Back to School with ThingLink ePortfolios

As a longtime educator and instructional tech coach, I have embraced ePortfolios as a valuable tool for documenting learning over time, self-reflection, goal-setting and growth.

An ePortfolio is a collection of student work that is used to document student effort, progress, and achievement over time. Students become actively involved in their own learning as they engage in goal setting, decision making and self-reflection. ePortfolios are powerful tools for authentic assessment . ePortfolios can be an extremely useful tool for both formative and summative assessment at different stages of the learning process.

Dr. Helen Barrett has been researching strategies and technologies for ePortfolios since 1991. She outlines a developmental process to successfully implement ePortfolios by progressing through 3 levels.  
  1. Storage: Collection
  2. Process: Collection + Reflection
  3. Product: Selection/Reflection + Direction + Presentation
As I’ve explored the use of many viable solutions for digital ePortfolios for a decade myself, I have found Dr. Barrett’s process to be extremely helpful for successful and sustained digital Portfolio management over the course of a school year. Of particular importance is to recognize that students and teachers need time to develop skills and introduce the process into the classroom workflow at each of the stages before progressing to the next.

ThingLink as an ePortfolio Tool

ThingLink is a great tool for creating ePortfolios because students can maintain their own ePortfolios easily and quickly. This keeps the focus on the learning, reflection and growth, not on the technology.

ThingLink as an ePortfolio Tool

Here is how Dr. Helen Barrett’s process aligns with ThingLink as an ePortfolio tool.

Storage: Collection

Students can use a mobile device to simply snap a picture of an artifact to demonstrate learning and add it to their own ThingLink Portfolio Channel, which is a collection of interactive images. As a bonus, students can also capture learning as it happens in the classroom through video and add it to their ePortfolio channel.

Process: Collection + Reflection

After students have successfully managed the routine of collecting artifacts in their ThingLink Portfolio Channel, they can begin to reflect on their learning with a tap or the click of a mouse. Students can add tags with text or media to revisit the learning experience and explore concepts more deeply as they document their own learning.

Since ThingLink works across platforms and mobile devices, student reflections can become a regular part of their learning routines. Reflections can easily be added while using any device, even without wireless if using the free mobile app for iOS or Android. As an added bonus, teachers can add tags with feedback on their students’ artifacts, providing powerful opportunities to personalize the learning and connect with students.

Product: Selection + Reflection + Direction + Presentation

When students are ready to take on the final level of ePortfolio implementation they can easily sift through their channel and ongoing collection of artifacts for review as they set goals and direction. At this point, educators might want to consider the use of two ePortfolios, suggested by the work of Dr. Helen Barrett.
  1. A working ePortfolio: As students collect all of their artifacts consistently throughout the year, they might want to consider their ePortfolio channel to be a working ePortfolio, or collection of artifacts to choose from to develop fully for presentation.

  1. Presentation ePortfolio: This is a more polished ePortfolio consisting of artifacts self-selected by the student. The cognitive process for creating one or more targeted ePortfolio channels involves sifting through the working ePortfolio, evaluating artifacts and making decisions about which artifacts to present. The technology involved requires the click of a button. The focus remains on the learning, not on the technology

Whether you decide to have a working ePortfolio and a presentation ePortfolio or you stick with one, ThingLink channels support the presentation process well. Channels can be rearranged easily with the free app to organize ePortfolios by theme or to demonstrate growth in one area. Students can take a closer look at their artifacts add additional tags with rich media to demonstrate growth in target areas as they progress throughout the year. Students can even replace background images on slides to polish their collections and prepare them for presentation, while the links remain in tact.

A Student Example from Storage to Presentation

There are many great ways to present a ThingLink Portfolio, ranging from simple to advanced, depending on your comfort level with tech and the age of the learners. Because ThingLink is a flexible tool that integrates beautifully with a variety of powerful 3rd party tools, it will grow with teachers and students as they become more tech savvy and expand their tech toolkits. Here is an example of one interactive image within a student portfolio that is simple, yet powerful. This is a great way to use ThingLink ePortfolios as a formative assessment tool.

