ThingLink – Versatile Option for Presenting and Sharing Online Information

I generally don’t recommend anything here until I’ve spent time doing hands-on exploration. Now that I’ve finally made time to play with ThingLink and ThingLink Education, I wish I’d done so sooner!

ThingLink is a simple but powerful tool for presenting collections of links to online material. You start by uploading or importing an image. You then create hotspots on the image that link to sites you wish to include. It couldn’t be much easier to create or share with ThingLink. I think the opportunity to embed is especially worthwhile. Here’s what I put together in just a few minutes. Hotspots become visible when you move your cursor over the image.

[It is noteworthy that embedded ThingLinks open on Apple's iDevices, and hotspots are made visible by touching the image.]

ThingLink offers both free and paid options. The free version allows up to 50 images. Teachers can get a 67% discount on the ‘Plus Plan’, with up to 500 images.

As I was writing this, Richard Byrne posted a great example that shows the creative potential of ThingLink. Richard also linked to an earlier post of his entitled 26+ Ways to Use ThingLink in the Classroom.

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Popplet — for Mind Mapping, Sharing and Presenting

Tools are only valuable to the extent that they facilitate tasks that need doing. That being said, here’s an tool that I believe can be valuable to learners and their teachers everywhere!

popplet is more than the online mind mapping application it seems at first glance. It also offers an effective way of sharing and presenting. An important added bonus is the iOS app that makes this tool available on all iDevices.

Take a look at what I just created. I’ve incorporated several images and a video. I could have drawn, or sketched, into any of the nodes if I’d wished to do that. It is worth noting that mind-maps created in Popplet’s browser version can be embedded anywhere with ease.

[I sure wish there wouldn't be a big blank space here if you are viewing on an iPad, but in its misguided wisdom Apple insists. Please scroll down for more about how you can use Popplet on an iDevice.]

Popplet’s presentation mode works well, and sets it apart from other mind mapping applications. It opens as shown below.

Once presentation mode is open, simply click on the ‘record’ button to number the nodes in the order in which you want to present them. Then click on the ‘present’ button, and each node will enlarge to fill the screen. The arrow buttons on the keyboard move forward or backward through the presentation.

There are two versions of the Popplet iOS app.  Popplet Lite allows the creation and storage of only one presentation on the iDevice at a time. The full Popplet app ($4.99) allows for storage of as many mind-maps as you wish.

This video from iPadagogy does a nice job of demonstrating how to use Popplet Lite on the iPad. The process for creating mind maps is almost the same in the browser version.

WordTalk – Free Text-to-Speech Plugin for MS Word – Extra Special Learning Resource

WordTalk is a powerful free tool that ought to be on every computer in every school where Microsoft Word is installed on a Windows computer! This is a tool that has the potential to benefit ALL learners, especially any who struggle with reading or writing. I’m adding WordTalk to my list of Extra Special Learning Resourses. 

WordTalk is a high quality free add-in that provides convenient, versatile and customizable text-to-speech for any document written or opened in Microsoft Word. It works in every version of MS Word, from Word 97 through Word 2010; and it’s available to run on every version of Windows from Windows 98 through Windows 7.

WordTalk has been around for a while. I first wrote about it more than 5 years ago, and I revisited it again in 2009. I am writing about WordTalk yet again for two reasons.

  1. Too many people remain unaware of WordTalk and of what it can do.
  2. WordTalk now installs and runs well on the latest versions of MS Word running on the latest versions of Windows. (There had been complications during recent transitions.)
Here’s a list of some of the things that WordTalk offers:
  • reads text aloud in any MS Word document
  • functions are accessed by buttons on a straightforward toolbar
  • alternatively, WordTalk functions can be accessed by customizable keyboard shortcuts–for individuals with vision challenges, or those who cannot use a mouse effectively, or to speed the work of anyone who relies extensively on WordTalk
  • text is highlighted as it is read, along with the selected reading unit–highlighting colors are customizable
  • creates audio files (wav or mp3) from text in an MS Word document
  • talking spell checker that speaks suggested spellings and definitions for those suggestions
Here’s a brief overview of WordTalk that I’ve put together in video format.

