An Introduction to Thinglink EDU

Digital Creating and Making at #DigiCon15

Digital Creating and Making at #DigiCon15

Thinglink EDU is a platform for making interactive images. Whether it be video, audio or text, it allows you to provide links to additional information. Creating an interactive image involves three simple steps: find an image to use as the background, add links using a range of icons and then share the finished product, whether it be as a link or by embedding it in a blog or a website.

Like many programs with educational support, there are two subscription options. Firstly, a free account, which provides you the basics, including 100 student accounts, simple tagging and a small range of icons. While the premium educational version allows for almost unlimited student accounts, Google Drive integration and over a hundred different icons, including the option to use custom icons.

One of the other great features of Thinglink EDU is the ability to remix. No matter which interactive image it is that you find, you can make it your own, adding your own elements and republishing a new version.

Some of the possible uses for Thinglink EDU include:

  • Making an image with a series of questions for students to then remix and answer.
  • Developing a map with links to mark a journey.
  • Annotating a piece of work, using icons to highlight different features.
  • Creating an interactive portfolio with links to different references.
  • Finding an image that allows you to tell a story.

In regards to data and policy, Thinglink EDU requires only an email address, first and last name from teacher users. For the Premium account, payment details are also collected. Data is stored and processed on computers located in USA or EU.

Thinglink collect information for the purposes of providing and developing the service. Some of the features offered might rely on the use of information we have collected from you in order to ensure that the feature in question is customised and targeted for your specific use. The personal data provided can also be used for direct marketing unless you let Thinglink know that you do not wish to receive such content. The personal data can also be used for contacting you if required for the provision of the service.

For full privacy information in regards to data and policy, see:

More resources:

Thinglink Blog – A collection of thoughts and resources associated with using Thinglink

Thinglink Teacher Challenge – A series of challenges and ideas about how to use Thinglink EDU.

Susan Oxnevad’s ISTE Resources – A great collection of images showing some of the many potentials.

Extending the Classroom Walls – A post reflecting on some of the different possibilities.

Thinglink and Storytelling – My own example of how Thinglink can be used to tell a deeper story.

Verified Accounts for Schools and Districts – A post explaining some of the different account options.

Examples of Thinglink

For any more information, I recommend contacting Susan Oxnevad ( While there is also currently a 20% discount off EDU Premium if you use the code: SUSANTLEDU

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TIDE Podcast – Education, Technology and Everything In-between

flickr photo shared by Ken Whytock under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC ) license

I really enjoy engaging with different ideas via Podcasts. Don’t get me wrong, I love to read posts, books and watch videos. However, Podcasts are both easy to dip in and out of, as well as consume in everyday situations. Some of my regulars are 2 Regular Teachers, Radio National’s Big Ideas, Teachers Education Review, Radio National’s Future Tense, Guardian Tech Weekly and BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time. I have written about some of these before, comparing each to a particular refreshment. However, since that time, Today in Digital Education (TIDE) Podcast has arrived.

TIDE is a weekly podcast created by Dai Barnes and Doug Belshaw discussing everything from education, technology, and everything in between. I think that ‘everything in between’ is an understatement. Although there is a lot of talk about technology and education, a field which both are a part of, what makes the podcast is at its margins. Discussions bounce around between parenthood, politics and productivity. To me this is something of an embodiment of Belshaw’s own particular exploration of digital literacies,  something that goes beyond just the constructive and communicative use of a tool, but a confident, creative and critical engagement with culture. For those who fear the echo chamber, the wide mix of thoughts and ideas shared each week quickly dissolves that.

Coming back to the analogy of refreshments, I think that TIDE is akin to turning up to a shabby pub on a Sunday afternoon, thinking that you are just going to have a causal conversation about this and that, only to discover a session of drinking craft beer. The session seems to drag on into the night and somehow evolves into finishing things off with a glass of top-shelf single-malt whiskey.

For me, TIDE has filled in the void left by Ed Tech Crew and taken it to a new level. Even if you do not have the time (on average, an hour and a half each week) to listen, the links alone are worth skimming through. So if you haven’t already, go check it out. You will not be disappointed.

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Learning, Innovation and Success – A Reflection on the Impact of #GTASYD14

flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

In a recent post, Jon Andrews reflected on the influence of Edutech and its ongoing relevance. It got me reflecting on my own experiences in regards to conferences and professional development. One event that stands out in particular was the 2014 Google Teachers Academy.

There was so much conjecture prior to the event about what it meant and how the representatives were selected. While in a conversation afterwards, one of the questions brought up was that of impact. I argued that time would tell the success of the evolution associated with Google Teacher’s Academy move from a focus on tools to a focus on innovation and change. However, a part of me thinks that this also misses something. Focusing on ‘success’ sometimes misses the chance influences and impact. As I have discussed before in regards to data and connections, reducing success to a particular outcome does not recognise the serendipitous learning and experience through failure.

