I've been Flickr-ing for almost 2 years now, and I'm completely addicted to it. I first discovered Flickr after my son Aidan was born, and we discovered that he had Down syndrome and three holes in his heart. I was in a bit of shock, and found it very therapeutic to browse through images of happy, lovely children with Down syndrome who looked like they were living wonderful lives. There was something almost meditative about going through the photographs at the end of the day when my boys were in bed. I found three group sites for people with Down syndrome, and joined them. I started posting photographs of Aidan, and felt really incredible when people started leaving comments (mostly about how cute he is!). I didn't realize back then that what I was doing was building up a community of people I could turn to when I needed advice, support or encouragement.
Before I Flickr-ed though, I CarePage-d. We started a CarePage for Aidan through the Stollery Hospital site and I posted comments and photographs of Aidan and his brothers. Friends and family were able to post prayers and hellos to us, and in turn we were able to keep everyone up-to-date on Aidan's health. It became really important to me to be able to post from the hospital when Aidan had his heart surgery, and we could see that friends and family from all over Canada were thinking of him. The CarePage had a way of monitoring who had logged onto our page, and how many times and when. So, even if they did not leave a message, we knew they were thinking of Aidan. It did our hearts good. So good in fact that when Aidan was finished with his surgery and was considered "all fixed up", I felt I needed to continue posting, but no longer felt the CarePage was the venue. That was when I turned to Flickr.
One thing that I've discovered in comparing the two was that the CarePage was great, but not nearly as global as Flickr. The people who viewed the CarePage were invited to do so--the site was not public. In going public with my photos on Flickr I've made connections with families from around the world. I got so inspired I started my own Group site called "Down Syndrome in the Family". It's a spot to share photos of our children, highlighting the whole family and the enormous love that a child with Down syndrome brings to us. My little group now has 45 members. We comment on one anothers pictures, how much the kids are growing and cheer them on when they reach certain milestones.
Where I think Flickr offers the most potential is in the Discussion section of the Group sites. Flickr also has some fun tools where students could make posters, badges, hockey cards, magazine covers, etc. One idea I had was to create a school buzz around reading. Like Canada Reads, only it would be your school name (Victoria School Reads). The discussion site could have book reviews or students commenting about certain genres they like. Students could interview other students and staff and make magazine covers highlighting their information. There are so many possiblities, it is mind boggling (but in a good way).
I'm going to stop there for now, but have plans for another post about Flickr. If you have time to explore our Flickr photo pool--check us out at: http://flickr.com/groups/downsyndromeinthefamily/
Our family is the 3 Little Billy Goats.