Earlier this evening I discovered a web tool called "Thinglink." This tool has several platforms but one especially for educators. I immediately signed up for the free version and started. Figuring out what this was and how to use it was half the fun and demonstrated what web tools can do for our students in a rigorous technological environment. When my three children were very young I purchased a computer program called "Putt Putt Saves the Zoo." I remember initially being frustrated that it came with no instructions. What I quickly discovered was my 2 and 3 yr. old did not need instructions because they were inquisitive and had no fear. They did not stop when Putt Putt the car hit a dead end, they just went the other way till they found the next clue. This innate desire to learn begins at a very young age and can be fostered if not suppressed. I have watched my high school students get very excited as they search on databases for research information in a way they never did when searching the book stacks. Web tools enhance learning in a different way and can bring back the natural inquisitiveness older students had but might have forgotten.
On the web tool Thinglink, one begins with an image then clicks to imbed links, videos, pictures, or text onto the page. It reminds me of the hands-on displays at museums that young children will explore. I plan to use it initially in my Honors speech classes for students to look at when I assign a speech for them to watch. I can click a box that would allow them to add links to the image that they find on-line and when we are done will have a rich research tool that all can share. Thinglink could also be used as a presentation board to be shared with the class. My AP students are required to read several essays a week from a variety of authors. The authors in a unit are grouped around an essential question of a specific topic. This would be a great way for students to explore the depth of a social issue and gain perspective as to why authors are writing about it. I upgraded to the premium version that allows me to add 1000 students. They will then be able to access the program and we can begin to publish and share.
All of learning is about making connections. I teach writing and advanced reading and if my students can link the things we read they are bound to do better on the National AP exam and will write with more depth and insight.