Critical Thinking and Personal Development Through Photo Sharing: Transcending a Bit ‘O Star Wars Fun

What did I gain when I combined Star Wars and photo sharing? The knowledge that I am not alone in Geekdom. My idea was clearly not original. But I hope you enjoy my take on the topic anyway, because for the purposes of this post (a grad class assignment), I needed to find a relevant use of photo sharing that would augment my post and somehow maintain what is currently my sci fi theme. I did find a way to do this I think. After you’ve read my post, be sure to click on the little caption icon (looks like a dialogue box) in the left hand corner of the slide show below in order to see the captions that are necessary for my sci fi theme.

Reflection on the process of learning about photo sharing
(Padawan status)

I decided on the Picasa photo sharing application since I already use many Google applications anyway and like to keep things centrally organized.

The main benefit I found for this early photo sharing exploration was the ability to add captions easily. I also discovered that editing photos and albums was very simple and fast. I have become a big fan of anything that provides the ability to add tags to material (be it bookmarks on Diigo or photos on Picasa) for more effective searches and efficient organization.

But in order to use the album I created to highlight my sci fi theme in my blog, I needed to learn how to embed a slideshow. This would have been simple, had I chosen Flickr, as WordPress.com has a widget for this purpose. Alas though, WordPress.com doesn’t make this process easy for Picasa users because of security reasons (WordPress.org is another matter as it is more flexible – if you want to mess with your self-hosted blog, that’s fine by WordPress). Fortunately, a little searching on the Internet drummed up this gem of a blog post, which solved my problem.

Discussion of the tool in terms of my own personal life and learning
(further development of the Force)

I’ve never used photo sharing before. Personally I’ve never really had a need for it, as I’ve just loaded up photos to Costco in order to have them printed off (I still like paper-based photos). I send the odd e-mail of my kids to their grandparents, but always felt that sufficed. But, as I read about photo sharing, I saw a variety of potential uses, especially in the educational realm (more about that in the next section). That said, I thought back to my “Autobiography of a Computer User” post. In it I talked about creating a website in the late 90’s for sharing photos from a backpacking trip so that friends I’d traveled with and people I met along the way, many of whom lived on the other side of the planet, would have a chance to reminisce along with me (sans the collaborative, interactive element of photo sharing, other than e-mail). I would have certainly embraced photo sharing had it been available at that time. I think now that my current version of me has seen how simple photo sharing is, I might use it on occasion to share some pictures of my kids with the grandparents.

I do see other interesting professional possibilities with photo sharing. I’ve always taken pictures of student work, classroom activities and the like for the purposes of maintaining a professional portfolio for evaluations, and in case I ever need or want to find myself another job. I find that photos are a great way to launch into a discussion about what I have accomplished. Using photo sharing for this purpose is a step up from the printed photos and physical portfolio book I keep because a) it is faster and simpler than printing photos, gluing them into a portfolio, writing captions, and attempting to do so with as professional a look as possible, b) a potential employer in another locale could be invited to visit my portfolio, and c) visitor comments to my album can help me improve my portfolio, whereas with my old portfolio format I only get feedback from my official evaluators (in which case it is probably too late to fix any problems).

Photo sharing goes further too though in providing professional development as it allows educators to pictorially share teaching ideas with one another, and then question and clarify those ideas. A picture, after all, can be worth a thousand words.

Discussion of the tool in terms of teaching and learning
(Jedi academy: a place for the “distillation of learning combined with action.” as described by an ancient Jedi scholar here)

I sought to illustrate one example of how photo sharing can be used in teaching and sharing by including my Star Wars inspired photo slide show below. It took me some time to go through Wookieepedia and other sources to confirm Star Wars knowledge that I already had, or try to learn more in order to develop my admittedly simple little slide show further. And even though I have far less motivation to become a Star Wars expert than students might have to study other topics, I did get into the activity, quite entertained myself (yes, I am easily amused) and now know even more about the Star Wars canon. I thus figured out through experimentation that students can use photos they take or find, combined with captions, to show their understanding of a topic or literature they are exploring through transference and the development of connections.They could take this even further than I did here (my slides are rather random) by providing a narrative format for their critical thinking.

I also considered how students could show their understanding through categorization using the tagging feature on photo sharing applications: students could be assessed on the relevance and context-creation of the tags they provide for their photos.

Of course, as with my own professional development, students can also tap the potential of photo sharing for portfolio development. Combine photo sharing (as well as other web 2.0 applications) with a blogging platform and you have a powerful, yet easy to use and maintain tool for portfolios.

Other educational ideas for photo sharing:

  • provides a useful way to introduce appropriate use of the Internet, as appropriate use can be taught as students develop their photo sharing profile.
  • photo mapping and geotagging in e.g. Picasa, which could be the basis for interactive activities in a variety of subject areas such as literature (see Google Lit Trips), science, history and geography, etc., etc, etc.
  • As a former student of archaeology, I loved the possibilities with the ability to annotate certain parts of a picture (Richardson, 2010, p. 104, Fig. 7.1): with ancient cultures studies, for instance (British Columbia grade 7 curriculum), students could annotate pictures they find of material objects, scenes (which students could tableau), dig sites, etc. in order to show their understanding and knowledge of what they see, and to provide information for others. As with the geotagging, this is yet another opportunity for students to participate in knowledge building on the Internet.
  • Richardson (2010, p. 105) also discusses how students from around the world can learn about each others’ cultures by sharing tagged photos about e.g. “family”, the concept of which may differ from culture to culture.

Students may well make more effort on work with the knowledge that they will have a broader audience than they would if only handing in assignments to teachers. Audience feedback may also factor in to an improvement of student work, and provide an increase in student understanding of a topic when such commentary (and provision of leads to additional sources through this same commentary) encourages students to reassess initial assumptions and learning.

I do have one concern I’ve love settled. Reading William Kist’s (2010) The Socially Networked Classroom: Teaching in the New Media Age reminded me to bring up an issue I still struggle with and that is the confusion around “fair use” . Kist is writing from an American perspective and therefore I am in need of adapting his ideas for a more restrictive Canadian environment (although appreciate his mention of Creative Commons). I am still trying to determine what Bill C-32 will mean for me as a teacher-librarian and educator in Canada, and so would appreciate any feedback anyone can give me on this issue. I did find these perspectives from law professor Dr. Michael Geist and Maureen Cavan of Access Copyright.

Now, I leave you with my Picasa slide show experiment below, as well as these Flickr
storm trooper photos (thanks to hey jude for posting links to the latter). Enjoy!


References:


Jedi praxeum. (n.d.). Wookieepedia: The Star Wars wiki. Retrieved September 24, 2010, from http://starwars.wikia.com/‌wiki/‌Jedi_Praxeum

Kist, W. (2010). The socially networked classroom: Teaching in the new media age. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Richardson, Will (2010). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

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Comments
8 Responses to “Critical Thinking and Personal Development Through Photo Sharing: Transcending a Bit ‘O Star Wars Fun”
  1. Jennifer Branch says:

    An excellent blog – you worked that Star Wars stuff in and am anxious to see how tired you get of it. :)
    Great inclusion of a variety of links, readings, ideas. I love your thinking about personal and professional uses – love the portfolio example – and like the classroom examples.

    Well done!

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