Oh, the 80’s … a time of poor hair and fashion decisions. For many of us, this type of photographic evidence is best kept hidden in a box or album somewhere in a closet, only to be revisited in a fit of nostalgia – or when your teenager runs across the box and proceeds to laugh hysterically and mock you. I find that the proper response to teenage scorn is to prove their point by discarding all personal dignity … in fact, my rendition of Flashdance is quite remarkable for its’ ability to make any teenager flee the room. Ah, the power of the arts!
However, now this type of humiliation can be openly shared with the world, through photosharing tools such as Flickr, Photobucket, Picasa, and Facebook. A few simple clicks and your photographs can now be shared with friends and relatives anywhere, giving them access to the small and large events in your life.
Admittedly, I am not much of a photographer and the only camera I have is on my iPhone. After the initial zeal of documenting endless hours of my son’s young life, I found that I was far too busy to remember to buy batteries or film for the camera, and when digital technology came along I was out of the habit of taking pictures.
I have a deep appreciation for talented photographers, and my favourite design blogs to read are filled with images that inspire me. I love to look at images of well-designed spaces, and read both design magazines in print and online, lusting over the beautiful homes that I wish I could own … my “design porn”.
In selecting a photosharing tool to use, I went to all of the above listed sites as I was familiar with all of them through previous experiences. Each provided me with the opportunity to easily upload pictures with a few clicks, label and tag photos, create groups, and view them in a slideshow. They were all easy to use, requiring a simple sign-up and a few clicks to begin uploading images. I was seriously considering going with Picasa to stay consistent with my Google accounts (one log-on address and password has a distinct advantage), but as I am currently using WordPress for my blog anyway I decided to explore further before deciding.
I moved on to thinking about some of the ways I might want to use photosharing with students. I started with exploring images of autumn, as our trees have started to change colour and it is a great time for photographic inspiration. As I explored each tool, I tried narrowing the search to images that were marked with a Creative Commons license, looking for images that were okay to share or modify. This is where I decided upon Flickr, as there is a larger community of users participating and sharing images, and I felt that there would be more selection for students when searching for images to use in their work.
So, after a week of exploring, my hair only slightly resembles the lead singer of A Flock of Seagulls, but I have not “run so far away” from Photosharing, having discovered a variety of ways to use Flickr in my personal and professional life.
Flickr for personal use
As I have admitted, I am not a photographer and have never felt compelled to take photographs of the events in my life. It often never occurs to me to take a picture until after the fact, and yes, there are times I am “wishing I had a photograph of you.” I do find with my iPhone that I am more likely to take pictures, but I often just pull it out when shopping so I can quickly take a photo and comparison shop.
My goal this year personally is to put as much as possible in the “cloud”, so that I may have access wherever I am. I have found too often I am in need of something that is saved on a computer somewhere else, and working between two schools with laptops and desktops, along with my personal laptop, means I need to make everything accessible. I have already started with bookmarks on Diigo, and will begin to move documents into Google docs and images into Flickr.
Flickr for educators
I do enjoy using visual images in the classroom in a variety of ways, from having students interpret historical photographs, select images as metaphors for the choices a character makes in a novel, or learn how to compose an effective photograph using lighting, framing, and contrast. I have taught students how to manipulate digital images using Photoshop, and incorporate them into digital stories using movie making software.
Most of this work was done in school, and when students worked with images at home they carried them back and forth on USB keys. I had not yet leveraged the use of photosharing sites, and now being in two schools that want to move towards students creating and colloboratively in the “cloud”, I know that I need to get better at this.
I’m loving the idea that Richardson (2009) shared in Blogs, Podcasts and Wikis of having students looking for images tagged in a certain way (such as clouds), and then setting up an RSS feed to follow new images as they are posted. I am thinking about ways to introduce Web 2.0 tools to teachers in my schools, and this would be a way to introduce both the Google Reader and Flickr that would be manageable for teachers to handle. Younger students could be tracking images of weather or the seasons, and older students images related to current events. It would also be a great way to introduce them to tagging and how to narrow their search and also tag images appropriately.
The Thinking Machine Wiki also provides a variety of great ideas for using Flickr in the classroom, including some lesson ideas on teaching students about Creative Commons and the licensing of images. http://thinkingmachine.pbworks.com/Think-Photo-Sharing-with-Flickr. As an educator, I can see the critical importance of teaching students about their role as a digital citizen, as we look at the ethical use of images online. Teachers are turning to me as the teacher-librarian to provide them with resources and a common message to students about cyber-citizenship. In addition, cyberbullying is already raising concerns three weeks into the school year. Common Sense Media provides a Cyber-Smart curriculum http://cybersmartcurriculum.org/ and lessons designed for a variety of grade levels that we will begin incorporating into our work with students. http://www.commonsensemedia.org/educators
What I am excited about is how Flickr can become part of my professional learning community, along with Twitter and RSS feeds. I have created a group for EDES 544, and I am inviting all students in the course to post photographs of the library they work in. As a teacher-librarian setting up two new libraries, I have had limited time to be creative in the space due to the amount of work it takes to catalogue and process classroom resources, and unpack and sort library books. I am very interested in seeing the spaces that my colleagues in this course are working in, and sharing inspirations for displays and design. Here are some images from my newly set-up library … a work in progress, but if you had seen the mountain of cardboard boxes just three weeks ago, you would know how far we have come! http://www.flickr.com/photos/shelljob/sets/72157625042550004/
As a visual person who is very interested in design, I feel that sharing through Flickr will really support the professional learning of the group. I also hope that seeing where everyone “lives”, (so to speak) will help us all get to know each other even better, so I invite everyone in Web 2.0 to join the EDES 544 Library group on Flickr and post photos of your space. Show us your space!