Tool Reviews – Lori Sowa
Thinglink describes itself as the “leading platform for creating interactive images and videos for web, social, advertising, and educational channels.” Basically, you can take an image (either your own or from the web) and add icons that link to text, websites, other images, audio, and/or video when you click on them. Despite the awkwardness of its name, I really like this tool. With due dates and obligations stacked a mile high, this was the project I most wanted to tackle.
The first step (as always) is to create a login. The site is free to use unless you want to remove the thinglink logo and replace it with your own. Once you’ve established a profile, you can follow, track views, comment, etc. There’s a large library of thinglinks to browse. I found an interesting thinglink that describes bacteria and included links to short videos, websites, etc. You could have easily spent an hour exploring all of the content associated with the figure. As a tool to deliver content – I wonder how likely the student would be to take notes.
One concern about thinglink is the lack of order… students can put things together without a logical progression in mind, and perhaps that could lead to less cohesive project. Teachers could specify what needs to be included to scaffold this if need be, and the icons can be numbered to indicate order. Crafting a thoughtful, well organized report is an important skill. This forum, while allowing for visual appeal and inclusion of additional media types, may not address that particular learning objective. But the tool is easy-to-use, fun and engaging, allows for creativity, and has many educational possibilities, so I would consider it a tool in my pedagogical toolbox.
Here’s my quick prototype:
Perhaps the most interesting part of this webtool is the story of its origin. The tool was created by a then 16-year old student faced with the daunting task of memorizing 111 names of animals (in French). A little over a year later, he refined his code and published the site. While I’m not a big fan of memorization and don’t have much use for flashcards in my courses (although algebra vocabulary might be useful for some students), I can’t help but be proud of the kid who created this simple yet robust, easy-to-use tool. And there are certainly times in life when we just have to memorize something – be it organic synthesis reactions, times tables, or French animal names.
Quizlet is a memorization tool. It is basically a way to create online flashcards (called “sets”) with some nifty “games” that you can play with the content, such as fill in the blank, matching, a drag-and-drop game where you match the term to the definition. There is an option to add images, but you have to pay $25 for that (we already figured out the kid who developed it wasn’t stupid). You can use automatically-generated definitions or create your own. To create a set, data can be entered by hand, imported from a file, or copied and pasted from another application.
If you are creative, you could expand from the term/definition standard of flashcards and use this site in additional ways. I added some algebra equations with the associated solutions. Had images been an option, I could have had an equation as the term, and the graph of that equation as the solution – creating a set of equations to correctly match with the graphs. Scientific names of animals associated with their images would be another potential application. But in the end – there’s always one right answer with this tool, since each “term” is associated with only one “definition”.
Teachers can create a class, add sets, and then track student progress as well as collect data (who studied, when, and how often). This option was not available with a free account. If you plan to use this as an instructor, it will require the $25 fee to be a usable tool. For my current teaching purposes, I am not likely to use this tool (although I may use it as an example in a computer programming class). But it would useful in the right setting.
I created a class, and attempted to add my algebra set to it, but was unable to do so. I’m going to blame this one my extremely slow, temporary computer that I’ve been using since my regular laptop has been on the fritz for the past few weeks. (Update: I was able to add the set!) My class is located here:
Camtasia: ( I had to abort efforts to review Camtasia due to my inability to download the software. Instead, I chose to review Adobe Presenter
Adobe Presenter comes as an add-in to PowerPoint. I was able to add audio narration and interactive quiz questions to a slideshow I had already created. There is also a feature to create video from your computer’s webcam. I had planned on sharing the presentation here, but another application (Adobe Connect) is required to share the presentation outside of your own computer.
Here are a couple of screenshots of the presentation playing from my computer. I was able to narrate slides in a user-friendly format, clicking through animations and advancing slides while talking, pausing and restarting at will. The audio files are editable, and are segmented by slide which makes it easy to go back and change something if you stumble on your words (as I did).
The second screenshot shows a quiz I was able to make and include in my presentation. This is a really nice feature of Presenter, allowing (and if you click the right buttons, requiring) students to test their knowledge along the way and breaking up the monotony of a pre-recorded lecture. You can create multiple choice, matching, short answer, true-false questions, and even have the ability to add surveys with Likert-scale questions. There is a way for teachers to see students’ time in the lecture and quiz responses – so you could actually hold students accountable for watching/engaging in the material – and see where the misunderstandings are. You can build in hints and even link to websites with more information about a topic depending on the student answers provided (although I was not able to make this feature work). It would take a bit of time to explore all of the possibilities and craft your quizzes, but would be well worth it for the end-product you can achieve.
The product of this software is a very professional presentation that is searchable and does not require specific applications (not even PowerPoint) for the end-user. Although, it is a Flash file, so I’m not sure it would work on an iPad. It is a good tool for e-Learning, but is limited to PowerPoint as the platform. Despite the groans about “death by PowerPoint”, I still find PowerPoint to be a flexible, robust tool, and as with anything – it’s all in how you use it. Based upon this trial, I’d like to investigate Adobe Connect for sharing capabilities (and Adobe Captivate, which I think is similar) to create online lecture content. Revisiting Camtasia – for applications where you want to record your screen for things other than PowerPoint (for say, recording MATLAB programming examples in real time) – Camtasia sounds like the way to go.