It's been a while since we've posted one of the Top 10 Tips series so I felt it was due for a comeback. This time round we're going to take a look at the ThingLink app which has been used here at iPad Educators to deliver some of our biggest projects including App Wars and the recent Game of Apps. With ThingLink, teachers and students can easily enhance images and videos by tagging them with additional notes, photos, audio, video and other multimedia content. ThingLinks can then be shared via a URL. It's a great example of an app that can be implemented across the curriculum and harnessed by any teacher after no more than 5 minutes of familiarisation. The beauty of ThingLink really is its simplicity - click on a part of a image and then tag an annotation, be it text, another image or a video.
I have to admit something though - when I was first shown ThingLink by Sabba Quidwai in 2014, I didn’t get it. Admittedly at the time I was fully immersed in the world of iPad apps and the fact that I couldn’t save the content to the camera roll vexed me. Flash forwards a couple of years and I can honestly say that ThingLink is one of my favourite educational platforms. I have led several projects using it with students and produced some of great collaborative projects on here using it.
The ThingLink platform has evolved too, moving from a simple tool for annotating images with multimedia tags to allowing videos to be annotated and now even 360 content – meaning that VR tours can be produced with interactive elements for the user. I should clarify here that the video and 360 tools are not available within the main ThingLink iOS app but via the web platform. The list below will focus on the iOS app.
Here are my top 10 tips for Thinglink:
1. Create an interactive diagram with ease
Let's start with a quick win for someone using ThingLink for the first time.
One of the simplest yet most powerful applications for Thinglink is to create an interactive diagram. Simply select your image (or take a photo) and tag text, close up images or video clips to make the diagram come to life! I put something together about the human body in this way for iPad Monthly from Paul Anderson a couple of years ago. You can find that here.
2. Making multimedia maps
Here's another quick, easy application of ThingLink that is fantastic for Geography or History lessons. Take a map and annotate it with details based on specific locations. For example, students could label a WW2 era map with key locations from the conflict. I've used it as a part of an Ancient Greeks project myself - which can be found here.
This can be applied to more than just world maps too - below is a screenshot of a ThingLink created live during my school's International Day in 2015. Whilst events were going on, I moved around the school taking videos and tagging them to the relevant place on the site. ThingLink offers a simple option for a virtual school tour this way, for those not ready for VR.
3. Get a closer look
It surprises me but I have noticed that students assume you can't pinch-zoom on a ThingLink image. You can - and it makes it easier to add your tags to the exact location you want them. Great for more detailed maps.
4. Reposition your tags
Tags can be dragged and repoisitioned at any point. This is great as it allows you to correct mistakes or rejig your layout. I used it to particular effect during a Year 2 project a couple of years back. Students were locating places around the world then tagging them on a ThingLink map. As I moved around the world to check them, they were able to correct any mistakes I spotted.
That whole project was published as an iTunes U course by Apple and can be accessed freely
The course contains a full guide to ThingLink too!
5. Customise your tags with different icons
You can select from a range of icons for your ThingLink tags. This can make it easier to distinguish different types of content or even allow you to order a set of tags if you wish. In the app, customising your icons is perhaps not as obvious as on the web platform. Click the edit icon on your tag as before and then click on the tag itself again, this will pop up a menu of tag icons to select from including various colours, shapes and styles. It even includes some of the social media logos!
6. Video tags - a word on time limits and sources
If you plan to tag a video clip to your image, note that the time limit is 30 seconds. A better option if you want to include longer clips is to upload your videos to a source like YouTube and link them in the tag.
UPDATE: I've just checked this and it seems that I now can embed longer videos. Having looked online for a confirmation of a new time limit I haven't yet found the answer. If anyone knows this - please shoot me a message!
7. ThingLink EDU Accounts
ThingLink offers an EDU version specifically for educators. This allows students to be assigned accounts without having personal email addresses. It's what I used for the Year 2 project mentioned above. The EDU version also offers a safer environment that limits the content students can access and ensures that they can only see the class content.
Find out more about the ThingLink EDU account here
8. Sharing ThingLink projects
ThingLinks cannot be downloaded. They live online - it's the only way the interactive nature of the projects can work. Projects can be shared via link or embedded into other sites.
A couple of ideas in terms of sharing them with students/parents:
- put a QR code link in a book/on a display
- use a platform like Seesaw to share the links
- if you want to share Thinglink via something like Book Creator, hyperlink a screenshot to the actual project
If you use the EDU accounts, you can also create a class channel and add content directly to that. This way you can share the channel link and students can access their peers' projects too!
9. Controlling the Privacy settings of a ThingLink
By default ThingLink images are set to public but as with other online platforms like YouTube, you can elect to make the content unlisted or private if you wish. This is important if the content includes students who are not permitted to appear online.
10. Teleportation time
Ok this one is kinda cheating as it isn't actually about the ThingLink app. Teleport 360 Editor is a newer app from teh ThingLink team that allows iOS users to add ThingLink tags to 360 content. As such you can create immersive 360 experiences that have educational content embedded directly into them. Better still, you can sew multiple 360 panoramas together to form a true virtual tour.