Wow, my video worked.  I didn’t think it would be that easy.  Copy and paste the URL and voila!  After I accomplished this feat, I immediately thought of how teachers can easily get around the fact that YouTube is blocked in most schools.  I was discussing this problem with a colleague of mine a few days ago.  To use YouTube in his class (which is does quite often) he has to convert the YouTube file at home to a format our computers accept, burn it to a CD and then bring it to school.  If this same teacher had a blog, he could embed the video easily and since the blog is web-based, share it with his students.

I’ve been doing some research today about using photo sharing websites in schools.  I needed to take a step back from my initial enthusiasm and think about whether there are any drawbacks to using them in the classroom.  Since this medium is relatively new, there is little research on the topic but it appears from my research that there are differing views on the viability of using photo sharing sites in schools. 

 

Due to the shear number of photos posted from elementary, middle, and high schools on Flickr (100,000) and school-related topics (700,000), it appears that many schools are embracing this technology Many school divisions such as the Ossining Union Free School District in New York uses and encourages the use of photo sharing sites such as Flickr in all of its schools (statistics from “Photo-Sharing Web Sites”).    Since many photosharing sites such Flickr, Picasa, Photbucket, Bubbleshare and Webshots are free, this has encouraged their use amongst teachers and students.  

However, it appears that other school districts are not as quick to embrace this Web 2.0 tool.  Even if teachers may want to embrace photosharing tools, often these sites as blocked at the district or division level.  In “Photo-Sharing web Sites,” author Odvard Dyrli wonders how teachers can integrate online photo sharing technologies when some school block these sites?

 

The problem with online sites is not difficult to understand.  Since the sites are open to all, there is a chance that students might have access to inappropriate photos.  And even though one might think this is the same as access to the World Wide Web at schools, remember that many schools block access to inappropriate sites through their filtering systems. 

 

It seems to me that the appropriate way of addressing the viewing of inappropriate photos by school children is to teach them how to deal with inappropriate photos if they were to arise and for the school division to establish clear policies in regard to viewing inappropriate content by students and staff.  As well, teachers need to monitor their students when using photo sharing sites just like they would when their students have free access to the Internet. 

 

Despite worries that students will see inappropriate sites when using photo sharing software, ideas about how photo sharing sites can be used in education abound.  In an article I read about photo sharing in education, thirteen ideas around the use of photo sharing in schools are listed as well as numerous examples of educators who are currently using photo sharing in their classrooms.  Among the ideas for photo sharing in education included in this article are:

  • share, comment and add notes to photos or images based on the curriculum
  • embedding photos in class and school websites to keep parents informed
  • inspire writing and creativity
  • create a storybook using shared images
  • create motivational posters, magazine covers, cd covers
  • teach students about creative commons photos and how they can find them for reports and assignments
  • use tags to find photos of areas and events around the world
  • combine geotagged photos with Google Earth to enhance geography lessons
  • create digital portfolios with images and text
  • create a field trip photoblog using shared class photos

 

So it appears that if we can teach students about the appropriate use of photo sharing sites and/or design assignments that still use photos from these sites that students don’t have to search for themselves, there are endless possibilities for enhanced learning, creativity and sharing in the classroom.

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