So as I look back, here are some aspects that have impacted me:

  • Design Thinking: The biggest take-away was to not only learning about, but learning through Design Thinking. From the different immersion activities, such as drawing a classroom to interviewing different stakeholders; to using hexagons to maps ideas in order to develop a how might we question; then generating ideas and then filtering them; as well as prototyping and critiquing different iterations. I have long wondered about the different facets of inquiry-based learning. However, I had not really had the opportunity to properly explore Design Thinking. One of the things which really stood out to me was the cyclic nature of the process. Although it focuses on an authentic end goal, as other forms of inquiry do, it incorporates an element of ongoing refinement that is sometimes lost within other processes. This experience also made a lot more sense when I read Ewan McIntosh’s book How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make The Happen. This is not to say that Hamish, Tom and the coaches did not do a good job with the constraints of time. However, it was not really until the end, when you can stand back and reflect, that you can make sense of the process, rather than just the ideation being actioned.
  • Connections: I remember reading that being a part of the Google Teachers Academy would provide access to a range of connections. Although I am now in a few new Google Groups, which is dip in and out of, the real bonds and connections were those that I formed simply being a part of the process. Ironically, it was the time spent chatting around meal times and during the taxi rides when the friendships were formed. It simply reiterated the fact that learning is more often than not relational. We can follow all the people in the world, but there is always something humane and so much more meaningful associated with face to face contact. Although I knew quite a few people before (and they knew me I found out), I feel that bit more connected now. I am not sure if this justifies the program, but must not be overlooked.
  • Start with Why: One of the interesting things that occurred at GTA was that every coach received a copy of Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why. Before the event, I had not heard of Sinek and his golden circle. After watching his Ted Talk, I read the book over the Christmas holidays. It was one of those books that, like Carol Dweck’s Mindsets, really clarified the way I saw things, particularly in regards to innovation. Just being ‘right’ or bringing a good idea to the table does will not necessarily bring the change desired. The challenge is to really be clear why such change and innovation is important. This can mean supporting others to drive change, helping them as leaders.
  • GEG: Considering it was an event organised by an edtech giant, I am not sure how much Googly knowledge I left GTA with and I am not sure that it really matters. Instead, the event demonstrated the potential for using Google Apps to support change. I actually think that I left with more thoughts about how to facilitate professional development. For example, Corrie Barclay and I ran a Google Educator Group event at the end of last year. We designed it around the idea that teachers could share and create. It was not necessarily the ‘success’ that I envisaged, but it did leave me with more to critique and think about. A part of a longer process exploring how to support others with change.
  • Driving Change: It has been interesting seeing some others celebrate their successes. Whether it be Riss Leung and her new makerspace or Steve Mouldey’s website 1st Follower, designed to support others with the change process. I left GTA with the question: How Might We ENGAGE PARENTS in a CULTURAL SHIFT to make RELATIONSHIPS and CONNECTIONS the focus of learning? Part of me thought that this might have been a little too ambitious. However, to me, that was the point of the event. I would liked to have jumped into disruptive pedagogies or some other area of change, but I felt that was the safe option. I chose a topic that was messy and wicked, with no clear solution. Every school is unique and has its own context. Engaging with parents and the wider community in a meaningful way is one area that this shows through. Since then, I have continued to ask questions, read widely, listen to different perspectives and test out different iterations. I will be honest, I definitely have not succeeded in bringing parents and the community into the classroom as Chris Betcher and I had envisaged. However I have started implementing different means of sharing and connecting beyond the classroom, which is definitely a step further in what feels like the direction.

So what about you? What big events have you been a part of? Programs that you’ve been privy to? What are the lasting impacts on your professional practice? As always, comments are welcome.

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One iPad Classroom – A Crowdsourced Reference

flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

Although some schools are going one-to-one iPads, there is a growing trend of teachers purchasing their own iPad and bringing them into the classroom. This is a different proposition. Where I have written about how an iPad can support teacher’s professional and personal learning, I have not written about how iPads can be used to support learning within the classroom. I therefore put out a call for thoughts and ideas on Twitter:

Here then are the responses I got (tweets in brackets):