This interactive images above certainly documents learning, progress and growth and it is easy to see how this type of portfolio follows the process from storage to reflection to direction. When students are ready for the presentation aspect, they can choose to take advantage of the “replace image” feature to remix their own content and highlight a learning goal. This is optional, of course. Simply click the link below any ThingLink EDU Premium image and replace the old image with a new one, keeping the tags in tact.

The great news is that a ThingLink Channel is portable. A student portfolio channel can be viewed in full screen on the ThingLink site, or It can be embedded in a blog, website, or 3rd party tool that supports embedding. If your Learning Management System (LMS) doesn’t support embedding, you can add a link to an ePortfolio channel for easy access. Here are a few ideas for discovering a presentation method that works for you and your students.
  1. Share student ePortfolios with parents and stakeholders via a link in an email or through your learning management system.
  2. Embed an ePortfolio channel into student blogs to provide a place for the published ePortfolio along with a personal written narrative. Students can focus on any one artifact by embedding it in a post, or they can reflect on a series of artifacts. Student blogging is an effective way to take the learning to the next level, while focusing on writing for an authentic audience.
  3. Require students to periodically record and narrate a tour of their online ePortfolio to highlight their learning and growth. (This could be part of a student blog, or it could be a stand alone.)
    1. On a computer or Chromebook, use a simple screencasting tool such as Screencast-o-matic.
    2. On a mobile device, use the web browser feature in Explain Everything to pull up the live ThingLink Portfolio. Combining two or more apps to utilize combined features is commonly referred to as App Smashing. Explore this interactive image to learn more about smashing these two apps.

Final Thoughts

Access to the camera on a mobile device with the free ThingLink App for iOS or Android is the best way to support the ePortfolio process with ThingLink. While this is obviously a perfect match for the 1:1 iPad classroom, ThingLink ePortfolios can be maintained with less classroom technology because students can start a ThingLink on one device and easily continue working on another device to continue learning. I encourage educators interested in adopting the ePortfolio process to try ThingLink as your tool and enjoy the freedom to work on any device that’s convenient at the moment!

Explore Our Showcase of ThingLink Interactive Video Lessons

We are pleased to share a showcase of ThingLink Interactive Video lessons created by participants in the ThingLink Teacher Summer Challenge

The challenge encouraged educators to embed a Google Form into a video to collect data and feedback from students. Participants were then encouraged to kick it up a notch by embedding their own favorite tools and apps in a video to provide more functionality to power the learning. The results are amazing and the possibilities are exciting. 

This interactive video, submitted by by Sheri Edwards, includes a live Padlet right inside the video. This adds a level of simple and instant collaboration to a lesson. Since Padlet does not require students to log in, the tech is seamlessly integrated to support the learning and it is in the background. What a powerful way to engage students! Explore this interactive video and contribute to the Padlet yourself.

Explore Our Showcase of Interactive Videos

The 6 ThingLink Interactive Videos showcased here are great examples of streamlining the delivery of content through the use of the embed feature. As you explore any of these videos, notice how Google Docs and more 3rd party tools are displayed live right within the video. 


Try it Yourself

If you are interested in exploring the powerful possibilities of using ThingLink Video to Engage Students, you might be interested in a few related posts with directions and more examples.

5 Interactive Tools to Embed in ThingLink Video

In the final week of the ThingLink Teacher Challenge we asked participants to create a lesson to Engage Students with ThingLink for Video. Participants learned to Embed a Google Form in a ThingLink Video to minimize distractions and provide students with direct access to an interactive form without leaving the video. The ability to embed interactive content right inside of a video is very powerful. Let’s take a closer look at 5 interactive tools to embed in ThingLink Video.

Kick it Up a Notch

You can copy the embed code from any 3rd party tool with an embed code into ThingLink Video and it will appear live. Once you copy the code, paste it into the box in the tag editor, pictured here. The results are amazing and powerful!

