By Becky Shiring

As a teacher, I often felt a disconnect between field trips and the classroom. After taking my class on a trip, we would return to the classroom the following day. I would ask students, “So, what did you learn about the Civil War from yesterday’s trip?” Blank stares were all I received in return. Field trips provide the opportunity for experiential learning and are a nice way to shake up the everyday classroom routine. But sometimes it can be difficult to take classes on a field trip and synthesize the whole experience with classroom instruction. However, when you incorporate artifacts from the trip into the classroom, such as photographs, the learning becomes much more cohesive.

Flickr, a popular photo sharing website, is a great tool for bridging the classroom and field trips. The site is free to use and requires a Yahoo account to join (Yahoo is a free email service, you can join here). What makes Flickr unique and ideal for education is that the site gives the user a dummy email that can be shared with students. This dummy email is not a separate email account, it is simply an address to share with students that links with your Flickr account and accepts pictures. This way you can maintain your personal Yahoo account without having to share your actual email address with students. Once you provide students with the dummy email, they can take pictures with their phones and email them to your Flickr account. These pictures then automatically appear in your photostream for the class to see.

Here are a few simple steps for setting up Flickr:

  1. Sign-up for a Flickr account.
  2. Click your user profile icon in the top right corner and select settings.
  3. Click on Emails & Notifications and find your Flickr upload email.
  4. Share this email with students along with instructions for emailing pictures. Instructions for emailing pictures from a phone can be found here.

Screenshot: Flickr

Last year my class was learning about Native Americans. In class we completed a series of readings devoted to the topic and then had a trip planned to visit the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC. Before the trip, I assigned pairs of students different Native American tribes to research at the museum. While students were at the museum, they took pictures of artifacts from their assigned tribe and then emailed these pictures with a sentence or two about the artifact to the Flickr email. The next day in class, I displayed the pictures from my Flickr photostream using a projector and had students discuss what they learned and how this information related to our pre-trip lesson. Simply adding photos to the post-trip discussion made a world of difference in the complexity and richness of the conversation.  Flickr allows students to be active participants in their own learning and has the added benefit of giving students practice with emailing and sharing information from a phone.

Other ideas for using Flickr in the classroom:

  • Have students capture pictures to represent new vocabulary.
  • Have students take a picture of something outside of class and write a sentence as a quick homework assignment.
  • Send students on a photo scavenger hunt where pairs have to find and take pictures of items on a list related to your lesson.
  • Capture moments from class celebrations

What other ideas do you have? Have you used photo sharing in your classroom? Share with us in the comments!

Becky Shiring is the Training Manager at Silent Circle, a technology company focused on privacy and security in digital environments. She also works with various organizations in the DC Metro area to provide professional development focused on technology integration. She has taught a variety of ESOL and ABE classes since 2006.  

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