  • Engaging With and Demonstrating Learning (Michelle Meracis, Jonathan Nalder and Corrie Barclay) – Whereas interactive whiteboards demand a focus on the front of the room, having an iPad provides a portable medium to share with. I myself spent six months running an intervention group using the iPad as a means for students to sketch out ideas. Although I just used Paper53 in the past, something like Explain Everything provides more functionality in regards to text and shapes. In addition to this, Richard Wells describes how you can even using Explain Everything as a recordable whiteboard. Depending on the set up of the school, the content on the iPad can then be projected on a larger screen using a range of means, including Apple TV, Reflector or Air Server. Engaging with learning from a different perspective, Plickers allows you to easily gauge student feedback with only one device, while Post-It Notes and iBrainstorm provide different means to build ideas.
  • Teacher’s PDA (John Thomas and Corrie Barclay) – Beautiful handwriting? Capture it! Great clay modelling? Capture it! Clever oral presentation? Capture it! The portability of an iPad allows for the ongoing documentation of learning that is and isn’t digital. This can range from still images, audio and video. What is great is that you can now auto-backup to Google Drive, taking away the pain of having to connect with the computer to transfer files. In addition to this, Bec Spink has shared how she uses Evernote to support this endeavour. While Brett Sinnett has written about how he uses Google Sheets offline to keep all of his formative assessment. Another possibility is to simply post content on a private blog or an application like Easy Portfolio to store information. What is good about making notes digital is the ability to easily organise information using tags and folders, making it much easier to sort things at a later date.
  • Connecting with the World (Jenny Ashby) – Another suggestion is that the iPad can become the permanent connection with the wider world. Whether it be using Twitter to share learning or engaging an expert, such as an author; publishing work on a school YouTube Channel; using Skype to engage with another class from around the world; or maintaining a class blog to celebrate and reflect upon the learning that is occurring in the classroom. There are so many ways in which students can get outside of the classroom these days, the question is which means fits the context.
  • Capturing and Creating – Going beyond just documenting work, the iPad provides a means for creating different products as a part of the learning process. Lately, my students have really taken to Adobe Voice, creating everything from radio advertisements to sharing thoughts and reflections. However, applications like Book Creator and Explain Everything provide the same possibilities. For example, Bec Spink has made books using Book Creator with Preps. Beyond these three applications, Tony Vincent provides a range of applications for making and creating on both mobile and the web which is useful. In regards to creating, there as just so many possibilities, it all comes back to what you are trying to do and why.

For more ideas in regards to iPads, I highly recommend Tony Vincent’s fantastic infographic on the iPad as the ‘Teacher’s Pet’.

iPad as Teachers Pet by Tony Vincent

As well as scrolling through Alex Herbert’s extensive list of resources on Pinterest which was shared with me by Corrie Barclay.

At the end of the day, I have found the biggest challenge with only having one iPad in the class is that you can’t do all three things at once. You might have a group creating a video, while you are wanting to document learning. This is why it is so important to think about how you do things. By using applications like Google Apps, it means that if you do not have the iPad, you can at least fall back to the laptop to do your work.

What about you? Do you teach in a one iPad classroom? What has worked? What have been the challenges? As always, would love to hear your throughts.

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Playing the Team Game

flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

I recently wrote a creative post wondering about leadership. It occurred to me that there is always another side to things. So here is a second instalment …

As the siren blew for half time, Thom walked off the ground with his head down feeling a little despondent. Although he had held his man well for much of the game, in time on he’d gotten away, managing to kick two goals to give the opposition a three goal buffer. To Thom, it didn’t matter what had unfolded throughout. The reality was that the team was behind and it was his man who had done the damage.
Before he had gotten a few steps, three of his team mates had b-lined to him. Encouraging him to keep his head high. The game was not lost. They were both 50/50 decisions. As he took a few more steps, a few more players ran past. Reminding him to stay focused on the game ahead. What was done was done. The game was to be played out in the future.
With most of the players now together, Captain brought the team together to speak with them before going into the rooms. This is a team game, he explained, it is only by playing together that the game will be won. Don’t be sucked in by the glimmer of brilliance. The players all walked off as one.
Coach brought the team together. He explained the situation as he saw it. An even game with a half to play, the opposition had a small lead. He said that none of that really mattered though. That was done. The focus now needed to be on the second half.
In regards to meaningful statistics, coach applauded the contested ball and efficiency of use. This is what mattered. He also pointed out that the game could not be locked down for four quarters, so when it eventually opened up, whether it be because the opposition tires or things change, everyone needs to be ready to adapt.
He closed by touching on the lapse in time on. To blame this on the failure of one person was to miss the point. This was a lack of discipline from the team. The reality was and is, an opposition player should not be able to break the lines. When the opposition was able to play on and run straight through the centre, not once, but twice, it put undue pressure on the forward line. Everyone has their part to play and as a team we need to work together. Trust in yourself, but even more so, trust in each other.
The players all split off to their smaller groups to speak with their assistants. Whereas Thom had doubted his place in the team, the coach had reinstated his faith. Again the message was loud and clear. The Assistant spoke about sticking to the structures, but also having enough intuition that when the situation required to work collaboratively as a unit to resolve it. For it is fine to have coaches supporting from above, but it is the players on the ground who actually play the game.
Thom walked back out onto the ground ready to trust once again and do everything possible for others to trust him also.

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