Explore an Example

To illustrate the use of embedded 3rd party web tools on top of a video, I have used a quick SAMR model video that originated on the site of Dr. Ruben R. Puentedura at Here are the tools embedded in this video to add my own examples of SAMR at each of the levels and more. Please explore it.

A Big Shout Out

As educators, we learn the most when we must teach it to someone else. As connected educators in a quickly changing technology driven society, we find ourselves in a much better position for learning when we collaborate and learn from other educators. I was inspired to dig deeper into embedding interactive tools by the video of Sheri Edwards, an educator whose work has been featured in each of the Teacher Challenge Showcases. Sheri came up with the idea of using Padlet with ThingLink Video and it only took 30 seconds for my mind to start racing with ideas for embedding 3rd party tools in ThingLink Video. Please explore this ThingLink Video, by Sheri Edwards.

I hope participants will explore the possibilities of embedding their favorite interactive tools in a ThingLink for Video so we can all learn together!

Stay Tuned

The ThingLink Video Showcase is Coming soon!

The ThingLink Teacher Challenge In Box

Now that we’ve reached the end of the Teacher Challenge activities, it’s time to demonstrate a great way to collect and organize interactive images through the use of a Google Form as a ThingLink Teacher Challenge In Box. A simple Google Forms works beautifully for collecting ThingLink images or any digital work that come with a link. It’s is a handy tool to have in any educator’s toolkit of resources.

I’ve been helping teachers learn to collect digital assignments with an In Box since 2011, when I read about the idea on the blog of John Miller. Here is the original post and tutorial I published in October of 2011, which includes a video tutorial to help teachers create the form, and also a video tutorial to help students learn to use the form. This use of tech has been very popular with teachers because it is efficient and effective way to leverage the power of tech to manage digital student work.

Create One Simple Form

Teachers can create one simple form for use throughout the school year or term to collect ThingLinks or any digital assignments. The information collected lands in a sortable spreadsheet with live links to each piece of student work. This allows teachers to view assignments by title, date or student, making it easy to access and evaluate digital work. 

After the form is created and published, students do the rest of the work as they turn in a digital assignment. They fill out the quick form and copy and paste the link into the appropriate box. An optional box for comments on the form provides students with the opportunity to speak up about the assignment. This also provides teachers with the chance to personalize the learning.

Create a More Complex Form 

If you’re already using an In Box to collect digital work, you might want to explore ways to make one Google Form work harder for you. Here are some ways I’ve leveraged the power of the Google Form In Box for the Teacher Challenge.

  • Add a checklist, in the form of a Grid, to an In Box to help students evaluate their own work before turning it in. 
  • Take advantage of the teachable moment by including tips and tutorial to provide students with resources for use after they complete any type of self-evaluation.
  • Provide opportunities for students to get personal help, by adding this option to questions in the form, or creating a separate box. 

The ThingLink Teacher Challenge In Box

Here is a form designed to collect images for the Teacher Challenge from the many educators participating this summer. The form includes options for self-assessment and reteaching. It also includes opportunities to request help and provide feedback. Fill it out once, or return later and fill it out as many times as needed.


Create a Portfolio & Claim Your Badge

If you create one example for each of the Teacher Challenge activities you have successfully completed the Teacher Challenge, and you will be rewarded with a digital badge for your website, blog or in your digital space. You will find an option to turn in your portfolio on the In Box. The badge files will be via email. Here are the quick steps at a glance.

  1. Open your Digital Self ThingLink.
  2. Select Post
  3. Create a new Channel titled YourName‘s Portfolio
  4. Click in the box to add your Digital Self to the channel
  5. Open another ThingLink and add it to your Portfolio channel.
If you created more than one ThingLink for any of the activities, please include it in your portfolio. If you need to reorder the images in your portfolio channel, use the app. When your portfolio is complete, grab the link when you are in slideshow view and paste it into the form.

