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

District-Wide 30 Day Twitter Challenge

In honor of Connected Educator Month, I will share what I have been meaning to write about for a month now… getting teachers connected on Twitter!

Twitter ChallengeIn August, I led a couple of optional, face-to-face trainings on Twitter for teachers and principals in my district. Most of the resources I used for the trainings can be found on my site. (Hint: TodaysMeet worked out great to have people paste their twitter handles and follow each other during the training!) I know Twitter can be confusing to people at first, so I tried to think of a way that would encourage teachers to further learn about and actually use the powerful networking tool once we left as a group.

I thought a 30 day Twitter challenge would be the perfect way to encourage the use of Twitter and make sure teachers continued to network with teachers in other buildings in the district and with educators outside of our district. I assumed I would be pleased with the results because after all, once you can convince an educator to open their mind to Twitter they’re pretty excited about the sharing going on. I never expected to be as impressed with the connections being made as I was.

To prepare, I did a quick search of the hashtag we used to make sure no one else was using it and compiled a list of challenges for each day in a Google Spreadsheet. Challenges consisted of things like following other educators who teach the same subject, sharing a favorite resource for the classroom, and other quick, easy tasks. At the end of each of the trainings I told the teachers and principals about the challenge and that it would be starting the following week. Once it had begun, I tweeted the challenges each morning and afternoon.

Actually, I have a confession to make. I scheduled all of my challenge tweets ahead of time in Tweetdeck! This helped me make sure I didn’t forget to send it one morning. It was that easy to get started, and it took on a life of its own.  As the challenge progressed, I noticed participants tapering off, which was expected. But as they stopped completing my daily “challenges,” I noticed they kept tweeting on their own and began using Twitter with their students, staff and for their own PLNs… EXACTLY what I hoped would happen! Many teachers joined in on the challenge after it started or created their own Twitter accounts because someone in the challenge encouraged them to participate, and they heard that others were having fun with it. I made a Storify to summarize the challenge and share with others.

To implement your own challenge, here are my suggestions:

  • Lead a face-to-face training first. People feel more brave and willing to step out of their comfort zone when they have a buddy (you!) by their side. This will show them the ropes and get them comfortable following people and sending tweets.
  • Create a list of tasks that are very simple, and will only take seconds to minutes to do. Our to-do lists are already out of control, so no one wants to sign up to do something that’s going to take a long time, every day, for an extended period of time.
  • Tasks should encourage participants to learn a new aspect of Twitter, make new connections or share new resources.
  • Include a task that encourages participants to get their “classroom neighbor” to join, so others who did not attend your initial training can start Tweeting.
  • Include a task that encourages participants to check out a Twitter chat, so they can see the real power in Twitter.
  • Create a list of the tasks each day, so teachers can see what’s coming, complete their task early if needed or go back to catch up. I created my list in a Google Spreadsheet that I shared out by creating a shortened URL with bit.ly (see my challenges here: bit.ly/middie30).
  • Offer prizes for participants and the winners! I also created a certificate of participation for every teacher who participated (even one day).
  • If I do this again, I would probably only do 15 days. I think cutting it in half would seem like less of a commitment, and potentially encourage more people to participate.

Overall, the feedback from teachers was great, and the Superintendent was very happy to hear more of our teachers were joining Twitter! In a training I led yesterday, one of the participants shared a resource she found, “on Twitter” with the rest of the teachers in her department.  I was thrilled to hear that teachers are still actively using Twitter as a part of their own PLN and as a result of this challenge!

How have you encouraged educators to become active on Twitter?

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

5 EdTech Tools in 5 Minutes: Episode 8

Okay… so it’s less than six minutes!  During June and July (and almost August), I put the 5 in 5 screencasts on hold.  Well, it’s that time of year again.

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. ThingLink
  2. NearPod
  3. Remind
  4. Print Friendly
  5. One-Click Timer

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

5 Reasons Kahoot & Infuse Learning are the Perfect Formative Assessment Pair

Formative assessment word cloudThis week we (myself and the elementary instructional technology coach in my district) are leading a number of educational technology PD sessions about many different topics for teachers to attend before going back to school.  The more I interact with some of these tools, the more I really love and swear by them to be used by any age or subject area.  Two of the tools I’m teaching this week, Kahoot and Infuse Learning, make a perfect formative assessment pair. I just had to share them!

Kahoot turns your normal questions into a fun, interactive game that kids of all ages really do love to play! It is similar to the trivia game at BW3’s; the quicker you answer the question correctly, the more points you are assigned.  To see Kahoot in action with students, watch the short video below.

