Sunday, November 22, 2009


Flickr is a tool that has grown exponentially as a place to share photos with friends, family and the world. In addition to sharing photos, Flickr is a social network where people have conversations and post comments to photos. Its openness is reminiscent of Wikipedia before editorial review and embodies the spirit of democracy. But should students be set loose in this vast democratic world of Flickr? While the site has great promise for education, it can be a problem for teachers to allow students full access to the photos since the bad can be easily discovered along with the good. While students should be taught how to survive in a world increasingly connected socially via the web, schools need to proceed cautiously for their student’s safety. Most educators are leery of putting up photos with faces of students and may compromise by uploading images that don’t have children’s faces as a way of sharing images with parents.

There is also the legality of uploading images of students to consider. In our school district, each parent has to sign a media usage waiver and indicate what level of media access he or she approves. The list of students with various levels of approval is long making the uploading of images more complicated. That said, I know of many parents who enjoy seeing photos that the teacher has taken in the classroom. How much openness is okay? That is a question that is still being answered by school districts in regards to Flickr, YouTube and many other social networking sites.

I am not a teacher, but as a photographer and dedicated parent, I developed a unique photography unit 3 years ago as part of a 4th grade cultural partnership with the Guggenheim Museum. I introduce photography to the students and then they get a chance to explore photography as an art form. The unit is extremely popular with all the students, and especially with those who often despise art and those who have attention or disciplinary issues because taking photos is so much fun and engaging.

Since the students often take photos of other students, I can’t use Flickr to add a social element to this project. However, I found one idea that I could use for this project and I could also see it being used in a writing class as well. The group is called “Stories You Can Tell in School” ( The idea is to have a small set of photographs (4 – 6) tell a story. In the discussion, there are several wonderful stories that have been uploaded.

Here are two I liked a lot. The Birdfeeder shows a man on a motorcycle going into a plaza, the birds there the congregate around him and he starts feeding them. This story has an extensive description of each photo attached so that the story is both visual and verbal. My personal favorite is called Practical Hero, which is about a toy GI Joe going into the washing machine to retrieve a lost sock and then gets a hero’s kiss from the mother. Now words are needed – the photos are composed very well and clearly tell the story.

I might use this idea next year when I teach my photography unit. What is great about this use of Flickr is that students can stay out of the picture (avoiding the legal issues). To be honest, I’m not sure I would be able to upload to Flickr given that the students are only in 4th grade, but this is an idea that is an excellent way to use Flickr in education.

Standon, Amy. (2009)
My friend Flickr: A great photo opportunity. Retrieved November 22, 2009 from

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