Can you imagine being in the eye of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans? What about climbing to the top of Mount Everest, the highest point on our planet? Perhaps you’d like to learn more about the Maldives, a country made up of 100’s of islands in the Indian Ocean south-west of India. What does it look like there? What do the people look like? How do they dress? Where do they live? What do they eat? What does the marine life look like there?
Now you no longer have to imagine, you can be there with a simple few key strokes and clicks of the mouse, you’re can see exactly what it is or what it was like. Never before have we been able to see so many images from so many different sources with such clarity and unbiased eyes. Flickr and other photo sharing sites, such as Picasa, enable you do thisl
Over the past week I’ve done some exploration of 2 of the most popular photo sharing websites available, Flickr & Picasa. Prior to enrolling in this class, I had spent some time “playing” with flickr. I had even gone so far as to create my own account, even though I wasn’t sure what I would exactly do with it. There was always the hounding voice in the back of my mind that said “don’t put your pictures on the internet”, but I think I have pretty much gotten over that.
I must admit that after reading the course content and the tools that we would be using in this class, I had thought to myself that this was the tool that I would be least likely to use as an educational tool in the class. However, after doing research and spending countless hours playing with and learning about photo sharing sites, my opinion of such sites has drastically changed. I now look at Flickr and see how I could integrate it into every subject area very easily. The availability of fantastic resources on sites such as Flickr, has made me rethink how I look at using digital images far beyond the snap, download and post project that I had seen and experienced before.
As I dove into Flickr, I found that searching for images could easily result in hours of time in front of the computer. As time is precious, I decided that if I was going to use this amazing on-line resource, I must go in with a very specific goal of what I’m looking for. Sure I found this site fun to explore but I was quickly thinking about how this could be used in the classroom? Well, what better place to start than google? I did a few quick searches that included “photo sharing”, “Flickr”, “education”, “lessons”, and was directed to a multitude of ideas of how to use Flickr in the class.
A feature that is very appealing to educators is that flickr allows you to control your account settings so that you can control who is able to view the photo’s you post on the web. For obvious safety and security reasons, this is an excellent feature when you are using Flickr in the classroom setting. This allows only students or family members of the school to access photo’s of what is taking place in school whether it be a field trip, school event, classroom work, visitors & speakers, etc. The ability to post digital images on the web with controlled access offers a wonderful “way to celebrate the good work that students do everyday”. (Will Richardson, Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms, p. 102). Flickr has also created an area called Creative Commons which allows students free access to non-copyright images (provided proper credit is given to the author/photographer/publisher). This also helps in teaching students the ethical use of images available on the internet.
The daily classroom applications that Flickr presents us with are limitless. From creative writing (Flicktion – love that name!) to documenting field trips, to communicating with photographers and publishers, the opportunities are endless. On his website The Strength of Weak Ties http://strengthofweakties.org/?p=62 David Jakes lists a few of the may used of Flickr in the classroom on his blog Classroom Uses of Flickr. Some ideas he posts include:
· digital storytelling projects
· creating slideshows
· virtual field trips
· creating visual arguments
· illustrating poetry/stories
· geotagging (geography)
· visual documenting of school events
“Using Flickr in the Classroom” a presentation at the Illinois Education and Technology Conference (http://www.jakesonline.org/flickrinclassroom.pdf) provides a pdf that gives an excellent description of the in’s and out’s of Flickr in the classroom. Not only does he provide a long list of possible classroom applications, he also addresses questions and concerns that educators may have about using Flickr in the class.
One current initiative that many teachers at my school are exploring is PWIM (Picture word induction model) students could use the annotation feature to record their words, sentences and descriptions of the images available through Flickr via the creative commons or for the pictures they post to their own or the class Flickr account. Teachers would no longer need to have large pictures printed to post in their classroom (which can become very expensive) Instead, students could use Flickr to access photos and use the annotation feature to add their text. Another use would be for students to learn about another country. Students could easily access all kinds of information about the country and its culture via photo sharing sites such as Flickr. The list goes on with possibilities for the classroom and beyond.
Photo sharing websites have won me over and I can not wait to use them with classes and expose other teachers to the endless learning opportunities they provide.