were given a reading prompt and some guiding questions over the weekend and returned to DigCit day on Monday to talk about responsible disposal and recycling of electronic waste. The end goal is that the top poster(s) will be displayed somewhere in the building with a place to recycle electronic products like batteries and cell phones.

ewaste digcit contest

Students were able to team up with a couple of their classmates or work alone on their posters.  They were also allowed to create a poster on any material they wanted- poster board, electronic, etc.  Most chose to create theirs on an actual poster board or paper.  They were displayed in the library and teachers came in Tuesday and Wednesday to vote on their top three favorites.

I was so impressed by the results!  The following pictures are just the top 4-5 posters from each teachers’ classes.

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The top three winning teams received a pizza lunch from LaRosa’s.  And the winners are…(drum roll please)…

How do you promote the responsible disposal and recycling of electronic waste is your school?

Tech To You Later!
Katie

5 Edtech Tools in 5 Minutes: Episode 5

With our school-wide Digital Citizenship Day, February was a little crazy and I never got around to making a 5 in 5 episode for February. Now that things have calmed down, I can resume making the monthly 5 in 5 screencasts, which highlight 5 edtech tools teachers can use with students in 5 minutes (okay you caught me-less than six minutes!). By no means are these five minute episodes a comprehensive overview of the tools, but it should be enough to let you know what the tool is, what it can do, and if it’s worth your time looking into and learning more about.

5_in_5This episode features the following tools:

  1. Big Huge Labs
  2. Kahoot!
  3. Pinterest
  4. Visuwords
  5. Piktochart

For the videos, the Prezis, Diigo links to all the sites featured in the episodes and more, visit my website. If you don’t want to miss another episode, subscribe to the iTunes podcast channel here.

Tech To You Later!
Katie