A Picture Says a Thousand Words. What Else Can it Do?

Images are powerful. Images can capture a moment, share a sliver of time, communicate emotions and deepen our understandings. When images are integrated with the viewer’s sensory experiences, they can move us towards social reflection and change. Some images stay embedded in the thread of our social consciousness, reminding us of the nature of humanity itself. Take Kim Phuc; Napalm girl (who I was lucking enough to hear speak at a 2007 teacher convention) or John Paul Filo’s picture of the Kent State University Massacre (1970)?

How can we leverage technology and the power of images, while promoting visual and informational literacy, in our instructional design?

On my twitter stream this week, I discovered a great learning tool that harnesses the power of learning through imagery. Thinglink allows images to be integrated with other types of information. Images can be embedded with interactive links that can provide descriptions, related images, or movies; to help clarify aspects of the image, or provide additional information. Text can be embedded to explain parts of the photo, people / places can be named,  and extending details provided to the student.  Pictures can also be tagged and shared with social media such as Twitter, Facebook, and Edmodo, to share and discuss.

This video from ThingLink describes what this powerful tool can do:

After discussing with one of my teachers the potential of Thinglink in an upcoming lesson we were collaborating on, he decided to do a sandbox of Thinglink in our instructional design. Grade 11 students examined “To what extent should nation be the foundation of identity?” Students began with developing their own personal Coat of Arms using symbols that represent their personal identity; incorporating and extending their understanding of the use of symbols from heraldic interpretations of families.  Students were given the task of designing their own Coat of Arms utilizing elements of heraldry. They were given the choice of ‘playing’ with the possibilities of Thinglink instead of a written reflection outlining their interpretations of personal heraldic symbols. With encouragement, and surprisingly little tech support on behalf of the teacher (intentional), most students chose to take a risk and share their understandings with ThingLink representations. Following are some examples of the work kids produced. Click on the student work to see their Thinglinks.

Screen shot 2013-02-22 at 12.24.41 PM

 This student, Janet, explains how she incorporated cranes into her Coat of Arms, explaining how cranes symbolize eloquence. She uploaded a video of her participating in a public competition in Beijing, highlighting her understanding of eloquence in communication and public engagement.


Screen shot 2013-02-25 at 2.59.04 PMFor Kelly, this particular crane on her Coat of Arms symbolizes strong parental bonds, and though not discussed with her parents, she decided to communicate the importance her parents have in her life.

The potential to share with different media and make ‘connections’ between symbolism and their understandings was a powerful way for students to represent their identities. The teacher commented that this approach allowed for students to explore and communicate their self understandings that may not have been as clear and concise or demonstrated with links to outside media. What a powerful way to leverage technology to support student learning and sharing.

Following is an excellent google document for many other learning applications of ThingLink into the classroom.

ThingLink in the Classroom

It is amazing to see students willing to play with a new technology and take risks. Thinglink proved  easy to use, and provided students the opportunity to demonstrate their learning with connections to multiple sources.

photo credit: ralphrepo via photopin cc

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