Monday, January 25, 2010

POST #1: PHOTOSHARING - If I Could Turn Back Time: The Lit Maven reflects on Photo “Cher”ing (Sharing)

Day 1, A.K.A. January 4th, I was in sheer panic. How on earth, could I check that many blogs? How do I follow a twitter? 15 HOURS, how will I pull this one off. My husband said, “You’ll do fine, STOP drinking coffee at night! Go to bed!” As he snored, I lay awake wondering, if I develop a PLN will I lose my FLN? (Family Learning Network)

Day 13, A.K.A. January 16th, I am feeling more Brandi 2.0…OK, more Brandi 1.5999999999. So I went on a Web 2.0 rampage and signed up, followed, joined, aggregated, tweeted, and bookmarked. I must admit, the invasion of my social networks by others I did not know was a little odd. Do I have to change? Will “they “understand me like my friends do, Brandi with one eye. (Envision an introduction where my hand is covering one eye. This gets some laughs, sad, I know, but at least everyone remembers how to spell my name.) So I had to put myself out there for different audiences. Just be yourself? But do we really own ourselves anymore?

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, How did I learn the TOOL at all… (Reflections on Learning the Tool)

Flickr. I must admit. I did think this was akin to uploading pictures for Save on Foods online photos. Does anyone really care about other peoples’ photos? Fascinating would be the word to describe my week. I read through the readings but I must admit that the initial message that stood out was the Common Craft video on photosharing. Specifically, the part where he shows photo albums lined up on a shelf with no one to look at them. Of course, this makes sense, instead of ‘talking to the hand’ find a person who shares your interest. So I signed up, explored and joined a few groups.

The anxiety of finding pictures to upload was stressful. Unlike Peter Parker who, let’s face it, knows when the best photo opportunity will be, I had no luck in the Spidey sense department. So I went with what I had, two kids. “SO what should mom take pictures of” I asked in the car. Daughter responds “How about trees?” . Trees, while great to look at, I am not a green thumb, perhaps poison thumb if you could see the plant corpses I have produced over the years.

I decided to do nothing. Lie in a fetal position on the couch and hope for the Saint of Web 2.0 to provide some divine intervention. IT WORKED!!! While reading through PEOPLE magazines, my husband questioned this behavior, and I said that I needed some deviation from real life. Suddenly, I began to notice phrases that related to my job. At work, we had been asked to have a journal page completed that reflected what we have learned since September. I was taken over by the God of Scrapbook and compiled a page within the evening.

LIGHT BULB! Why not take a picture and upload it to Flickr? The items I am describing are in the set entitled Visual Journal Pages. Voila! Having just got a Blackberry I amazed myself attaching, and e-mailing the original picture to my computer. WHOO HOO! So I uploaded the picture, then I auto-contrasted, sepia-ed, black and white-ed, cropped, and then went to bed. I think I even dreamt about it.

Flickr is user friendly. The three step process makes you feel like a pro. I discovered the importance of tagging, marking favorites and adding contacts. To my delight someone added me! As I perused the groups, I felt like an observer in a coffee shop, listening in on passionate conversations. The artist in me began to gravitate towards the artist and writer’s groups. There is definitely something here for everyone though.

Jack be Nimble, Jack be Quick, How do I make this new tool stick? (Discussion of the Tool in terms of my own personal learning)

This leads into my own learning. Admittedly I thought this was going to be limited to uploading family pictures, sharing them with friends and the World Wide Web. What I didn’t expect, was to discover more about my own learning style.

Recall the story of me lying in a fetal position on the couch, like that image could have been forgotten. I had abandoned all hope of picture inspiration. The assumption was, pictures must be of already “there” things. I mumbled out loud. “The husband takes pictures of his art.” I used to do art. I used to do many things before the teaching juggernaut took hold. Then in despair I plunked down to read about Tiger and Elin. That is tragic! Perhaps if his name was Cheetah she would have saw it coming. Anyway, sorry for the digression, so I sped read through three issues lamenting as time was getting away from me. My kids were crafting up a storm, having been banned from the Wii, as a punishment for making their grandmother slightly consider posting them on Ebay.

I grabbed some scissors and began to cut out phrases that reflected my current feelings towards work. As I began that collage, ideas around creativity and technology began to form. Flickr, is not necessarily a tool that begins online. To force creativity on a tool does not work. There has to be some sort of “pre”, preplanning, pre-thought, and preparation. So really, Flickr can be an extension of work that is done offline. I think there is a common assumption that tools replace old activities when really I think that they are another way of looking at things. The Web 2.0 aspect creates an audience for most things that used to be private, or only available to a small circle of friends. This idea has freed me. The rest of the week I looked for other creations that could be placed on Flickr.

