Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Butterflies, Photography and Kindergarteners

I had the opportunity to chaperone my son’s field trip to the Butterfly Rainforest today. I brought the new Kidizoom camera my other son recently received for his birthday. Most of the children were interested in it but certain children were enthralled. I would have never allowed Kindergarteners to walk off with our $350 digital camera but risking a $60 investment is more than worth what transpired today.

It was fascinating to watch the children try to figure out how to best capture the butterflies, plants, birds, fish and turtles they were viewing. There were a lot of subtle lessons in those moments; lessons that are difficult to capture in whole group instruction and that will most likely never show up on a standardized test. How should I angle the camera to capture the part of my environment I want others to see? What happens when I point the camera skyward toward the sun or other light source? How can I position my body to take a picture of a fish through the bridge? How close is too close when attempting to capture images of wildlife? I could go and on but you probably get the point. Lessons abound in every day living; we just have to take the time to notice them in our adult lives (which seem to get more chaotic as the kids get older).

As I watched these kids engage with nature, with their school curriculum and with a digital camera I thought about how accurate Ricki Goldman-Segall really is when she suggests that we do a great disservice to kids by always taking pictures of them rather than allowing them to document their own thinking through photographs and other forms of multimedia.

There are a lot of things that could happen with these pictures but, given the time constraints of typical elementary classrooms, I simply brought the pictures home and tested out a beta Web 2.0 application called Animoto which creates professional looking slideshows on the fly. It is an interesting operation run by some young, hip video professionals. Videos of 30 seconds or less (approximately 12-15 images) are free while longer videos costs $3/video or $30/year. It is really quite simple: (1) upload your images, (2) pick some music and (3) click finalize.

So, check out the great fun we had on our trip today and keep in mind that the majority of these photos were taken by Kindergarteners. You will notice that the kids figured out how to set backgrounds on the Kidizoom (something that I didn’t even know was possible until today ☺).

I hope you will think of ways to peek into your child’s thoughts through multimedia. After all, we are raising 21st century children and who will prepare them for their digital future if we don’t?


Christopher D. Sessums said...

Pretty amazing stuff, Kara. The cuts between pictures moves quite fast. I wanted to slow them down just a tad. I guess I'm still used to old fashioned slide shows!

I also dig the idea of letting kids take the pictures. It really does open them up to a level of higher order thinking.

Finally, speaking of kids and cameras, have you seen Born into Brothels? An amazing story/documentary about a group of kids in India and their use of photography. The movie is heart-breaking and inspiring at the same time.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree with you more about the power of digital cameras in the hands of the students. It has become a focus of my curriculum this school year and the results have been amazing. Talk about peaking their interest. I was very fortunate to buy ten cameras this year. I've used them mostly with 3rd and 4th graders so far, but 1st graders will be searching for numbers in the world next week. Thanks for sharing your experience with K students. I'm thinking we can go on a shape or alphabet hunt. And, isn't animoto the coolest?

Anna Baralt

Kathryn said...

Hi Dr. Dawson,

It looks like you had a lot of fun!! Thanks for sharing!

- Kathryn :)