Infuse Learning can be used on the fly for a number of quick questions throughout a lessons or you can save and distribute quizzes. Question options include students’ drawings, multiple choice, true/false, extended response, Lickert scale and more.  For a quick overview of Infuse Learning, watch the video below.

Below are the following 5 reasons I think these tools are fabulous and realistic formative assessment tools.

  1. Instant access to detailed results– No need to collect a bunch of papers, take the time to grade every students’ response, put the results in a spreadsheet and analyze the results yourself, and the other timely things teachers have to do to get meaningful information about students’ progress with more traditional classroom techniques. Kahoot gives you a break down of how many students responded with each answer choice after each question, allowing the teacher to address any common misconceptions on the spot. At the end of every Kahoot game, the teacher can download the results.  The results will tell you how long each student took to answer each question, their response, how many students responded correctly and incorrectly to each question and more.
    Infuse Learning results essentially tell you the same thing when you save students’ responses.  When using the quick assessment tools, you can quickly save the results to the results section and keep moving so your teaching isn’t interrupted. Being able to look at students’ responses as they come in allows you to address any errors or misconceptions on the spot.
  2. Kids are engaged and interested– I’ve seen kids at the high school level and at the grade school level have a blast with Kahoot. They will be begging you to play the game again, so they can increase their score and beat their classmates next time. If you don’t go over an explanation of the correct answers with them right away, kids will be looking up the answers on their own in between rounds of playing the game to improve their score.  The time limit keeps kids on their toes and prevents them from looking up answers as they go.  Kids enjoy Kahoot, so they stay engaged with the game, and ultimately the content.
    When using the quick assessment tools in Infuse Learning throughout a lesson, students must be following along and paying attention in order to answer.  The teacher can see the student’s responses, so it is clear who is paying attention and who may be daydreaming in the back.  The teacher can also see who has responded and who has not responded to any question, so no student can get out of answering a question.
  3. Simple to set up and navigate the teacher’s side– What teacher has time to learn another complicated tool or software?  The easier the better when it comes to saving time, and these two tools couldn’t be easier to navigate and set up. Since it shouldn’t take an overwhelming amount of time to get your quizzes set up in these tools, teachers will be more likely to use them on a daily/weekly basis.
  4. Students (or participants) don’t need to have an account & password- they will just need the room pin number provided by each site once you are logged in as the teacher.
  5. Will work on any device- this makes these tools useful in any setting: BYO, 1:1or checking out labs/carts.

So how do they go together? I would use Infuse Learning in my classroom on (almost) a daily basis to establish a routine with students (you can also import class lists and use Infuse Learning to take attendance based on students “entering” your class) and keep my lessons interactive. I would try to use the quiz feature to set up exit slips as frequently as I could.  Kahoot would come into play in my classroom for review sessions before tests and to check understanding for more complicated or dull topics that need a little spicing up to keep students interested.

What are your favorite formative assessment tools to use in todays classroom? What do you think of Kahoot and Infuse Learning?

Tech To You Later!
-Katie

Speaking at the EdTech Coaches Playground at ISTE 2014

Like I said in my last post, I’m a little behind on my blogging…

iste 2014 presentation iste 2014 presentationISTE 2014 in Atlanta was another whirlwind experience, and a month later I’m still processing everything. This year, I was lucky enough to present during the EdTech Coaches Network (formerly SIGETC) playground.  I talked about the Digital Citizenship Day I planned back in February. Talking with so many educators who come from different walks of life and have had similar ideas and experiences to those I was sharing was awesome! As much as I was sharing best practices with people, I was getting just as many ideas as others shared their experiences with me and asked provoking questions. I’m really grateful to the ETC network for selecting me as one of the presenters.

All the sites I referenced during my presentation at the playground are on my website here.

I just think we are so lucky to be educators right now.  Imagine teaching during a time when doors were closed, you had to perform all day for students (or bore them to tears), and you were pretty much in it alone and constantly recreating the wheel… picture just 10-15 years ago (if that).  So much has changed.  As exciting as it is for our students to learn in classrooms today, I think becoming a teacher or working in education have become extremely exciting careers to embark on and fields to work in! The number of people ISTE pulled together from all over the world is seriously impressive.  Although I didn’t even begin to meet a fraction of the people who attended, the coaches playground I spoke at, other sessions and just plain down time (wait, when was there down time at ISTE?) led me to making many new connections who I am able to reach out to in an instant over email or Twitter. I am not alone in this thing called education, and I am fortunate to be a part of it with so much technology and so many instant networking opportunities at my fingertips. Thank you ISTE and my PLN for making it another successful year and a very memorable first speaking opportunity at the conference.

Did you attend ISTE 2014?  What did you think?

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

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