Nathan Black – Using Pictures To Create CI

I really appreciate Nathan’s kind response to my request that he expand on a comment he made here about using pictures in our CI classrooms. Here is a nice text that really lays out a lot of details about this thread that Jim started last week:
I love having my students surf the internet to find pictures for class.  Why? They’re much better at it than I am.  I generally go for anything that would get a reaction: strong emotions, ugly clothes, animals of any kind.  That said, my best trick is to watch who is having the most fun finding pictures or shadow whoever is most likely to drop a quirk-bomb and watch what they come up with to get my best ideas. Who knew that Darth Vader loves to eat tacos?  Who knew how many military poses you can find squirrels in?  Go figure. 
Sometimes scenarios really help: “An accident waiting to happen” has always been a favorite of mine, but also ideas such as “What NOT to give your sister for her birthday”, “What does ‘curious’ look like?” or “The ‘true’ story about how I got the scar on my thumb” give focus to people who have a lower chaos tolerance than I do.  Often I don’t know what I want until I see it (and neither do they) but somehow it is always out there.
I generally ask each student to come up with between 8-10 pictures for me for each full class period we have to work with.  In finding good pictures, quantity IS quality.  I go through the submissions afterwards and just grab whatever strikes my fancy, putting those pictures into one master file.  I try to be roughly fair, but don’t overdo it.  Some kids just have the knack for the process, and I let them shine. 
The nuts and bolts of gathering and displaying the pictures is largely a matter of what’s available and personal preference.  Our school uses an online classroom management system (Moodle) that allows me to post things to a class site and have students turn things back to me online.  This makes the process of gathering my students’ pictures very slick, but before Moodle I just used my jump drive and started collecting everything about seven minutes before class ended; train your students how to have a copy of their file sitting waiting on their desktops for you, and it only takes a few seconds per computer.  The main trick involved is to have your students put their names in the actual file name of the Word document, so that you can easily sort the files later.
In the classroom itself, I usually go with our LCD projector to display them as that requires less prep work for me. I use a cordless 2.4 Ghz mouse with a 30 foot range, so I can stroll around the class while still moving from picture to picture, but it’s not always the best tool for the job.  Sometimes I want students to work in groups with pictures to come up with stories, so I’ll just print off quarter page sized pictures of several photos (very simple using the Photo Printing Wizard standard to Windows computers; double click any photo and hit the printer icon to get to the Wizard) and just deal each group a different set.  Using full-page printouts instead of the LCD also has the added advantage of giving you a built-in excuse to slow things down and get a bunch of repetitions in as you are walking the picture around the class for everyone to see it.
Dealing with lighting when you use an LCD projector is always a bit of a trick, because you don’t want a dark room when trying to get a discussion going about your pictures.  Lights off is code at the high school level for “kick it into neutral.” The lights in my room allow me to switch off some of the florescent bulbs while leaving others on, which is what I usually do.  This is usually sufficient for my needs, despite some calls for all lights off (which is when I chide my students for being vampires who hate the light).   I don’t need photo-perfect quality; in fact I usually don’t want the visual to be so pristine that the verbal gets too back-burnered.  However, I couldn’t resist a tweak: I got my janitor to take a florescent tube out of the lighting fixture that is directly above my screen.  This creates a relatively darker patch there that makes things workable with the LCD while keeping the room lights on. 
Once you have the photos back in the classroom—however you choose to display them—the payoff comes as you can just riff to your heart’s content.  The big trick, of course, in doing a series or collection of photos is getting to SLOW, because everybody always wants to see what’s next (particularly if their photo hasn’t appeared yet).  Students love creative pictures, but mostly they want to know whose picture it was and when their picture is going to show up.  I try to remind myself that this tension is my friend; students enjoy the novelty in each new picture, but the faster I go, the less the novelty satisfies. 
The real payoff, though, is that I can usually give major props through picture selection to a student who flys under the radar otherwise.  I enjoy getting to know my quiet visual types through the pictures they give me; how do they find these amazing pictures?  It’s part of who they are.
Make stories evolve out of combining two or more pictures. As a class or in smaller groups, take random groupings of pictures and generate stories out of them (like Ben does with his word list; just do a picture list). Mostly, though, don’t give in to the constant call for “NEXT!”  And when you figure out how to, let me know, because I’m still working on that.



3 thoughts on “Nathan Black – Using Pictures To Create CI”

  1. About Pics4Learning
    Pics4Learning is a copyright-friendly image library for teachers and students. The Pics4Learning collection consists of thousands of images that have been donated by students, teachers, and amateur photographers. Unlike many Internet sites, permission has been granted for teachers and students to use all of the images donated to the Pics4Learning collection.

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