How I Use It
This creative annotation tool gives students a chance to use information they collect over the course of research conducted on the Internet in a novel way. Students place "tags" on an image and use the search bar to find content related to the picture. The content can be textual information or media like YouTube videos or other pictures. Soon the initial image has multiple tags with other layers of information-a visually and auditory engaging image. The grade band recommendation is for 6-12 but I have successfully used this tool with 4th and 5th graders. I have used this tool as a whole class activity to build knowledge about a specific group of Native Americans, and students gave me content information from their reading. I have also used this tool as individual work for students where they extended their knowledge of an underwater animal as a final presentation. In both instances It worked well with specific words placed in the search bar, but beware of what videos and pictures that are found...as the teacher you will want to be sure that the filters at your school are active. I also found that sometimes students can go a bit tag happy, as the program doesn't limit the number of tags on an image. The full purchase version offers options of audio and image files that are stored on individual computers; if this is an option that is important to your classroom work, you will have to pay for those features.
Both the web-based version and app are student friendly, with simple directions and easy interfaces. The program requires students to have an account that you can then group under "My Students"; you send an invitation code to them and the program automatically groups under your Student tab. Also, students can use publicly shared ThingLinks created by other users- this can be helpful if a student is struggling to begin their own image.
I think that this tool definitely gives students the creative ability to construct their own knowledge about a topic through the use of the base image. As a teaching tool itself, an educator could search through the already constructed images to find one that fits their theme and use it for direct teaching. But if you are looking for a start up and go teaching tool, this isn't it- it is a creative annotation tool that requires work to get a finished product.
In my opinion this is an engaging program/app that allows students to explore the Internet for supporting information and media pertinent to a topic; an alternative to the end of unit assessment. It can easily be adapted for individual or group work, and a teacher of students with special needs could do more direct teaching as the students verbally generate the tags. I know that the search feature for tags requires spelling accuracy for the best search choices, so this could be a roadblock for students with spelling difficulties. Overall, I feel a teacher that appreciates creative presentations and engaging students in novel ways will find value and success with ThingLink.