Please Introduce Google Chrome to ALL Learners!

How do I love thee, Google Chrome? Let me count the ways…

On the weekend, my love affair with Google Chrome was the subject of a humorous exchange on Twitter. I was surprised to discover that my friend @imalloryb was unaware of just how much I appreciate Google’s browser. So here’s a quick post that will reframe points I’ve made here before. But first and just for fun…here’s the video that prompted the Twitter comments–a wonderfully soppy commercial for Google Chrome.

Google Chrome is leaner and faster than any other browser I’m aware of, but that’s not what has me enamoured. It’s Chrome’s add-ons that have won me over, especially the add-ons that make the Internet more accessible for individuals who face all kinds of challenges and barriers. Google Chrome offers tools to support such a wide range of learning needs that I’m convinced it should be introduced to ALL learners everywhere.

The following are just a few of the helpful add-ons available in the Chrome Web Store. (I’ve linked each add-on below to a post where I’ve provided more detail.)

  • Speakit for reading web pages out loud with excellent text-to-speech
  • Voice Search for using voice-to-text to search. (Voice Search knows how to spell whatever it is you are looking for!)
  • ChromeVis for magnifying text on web pages and adjusting colour and contrast of background relative to text on a website.
  • Readability Redux for reducing clutter and adjusting font size, margins and text style on web pages.
  • Google Dictionary for quick and convenient definition of any word on a web page.
  • Speech Recognizer for versatile voice to text or voice recognition.

Finally, and this is really important

…where Google Chrome is not available, there is a portable version of Google Chrome. This can be loaded on, and run from, a flash drive, along with whatever add-ons are needed. This means the user has access to Chrome on any Windows computer anywhere. This is especially helpful at public libraries, on school computers where Google Chrome has not been loaded, at a freind’s home when I’m doing homework, etc.

So, please introduce Google Chrome to ALL learners everywhere!

Picle – Free iApp for Multimedia Presentation or Digital Storytelling

My 6 year old granddaughter recently created a multimedia presentation on an iPad with Pictello. The grade 1 school project was a delightful story written, illustrated, and read aloud by Annika. I know that Annika finds my iPad engaging on many levels, so I was pleased that she’d had a chance to use an iPad at school.

It was wonderful that her teacher informed Annika’s parents that they could view Annika’s work online. On the other hand, it was extremely frustrating that Annika’s parents were unable to access it–because they do not have an iPad. I think it’s unacceptable that Pictello, an app that costs almost $20, does not offer export options for convenient universal online access. (Pictello productions can be exported as PDF files, but all audio is lost.) It is also wrong for schools to assume that all parents have easy access to iPads!

So, I was pleased by the recent release of a free app that facilitates the creation of multimedia projects that can be exported as videos, and easily shared with anyone online.

Picle is a free app for iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch that works well for putting images and audio together to create digital stories or multimedia projects. It’s hard to imagine an app that’s easier to use.

Images can be imported from the camera roll. Or, pictures can be taken directly by the app with the iDevice’s built-in camera. Then it’s just a matter of clicking a record-button to attach audio narration or other desired sounds to the image. Alternatively, you can record while taking a picture to capture whatever sound is present when the picture is taken.

Each image, with attached audio, is known as a ‘picle’. Individual picles can be woven together into movies that tell a story. These movies can be uploaded and shared on Picle’s site. Or, movies can be saved to the camera roll and sent from there directly to Youtube. Of course, individual picles can also be shared.

This video was created from 7 picles that I made with images to which I had added text, so it combines visual information with both spoken and written text. For teachers, it is important to present information to learners in multiple ways.  Likewise, it is essential to give learners alternative options for sharing what they know and as for creative expression.

Note: For adding text to images, an a free (ad-supported) app that I have found to work well is Fotolr Photo Studio.