Thursday, September 23, 2010

Photo Sharing

Photo Sharing... "T-Week-Ed" first, for me!
I love taking photographs, but I have found myself taking fewer and fewer photos over the years.  This is despite the fact that taking photos is easier than ever, completely free (excluding the initial camera purchase), tons of creative fun, and extremely meaningful. What can be more meaningful than capturing photos of my children growing up?!
So, what is keeping me from taking photos? The truth is this... I have a photo management problem. The evidence? My camera contains pictures from the day I purchased it and now has 364 photos housed on its card.  My new laptop... 301 photos.  My desktop... 2771 photos. Then, there is the photo storage cupboard in my dining room buffet (photo shown).  Am I really putting this on the web for everyone to see?!  But that isn't all! To top things off, I rarely use files, photo albums or digital folders.  I don't even name the photos. The end result... PHOTO OVERLOAD!

As a result, I either don't take any pictures or if I do, I leave them stored in my camera, or computer, and I do absolutely nothing with them.  I don't print them... definitely not... if I printed them, then I would have to put them in scrapbooks or sort them in albums, or wait for my children to sort them years down the road when I'm gone.  I don't think they'd enjoy it... nothing is labelled, dated, tagged, sorted.  Scary, isn't it?! All those memories lost forever, or not captured at all.  Please, tell me that I am not the only one who has this photo storage problem! Honestly, I am not usually this disorganized, but photos are such a chore now that I am so far behind. I have comes to terms with the reality that I'll never catch up!

Is Flick'r the answer? Frankly, I don't know. I have never used photo sharing websites before.  I guess I don't feel that I am a great photographer so putting my stuff out there for everyone to see is a little overwhelming, to say the least! Then, the "AHA" moment arrived as I watched this Common Craft video and I started to rethink why Flickr and other sites like this (Picassa, Fotki, PhotoBucket) are good ideas. First, I never really thought about the practicalilty of allowing the web to house them, protecting them from a lost camera or computer virus. Next, this video told me that I can keep my photos private. Really? For free? I had actually purchased a MediaLocker account with my internet provider solely for this purpose ($2.95/month) and never used it, mostly because it was painfully slow to upload. I think I uploaded 2 photos with good intentions and have been paying for it now for about 2 years.  Okay, maybe I am not so organized. But, you'll be proud of me... I just cancelled it this very minute and am now 3 dollars richer every month!  "Plus tax," my mom would probably add. 

Apart from the practicality of online photosharing sites, this short clip made me feel like sharing out some of my photos.  Perhaps this is the inspiration and motivation that I need to tackle this growing burden in my life and allow myself to once again capture those special memories in my life.  So, here I go! I am going to clean my c
amera out, organize my digital photos and learn the best way to store them. I think that I am about to lose some serious weight!

Getting to know Flickr (Already use Flickr? If not, here's how I did it.)

First things first.  Signing up for Flick'r was easy. I already held a Yahoo account and within 30 seconds I was registered and editing my user profile.  I followed the step by step process and within two or three minutes I was selecting and uploading photos. I selected the option to keep my photos private, so much for going out of my comfort zone, right?.! I will...  I am thinking that I could make them public later?! I guess I'll see. 

I hit my first snag a few minutes into the process.  I had exceeded my monthly upload capacity and was only 31 photos in. You're kidding, right?! Unfortunately not. So, I deleted a few photos and debated purchasing the upgrade. So much for my 3 dollars/month savings!!!! I wonder if they offer a student or education rate?! No, I checked it out. De nada.  I'm thinking that I am glad I uploaded some school photos I had taken for the For My Students section of this blog!

So, bottom line. Flickr is not so free. 3400 photos in my files / 30 photos a month.  I'll be photo storage free in just 113 months or roughly 9 1/2 years! Or do I fork out the $25 US for a one year pro account and be free and clear? What do you think?

Some other things to note... the upload of 30 photos or 100MB took about 10 minutes. Not so bad! Much faster than MediaLocker. Also, I suppose if I had gone in and edited my photos, reducing their size, I could easily add a few hundred more photos each month.  But I don't find this an easy process. Is there a super quick way? Help, anyone? There's got to be a simple way to do this.

BEWARE, as I read over Will Richardson' book, I discovered that any free account that is not used in 3 months is automatically deleted.  Yikes! I mean I am pretty organized and all, surely I wouldn't let this happen. Would I? One more reason to think about that $25 account...

Now with photos uploaded, I am prompted to name, describe and tag my photos.  An easy process with Flickr.  I liked the simplicity of this process. Voila, all done. Yes, I see that I can change the photos from private to public if I wish later. I can also delete, edit tags and descriptions easily.

Overall, I'm impressed. I guess I'll see if I am impressed enough to pay the $25 later.

