July 5

#CLMOOC 2015 Make #2

I have enthusiastically charged into #CLMOOC again this year. Although some of my efforts seem more like limping along than charging!

For our second “make,” we were invited to “consider how the media we compose within (like print, sound, still and moving image, or objects) influence how we communicate and interpret.” Furthermore, we were asked to “mediate and re-mediate and reflect on how the affordances of different media impact our choices, processes, and meanings.”

Simultaneous with the beginning of this make cycle, I was brooding over the recent tragedy in South Carolina, where Dylann Roof killed nine people. Although I was feeling sad about those pointless deaths, I was even more sad that a general reaction was to get rid of all Confederate flags.

I understand that the Confederate flag is a symbol of racial hatred, and stirs negative emotions in some people. But, it is also part of our history. If we try to ignore or bury history, we will encounter even more dire consequences.

So, I decided I would use that topic for this week’s make. After some consideration, I settled on ThingLink as the platform, because I wanted to develop some proficiency with it, and to analyze its potential is as a teaching and learning tool.

As I have noted in the past, free versions of software tend to be limited, limiting, and frustrating. This is definitely true of ThingLink. In the end, I chose to upgrade to “pro” with a 14-day free trial.

What I learned as I worked (fought?) with this tool is that my process for creating this multimedia “essay” was similar to what I would do if simply writing a text essay. I needed a thesis. I had to research, looking for credible primary and secondary sources. I needed to organize my argument, and support it with evidence.

What was different than a traditional essay is that I could incorporate images, videos, and music in further support of my textual argument. By using numbered “tags,” I could also draw the audience through my argument in a logical, coherent sequence.

Much of what I was able to accomplish I quite like. I am, however, frustrated with the inability to clip video or audio segments. I would like to incorporate only the pieces that are most relevant. I could download a video, edit it, re-upload it to YouTube and then include it in the ThingLink. Ditto for music from SoundCloud. It seems like an awkward, time-consuming workaround.

ThingLink does allow the (pro) user to upload images from a computer. Why is the same capability not available for video and audio? I could edit the elements to my liking on my laptop, then upload them to ThingLink.

I also dislike how the viewer of a ThingLink image is forced to click on tags and media elements within tags in order to initiate a response. I would much prefer that the creator be able to control the response at all entry points. For example, when the viewer hovers over a tag, music utomatically starts playing. Or, when s/he clicks on a tag, a video begins.

ThingLink also seems designed to encourage the viewer to interact in any order on the image. In the case of my essay, I want the viewer to follow a given sequence, to be able to logically follow the flow of my argument. So, I imagined numbering the tags as a way of creating the proper flow. However, the number icons, both native to ThingLink and others I found readily available, all end at 9 or 10.

Since I have more than ten tags, my next hurdle was to create an icon set of my own. That was another learning process that chewed up hours of my time. I will, however, be much more efficient whenever I face icon creation again!

I can imagine ThingLink as an effective teaching tool. Teachers can incorporate multimedia elements, offering students information in a variety of formats, from many different sources. By diversifying the presentation of information, teachers create a richer learning environment, which may improve student engagement.

Editing a ThingLink image is also straightforward, so it would be easy to update a presentation with new, different, or additional information without reengineering the whole design.

Conversely, students could use ThingLink as a tool for exhibiting their learning. It would allow them to organize their evidence of learning and easily present it to a broad public audience. It has many potential uses, not just for persuasive writing. A few examples:

My next effort with ThingLink will be to create or redesign professional development I do as a #PBL (project-based learning) coach so that I can model its use.

To take a look at my finished product:


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