The Davies (2007) article influenced the start of my Flickr journey. I read it like a gossip rag. “Honey, can you believe this.” He rolled his eyes,’ the husband ‘ has had a secret relationship with flickr for a while. What impacted me the most was the attention Davies (2007) brought to the everyday pictures that are posted on flickr and the powerful narratives that emerge below them. The article (Davies, 2007) referenced Apartment Life and the images of apartment living. Davies (2007) discusses the conversation evolving from a picture of an afghan. I decided to hunt out a narrative and found one in a typography group’s discussion board. There was one discussion titled Fonts I hate. (Personally I have always had it in for Times New Roman). Not only were fonts lambasted but other fonts were established as superior. As the thread developed the group discussion evolved into a realization that fonts were a reflection of the user and just like CAPS LOCK denotes screaming, fonts indicated a lot about a person. Serim and Schrock (2008) denote that activity in these virtual groups often results in ‘unintentional’ learning.

I am reminded about the complexities of identity formation on the web. The threads that follow you…Peter Parker would be comfortable on the web!!! Personally I will continue to use Flickr to post my art (long overdue), post photos, engage in discussions, try out the many interesting groups who have taken Flickr farther than just a place to free up your hard drive. I enjoyed the personalized communities and the honest critiques. Chase (2007) referred to Flickr groups as a place,” where groups can virtually congregate and share pictures” (p. 54) . The image is true. While we don’t have access to the dusty albums on friend’s shelves, on Flickr we can visit an infinite amount of photos all over the world in one sitting.

As a parent I was able to utilize Flickr to begin documenting my kid’s artwork. The look on my son’s face was priceless when he saw his work on the big screen. It reminds me of those digital picture frames. It would be a unique experience for kids to see their work displayed instead of family pictures. Here is a link to pictures of my son Liam the Artist and his “flowery” artwork. I think it is gorgeous.

In addition to capturing artwork, I was able to share the images with my friends on Facebook. My photosharing has not been frequent lately, as my husband generally takes the pictures. But with my new phone I was able to catch beautiful scenes, my daughter and husband who were hanging out watching the television when I caught these shots. Here is the set, Daddies Girl . Normally, I would not have bothered taking a picture but this coursework has enhanced my abilities to notice and observe. Everything holds meaning and my new goal is to try and capture it.

Did I have frustrations with the tool? Not many, as I felt that it was user friendly. Additional time to really explore, I hope will happen as the course progresses. The apps are addictive. I hope to integrate more of them. The similarities between the other Web 2.0 tools really help with transitioning between them. Tagging clearly is the ‘in’ term. This is an area where I would like to improve. I think my tags are too general or too specific. In addition Adam and Mowers (2008) stated the search engine in Flickr is useful for finding images, but unlike Google, it does not have an exclude term feature.

Roses are Red, Violets are Blue…Do I have an Educational Tool for YOU! (Discussion on the tool in terms of Teaching and Learning.)

Utilizing Flickr as an educational tool allows for many possibilities. The connections I made to Flickr , inspired a presentation to educators at an elementary school last week. The session was based on inquiry learning as supported through the Alberta English Language Arts curriculum. My presentation focused on the work I did in a grade three class that week. I was introducing the concept of inference through riddle annotation. First I facilitated a discussion and brainstormed a list about inference. Next I read the book Into the Forest by Anthony Brown. While reading it, the students and I engaged in an ongoing discussion of clues they noticed in the text that were not indicated by the pictures. Essentially there were hidden fairy tales throughout the story in the form of characters and images, but not words. Following that the students were introduced to annotating riddles published in When Riddles Come Rumbling. Lastly, on the following days, the students created their own riddles. All of this classroom work was done away from Web 2.0; however, these are the following extensions I proposed to the educators in my presentation.

1. Annotate and image using Flickr. Richardson (2009) made reference to the image titled Jane Goodall's Camp . This was an image of a diorama with objects annotated. I used this feature on my visual journal page . Then I presented this idea as an extension to the teachers. I was also impressed with the aspect of students uploading their artwork, homemade maps, and annotating them.
2. Take pictures of their annotations over time to document the growth of students’ learning.
3. When the students’ created riddles were finished, they could find or take an image of their riddle answers. Teachers could create a riddle set folder to store the image of the riddles clues and then the riddle answers. Students could go further and annotate their riddles clues to provide extra hints for their classmates.

Typically it is not the extension ideas that the teachers question but the technology tool itself. In our district, Flickr is blocked. Only teachers can authenticate permission. In addition to that frustration, each time you navigate to a new page in Flickr, the prompt to authenticate appears again. This issue does need to be addressed in schools if Web 2.0 tools are to become a reality. Teachers are excited to try but find their lack of access to school labs, outdated technology and lack of tech support frustrating. So I did sympathize with their plight and suggested an online tool from ReadWriteThink, called Doodle Splash that can also be used as a classroom tool for students to reflect on their annotations. This of course is not Web 2.0 but at least students are incorporating technology.

Another component that needs to be explored is assessment of these Web 2.0 tools. As Ganis (2009) suggests assessment is important to understand how to implement these tools and guide the students towards success. Assessment is often brought up by teachers. Why are we teaching these tech tools if high stakes testing does not value them?

Of course many other general uses for Flickr came to mind, or were inspired by my readings.
1. Writing prompts. The search feature enables the user to find photos matching most themes etc. Perhaps gathering a bank of photos to use for characters, settings, and problems. An interesting group sets a monthly challenge to tell a story in five frames. Check out the winner for December! Limiting images would force a student to be thoughtful and selective when choosing pictures. A natural extension of this would be digital storytelling. This week we tried Animato at work. An educator can produce a 30 second digital story for free. Check this out if you already haven’t.
2. One group called The Writer’s Haven, attempt to find images that match books or poems or the other way around. I think students of all ages could plan a hunt for images that would match their books. Or at least search the Creative Commons, which is a located in Flickr, that contains images for public use. The public use has its own criteria as explained when visiting the link. These images are especially handy if you are looking for historical photos. In addition, students can take their own images. Solomon and Schrum (2007) express that the benefit of students using their own pictures, allows for learning about copyright, especially in regards to intellectual property.
3. There are also visual documentation possibilities, classroom and school events. Many schools in our district have school wide broadcasts. Photo slide shows with music accompaniment brings everyone along for the ride.
4. There are powerful links to Science. One flickr member Christiaan_25 took seasonal pictures of the same tree. Students could do the same, as a long range project. Or perhaps photograph post Halloween pumpkin rot. I am not joking by the way. Try it! The jack o’ lantern starts to look like a grandma without her dentures.
5. The Mappr application would allow students to take pictures and map their fieldtrips. I can also see students exploring their community through pictures of Edmonton and then mapping a route in the city, an obvious link to social studies. Glen Bull (2005) referred to these third party tools in combination with user assigned tags as, “transcending the card catalogue” (p.23). I think his point is valid; the search for information is no longer linear and decided by an authority but rather by the users.
6. A teacher or student could also use an image to start a discussion thread. The benefit of adding comments online and not in person allow a student to rehearse what they want to say.
7. The Bubblr feature allows you to add thought bubbles to images which could be used with images to add text.
8. The Common Craft videos provide excellent explanations for students and teachers on all aspects of Web 2.0 tools.

Really, the possibilities are only limited by your imagination. I hope that this post has left you Moonstruck, but not making you feel like Mermaids, fishes out of water. Please excuse me while I go have Tea with Mussolini.

Non Linked Resources

Adam, A., & Mowers, H. (2008). Start your search engines. Part one: Taming google--and other tips to master web searches. School Library Journal, 54(4), 44-46. Retrieved from ERIC database.

Bull, G. (2005). Folk taxonomies. Connected classroom. Learning and Leading with Technology, 33(1), 22-23. Retrieved from ERIC database.

Chase, D. (2007). Transformative sharing with instant messaging, wikis, interactive maps, and flickr. Computers in Libraries, 27(1), 7-8. Retrieved from ERIC database.

Davies, J. (2007). Display, identity and the everyday: Self-presentation through online image sharing. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 28(4), 549-564. Retrieved from ERIC database.

Ganis, F. (2009). “Social learning" buzz masks deeper dimensions: Mitigating the confusion surrounding "social learning”. Online Submission, Retrieved from ERIC database.

Richardson, W. (2009). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Serim, F. & Schrock, K. (2008). Nailing digital jelly to a virtual tree: Tracking emerging technologies for learning. Learning and Leading with Technology, 35 (4), 12-16.

Solomon G. and Schrum, L. (2007). Web 2.0: New tools, new schools. Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education.


  1. Thanks, Brandi! You made me laugh throughout your post! I thought your title, subtitles, and writing style were very clever and engaging. You were able to make so many connections to your personal and professional experiences throughout the post that I felt like I really understood the process you went through to explore the tool! Thanks for giving me so much food for thought!

  2. Holy moly! Well that was a very good read, thanks Brandi, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post. Very funny and well done. Now off to video sharing. Take care.

  3. Not only was I thoroughly entertained by your post but agree with you when you say that these tools are an extension and the creativity can't be forced upon them. When I use these tools with students I always like to keep in mind that we should use technology to do what otherwise would be impossible. Web 2.0 are not the pancea to education but when used with thought and planning can provide opportunities for creating and communiticating in ways we have not always been able to. Now that the 'private' has been place in the realm of public we have the opportunity to learn with and from others.
    It was great to see you take your new learning and apply it right away with the riddle unit. You also managed to provide alternatives to those educators who, unfortunately, don't have access to web 2.0 tools.
    Looking forward to your next post. Nicola

  4. Thank you for all of your comments. Greatly appreciated.

  5. Hi Brandi, sorry for the late comment regarding this post. Overall, VERY FUNNY. If you ever decide to change careers, writing and/or comedy would be good choices. I can just picture you in the fetal position...
    I also agree with you regarding Times New Roman; I hate default fonts.


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