A photosharing adventure

July 9, 2009

As I eagerly read Will Richardson’s book, Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms, hungry for information on the ins and outs of photosharing, I can’t help but be slightly wary of making my personal life visible to the world. Perhaps these concerns arise from not having a complete understanding of photosharing sites like flickr  and their privacy settings, or maybe these concerns are in fact valid. This is a discussion I look forward to having with others who have more experience and knowledge on this matter. I believe that one can venture into the jungle we call the world wide web, but you best not go out without your flint, hunting knife, and knowledge of which plants are poisonous. Like a jungle, the web is amazing, but also harbors dangers. I strongly feel it is necessary to provide students with the tools and skills they need to conduct themselves in a safe manner on the web. It goes without saying that adults, myself included, would also benefit from reminders now and again.

When my family and I first moved to Korea, we shared our photos and journals on a subscription based site called PlanetRanger.com. This site was incredibly easy to use and did, in fact, offer video sharing tools and  the option of backing up the albums to CD. Once Facebook, a FREE photosharing site became more popular with my friends and family, it became the site I faithfully posted pictures to. Not only is it free, but it is quick and easy to use with convenient options like birthday reminders…I’m awful with dates. I now believe that Facebook provides a somewhat false sense of security with its privacy settings. I was under the impression that only my accepted friends and family were able to see the pictures I posted on Facebook. I learned that this is not necessarily the case as friends of friends are also able to see the pictures I post. I am slowly becoming more skeptical of Facebook. While it is a great tool for satisfying one’s curiosity about what acquaintances, friends, and family are doing,  I suppose it is time to give another photosharing site a chance. Rather than attempt to dabble in all of the photosharing sites out there, I decided to consult Lisa Schamchuck’s comparison of photobucket, flickr, and picasa  . Her post persuaded me to give flickr a shot, as its potential educational uses seemed most obvious.

Initially, setting up the Yahoo account for flickr made me a little nervous as I had to divulge a lot of personal information, followed by a screen asking me for permission to make a copy of all my sensitive data to a server in Korea. There was also a disclaimer that flickr cannot promise that Korea has the same privacy protection rights as the U.S. Eek! I chose not to have a copy made to the Korean server. Uploading photos individually was simple, made even easier with the batch tools allowing me to upload and categorize even more efficiently. Victory! I created a slide show as I played around with the flickr site. I attempted to embed this slide show into my blog post, using the HTML code flickr so conveniently provided, but I have not yet been successful. Please, if there is anyone with words of wisdom on how to do this, your advice would be greatly appreciated, as I have already spent 6 hours of my trying to figure it out.

 After playing with flickr and researching its educational applications, I feel slightly more equipped to make an evaluation of this tool and its usefulness in the classroom, in the library, and in my own learning. Implications for the classroom and library include opportunities for students to extend their learning beyond the walls of the classroom and to share their learning with an authentic audience. Students all over the world can work collaboratively on projects sharing photos of a particular concept in different geographical locations. For example Grade 5 students in South Korea and Canada may be studying ecosystems. They might decide to take pictures of the different ecosystems in their community, annotate these with comments, and share with fellow learners across the world. A collaborative project where they determine how different ecosystems require certain environmental factors might ensue. Students are also able to express themselves using images in digital storytelling (suggestions provided by David Jake), PowerPoint presentations, portfolios, and so on. Alan Levine posts a brilliant presentation titled, “What Can We Do With Flickr” to give educators more ideas on ways to use flickr as a learning tool with your students. Also check out, “The Great Flickr Tools Collection” for suggested uses of flickr in the classroom.

 In Library 2.0 and Beyond , Brian Mathews (2007) talks about using photosharing as a way of “Showing them the library” (p.82). This would provide parents and community members, who may not see the library very often, an opportunity to know what is happening in the library. What a great way to advocate for your library and the programs you provide. Flickr, and other photosharing websites, would prove useful in giving outsiders an inside look at the library, making it more inviting. With regards to my own learning, photosharing sites, such as flickr, enable me to locate a visual representation of whatever topic I am inquiring about. Being a visual learner, this is definitely an advantage for my learning style. The Creative Commons site has enabled my learning of copyright laws and ownership rights. From my limited knowledge and experience with flickr, I would say that the potential uses for this tool are limited only by the imagination.

 Is it necessary to jump on the photosharing bandwagon? In Lauren Barack’s article, “Social Media Specialist,” (School Library Journal, June 2009), she reiterates Joyce Valenza’s message that, “The American Association of School Librarians’ Standards for the 21st-Century Learner require students to possess not only relevant technology skills, but also an understanding of the ethical gathering of information-on all digital and social platforms. Media specialists… must be at the forefront of this effort.” Most of the photosharing websites offer students an opportunity to learn how to upload, search, tag, organize, and edit photos. Sites such as The Creative Commons help students become aware of copyright and ownership laws. At this point in my learning, the benefits of using a photosharing website such as flickr in my teaching and learning far outweigh my discomfort with privacy issues. However, I would definitely want to equip my students with the tools and skills they need to survive in this virtual jungle.



  1. Thanks for linking to me! I’m glad I could help.

  2. Thank-you for sharing this information. You have a great number of valuable sites offered here. I agree that the searching and trying out of sites takes the majority of the day.

    Very informative.

  3. Thanks, Natasha. It’s interesting to think that the privacy ‘rules’ are so different in different countries. Gives you even more to think about! How do you see photosharing sites like Flickr as a way of teaching kids about visual/information literacy? Can you think of ways that you could use photosharing with kids beyond simply taking and uploading photos? What other value do sites like this have for teaching and learning?

    • Hi Joanne
      The images on flickr could be used in many ways. In my context specifically, I work with many ESL learners, and having visual representation to accompany vocabulary words and concepts is crucial.These images could accompany words on the word wall. Another method I have used is the concept attainment method using words and pictures as examples and non-examples of a particular concept -flickr would make setting this up, much easier:)
      For students, flickr would be a great tool to use when creating PowerPoints and other visual presentations. In writing, images from flickr could be used to provoke an analysis of the meaning of image or students could be asked to connect to an image. In Science, students can use images from flickr to create a visual representation of step by step procedures for an experiment. In Math, students could go on a flickr hunt for geometric shapes, then use these to create playground or building. And my personal favorite, students can use flickr to create a photo journal of their summer vacation. The possibilities really are endless, as a teaching tool, learning tool, and for entertainment:)

  4. I’m interested that your RSS feed is very different. Is that what is associated with your blog format or could you share how to set up the blogs so that the mini-screen pops up when scrolled over?
    Thanks again,

    • Hi Joanne
      The mini screen that shows up has always done so, so I assume it is just what comes with this blog format. I do have an option to turn off the mini screen, but I have never had to turn it on so to speak. I’m sorry I could not be of more help.

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