Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Digital Photo Project: A Tech Mentoring Story

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In my Technology Mentoring work, I have the great pleasure to work with ABE/ESL teachers around the state who are committed to making technology a part of their classrooms.  One of my current projects is working with Jan Olsen Stone's beginning ESL class at the MORE school in St. Paul.  Her class has been working on basic computer literacy (learning how to turn on the laptop computers, learning basic vocabulary like "double click" and "press Ctrl-Alt-Del," and using Google to search for websites and photos).  This week I worked with Jan to plan the next big step for the students - taking their own photos using digital cameras.

The first 90 minutes of the class was spent on learning vocabulary for the camera (lens, shutter button, focus, etc.) and how to use the cameras.  Students learned to make simple sentences like "The camera has a lens," and "Press the button to take a picture."  (A lesson which was periodically interrupted by tornado sirens.  Yikes!  Luckily, no tornadoes.  Whew!)  The second hour was spent on a field trip to the local Sears department store.  Each of the four small groups of students had one camera (all provided by teachers & class volunteers).  The students' task: take pictures of each other with items in the store they would like to know the names of.  You can see some of the results above and the full sets can be seen on the Jan's Class1 Flickr page.

After class, the teacher, class volunteer, and I downloaded all the pictures the students had taken and uploaded them to the Flickr site.  Now that the pictures are accessible, Jan has a wealth of content to mine for language lessons.  Here are some ideas we have for what she and the students will do with the photos:
  • write a Language Experience Story about the field trip and illustrate it with a selection of photos
  • use the photos to teach new vocabulary (the original purpose!) and grammar such as prepositions
  • categorize items in the photos (clothing department - women's - shirts)
  • students can copy and paste photos from the Flickr site into Word documents and write sentences to describe them.
Jan plans to continue to use digital photo projects throughout her summer school session.  Other photography assignment ideas for her students include:
  • taking pictures of things that are a certain color
  • taking pictures of things that surprised them or were new to them when they came to the U.S.
  • taking pictures of places in the community (walking around the neighborhood)
  • taking pictures of signs in the community (also a walking project)
Working with this class really reminded me that cameras provide a unique and powerful tool for prompting engagement with one's surroundings.  In our students' hands, they can give us such rich content for language learning.  I hope you'll think about trying something like this with your students too!


DJ said...

Great idea! If you are going to do this with a class, just make sure that the store is okay with taking pictures. When I worked in retail, we were told to alert security immediately if we saw pictures being taken. So it would be a good idea to check with the store first.

Susan WB said...

Hi DJ,

Good point! In fact, although I neglected to mention it in the blog post, Jan has taken students on field trips to this location in the past and has spoken with the store manager about it. But you're right, whenever you go on a field trip *anywhere* it's a good idea to get permission first!