Constructivism with Flickr

I teach photography in the Spring each year. I have usually started with traditional black and white and then we do a section on digital. This year, we’re mixing it up a bit. I’m having students shoot digital and print at the same time. Lots of hands on picture taking, developing. I’m asking them to compare the digital with the print process.

We’re using flickr to post all of our photos this semester. I’ve been experimenting with blogging for about a year now, and the flickr group functionality of creating conversation threads as well as being able to post and comment on photos seems an amazing addition to the classroom. So my 15 students all log in to flickr to post their photos. It takes a while to get through taking their first roll of film, developing it, and then printing pictures from the negatives, I feel as though we are just getting to the point where I can start using flickr more intensely.

The first few weeks of class, I had them post some photos and asked each student to comment on another student’s photos. This worked alright, but because of all of the in class work on developing, not all students partook.

I’ve also recently read Instructional Strategies that Work from ASCD recently and their #1 research based practice to improve student learning is comparing and contrasting. Being a constructivist at heart, on Monday, I asked all of my students to answer the following question:

What learning experience in your life would you compare photography with thus far?

Here are some of the responses:

I feel that photography is in a different class from most learning experiences in that it is an almost entirely trial and error process. Most other learning experiences require us to study some knowledge, or to have a grasp on some abstract idea.

For me, photography is most similar to architecture in that they both require that certain ‘creative eye’ in order to tell what works, especially from an aesthetics standpoint.

I think photography is similar to being a little kid and learning things like your ABC’s, not because it’s easy, but because it requires a similar kind of recognition.

I would compare photography with learning a new language. I make this comparison because when first learning a new language, speaking it is difficult, and at time embarrassing.

Amazing — so today I’ll know what each student is constructing his knowledge on and be able to use those comparisons to better understand them in the classroom. Monday, we’ll be posting our first scanned negatives to flickr and will really begin to use the photo blogging functions.

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