Students With Cameras

One day when I was sitting through student presentations where the students were showing photographs of themselves taken by their parents and themselves, I kept thinking that students can take better photos than these (so could parents for that matter). So starting in the third grade I began teaching the basics of digital photography. I did this mostly for selfish reasons; I did not want to sit through another presentation filled with bad photos. You know the ones...

- out of focus - bad lighting - bad layout - bad anything else

It was like I blogged weeks ago about students and school technology; "Just because a student owns technology, it does not mean that they know how to properly use it." Besides, it gave me a chance to teach the 21st Century Skill of creativity.

So I sat my students down and taught them how to take proper photos, passed out the cameras and instructed them to stay in my computer lab and practice what they had just learned. We then went through their photos, instructed them how to improve and then tried it again and again until they got it right. Just like a teacher would do with a new math concept, but in this case a tech concept.

Here is what I got from 4th and 5th grade students...


Remember, students can do incredible things if we just ask them to and hold them to a standard of quality that has been expected in their other subjects like reading, writing and math. If we don't allow students to write poorly then why do we allow them to use school technology poorly?

Websites I use -

I got an email yesterday from Jerry in Montana who wanted to know what websites I used on a regular basis with my students as part of my school technology plan. So from now on I will try to do this on Wednesdays with my "Websites I use" post.

The website that I want to talk about this week is Picnik. Picnik is a Web 2.0 application that is completely online. Students take a photo, transfer it to their computer and then upload it to a free account on Picnik. Once it is uploaded to Picnik they can alter and manipulate the photo a lot easier that other conventional applications like Photoshop.

Once students are done editing their photo, they simply download the photo back to their computer.

Although Picnik has a fun side like being able to make someone look like a zombie, it can be a photographer's dream, it can do really beautiful work. Here some samples from a student's photo.

The original
The Lomoish Filter
The Ortonish Filter
The Cross Process Filter

The Basics of Digital Photography

The other day I asked one of my 5th grade students to take some photos of a project that we were all working on together.

The photos I got back were... how shall I say this... not good.

I thought that these so called "Digital Natives" were experts in these types of things. But if truth be told they are not. Which is why I have come up with this new line: Owning tools does not mean that you have the skills to use them.

Case in point:

Most YouTube videos.

Most Facebook photos.


Get the point?

A student might have an iPod Touch in their pocket but it doesn't mean that they know how to truly use it. Sure, he might be an expert at some games, but I am talking about truly being able to use it.

That is where we as teachers step in. We teach digital natives how to effectively use the technology tools that are all around them.

But there is a catch...

To be able to teach these skills we need the tools. For example; after seeing the horrible photos that my young student took I taught him and all his classmates how to take a good photo. They picked up on it quickly (as I knew they would) and were soon taking exceptional photos, probably better than most of their parents. But I could not have done any of this without the tools, which in this case were the seven digital cameras I have in my computer lab.

Teachers need tools to be able to teach 21st Century Skills!