Sunday, 21 September 2008

An Educational Artist Transforming Humanity

I like to pretend I’m an artist. You see there are many very creative people in my family, including my uncle who is a well known muralist here in Winnipeg named Charles Johnston, my mom who is a writer/playwright/aspiring novelist and has had a number of her plays produced and just finished her Masters in English doing a thesis on Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”, and my cousin Rika Hawes who is becoming quite an established glass artist. So I like to think, since I am surrounded by creative genes, that I too am creative. Then you can imagine how EXCITED I was to even entertain the thought that the world could see my beautiful photography with just the click of the mouse! I was convinced that having the world experience the wonders that are my photographs would transform humanity . . .

(ahem . . . sometimes the little egomaniac in me escapes, I apologize and will hence forth keep her in check)

Seriously, I was eager to try Flickr because I do like to share my pictures with people and after “Taking the Tour” and following the Trailfire links to watch the video suggested by Joanne, I was intrigued by a number of things. Mostly, the fact that I can control the privacy levels and allow limited access to my masterpieces appeals to me. (sorry, egomaniac slipped out again . . .) This still remains one of my biggest stumbling blocks when it comes to sharing photos online, whether through this type of venue or through a social networking site. I would love to use these sites to share photos of my gorgeous children with my family who is spread all over Canada and the US (they really are gorgeous, no ego here, I swear). In fact, I first joined Facebook so I could keep in touch with those far-flung family members. But I am so protective of my girls that I fear none of you will ever lay eyes on their beauty through the magic of Flickr, no matter the privacy restrictions. I do have some photos of them on my Facebook page, which I have set to the very highest security and only select friends can view them.

Once I worked through the paranoia (boy do I have issues!) I began the process of uploading photos. I first went through all my photos and chose only the very best and most dramatic ones to showcase, mostly the ones I thought were pretty! I easily uploaded many brilliant photos and relabeled and tagged them. I was able to create 3 sets and then to my dismay found out that if I wanted to create more I had to “upgrade” to “Pro Flickr” at a cost of $24.95 per year!

It was at this point that I got stuck. I could not figure out what the benefit of this photo sharing site was, except as a place to back up my photos in case of a computer catastrophe at home. So I turned to Chapter 7 of Will Richardson and was enlightened and inspired to try the Annotation tool, the Editing tools in Picnik, to look at the Creative Commons licenses, to try the Flickr mapping function and to search the “pro’s” blogs to see what they have to say about the value of photo sharing.

Of course, I first started out at the site itself, playing with all the above noted features (see my previous blog entry about being a button-clicker!). I was able to annotate my photos with very little effort, and I decided to create a “tour” of the city of Ottawa, where my mom lives. I was able to easily post my pictures to my blog, just by going through a quick process and you can see those efforts below. I also added a slideshow gadget that links right to my Photostream on Flickr and showcases all my magnificent photos à.

I also decided to look at the Creative Common Licenses because as noted above, I am still a bit paranoid. I changed all my photos except my wedding photos to “Attribution-NonCommercial Creative Commons” and I changed my wedding set to “Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs Creative Commons” just because I don’t want people to be able to manipulate my wedding photos, but I don’t mind others using them. I then decide to try the edit feature using Picnik. I took my already awesome photo “Tree in Winter” and “created” a new picture. See my previous post “More Flickr Fun”. I did investigate adding my photos to the map feature, but this is seems much more time consuming and requires more of my time, at a later date! But I did find an interesting article about Geotagging, which I have included here for your enjoyment.

I definitely see the potential of the Flickr site now that I have “played with it”. Richardson talks about a student using Flickr to explain her project with notes, and the idea of using the annotation feature as a form of assessment where students add notes to a diagram or picture of, for example, a fetal pig dissection (Richardson, p. 104). It seems photo sharing in general and Flickr specifically have many varied applications to the classroom. I liked the ideas that Richardson posed where students and teachers can use Flickr as a way to stimulate discussion, share school events with parents (both from p. 102), use it as a way to showcase art or other school work (p. 105), use it as a way to inspire budding photojournalists (p.106) and even go on photo field trips using the map feature (p.107). Flickr also gives teachers the ability to create interesting and applicable learning objects, with the touch of a button.

I think Richardson said it best in this post from October 2004:

“Doh! I get it. Have kids upload pictures they take to flickr, tag them, add titles, descriptions and hot spots with mouseovers, look at other similarly tagged photos from classmates or students far and abroad, comment back to the creators…and then blog about the whole experience. Construct. Collaborate. Communicate.”

Can I possibly be that far behind in my knowledge and use of Web 2.0 tools, that Richardson was blogging about this very dilemma I’m having now, way back in 2004! I need to get it in gear!

This quote about Life Caching I found on Richardson’s blog, but attributed to Jeff Jarvis (dated August 2005), is also very interesting and has many ramifications for the way we incorporate this technology into our everyday classroom use:

“LIFE CACHING is enabling GENERATION C to become a generation of true storytellers, helping them to visually and compellingly share their experiences with friends and family, which makes them stand out and feel special. In fact, sharing an experience may become as valuable if not more valuable than the actual experience itself.” (emphasis mine)

I think the quote speaks to the importance of teachers and other adults embracing these technologies and showing students how they can be safely and appropriately used. If the sharing is becoming more important than the experience, then we need to ensure the experiences are also worthy of sharing! (Remember our discussion about online reputation on the class discussion site?)

This also leads me to believe that our students will really feel the way I jokingly did: that having the world experience the wonders that are their photographs will transform humanity. And maybe it will.


Initiative Save African Children Inc. said...

Thanks for these brilliant ideas, I love them, good inspiration

Joanne de Groot said...

Hi Christine,

Thanks for the links to your photos--they're great! And your discussion of the process of exploring/playing with the technology is very helpful, as are your comments about privacy and copyright. All important things to think about and consider when we are trying to figure out how to incorporate these tools into our daily lives and into our classrooms and libraries.