Photo Sharing... "T-Week-Ed" next, For Learning!
Finally, the reason you are here learning with me.  What to do next with Flickr that can make this web tool powerful for you as the classroom teacher.

  • First of all, I can see that photo sharing on Flickr is a great way to introduce your students to the collaborative read/write world of Web 2.0, at even the earliest age (how about Kindergarten?) Begin by modeling and practicing how to tag photos, search tags and images, share and comment on other images.  It's a good introduction, as well, to web etiquette and internet safety within a pretty safe context, although there is never a guarantee.
  • One action I noticed in the Your Account tab is to email or post photos directly to my blog.  If I had a class blog (I am on leave this year), I think this would be a convenient option.  A very simple process, by the way. To test it out, I have added this blog for sharing with my Flickr account and 'posted to blog' a Flickr photo directly from their site to mine (post below). Simple. Easy. It does create a new post though, just a heads up.
  • Take photos of student artwork (alternatively scan or upload digital art created by the students) then have students use the annotation tool and create notes to tell about their thinking, design, style.  See my example for the flag project that was created by my grade 3 students. I think this helps move learning beyond the artwork itself, extends their thinking, and provides viewers with the artists' perspective. Of course, students could ask questions or leave comments for each other.
  • I am passionate about inquiry-based learning in today's classrooms. My students frequently ask questions about our learning destinations. Some of them are 'big questions', some not so big. I call these 'nice to know' questons. I have learned to use photographs as a means to answer those 'Nice to Know' questions that enter our inquiries.  Questions like, "Do they have backyards there?" in our Curacao inquiry can easily be answered with a photograph. Students could easily use Flickr to search keywords for your inquiry and try to answer some of those questions based on what they observe. Make sure you ask the students to not only answer the question, but also "How did you know?" Teach students to cite the source! If the students can't find the answers, they could leave a comment and perhaps they will learn from someone who has been there or experienced the journey.
  • Teach students how to 'read' an image. Visual literacy is an important comprehension strategy and it is important to explicitly teach this strategy.  Recently, in a heritage project I collaborated on with grade 5 teachers, we learned the importance of photographs as important artefacts in the understanding and preservaton of history from our work alongside real curators.  Explicitly teach this skill, focusing on facts from observations and what can be inferred using our prior knowledge.  I have shared my Reading Images organizer below. 
  • Documentation: Many classrooms in Saskatoon Public Schools use a Reggio Emilia approach and philosophy to early learning. Documentation is an important part of the Reggio approach.  Photographs could easily be shared on Flickr and would document the year and students' progress in aligning with this philsophy.
  • Of course, photographs can spark student writing. Students could create poetry or short stories for a photograph and publish it on your class blog for sharing and collaborating on the Web.
Finally for great ideas from the experts, check out these websites for more ideas...
David Warlick 2 Cents
Classroom Uses of Flickr by Jakespeak
Flickr in Classroom (Jakes Online)
Jeff Utech Video on Flickr (YouTube)

Bottom line, a good place to start... for you and for your students. But, did I tackle my overload problem? Not today. Maybe tomorrow.

Next week, I'll get T'week'Ed about video sharing.

My Flag

Originally uploaded by YDenomy
This flag was created by a grade 3 student. Scroll over the image and discover the personal meaning of the symbols.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The beginning...

Since owning my first home computer, a Texas Instruments, I have always loved technology! Blogging... not so much.  However, I am thrilled with this assignment for my EDES 501 course through the University of Alberta Teacher-Librarianship by Distance Learning program.  This assignment will push me to commit to blogging, sharing my learning with you, while exploring something I value and love... technology in my school, library and classroom.

Despite being familiar with an array of Web 2.0 tools, I know there is a vast world of collective knowledge and powerful collaboration that goes well beyond my current practice. I intend to push myself out of my comfort zone and really dig into these new territories. For my weekly blog, I'll be looking at a variety of Web 2.0 tools using two different lenses.  First, I will explore the technology for myself first, as author Will Richardson would recommend.  I'll consider the ways that I can use each web tool to support my personal interests and professional learning. Secondly, I'll think about these tools from the lens of the classroom teacher, staff developer and teacher-librarian. Here, I'll be thinking and demonstrating how I see these tools being used to make learning powerful for my students, both student and teacher learners, to extend beyond "work we used to do with pen and pencil simply published in a different way." (Richardson)

If you are brand new to Web 2.0 tools, I hope my blog will inspire you to take a risk, explore the tools for yourself and your students.  If you are feeling comfortable with technology, I hope I can push you a little further, out of your comfort zone, too. Mostly because I believe that we can't grow without pushing the envelope a little. If you are an experienced and master educational technologist, I invite you to help extend my thinking by sharing your knowledge and expertise.  Regardless of your motivation for reading my blog, I hope that you will enjoy learning along with me.

Stay tuned... photo sharing next week!