The Paralympics, Hurricane Ike, and Australia – Adventures in Photo Sharing

First the Reading

In my research for this blog post, one of the first articles I read was one from Educause titled “7 things you should know about Flickr.” The opening scenario grabbed my imagination. It describes a professor who has her architecture students go out and take photos of various styles of houses.

The students upload photos to the private Flickr group their professor has created, caption each photo, and write notes for it describing its features. The students comment and ask questions about each other’s photos, and the professor evaluates her students not only on their own photos but also on their comments on other students’ work.

Another point made in this article is that many other university faculty also use Flickr images in their courses, “and art schools, biologists, and others use the site to share, critique, and analyze visual information.”

This Educause article states that Flickr is one of the most popular photo-sharing sites. It comes highly recommended in many other resources (including by Will Richardson in Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for the Classroom) in terms of its ease of use and efficiency. Based on this chapter, as well as the numerous mention of Flickr in other resources, I decided to begin my photo-sharing adventures with this tool. As I have and own the rights to a set of images in various sizes and formats from a project I did on the Paralympics, I decided to use those.

And on to the Practical

I set up an account with Flickr and uploaded my photos. I entered descriptions and tagged them all. I labeled them as private and gave them a Creative Commons license. As all of the photos from the book are free for educators to use, I licensed them accordingly. I also set up a private group, accessible by invitation only, so that I could practice what I would do with a group of students in terms of limiting access both to the photos and to the group.

All of this was quite easy to do; I found the Flickr interface very stable and the directions very clear. This gave me the confidence to try to go further. I created a Flickr badge (see right column) and added it to my blog.

Getting (Over)Confident?

I decided to create a presentation using my images. Shonda Brisco’s article, Digital Resources: Presentation in A Box – 7/1/2008 – School Library Journal, is subtitled “A new generation of software is sending PowerPoint packing.” In it she compares different free presentation tools. I decided to try two of these out as Brisco promised that they were a huge improvement over PowerPoint. I have spent many, many, many frustrating hours creating Powerpoint presentations using photographs.

The first resource Brisco recommends is Smilebox. It provides various styles and designs of presentations with choices of colours and a variety of music ready to use. You must download the program, which I did. The download was quick, and the program very easy to use, but it kept hanging. After much frustration and a lot of time I did eventually manage to create a slideshow with great music, but then I discovered that what I was seeing was actually only available in the premium edition. So much for the free part! You’ll see my slideshow below.

Click to play Paralympic slide show
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
Make a Smilebox slideshow


Next I tried Animoto. This is a great program, quick, intuitive, with much more professional results than Smilebox. Both programs allow you to email your presentation or post it on a blog, giving you the HTML code you need to do so. I have embedded that video at the top of this post. Looks a lot better than the Smilebox version, right?

Balancing Risk and Opportunity – Flickr in Schools

Amy Standen’s article, My Friend Flickr: A Great Photo Opportunity is subtitled “How to safely set students loose in the educationally thrilling but fundamentally ungovernable photo-sharing network.” Standen does an excellent job of outlining the risks and benefits of having students use Flickr. While schools are using this site, they are also using various safeguards in “Keeping the Outside Out.” These include setting up private groups, and having teachers organize photos in advance to eliminate searching. Standen suggests “An association of third-grade teachers, for example, might form a group for photos relating to appropriate curricula.”

Hitting Close to Home – Hurricane Ike

Standen also discusses the idea that Flickr is a “global community” with content from around the world. The example cited is the 2005 tsunami in the Indian Ocean. After I read that I logged on to Flickr to look at photos of Hurricane Ike in Houston.

I have been receiving emails from my nephew describing the chaos of life after the hurricane (thankfully he and his family are safe and their home relatively unscathed). As he was emailing on a Blackberry and had no way to recharge it, he wasn’t sending pictures. Now I can share what he is seeing as he negotiates life in the damaged city. Here’s one Hurricane Ike set I found on Flickr.

More Applications of Photo Sharing

Eight Ways to Exhibit Student Art Work on the Web by Craig Roland lists a number of examples of art programs that post student work to Flickr. What a phenomenal advertisement these are for those programs! Be sure to visit Fortismere Art & Photography Department’s collections on Flickr and Flickr: Darien Public Schools Art Department’s Photostream.

In her blog posting Positive Use of Social Networking #12 – Photo sharing, Frances Harris discusses creating galleries of photos for a team, a club, or even a school. She shares an ongoing project in her own school. Students are “working on a photo gallery project which will consist of school sports photos taken during the past several years. The students’ primary task is to select the best photos, tag them, use image editing software to correct lighting problems and other technical imperfections, and upload their selections to a photo sharing site. . . . By doing this project, our students will learn valuable skills as well as provide a real service to the school community.”

In Steal this Idea: Flickr for Librarians Michael Stephens passes on a list of 16 ways to use Flickr at your library, including publicizing events and celebrations in the library, displaying historical photographs, showing photos from an author signing, highlighting book displays, including for banned books, showing a virtual tour of the library, publicizing fund-raising, and more.

David Jakes in his article Web 2.0 and the New Visual Literacy also sees Flickr as a useful tool for schools. He reinforces the idea of teaching students about copyright.Flickr further extends its usefulness for schools by permitting users to assign a Creative Commons license to their photography which specifies how a resource can be used by others. Successful visual literacy instruction should take advantage of Creative Commons licensing and use the concept to promote an understanding of intellectual property and copyright, so important to today’s vision of what it means to be visually literate.”

And, Biggest Application of All: Picture A Whole Country Using Flickr!

Picture Australia is a project headed by the National Library of Australia that aims to put online as many images as possible, In addition to digitizing materials from numerous official collections, they are also soliciting pictures from the general public, and encouraging people to join their Flickr groups to participate in tagging images. Picture Australia: People, places and events has over 34,000 images, while Picture Australia: Our Town has 2400.

Wonder if our National Library will start a similar undertaking? Imagine the wealth of application for our students and teachers there.

What Comes Next for Me?

This has been a busy week, but I have so much left to learn. At least I know where I’m going to start: the post WebTools4u2use » –Photo Ideas to Share and Photo Sharing pages provide literally dozens more sites and ideas to explore!

One thought on “The Paralympics, Hurricane Ike, and Australia – Adventures in Photo Sharing

  1. Hi Cynthia,

    Thanks for sharing so much great information about photosharing. Your links to various articles are very helpful. I love your animoto video and being able to compare it to the smilebox video right away was a great way to really think about the differences between the two applications. You’ll be all set to create slideshows of that new baby!

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