Explore a Sample Portfolio


Transform a ThingLink by Replacing the Background Image

ThingLink is a powerful tool for creating resources that can be reused and easily adapted to meet the changing needs of educators and their students. When users create an interactive image, poster or video, it can be modified as needed by adding rich media resources and replacing content on the spot. Did you know you can replace the background image on a ThingLink while keeping the tags in tact?
The Replace Image feature, available with ThingLink EDU Premium, allows users to replace the base image of any ThingLink by simply uploading a new one. This is useful for fixing errors on your base image, but it can also be an easy way to transform an outdated resource into something new and useful. 

A Frequently Updated ThingLink

In February of 2012 I was very busy blogging and building my digital toolkit of web 2.0 resources. At that time I had already fallen in love with ThingLink, so I created an interactive image titled Flexible Learning Paths to guide the learning during a full day hands on workshop I was presenting.

Back then there were no ThingLink features built specifically for educators and there was no ThingLink EDU. In fact, there was only one black circle for use as the icon, known as a “nubbin”. Here is an early model of the Flexible Learning Paths image I built, unfortunately the original no longer exists. 

This interactive resource provided participants with easy access to my collection of web 2.0 tools during Professional Development and training sessions. Of course, in early 2012 web 2.0 tools were disappearing as frequently as they were popping up. To keep my collection of tools updated, I had to recreate the interactive image to update it with new tools. This took quite a bit of time, but I rebuilt the image at least 3 times from scratch because using this interactive image during training sessions was worth the effort and time it took to update the image and add the tags again.

Replace Image to the Rescue

Fortunately, ThingLink introduced the Replace Image feature, making it quite quick and easy to update any interactive image. This feature allows users to replace the base image of any ThingLink by simply uploading a new one. The existing ThingLink tags stay in tact. There is no longer a need to ever rebuild a ThingLink from scratch.

The Replace Image feature allow me to easily update this resource in just a few minutes. I simply use an eraser tool to edit my base image, click the Replace Image button below my ThingLink image, and change the outdated tag to update my toolkit. The Replace Image feature makes it easy to build resources that grow and change as I do!

How to Use Replace Image to Polish Up Resources

Here is a snapshot of a ThingLink I have been building throughout the Teacher Challenge to collect and share resources related to ThingLink + Google Apps. This interactive image has been embedded in 7 blog posts, according to stats on the ThingLink. It has also been added to the related channels in my collection. Every time I update this image, the changes take place across the web.

The purpose of this image was to feature a live demo and of a great way to use ThingLink + Google Docs, and also collect examples submitted by teacher challenge participants. The hand icons at the bottom have been added with new resources to highlight as they are turned in.

Phase I

As we progress through the Teacher Challenge, it is time to update the image  to better facilitate the growing resource at this stage. Ultimately, this image will change again when it is ready to be finalized. The whole process is efficient because ThingLink facilitates the collection of resources that can change and grow!

Here is the new background image I created. Now with the click of a button, this image can be uploaded to ThingLink to replace the original background image. Watch the video demo to watch the process in action.

Watch Demo: Replace Image

The Power of One Interactive Image

Anyone who embeds this one frequently updated resource into a blog, wiki or website will have quick access to the latest resources. If you use ThingLink + Google Docs in the work that you do with educators, think of how handy it would be to have this collection on hand. Great news! You can embed this image, reuse it and remix it for your own teaching needs! Hopefully visitors will click on the tag near my name and check out my blog, or follow me on Twitter to connect. 

Did You Know?

The Remix feature was designed to facilitate collaboration and sharing of images. ThingLink EDU users can turn this feature off through Settings if you do not want your original interactive images to be remixed.

Embed a Google Form in a ThingLink Video

This week, participants in the ThingLink Teacher Challenge were encouraged to Engage Students with ThingLink for Video. The goal of this challenge is to add a layer of resources and interactivity to any video to design a customized student driven learning experience. 

A great tool for customizing an educational video is the Google Form. This handy tool can be embedded right inside of a ThingLink Video tag and displayed live within the video. 

