ThingLink allows teachers and learners to easily create, collect and share interactive images and videos. With ThingLink, learners can explore areas relevant to their study in a dynamic way – and also create their own projects.
ThingLink is very simple to understand and use, and the website has a range of ‘how to’ videos and articles to help you to get started. You start with a main image (it can be a 360° image) or a video, and make it interactive by embedding – or putting in – items of text, other images, videos, audio and/or links. These items are called ‘tags’, and the embedding process is called ‘tagging’. After you have tagged your additional content, you can share your interactive image or video.
ThingLink’s potential application is huge – not only for teachers and learners, but also for those in other fields – and this is reflected in a perhaps confusing registration system. Teachers and learners should register to the educational version of the platform using the schools area. Once you register though, the user experience is quite smooth.
Language level and skills.
There is no limit on who can use ThingLink. As a teacher, I was immediately struck by the huge range of uses for all sorts of different classes, whatever their size, age or level.
Teachers can encourage learners to use ThingLink to create their own content, whatever their language level, as the ThingLink tagging editor has visual prompts. The fact that you can integrate links, audio, video, text and images means it’s satisfyingly multi-skill.
Language learning content.
ThingLink is a digital tool and so doesn’t have specific language-learning content. However, you can use the ‘explore’ and ‘search’ features to find content created by others, as well as some standard images and videos, to find something potentially useful.
One of ThingLink’s greatest strengths for a language teacher is its ability to bring a situation or scenario alive inside a classroom. It’s easy to imagine creating a series of interactive images to help learners focus on the language needed for many different situations. For younger learners, it is the perfect tool for creating a visual dictionary.
There is no real tracking feature on ThingLink. You can, with a paid plan, get ‘classroom management’ and see all your learners’ work in one place, grouped as you decide. Also, your learners can easily keep some kind of portfolio of their work, by starting a ‘channel’. A ‘channel’ is a place where learners can keep all their creations in one place and organise creations into different topics.
ThingLink promotes its site’s ability to link well with Google Drive, so you could use a non-automated tracking tool in a Google Doc or sheet for learners to self-assess, and for them or you to mark progress. Learners can share their ThingLink images via Google Drive and ThingLink is also compatible with many other sites (e.g. Padlet).
ThingLink says it is, in part, a social platform — users can create a profile and ‘Follow’ other ThingLink users and also ‘Touch’ ThingLinks created by others, similar to ‘Liking’ posts on social media. These features encourage interaction and sharing of ideas and knowledge.
With paid plans, there are options for learners to comment on ThingLink images or videos you or they create. In addition to this, sharing images or videos on social media, or embedding them – adding them as content – on more or less any website gives plenty of opportunity for interaction. Sharing permissions do though generally depend on the plan you have.
Learning through language.
The learning opportunities with ThingLink go beyond language, to practically all subject areas. With an image or video as a starting point, there is potential to virtually explore areas with rich visual features – and as ThingLink works towards making 360° video an option, this potential will only increase.
Particularly, if you ask learners to work on creating their own ThingLinks, there is plenty of scope to develop critical thinking skills (especially in relation to digital literacy), along with the other usual skills you would expect in a tech-driven task, such as communication and collaboration.
Supporting teaching and learning.
With the free user plan, you can use the basic features:
- create and add links (tags) to images
- share or display images where you choose
- collate (collect and store) images in a ‘channel’.
With a paid plan, you have much more control. Your creation options increase to include video and 360° images, and you can share your ‘channels’. You can also create closed learner groups, which learners can access via a code (allowing them to create content too). Within these groups, you can easily monitor learners’ work in one place, control whether they can comment on each other’s work and more.
Technical: user safety and data security.
Broader user support (e.g. on social media and via ThingLink’s blog) is very good and the website has a wide range of support including demos, articles, ‘how to’ videos, welcome webinars and live support. Technical support response time is quicker with a paid plan.