Saturday, January 26, 2008

Photosharing and the Classroom

I began to think about how photo-sharing sites could enhance the educational experiences of students. Photosharing sites:

* provide a place for people to post their pictures, and then retrieve them from anywhere (no need to burn pictures to a disk, or email them to yourself)

* allow for ways to organize, classify and collect photos (these can be left in digital albums, or made into tangible products later on)

* open up a world of images – photos can be shared openly with the public, thus providing glimpses of images from around the world

So, with these capabilities, how can we use sites like Flickr or Picasa in the classroom?

Prompted by Arlene’s post “Flickr – Real Life Examples,” I went to read David Jakes’ Classroom Uses of Flickr ( His list is fantastic! He suggests using Flickr: when visual images are required (like a presentation); for image analysis; for creative writing prompts; in digital storytelling; for virtual field trips; to examine geo-tagged images for geography; for visual documentation of student work; to teach about the use of intellectual property, etc.. These suggestions inspire various applications that can be appropriately adapted for use in elementary and secondary classrooms.

I linked to, and found even more resources under “Flickr Sites.”

* I now know Flickr allows students to contribute to the development of online stories about images! They can write storylines in the comment area of each photograph; this is called Flicktion.

* students can subscribe to any Flickr member’s account (called a photostream) through RSS feeds, and be notified when new photos are added

David Gran’s site “U Tech Tips: Tips and Tricks for Educators” also provided suggestions for Flickr applications in the classroom, in Five Fave Functions for Flickr. Why not teach art history by using the photos available on Flickr? Why not let students do creative projects using images from the Creative Commons? More exciting ideas!

Still, one must proceed with caution...

As with any Web 2.0 tool that we intend to use with students, there are some important etiquette, safety, and maturity issues to be addressed. From not giving out personal information, to anticipating a few inappropriate photos which could be stumbled upon, we need to prepare students for the proper use of this tool. Teachers should have a good grasp of its uses before they introduce it into their teaching. However, once they are ready, the sky’s the limit with creative uses to enhance learning!

Photosharing 2.0 – A Web of Images

I was curious about both Picasa and Flickr. Instead of making my life simpler, I decided to look into both.

I stepped into the world of photosharing earlier this week by setting up an account for Picasa. I chose to start with this site because it was one I had some familiarity with; I had been sent a link to view a photo-album of my brother’s new house (in Texas) about two months ago. It was simple to sign up, and the layout was familiar/similar to my other Google accounts (Blogger and Google Reader… am I building a “Google empire”?) The site was easy to navigate, and I uploaded a small album of 8 photos from my digital camera. I learned how to control the private/public settings, added a slide show to my blog, and also posted the URL link. Not too tricky.

My next challenge was learn about Flickr, of which I knew nothing, but had heard mentioned more often than Picasa. The link provided by Jennifer in the “TL-DL Blog” ( led me to a fantastic tutorial on how to get started using Flickr. The site “School Library Learning 2.0” ( gives guidance and tutorials on various Web 2.0 tools. The Mediamazine Flickr Tutorials
( helped me on my way.

A quick side note: I’m becoming a huge fan of tutorials on web technologies. If you can’t have someone sitting beside you pointing out the intricacies of a new technology, then this is the next best thing. I plan on making a list of the best tutorials I discover during my learning journey.

With the help of the tutorial, I was able to sign up for a Flickr account, upload some photos, learn how to add tags, titles and descriptions (I even added a map of where the pictures were taken!) Since Flickr is meant to be a site for the sharing of images, it is strongly recommended that one include descriptive tags, or keywords, for each picture. Some of the types of tags recommended from Flickr would help describe various aspects of the photo, such as: the medium, genre, subject, name, and location. These tags (keywords) make it easier to find a photo later, once you have many in your collection. Tags can also be used in searching for images that relate to a particular topic. (I'm starting to realize the importance of tags... they work for blogs, too!)

Browsing the images and photos on Flickr is truly amazing and a bit overwhelming. There are so many! Where to begin? I found the “Explore page” under the “Explore” icon at the top of the page was a great place for me to start. There’s even a tutorial showing you how to explore on Flickr! Very helpful.

If one clicks on “Explore” and chooses “Creative Commons” a wealth of photos can be accessed that do not have the same rules as full copyright. Explanations of the various permissible uses of the photos from Flickr members are given on this page. (This is something important to take note of, since using the shared photos for educational purposes is permitted, there are a few “boundaries” that need to be discussed with students who wish to use some of these particular photos.)

Now, with two photosharing sites added to my list of accomplishments, there is much to consider for the implications of these tools for teaching and learning. There are some very exciting possibilites!

Databases have RSS feeds? That is so cool!

Just one more interesting article on RSS…

Joyce Valenza’s blog “Database searches and RSS feeds” (November 24, 2007) from NeverEndingSearch (, discusses how certain databases have expanded the way we can retrieve information. Many databases will enable a searcher to set up email alerts. However, Valenza points out that EBSCO will also allow for an RSS feed to be set up. If she seemed excited about this, then it must be something significant!

She puts this discovery into the context of how her students can use it. While conducting research, Valenza’s students set up feeds for blogs which are relevant to their inquiry. Once they become better at database searches, she plans to show them how to take their search content via the RSS feeds, into their research blogs (in this case, iGoogle pages through Google Reader).

