Ditch the Packets...Use Thinglink as a Professional Development Tool!

"Oh boy!  I can't believe I get the opportunity to sit and watch the presenter play with new technology for an entire hour!"

I hope to high heavens that the phrase above is never iterated from a teacher participating in one of my instructional technology trainings.  The thought of it makes me cringe.  I believe that professional development MUST be interactive to be meaningful. 

I recently attended a full-day training where I was literally handed an 81-page packet of the presenter's PowerPoint slides.  70 other administrators received the same packet.  What's more, the presenter didn't even have the presentation available to the participants digitally.  

I hope nobody saw me shake my head in shame.  Or maybe I do...at least then they'd know of my disapproval.  

I understand that educators like to have documentation to refer to, but I knew that there had to be a better medium, one that could be useful, comprehensive, AND interactive.  Almost immediately, I remembered the Web2.0 site thinglink.  

The premise of a thinglink is simple:
The beauty of thinglink is its open-endedness. Businesses use it to showcase new products, newspapers use it to create interactive periodicals, and celebrities/artists use it for promotional material.  As an educator, I can do all three.  

I've been using thinglink to create interactive tutorials for teachers.  I've used it to highlight changes in software updates, provide interactive tours of our website, offer an interactive map during a recent mini-conference and most recently, provide teachers with an interactive explanation of HoverCam Flex, the software belonging to the HoverCam document cameras (see below).

Embedding thinglinks into blogs, websites, and even SMART Notebook files using the Voki widget (thanks to Rafranz Davis for providing this blog post!), is one of the best features of this Web2.0 resource.  Now, ANY page can have seamless, integrated interactive material!  I was even able to embed a thinglink into an iBook using iBook Author.

Thinglink has become my go-to web resource for providing explanations to technology resources.  I still rely on screencasts if I need to show a process for using or navigating a particular resource, but with thinglink, I can embed the screencast directly into the image!

After using this product over the past year, I've come up with the following wishlist of features ranked in order of priority:

  1. Provide a larger work area when editing/tagging an image, or at the very least, provide a way to zoom in and out.  Resizing/Repositioning the boundary boxes of tags can be very finicky.
  2. Allow reupload image!  Currently, you'd have to create a new thinglink, copy the tags from the old thinglink, paste them into the new one, delete the old thinglink and then make sure that the new thinglink URL/embed code is updated on all linked pages.   
  3. Allow tags to be left or right justified within the boundary box so as to avoid the tag covering up key elements of the image.
  4. More tag icons or the ability to upload your own icon.
And there you have it!  If you're already using thinglink in creatively educational ways, let me hear about it by commenting below!

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