Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Opinions matter!

Last week was the first week my photojournalism class started using the cameras. (I was trying to put it off, because it meant they'd be going outside taking pictures, and it was still around 110 degrees outside.) So, after spending weeks on introductory work with rules, writing captions, and learning photo rules, we finally busted out the cameras.

And it was a disaster. Actually, it wasn't terrible, it was just that 45 minutes was not even close to long enough to do what I wanted. I had been going over practices that make quality photos, having them choose a few practices, and then going outside with the cameras to try it out. This worked really well, in fact, because they loved examining what made a good picture (we'd look at 2 pix side by side, identifying why one was better than the other), and then they had fun trying to take their version of "artistic" photos after that. The problem came when we tried to upload the pictures in the last 3 minutes of class, never having done it before. (They had also never used iPhoto.)

This is a classic mistake I tend to make when teaching a new technology. I give the kids plenty of credit in terms of using the technological savvy that their generation has to "figure things out" without much explanation, however they tend to need more time to do it than I think. Which was exactly what happened here. Also, another critical error I made was having an inadequate check-out system for the cameras, which resulted in 2 cameras being stolen during the first class of the first day!! Under severe threat of field trip removal, they were returned by lunch, but I became very aware of a need to change my system.

So, the next day, I changed things up by shortening the discussion of how to take good pictures, reviewing camera rules, creating a sign-out/sign-in sheet for the cameras, and keeping the kids in the room to take pictures. Still disastrous, and I had my worst class coming up! Hence, over my lunch period, we did a total revamp. Out of frustration, I just wrote all the instructions on the board for a new lesson that involved beginning with iPhoto, then taking a picture and uploading it. Then, when the class came in, I asked their opinion if they wanted to go through all the steps together, or whether they wanted to just read them and work at their own pace. They chose to work at their own pace, and it worked like a charm. They immediately got started and it was as close to quiet as that room has ever been. What a relief!

I kept following this pattern with the rest of my 8th grade classes the rest of the week and it worked great. Most classes chose to work individually, but a couple chose to work together. No matter what they chose, it worked remarkably better than the original system, I think because they had input into how they were going to take in the information. Let's face it, when you're 14, all you want in life is to be in charge, even if in a very small way. Lesson learned: give them a choice!

This is the set of steps I eventually ended up using for this lesson:

1. Take a screen shot of something on your desktop (Command+Shift+4 on Mac)
2. Open iPhoto.
3. Create a new folder in iPhoto with your name (File-->New Folder).
4. Create a new album in iPhoto labelled "First Try" (File-->New Album).
5. Drag your album into your folder.
6. Drag your screenshot into your album.
7. Memorize the Camera Rules. Tell them to Mrs. Shetler in order to sign out a camera.
8. With a partner, each take a picture of one THING in the classroom (no people!)
9. Upload your pictures into iPhoto and drag them into your album.
10. (If time,) select the picture and edit it in iPhoto.

(The photo is by one of my students, taken on Constitution Day.)

No comments: