Digital photography

Image plus text: "This are our hands. We are begining a game of basketball. We won 98-33!"

21st Century Connections has a very basic introduction to digital photography, and suggests some of the ways you could use it in your classroom.

The article says:

You're set to have your students "go digital" – shoot, edit, organize, and share digital photos – as they create information about the subject matter they study.

But it then perhaps gives the impression that you — not the learners — are doing all the work.

If instead you get the learners to produce the images, you save yourself a lot of time for starters, and end up with a much more interesting project. A project could be each kids (or pair) producing a single image plus accompanying text, like TechLearning's Portrait's of Learning, or the example that heads this post (uncorrected, from my daughter Isabel, 11).

See also
>> Digital Photography School, for photography tutorials
>> Can you post pictures of young learners?

Using pictures in class

Picture from a Picasa album projected from a laptop (foreground) on to the whiteboard

I liked an idea Jamie Keddie demonstrated at a teacher development workshop here at IH Barcelona the other day.

Using a laptop and projector, Jamie accessed his Picasa photo album and used images in it for a variety of classroom activities. One fun thing he showed us was how easy it is to crop images in Picasa, show only half of the picture and get learners to predict what they think is happening.

Of course, if you wanted to get hi-tech, with an interactive whiteboard, you could cut out the cropping part, and just access images on a USB drive, using a mask to hide or reveal as much as you wanted.

You also need to spend time actually finding the images that are going to work like that. Hating to spend time trawling the Web for things, personally I like a no-tech solution: one of the freebie newspapers we have in Barcelona is ADN. Check it out, if you can — there is a great picture nearly every day on page 2 which is often the makings of a class.

Granted, projected on to a large whiteboard, Jamie's images (see example, above) looked more impressive than something torn from the morning's paper…

1000+ Pictures for Teachers to Copy

I would say Andrew Wright's 1000+ Pictures for Teachers to Copy is the best, most useful book I've read in 25 years in English teaching.

It's practical, it's useful, it will save you (and your learners) lots of time, it's fun — and it teaches you a skill that I think all teachers should have, especially anyone teaching young learners.

You can't draw? You don't need to be able to draw — all you've got to do is learn how to copy a few simple images.

Publisher: Longman ELT, ISBN 0175571007. Available from

Don't waste time looking for pictures on Google

Of course you could get your images off of Google-is-Evil (assuming that you don't mind a spot of stolen property, that is…)

But one problem with that is that Google has zero interest in the quality of the images… or in how much language you could get out of them.

An alternative soure are newspapers and magazines — which do have a vested interest in presenting their readers with striking, interesting photos (including ads:..).

I habitually rip images out of the newspapers and magazines that are about to go in the recycled bin, and store and classify them in folders (in the image above, you can see my "transport" and "sports" folders)… just in case they might be useful in class one day…

Are texts more important than images?

Some one asked the question after the session in July. No, text isn't really more important. Or necessarily more useful. I'd suggest that it depends…

I'd also suggest, however, that as teachers, we can easily fall into a number of traps.

We assume that (1) all pictures are intrinsically good, intrinsically useful to us when we are teaching language, and useful too to the people learning it. That's not true.

If it's a picture of a mobile phone, then it's not true: it's no more useful than actually reaching into your back pocket for the real thing (which would be a lot faster, for one thing). Or Zidane head-butting that Italian in the World Cup Final…. You just don't need that picture!

People also (2) waste a lot of time looking for, printing and photocopying images, when it in many cases it would be far quicker just to draw the picture on the board. You can't draw a picture of (say) a parrot? So, how about you imitate one…? (And which is more memorable — a picture nicked off of Google, or your imitation…?)

It also sometimes worries me that if we spend hours looking for, finding and editing the material, we are (3) forgetting that it's not really the material that matters; what really matters is the interaction and the language the material leads to.

Spend less time on getting the material together and more on thinking about what the students are going to be doing… then you are heading for a successful language class.

Texts are important too!
Perhaps because we image pictures to be so important, it's easier (4) to overlook text. Text is important too — apart from anything else because, in order for our learners to learn the language, they need to be "exposed" to, and have to "deal with", lots of examples of language in context, ie. texts.

And images as well!
Of course, you can find great pictures that will lead to a lot of language… But which of the two images below do you think you could get most out of…?

What does it "depend" on…?
As with all resources that we might be using in the classroom (whether technological or otherwise), it depends… on the amount of language (and response from, and interaction between our learners) that we are going to get out of the resources.

Where to find texts and images
See the "links" in the sidebar (right) to access the various sources you had on the handout from our session.