Use a Google Form with 

There are many powerful ways to use a Google Form to create a customized student driven learning experience from a video. Here are a few ideas to get started:
  • Embed a Google Form at the beginning of a video and use it for pre-assessment and pre-teaching to prepare students for instruction. 
  • Collect data through the form for informal assessment and use it to plan instructional groups for reteaching and assessment. 
  • Collect feedback from students and use it to personalize the learning and fine tune your teaching as well.

 There are many powerful possibilities with ThingLink Video and a Google Form.

Watch Video Tutorial

5 Free Photo Editing Tools to Create ThingLink Custom Icons

One of the best features of ThingLink EDU Premium is the ability to create and use custom icons to tell deeper stories. 

For educators, custom icons are truly useful for providing students with differentiated resources. They help students tackle a learning task through the use of these  attention grabbing visual cues. Let’s learn how to create custom icons.

Start with a Base Image

Every custom icon starts with a base image. You can create a base image from scratch or you can use an existing image as an icon. Since icons are very small, it’s best to stick with simple icons.

    Icon Specifications

    • Recommended size, 36 x 36 pixels
    • Maximum size, 140 x 64 pixels
    • Any shape 
    • A second image with inverted colors to achieve a hover effect, optional
    • Images must be saved as .png files
    You can adjust the size of your icon, change the file type, and create hover effects with the help of Photo Editing tools. 

    5 Free Photo Editing Tools to Try

    If you already have photo editing tools in your toolkit to help you perform the tasks above, use your favorite tool. If you are looking for free online tools with the features necessary to create great custom icons and more, you might want to explore this interactive image and try some of the tools below.

    Upload a Custom Icon

    After you create custom icons, you upload them to ThingLink. They will be directly accessible in the image editor, along with existing EDU Premium icons. Watch this video tutorial to learn how to upload an icon with a hover effect. 

    Join Our Live Demo with Q & A

    In an effort to support the EDU community, we are pleased to announce a weekly broadcast designed to highlight ways to use ThingLink EDU for teaching and learning, as well as demonstrate how to achieve these goals. These informal webinar broadcasts began as Interactive Image Slams last year. The new name celebrates more collaboration between panelists and guests featuring on the spot demos in response to questions. Think of it as a live help session that will inspire, offered at a regular time.

    ThingLink Live
    Episode 1: Ignite Your ThingLink with Custom Icons

    Sign up for our first episode of ThingLink Live at 7:00 PM EDT as a participant or a panelist.

    Engage Students with ThingLink Video

    In Week 5 of the ThingLink Teacher Challenge participants are encouraged to design a media rich guided learning experience to engage students with ThingLink Video. These annotated video lessons work well because they allow students to progress at their own pace, providing opportunities for review and challenge. Once a ThingLink Video lesson is created and published, it can be accessed at school or at home as an extension of the classroom. Best of all, these lessons can be powered by Google Docs to provide data, student accountability, and opportunities for feedback.

    About ThingLink Video

    ThingLink interactive video can contain clickable hotspots such as text, images, video, music, Google Docs and maps. Hotspots appear for the viewer during play giving an option to explore the embedded content while pausing the video in the background to explore resources. ThingLink for Video allows educators to personalize existing video content.

    Explore an Interactive Video Lesson

    This interactive video lesson starts with an existing YouTube video. Google Docs forms were embedded at the beginning and end of the video to serve as a tool for pre and post assessment. As you watch this quick video, click on each of the tags for examples of how annotating video with rich media can help students dig deeper into the learning.

    Check out the use of embedded Google Forms. Get a Quick Tip to help you power your video with embedded Google Forms.

    Classroom Connections and Modifications

    After you spend some time engaging in constructive play to create your first short interactive video, you will begin to imaging the powerful possibilities for teaching and learning with ThingLink for Video. Here are a few ideas.

    1. Start with an existing YouTube video and add tags with your own resources to add focus to the instruction. Add an exit ticket for accountability.
    2. Use video to introduce a task, such as Common Core Writing, and add tags with samples for students to explore.
    3. Videotape a student performing a task, such as singing. Upload it to YouTube and use ThingLink For Video to add reflections, comments or suggestions to critique the performance.

