Posted in Google Plus, Reflection, Social Media, TC@Columbia

Meaningful Learning With Photography

What if there were a way to use a technology in a meaningful way that promoted inquiry, deeper levels of thinking and sparked conversations in your classroom? Would you use that technology? What if I sweetened the pot and said that the technology requires little training, just about everybody already carries one and probably already knows how to use it?

What is a Picture Worth?

If you take at look these pictures can you see my story? Could you tell me where I live? What I’m doing? Where I’m going? What kind of day it is? What could you tell me about me? About my life? How would you support your answers with only the pictures as your data?

Now take a look at these pictures and tell me a different story. Talk to me about resources, infrastructure, quality of life and global warming.

What do these pictures say about socio-economic, policy making, healthcare and crime? Do you see a math, literature or health lesson in them?

Are these pictures meaningful learning in action?

The Role of Technology in Meaningful Learning

The role of technology must change from technology-as-the-teacher to technology-as-the-partner in the learning process. But how is this accomplished? How do we use technology as an intellectual partner with students? Learning with technology assumes that:

  • Technology is more than hardware. Technology also consists of the designs and the environments that engage learners.
  • Learning technologies can be any environment or definable set of activities that engage learners in active, constructive, intentional, authentic and cooperative learning.
  • Technologies do not convey or communicate meaning.
  • Technologies support meaningful learning when they fulfill a learning need-when interactions with the technology is learner initiated and learner controlled and when the technology interaction is conceptually and intellectually engaging.
  • Technologies should function as intellectual tools that enable learners to build more meaningful personal interpretations and representations of the world. The tool must support the intellectual functions that are required by the course of study.
  • Learners and technologies should be intellectual partners, where the cognitive responsibility for performance is distributed to the partner that performs it better.  — (Jonassen, 2011)

Using Photography for Meaningful Learning

What if I wanted to explore politics, or war, or the developing world or education in Africa and compare it to education in America? Do these pictures say more than words can? Often we use pictures as brainstorms, or conversation starters. But how can we use nothing but pictures to achieve meaningful learning?

In Literature

Photography could be used to by the learner to create a personal interpretation of the novel, or as a way to build a representation of the novel’s key themes.

In Math

Photography could be used to convey geometrical shapes, patterns, or lines of symmetry. Scale, distance, or even angles could be explored and measured.

In Science

Photography could be used to convey physics, chemistry and even biology concepts.

In Social Studies

Photography could be used to convey government policy, social injustice, geography, and even history.

The Tools of Life

On my way into work today I used my iPhone4, Instagram and Flickr to create a story of my journey. The tools that I used were tools that I already owned. Most of our students carry these same tools and already know how to use them. What if we took the example of my walk and used that as a team building exercise at the beginning of the year?  What if we asked those same students to take 1 daily photo of themselves and upload it to a class Flickr group? What would those pictures tell us at the beginning, middle and end of the year about these students?

Meaningful learning happens when the learner is able to connect what they are learning to the  world in which they live. How do the themes of To Kill a Mockingbird relate to the crisis in Ukraine? How is geometry used to convey feeling in architecture? What does the war of 1812 have to do with poverty today?

Photography allows us a more robust canvas to express and show how we are making meaning out of our learning.  Meaningful learning with photography is just one powerful way that you can use technology to have your learners inquire, think more deeply and reflect upon their own learning.


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