Reflection on the process of learning about the tool
My colleagues laughingly refer to me as the “Organizational Queen” at our school. (I have to wonder if it is due to the handouts that are colour-coded with each chapter, the daily table of contents, or the date stamps on each lab assignment?) Oh, if only they could see my closet full of outdoor gear…or my photo collection for that matter! This week’s assignment to explore and experiment with various photo sharing programs had me cursing my lackadaisical attitude towards organizing my photos from the last 4 years. I literally have thousands of photos that I’ve simply downloaded off my camera and dumped into one big folder. From a personal perspective, I finally got the kick-in-the-pants I needed to arrange and exhibit some of them. It was a daunting task and it took FAR longer than I anticipated viewing, sorting, evaluating, editing and posting a sampling to this blog. However, it was not as arduous as I anticipated due to the amazing programs that are out there to use.
I started by looking at the class’ trail fire on photo-sharing and by reading the suggested chapters in Web 2.0 for Schools (Davies & Merchant), and Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms by Will Richardson. I found that I learned the most however, by just diving in and experimenting with two different photo sharing programs. I started with Flickr since it was highly recommended in our readings this week. My single complaint with using Flickr is that I had to sign up for a Yahoo account to access it, bringing my number of (personal, work and school) email accounts to a grand total of six. (Does this not seem a little excessive to anyone else but me?) I then proceeded to try Picassa 3 since I already have a Google account registered. The two things that I really liked about Picassa was that the program automatically amalgamated every single photo and video that I had stored on my computer into the program, and arranged it according to date. This made it much quicker for me to choose which photos to upload since they were not pre-organized into folders. The physical time it took to upload the photos was also quicker on Picassa, though they were both fairly fast. I found both programs were relatively easy to use, but navigating Flickr was a bit more intuitive to me and the help section had a layout that was far more instructional and helpful than Picassa. I also feel that Flickr offers better security features, giving 19 settings to choose from, whereas Picassa only gave 3. It wasn’t until my photos were posted that I really started to have fun with the programs, investigating applications like Mappr, trip planning, annotating images and tagging them with keywords. I still have a lot of “playing” and learning to do with both programs before I decide which one to use personally and at work.
Photo- sharing as a tool for my own personal learning
I am extremely excited about the potential communication possibilities that photo-sharing has in store for me. I am the only member of my family living on the West coast, and only get to visit my family in Ontario once a year. Photo-sharing has some obvious advantages for me to keep in touch and literally see how quickly my niece and nephews are growing. I also like to travel a great deal, and being able to organize and exhibit photos for my family and travel companions to view quickly is a huge benefit. Using fun applications to map where photos were taken and adding annotations to explain them also makes it more entertaining and informative for the viewers as well as interactive if they choose to leave comments.
I wish I had made the discovery earlier about the photo-sharing programs’ ability to store and back-up images! I could have completely avoided the emotional “mini melt-down” I had last year when my computer literally got fried by a power surge in my science lab and I lost all the images I hadn’t gotten around to backing up.
Photo-sharing as a tool for teaching and learning
From a professional viewpoint, one of the greatest benefits that I can see from photo-sharing applications is a greater sense of community that this would bring to the students. I would love to incorporate more photos of my students and their work on our school website for them and their friends and family to view. As Richardson says in his book, “What better way to celebrate the good work that students do every day than by putting it online for all (or some) to see?” (p. 100).
I also strongly believe that using photo-sharing websites to view photos from all over the world would help students feel more engaged in their learning. In the book Guided Inquiry, Learning in the 21st Century it was noted that students have deeper personal learning when “the curriculum and the student’s world [are] closely aligned” (Kulthau, p.26). When students are given the opportunity to make connections to the “outside” or “real” world, they will become more emotionally involved and connected to what they are learning. Rather than simply reading a textbook about invasive species, a science class could view photos of the flora or fauna and use the Google Map application to view where they originated.
It has also been recognized for some time that “children learn through all their senses” (Kulthau, p.27) and that “technology has broadened the scope and variety of resources available for learning” (Kulthau, p.27). Having a greater variety of resources that are a combination of print and visual, like the photo-sharing applications, allows students to utilize various learning styles. I can envision the variety of projects students could create in an Art class using collages or slideshows or the digital storytelling that could take place in an English class when students post comments or have written conversations about different images they see.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, and the uses and applications for photo-sharing are as broad as they first appear, this could potentially be one of the most useful and powerful tools we could implement in schools.
Davies, Julia. Merchant, Guy. (2009) Web 2.0 for Schools: Learning and Social Participation. New York, NY: Peter Lang
Kuhlthau, Carol. Maniotes, Leslie. Caspari, Ann. (2007). Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited
Richardson, Will. (2009). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press