Featured picture of post "How a Toronto Teacher Combines ThingLink and AI to Better Engage Students in Online Learning"

How a Toronto Teacher Combines ThingLink and AI to Better Engage Students in Online Learning

Kyla Ball

In this case study we are showcasing the inspiring work of Toronto teacher and ThingLink creator Joseph D’Aquila. Joseph’s creative use of AI tools and ThingLink to help create immersive learning content for his learners is a powerful example of how concepts can be brought to life for pupils to explore in a highly interactive way. You’ll also find some helpful tips on how to create similar content that will increase student engagement, whatever the subject and context!

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Joseph is a history teacher who started using ThingLink to create interactive content for his weekly, Day ELearning class, delivered as asynchronous learning for students throughout his district. You can explore some of his immersive scenes throughout the case study. Though they may look complicated to create, Joseph’s process is straightforward and simple, incorporates a handful of easy-to-use AI tools, and could be used by anyone to create content on any subject.

How is the content created?

In the history example below, Joseph has created the 360 images by using ChatGPT4 to generate historically accurate panorama images, which he then transforms into photospheres using Panoto360 by ThingLink

Pro tip: He will often start with a map to orientate his students or to put the learning into context. These sample versions of his full Alexander the Great and Nazi Germany ThingLinks are a good example of this in action. In the Alexander example, each tag links to another ThingLink scene illustrating and exploring a part of Alexander’s life which took place at that location.

Above: Alexander the Great: A Journey Through Conquest and Legacy (sample version)

Above: Nazi Germany: The Creation of the Third Reich (sample version)

An alternative to using ChatGPT4 for the AI imagery is to use the Skybox integration within ThingLink. This is how Joseph created the ecosystem 360s in the ThingLink sample version below. 

Above: Ecosystems Virtual Tour (Sample version)

“For the 360 landscapes I’ll use Skybox because I find that they’re just so clear and there’s a lot of different styles that you can use. It’s an excellent generator.”

Joseph D’Aquila

Adding audio to ThingLink scenes to give a more immersive feel

Audio has been included to instantly augment the immersive experience of each ThingLink. The audio which Joseph has used to narrate the scenes was voiced with Play HT, a text to speech AI platform. 

Top tip! Many of the elements that Joseph has created using AI or a paid-for platform can be replicated using a free alternative. For example, the voiceovers need not be created using text-to-speech. Instead, simply record yourself (or a colleague) narrating the text directly into ThingLink! Our support article explains how.

For a huge range of free to use, royalty free music and sound effects that you can easily upload to ThingLink, why not try Pixabay?

ThingLinks are easily shared with students

Joseph embeds the ThingLinks in his daily lessons, delivered via the district’s LMS, D2L Brightspace

Students can intuitively and easily navigate straight to the content, even if they have never used ThingLink before. 

“I can just create virtual classrooms every day for my students that they just navigate and click the hotspots. I can number them. So they know exactly what order to access them in. I can create a link to my online classroom from the D2L content page. Students don’t have to do anything – just point and click!”

Joseph D’Aquila

The benefits of using ThingLink: Engaging Content Across the Curriculum

Joseph believes that to truly engage students in the 21st century, the technology they use at school has to be as good as the technology they use at home, which is why he chooses to use ThingLink for so many of his resources. He has also used it to create learning content across a wide range of subjects for his teaching colleagues.

This includes a “Choose Your Own Adventure”- style learning resource based on The Hobbit by JRR Tolkein for English literature, which takes students through Middle Earth. Plus an exploration of the structure of a cell for biology students, a sample of which we have included below.

Animal Cell Biology Virtual Tour (sample version)

“It’s the next frontier of how to make the classroom engaging! We need to immerse students in their learning environments so that they want to be at school.”

Creating five star content that students find engaging and enjoyable

Joseph’s students clearly agree, as they awarded ThingLink 5/5 stars in a recent questionnaire about the district’s learning platforms. 

“I’m sure a lot of the students go online just to see “What’s he going to do next?!”. They’re probably looking forward to seeing these 360 classrooms because there’s been so many of them and they look forward to the next iteration!”

Use ThingLink to kickstart your creativity!

“Using ThingLink ticks off so many boxes. It will actually make everything better in your teaching because your students will actually really like using it. And I think that’s reason enough. But using ThingLink has also given me that breath of fresh air – a new sort of raison d’etre. It’s definitely reinvigorated my desire to be creative.”

Joseph D’Aquila

More inspiring ThingLink learning case studies this way!

How to Convert AI-Generated Stories into an Immersive Experience with ThingLink

Explore a Unique Interactive Learning Resource Created in ThingLink

A Unique Virtual Escape Room for Students

How to Empower Students to Create Their Own Interactive 360 Content

Thanks to Joseph D’Aquila, St. John Henry Newman Catholic High School and the Toronto Catholic District Schools Board.

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