      Explore The Great Hammerhead

      Steps at a Glance

      Every ThingLink Video starts with an existing video. You can grab the Share code from a public video available on YouTube or Brightcove and paste it into ThingLink for video to get started. Note: If you want to start with your own instructional video, just upload your screencast to YouTube.

      1. Select Video from your dashboard.
      2. Copy and paste the link to a video from YouTube or Brightcove, or Upload your own video.
      3. Click the Edit icon to add tags to your video.
      4. Add rich media tags to your video by copying and pasting the link or the embed code into the ThingLink tag editor.
      5. Change the look and feel of the tags with customization options.
      6. Embed your finished video into an online learning platform, blog or website. Or, add it to a ThingLink channel as part of a bigger lesson.

      Watch a Demo

      Share Your ThingLink Video

      A new channel, titled Week 5: ThingLink Video, has been created for members of the ThingLink Teacher Challenge 2015 group. You can Post a video to a channel by clicking on Add to Channel at the bottom of the video. This screen looks different than the screen you see when you Post an interactive image to a channel, but it works similarly.

      Final Activity: Create a Portfolio

      This week’s activity marks the end of the 5 challenges for this summer and now our attention can focus on sharing all of the amazing images created and publishing them for others to explore. Stay tuned to wrap up this challenge by creating a portfolio of images to showcase the work and celebrate the accomplishments of our participants. Every participant who turns in a portfolio with examples from each of our challenges will receive a digital badge to display.


      9 Ways to Use ThingLink UnPlugged

      At the end of the 4th week of ThingLink Teacher Challenge, we are excited to share an interactive poster and channel of interactive images featuring 9 ways to use ThingLink UnPlugged. The images were created by teacher challenge participants using the free ThingLink App and a mobile device. 

      These images demonstrate ways to connect with life’s everyday learning opportunities by capturing moments and documenting them through text, images and rich media. We hope you will explore these interactive images and get inspired to create one of your own. Creating a ThingLink on the go is fun and it is the perfect summer activity for inquisitive educators on the go! 

      Ways to Use ThingLink UnPlugged

      This interactive image poster was created for quick access to the 9 UnPlugged interactive image featured here. It also serves as a cover page for a channel of interactive images and resources. 

      To explore any of the images, click on the Magnifying Glass Icon. When the tag opens, click again to explore the original image. 

      To browse these resources as a channel of interactive images, click on the Channel Icon at the top of the poster. When you are in this view, you can access all the images in the channel by clicking on the same icon, located in the top right side of the screen

      Celebrate and Connect with the Designers

      We would like to give an enormous shout out to the 9 amazing educators who created the first examples of ways to use ThingLink UnPlugged to Capture Learning on the Go! Each interactive image should include a tag with the designer’s name and social media contact information. In addition, here’s a quick list to help you connect via Twitter. You can also join in the conversations in our Google+ Community! If you find an image that inspires you, please share it through social media.#TLChallenge

      • A Virtual Field Trip to Comanche Lookout, by Laura Moore @LearnMooreStuff 
      • East and West, by Sheri Edwards @nsdedwards
      • A Palermo City Day Trip with Friends, by Carmela Dell’Aria @carmen64 ​ 
      • What can you do in the Highland Library? by Susan Walterich @SusanWalterich
      • Learning Outside the Classroom, by Jean Edwards​ @JeanEd70
      • A Walk in an Industrial Complex in Kladno, by Petra Bohackova @bohap
      • A Field Trip to Venice, by Alessandra Pallavicini @ale0715
      • At the Denver Zoo, by Emily Stout @Teacherstuff4U
      • Life Cycle of Flowering Plants, by Christi Collins @christibcollins 

      Next Challenge

      Stay tuned for the 5th and final challenge of the summer, Engage Students with ThingLink for Video, launched on August 3, 2015