Computer technology is more prevalent in classrooms, according to L. Dias and S. Atkinson in Technology Integration: Best Practices-Where Do Teachers Stand? (http://www.ucalgary.ca/~iejll/volume5/dias.html) and it is becoming less a decision of whether or not to adopt it, and more of a dilemma of how to implement it effectively into instruction. Greater value is being placed on integrating computer technology into the curriculum so as to create meaningful learning experiences and increase technology literacy.
It has been found that teachers who use technology effectively do not limit integration to a restricted number of technology tools, but rather, they choose a variety of tools in relation to their teaching needs and focus. (Dias/Atkinson) One of these tools, would be the utilization of photo sharing sites to organize, store, display and distribute a schools’ photo collection. With the growth of digital photography and the simplicity of uploading and accessing pictures online, the use of photographs for educational purposes has definitely increased.
I found that there are a number of advantages to using photo sharing sites, such as; no film to develop, the pictures do not fade over time, any imperfections can be corrected with editing programs, it is easy to take and erase a number of pictures to get the perfect shot and there are a great variety of free and inexpensive sites to choose from.
I was amazed at the number of photo sharing sites that can be accessed, much more than fifteen that I had mentioned in an earlier blog.
The photo sharing site that a school chooses will depend on their program needs, services offered, costs, and ease of accessibility. Some of the popular sites include Flickr, Picasa, Photo Bucket, Smug Mug, dotPhoto, Webshots, Shutterfly, Kodak Easy Share Gallery, and Snapfish. There are photo sharing review websites that one can access in order to assist in making a decision as to which site to use. The evaluation criteria consists of features they offer to help upload, post, share, print, network, browsing capabilities of photo galleries by keyword or date, accessibility or user friendliness, adequate help and support through tutorials, FAQ, customer service contact and if they offer editing tools, lots of storage space, and password protected access. Two of these review sites that I accessed can be found at Rate It All (http://www.rateitall.com) and at Top Ten Review (http://photo-sharing-services-review.toptenreviews.com/).
Ensuring that a photo sharing site is secure is a topic that will need to be addressed in the school setting. Student names and personal information should never be included. Some schools may block sites because of objectionable content. Some sites may have images that are not appropriate for students due to mature content. Clear policies and appropriate supervision is important and similar to those relating to internet usage.
The use of filters can be controversial and restricts ones freedom and rights to access information. As one Grade 3 teacher remarked in the article Photo Sharing Web Sites (Odvard Esil Dyrl)…‘How can teachers integrate online technology into the curriculum when those tools are prohibited and blocked from access in our schools?’
I chose two photo sharing sites to explore, Picasa (http://picasa.google.com) and Photo Bucket (http://photobucket.com) for varied reasons. Picasa because it is a more popular site and I wanted to know what it had to offer and Photo Bucket because it was recommended by a high school student. Like Elizabeth and Arlene, I was anxious to explore the two photo sharing sites and actually upload pictures to my blog. I successfully accomplished this to my surprise and delight!
Picasa can be downloaded for free and I was able to do this very easily and quickly. It is run by the well known and popular Google which I found reassuring and appealing. The program automatically scans your hard drive for every digital photograph you’ve taken and collects them all on Google’s Picasa library. I liked the fact that it can create albums, write captions and manage a variety of photo projects with ease. You can make albums public so anyone with an invitation can browse them but switching albums to private viewing is easy. I thought that the layout was attractive and functional. You can edit your photos and I played around with the red eye reduction tool and the cropping tool. My cat Tenzing was my subject for Picasa. He cooperated quite nicely and was honored to have his picture uploaded on my blog.
Although Picasa had a slide show tool, unlike Ronda who successfully uploaded a Picasas slide show, I could not get it uploaded onto my blog. I could have used the tutorial they offered but a tech savvy high school student suggested I try Photo Bucket to do it. I made a decision to use Photo Bucket and this enabled me to explore yet another photo sharing site.
Photo Bucket can also be downloaded for free like Picasa which is appealing to schools with limited budgets. Photos can also be organized into albums and sub albums where you can share, organize and publish images or photos on the web. It allows you to upload single photos or several photos at a time. You can actually print a photo book, posters, mini photo books and postcards through Photo Bucket which I would like to try doing. When creating a slideshow it was easy to upload my images from my photo file to Photo Bucket and then upload them to my blog in the form of a slideshow at a touch of the Blogger button. A quick look at a tutorial they offered provided me with simple instructions on how to upload a slideshow to my blog. You can also copy and paste the link of the photos to your blog but I had some challenges with this feature. Another appealing feature of Photo Bucket is they do not allow pornography, nudity or offensive pictures on their site which is so important in an elementary or any school setting. The slide show of my family turned out just the way that I had envisioned it and so I was very pleased with the outcome. I would definitely create other themed slide show using Photo Bucket.
Exploring these two photo sharing sites was a great learning experience through navigating their sites and trying the various editing tools. Both sites were user friendly and as long as I stayed focussed and calm, everything went smoothly. There are more features on both sites that I would like to explore like adding captions, music and using pictures from the web. The teaching and learning possibilities are numerous with using photo sharing tools and will be discussed next.
Using photo sharing sites as a technology learning tool would be beneficial to students’ learning in several different areas. The possibilities are endless and I have chosen to list just a few that my school could become involved, as follows:
Ø Our school goes on numerous field trips and using a digital camera and then using a photo sharing site, students could create an album of pictures for each trip
Ø We do a monthly newsletter and pictures could be imported of field trips and classroom activities to the school newsletter or on the school website
Ø Using a digital camera, students could record class history throughout year and put it up on a class website
Ø Students could use a variety of images as writing prompts during creative/story writing
Ø Create simple storybook with Div I students using images and having students add captions and print
Ø Create a slideshow with music for a special concert (Christmas/Spring)
Ø Create a year end slideshow presentation with the Grade 6 graduating class of their years in elementary school, using archived images and adding captions/ music/commentary
Ø Use photos to promote school events ie sports day, hats day, literacy day etc.
Ø Use photos to promote the school within the surrounding community to entice families to enrol students in our school and post on school web site
Ø Allow students to create a blog and enhance it using photo sharing tools
Ø Through accessing photo galleries, have students create a social studies project that depicts various regions they are studying in Alberta or Canada
Ø Import a map and upload applicable photos of a land use/physical geography
Ø Create a photo web for a novel study or a research project
Ø On Valentines/Christmas and other holidays make cards using photos and email to classmates
Ø In a Grade Two math class, use photos that have various geometric traits and create a geometry book to be shared with class members
Photo sharing is just one technology tool that teachers and students can integrate into the curriculum to support student learning. I would strongly agree with Dias and Atkinson in Technology Integration: Walking the Talk, when they discuss that being purposeful is an important aspect of teaching with technology. Not only is it important for teachers to decide when and if to use technology but also where. Photo sharing has a place in supporting curriculum objectives and designing lessons as part of integrating technology for student learning.