I incorporated the use of ThingLink, an interactive multimedia platform, into my Histology (BIO458/558) course in the fall of 2015. This course teaches students the skills needed to identify and characterize the various parts of the human body at the microscopic level. In previous years of teaching this course, I have had each student give a presentation on a specific type of tissue or part of the body as part of the course requirements. The students would project digital images that they would describe the class and they would include question and answer session for the other students in which they would ask students about to identify specific parts of an image. However, I found that these were increasingly using up precious classroom time and I also wanted an opportunity for the other students to evaluate the images on their own time as they prepared for examinations. When ThingLink was introduced in the Tech Fellows meetings over the summer, I realized that this could be a useful tool to allow each student give a presentation outside of the classroom, using digital images that they could annotate and attach other media to, and would be available to all the students to review whenever they wished.
The first thing that I had to do when planning the project was learn how to use ThingLink. I practiced using some digital images of histology slides that were available to me, and annotated them using the tools available in ThingLink. It was also necessary to set up an account that the students could log into and then be able to use all the functionality of ThingLink. Chatham purchased several accounts for this purpose, although I needed only one.
A major course objective was the development of skills to correctly identify and characterize different parts of the body using microscopic images, and this project fit well with that objective.
This technology allowed for a substitution of an in-class project with an outside project that would be available to allow students via the classroom Moodle site.
The use of ThingLink for this project allowed for all categories of Bloom’s taxonomy to be used, including recalling basic concepts (Remember), explaining concepts (Understand), using information in new situations (Apply) since they had to identify the various parts of each section using what they previously learned, and they had opportunities to draw connections (Analysis). The final product was uniquely their project, and therefore was new work (Create).
Each student was assigned a password and given an access code to my ThingLink “classroom”. I first had all the students learn how to use ThingLink by annotating a single image, and they received a grade for that assignment.
Once I was comfortable that they were proficient at using ThingLink, each student was assigned a specific part of the body or a tissue to present using ThingLink. These were spaced out through the semester, and each ThingLink was completed just before an exam, so that the other students could use the ThingLink for a self-testing tool to help prepare for the exam. A link to each ThingLink presentation was posted on Moodle by me, so that it was easy for students to access the presentations.
An example of a couple of ThingLink presentations that were completed by my students can be found below:
Fortunately, it was not necessary to have a plan B.
I used both formal and informal assessments. I would ask the students about how they liked ThingLink from time to time. The most common complaint was that some students had trouble creating a set of annotated images in the order that they wanted. All ThingLink presentations could be viewed like a slide show.
The formal assessment was in the form of a questionnaire that each student completed. Based on the questionnaire results, the students found ThingLink relatively easy to use, most students viewed other students’ projects,
Surprisingly, a relatively large number of students felt that viewing the ThingLink presentations of other students was of little value. In contrast, slightly more students felt that it was of significant value when they were preparing their own presentation. One student suggested that I have some way of requiring students to view other’s presentations, and possibly give bonus points for that.
92% of the students agreed that ThingLink should be used in next year’s Histology course.
Results of ThingLink questionnaire, given at the end of the fall semester:
1. On a scale of 1-5, with 1 being the least difficult, and 5 being the most difficult, rate how difficult you felt the process of learning ThingLink was and applying it to the histology unit to which you were assigned:
|not difficult at all||9 (75%)||1 (8%)||1 (8%)||1 (8%)||0||12|
|a little difficult||5 (42%)||4 (33%)||3 (25%)||0||0||12|
|moderately difficult||7 (58%)||2 (17%)||2 (17%)||0||1 (8%)||12|
|difficult||8 (67%)||3 (25%)||0||1 (8%)||0||12|
|excessively difficult||10 (83%)||1 (8%)||1 (8%)||0||0||12|
2. Rate how often you viewed other students Thinglink sessions:
|never||11 (92%)||1 (8%)||0||0||0||12|
|one or two||8 (67%)||3 (25%)||1 (8%)||0||0||12|
|three or four||8 (67%)||1 (8%)||2 (17%)||0||1 (8%)||12|
|most (more than 4)||10 (83%)||1 (8%)||0||0||1 (8%)||12|
|all||7 (58%)||1 (8%)||0||3 (25%)||1 (8%)||12|
3. Rate the value, to you, of viewing OTHER STUDENTS ThingLink workshops, in terms of how it helped reinforce the histology concepts for that section.
|no value||11 (92%)||1 (8%)||0||0||0||12|
|a little value||11 (92%)||1 (8%)||0||0||0||12|
|some value||7 (58%)||2 (17%)||2 (17%)||0||1 (8%)||12|
|moderate value||8 (67%)||1 (8%)||1 (8%)||2 (17%)||0||12|
|considerable value||8 (67%)||1 (8%)||1 (8%)||0||2 (17%)||12|
4. Rate the value, to you, of preparing your ThingLink, in terms of how it helped reinforce the histology concepts for that section.