Blogs are proving to be a multi-purpose tool. I knew that blogs provided a useful tool for students conducting research. They can use it to reflect upon the process, ask questions about what they are discovering, and share their learnings. But now that I am gaining a better understanding of how RSS feeds work, and where they can be found, all kinds of possibilities are opening! The discovery that a database can be linked to one’s blog while conducting research is exciting! Easier access to relevant, credible, updated information.

I’m in a bit of awe.

RSS – It really is that “simple”

A growing obsession with RSS feeds has shown me a new ways to think about information retrieval. After reading Will Richardson’s “RSS: A Quick Start Guide for Educators” from, I see some incredible possibilities. This document provided many suggestions to meet a variety of information needs of teachers and students. A step-by-step guide to set up an RSS feed, followed by classroom suggestions showed me how I can improve the research and information retrieval.

Richardson gives some great ideas for how RSS can be used:

- teachers can collect the work of their students who are maintaining weblogs through RSS (benefits: quick, easy to make comments, “paperless”, accessible to parents)
- students can create an RSS feed for specific information needs, such as a topic they might be researching, so that recently published news information about the topic is brought to the aggregator (you can select the news sources you want to follow, such as The New York Times)
- students can create an RSS feed to find Google websites on the internet regarding their topics. When information or new web sites become available on the topic, it shows up in the aggregator

Other interesting uses are explored. This guide is a “must-have” for any teacher wanting to learn more about RSS and its applications in the classroom.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

An "RSS" Renovation

I have not had what I would describe as an easy time wrapping my brain around a few things. All of this blogging business was new to me, but not nearly as tricky as getting my RSS feeds "successfully" dealt with. I had some issues. I did learn how to add individual RSS feeds to my blog, but I hadn't figured out how to add a "blogroll" through an aggregator. This required some investigation, and a lot of trial and error. But I think I have finally connected a few more of the dots. Some credit must be given to my classmate, Elisa, who shed some light on Google reader in one of our class discussions.

I had not started out using Google Reader, but instead, Bloglines. Perhaps I was not patient enough, or perhaps everything still seemed a bit foreign to me, but I did not have any luck getting a blogroll set up using Bloglines. I clicked around aimlessly on Bloglines without getting a sense of totally understanding what I could do with it.

Yet I still added RSS feeds to my blog. I clicked on "add a page element" under the Template option. I then selected the "Feed" option, and cut and pasted the URLs of the blogs I had pre-selected earlier. I had to repeat the process over five times, once I had finally figured this much out. It took a while, and I knew that there had to be an easier method, but I just didn't know what it was! I was somewhat frustrated.

Then, Elisa supplied me with some inspiration to take a look at a second blog aggregator: Google Reader. I signed up, and got started. The critcal concept I was searching for finally made sense. I was able to "add a blogroll" to my site! I now understand the HUGE difference in what I set up earlier, and what an aggregator provides.

Sure, in my first attempt, I had RSS feeds coming to my blog, but each was "individually packaged." I would have to click on each one, read the latest article, then go back to start the process of looking at the next blog and its latest article. Not terribly slow, but it could be better. With my blogroll set up, all I have to do is click "Read More" and I have all my blogs right there, with the latest articles all at the top of the page. I had no idea what a blogroll would actually look like until I figured this out today.

It may seem like small potatoes to most people, but it was a major breakthrough for me today. It's a huge relief, because I knew there was more to it... even though I didn't know what, exactly.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Getting started...

Alright, here I go! I’m totally starting this journey as a complete Web 2.0 novice. I am excited to learn about how to use the various technologies out there, but wow, intimidating!

My name is Ronda, and I am a full-time TL-DL student these days. Believe me, this is an amazing and glorious change of pace after 11 years of classroom teaching. I love the “student life” but I do miss my classroom when I engage in discussions about the exciting learning experiences we as teachers have been witness to. I can’t wait to go back in the fall, hopefully in a new role, as a TL!

This world of blogging is a new one for me. I have only read a few blogs, usually prompted by my friends who are teaching abroad and have found that blogging is a great way for them to let everyone know how they are doing without having to send out endless emails. I was always impressed by how sophisticated the sites looked! Only once or twice did I ever leave a comment, so I continue to remain somewhat oblivious as to how I might use a blog for my own purposes! But, I am confident that this is the start of something I can use in a meaningful way for learning opportunities.

I chose Blogger to get set-up and it was very easy. I have to admit, I am still looking forward to playing around with features, so my blog will likely go through several “renovations” over the course of the semester. Since I can’t reno my house just yet, I might as well reno my personal cyber-space, right?

My immediate challenge seems to be figuring out how to get RSS feeds to work for me, and decide which ones to subscribe to! I have liked the “similes and metaphors” I have read during my inquiry that try to make sense of what this is all about; such as: RSS is like having subscriptions to your favourite magazines - it delivers the latest edition to you. (As an ELA teacher, I greatly appreciate explanations like this!)

However, I must continue to engage in the new language which accompanies these technologies. I am looking forward to the day when I can say that I speak English, French, and Web 2.0.