The educational possibilities brought to us by photo-sharing sites seems immense and perhaps a little daunting. In an attempt to organize my own thoughts on the subject, I have listed and commented on a few of ideas that I hope are meaningful to someone out there in the blogosphere.
Photo Sharing Sites--Random Thoughts
1. A simple introduction might be to have groups of students working on the same photo, then let them experiment with the editing tools to see how they would alter the photo to suit their personal tastes and style.
2. Use photo sharing sites to capture "moments of inquiry", or "love of reading", or whatever else is important to your school. The school I worked at last year incorporated the Aboriginal Seven Teachings. Each month we focused on a different concept such as wisdom, honesty, respect, humility, etc. I created a lift-the-flap bulletin board to represent each of those concepts with titles such as "glimpsing wisdom", or "a representation of courage" (for this one I had a photo of the Wright brother's first flight), or even just "a photo to make you smile" (a picture of a smiley baby). I attempted to replicate the on-line experience of being able to comment on the photos, so I built in the space to leave comments and hung pencils with ribbon from the board. Students of all ages seemed interested and would lift the flaps to see the photos, but it was the sixth graders who really got into leaving comments (our school was K-9).
3. I used photos I borrowed from Flickr as a slideshow backdrop at our Poetry Cafe last year. I searched photos related to poetry readings, and e-mailed the photographers to ask permission to use their photos at the event. Everyone granted permission (they seemed especially pleased to be used educationally). But not everyone wanted their names attached, so we need to remind our students not to assume they do.
4. Teachers can't control the images that other users post on the photo sharing sites. I don't believe there is a way to fully protect students from coming across objectionable images, but I also don't think that is a valid reason why we should avoid such sites in the classroom. David Jakes (author of "Using Flickr in the Classroom" http://www.jakesonline.org/using_flickr.pdf) suggests that "[i]n all cases, caution should be used when searching specific topics and a discussion with students about what should take place when inappropriate imagery is located should be done prior to use." One way of exercising such caution would be to limit internet users to small groups and have an adult supervisor close at hand to assist students working on sites such as Flickr. The presence of an adult could help to control students accessing inappropriate images (whether intentional or not); and if they do unintentionally trip over what we perceive to be objectionable content, then we can discuss appropriate steps to avoid such mishaps in the future.
5. Flickr could be very interesting for schools with a high immigrant and ESL population. Students could revisit their country of origin through photographs and share the images with classmates.
6. Flickr can take "Flat Stanley" to a whole new level. See Flat Stanley's Photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/10694366@N00/tags/flatstanley/.
7. Not surprisingly, there is a Flickr site for teachers wanting to use Flickr in the classroom. Go to "FlickrEDU: Using Flickr Images in the Classroom" at http://www.flickr.com/groups/yahoo-teachers-of-merit-2006/discuss/72157594198910732/. This page has many wonderful examples educational Flickr sites.
8. Amy Standon, author of "My Friend Flickr-A Great Photo Opportunity" (http://www.edutopia.org/my-friend-flickr), provides reassurance for teachers wanting to use the resource without the risks. She says that one way to do this is to use the group photo pools, because you have more control over who participates in the site (members in groups can be by invitation only).