|no value||10 (83%)||0||0||1 (8%)||1 (8%)||12|
|a little value||8 (67%)||2 (17%)||0||2 (17%)||0||12|
|some value||9 (75%)||1 (8%)||1 (8%)||1 (8%)||0||12|
|valuable||6 (50%)||1 (8%)||0||4 (33%)||1 (8%)||12|
|extremely valuable||6 (50%)||0||0||1 (8%)||5 (42%)||12|
5. Do you feel that ThingLink workshops should be used for next year’s histology class?
6. If you said NO, ThingLink workshops should not be used next year, please describe why you said no.
|It should be used again next year.|
|I said yes to the ThingLink being available for next year’s histology class.|
|I did not say no.|
|I would rather spend more time looking at slides than making a ThingLink, it was more helpful talking about discussing the slides in class.|
|just some minor tweaks and I feel it could be used again|
|I said yes.|
7. Briefly describe the things that you liked about making or viewing ThingLink workshops:
|it’s easier. I review them after I study to quiz myself.|
|I think it was a good study tool|
|I looked at and interpreted a lot of digital slides while preparing for my ThingLink assignment. Great study tool.|
|I liked seeing images and diagrams from other ThingLink workshops that I did not find yet. I definitely think that the ThingLink helped provide additional images and questions for studying. Personally creating a ThingLink did a really good job at reinforcing the materials for the assigned section.|
|Uploading images from online is easy and helps facilitate the projects. Identifying the different parts of the cells helped with memorization of the units we were studying.|
|You can reinforce learned topics that were discussed in class at your leisure.|
|Making up questions within the ThingLink was a great study tool because it made you think about the concepts that may be seen on the test. Also, searching for different histology slides to put in the ThingLink helped with remembering what to look for in the glass slides. Finally, the way you could see an overall picture and then have a zoomed in view under the microscope put the information of the material in a better perspective.|
|I barely viewed others ThingLinks however, making them helps reinforce what we learned in class that day.|
|Creating my own ThingLink helped me learn the material the most… I just didn’t really look at others’ ThingLinks, so I’m not sure how to make it possible every project to help each student. Maybe make some of the questions on the ThingLinks bonus so everyone will look at all of the projects?|
|It was helpful getting to know everything about the topic assigned, and I had a full knowledge of the workshop I posted, but not much helpful when it came to other’s and their workshop.|
|I think making the ThingLinks was helpful because if forced you to have a reinforcement of the materal. Maybe if it doesn’t remain a part of the coursework for future classes, something along the lines of a pre-test that would make the students have to think about the material in terms of how it would be asked on a test.|
|How it was up to you to make the audience engaged|
8. Briefly describe the things that you disliked about ThingLink workshops:
|At times it was difficult to find different images from .edu websites|
|The interface was difficult to learn, but once I got the hang of it, the program was easy to use.|
|The only problem with the ThingLink workshops are some of the labeled images provided wrong answers or mislabeling. This was the only hinderance to the workshops since it made me second guess myself a few times on the material.|
|The icons were not very specific. Having a more specific icon would allow for smaller identification of details.|
|It was a little confusing at first because I didn’t know how to follow individuals in order to view their channels but sending the links to the professor and having her upload the link helped fix the problem.|
|It was just a pain to find photos that were able to upload in the web url portion.|
|Since my project was closer to the end of the semester, I felt that I couldn’t dedicate enough time to the project with all of the other assignments that I was also working on.|
|Cannot make corrections or move slides around so some presentations were a little out of order, which confused me.|
|Sometimes student would have two dots: on for a question and one for an answer. I would sometimes scroll over the answer first and then the question was kind of wasted. If there was a way to hid the answers it would have been helpful.|
|That depending on the subject it took long to find pictures and to add certain details|
9. Please provide any additional information or comments about ThingLink workshops not covered by the previous questions.
|it worth it|
|Good supplemental study tool to test yourself|
|I think the workshops were a good job at providing the class with additional digital images for outside of class. Some of the images selected by classmates were very similar to ones on the exams, so I felt very prepared from studying from the workshops.|
|The separation of units seemed fair and it was appreciated that not every unit only had one thinglink|
|Overall, it was good to use other classmates ThingLinks as an extra study tool.|
|I definitely think that ThingLink is a useful resource for Histology.|
|It was user friendly, it just took time to figure how to work it.|
|Maybe find some other way to engage the class and also to help study, in addition to ThingLink?|
Reflections and Next Steps
For the most part, the entire process worked well. Some students put more effort into their presentations than others, but this was a graded assignment, so that the greater effort resulted in a higher grade. Next year, I would like to modify the project by having the students take pictures of microscope slides, instead of using digital images acquired from the internet. This would require a higher level of skill, and was what I originally intended to have them do, but realized that the digital camera setup that I intended to use wasn’t quite ready for them to use.