Rosie Parmigiani: A Picture is Worth 1000 Words

From Discovery Educator Rosie Parmigiani:

For years we have heard and listened to that comment. In classroom, we still use that battle cry. But in reality, is a picture worth a thousand words? Why not two thousand or five thousand, or a million?

Reality…pictures are pictures, the interpretation is the words. The words are limited only by experience and imagination.

Teachers for years used 35mm cameras, or “toss away” cameras, planning to create slide shows or collages of pictures. But, the product had to wait for development. Then Polaroid developed the instant camera, but the pictures faded and yellowed over time, which made it impractical for future projects. But teachers kept at it, saving everything in film for the future.

I don’t know about you but I have 40 or 50 boxes of processed slides lying around my house, but no slide projector around to view them. Great invention slides, they were to help your memories last forever. Oh yeah, the memories last, just can’t look at them!

So, enter digital photography. Now, with the help of technology visual arts is reborn in the classroom. But, not every teacher can figure out how to embrace this new technology to enhance the learning process, other than in PowerPoint presentations.

Which leads me to a book I have recently acquired that is probably one of the best written for teachers on integrating digital photography in the classroom. 

Bill Naab in his book “44 Fun, Fast and Flashy Ways to Use Digital Cameras in Your Classroom”, published by Brewer Technologies, is full of practical, easy to follow activities that incorporate digital photography in just about every curriculum area, for students as well as teachers.

Each page is filled with ideas for curriculum integration and the ISTE National Educational Technology Standards covered by the lesson. One of the greatest features of the book, are the “quick Tips” on each page that provide information on everything from types of digital cameras to photography basics such as composition, depth, rules of thirds and many other photography jargoned “Stuff” that make photography work.

One of my favorite set of pages discusses in length how to use Microsoft Photo Story 3 for Windows XP. This software, free for download, helps create a “Photo Story” by combining photos, special effects, soundtracks, voice over narration, title and captions.

Just imagine, using this in the classroom during science class to record what actually happened in an experiment, or to create a story in English class related to the genre students are studying. How about the teacher creating a “Photo Story” of a trip to a historic site which could be reviewed after returning or saved for future use in the classroom. 

What about those of us who during the summer like to “prepare for the next year” creating activities in any curriculum area that can be use individually by students for review, remediation or enrichment? The possibilities are endless.

Besides this wonderful “Photo Story”, Bill shares ideas for primary teachers to use with “little guys” such as, the students take pictures of each other “forming the letters “of the alphabet with their bodies. Then, search the Internet for additional pictures, slap it all into a word processor and voila! Their own personal ABC Book.

This book is full of ideas: Creating Trading Cards, Scavenger Hunts, and Seating Charts with the child’s picture for the substitute, Nature Activities, Classroom Remember When, Community Before and After, Mapping Skills and many more.

I could explain many more activities, but then there would be nothing for you to explore.   So, discover this book, try the activities and let me know your impressions. Until then, “keep on snapping!” and remember ….a picture is a thousand words!


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  1. Barbra Bannon said:

    Wouldn’t it be great to coodinate district-wide, beginning even from Kindergarten to create a Photo-Story of a particular class as they progress K-12. At graduation, present the Photo-Story through the years montage crated by these students themselves…just a thought…
    Great article.. got me thinking!

  2. Barbra Bannon said:

    Wouldn’t it be great to coodinate a district-wide long term project, beginning even from Kindergarten to create a Photo-Story of a particular class as they progress K-12. At graduation, present the Photo-Story through the years montage created by these students themselves…just a thought…
    Great article.. got me thinking!

  3. Kristin Hokanson said:

    I can’t WAIT to get my hands on this book!!!!! Kids are all about themselves so to be able to use their own pictures with their own words is an invaluable experience–and I am always looking for new ideas. Our kids are using photostory as early as THIRD GRADE to enhance their “wax museum” projects.
    Barbara–what a GREAT idea!!!!!
    Super article–I look forward to seeing what everyone is doing with digital pictures.

  4. Maryann Molishus said:

    Rosie, Using digital photography in my second grade classroom has been quite rewarding. I started about four years ago as I worked on my master’s thesis (integrating digital photography into the second grade language arts curriculum). I have found that I have found that many struggling students are about to take on leadership roles in when digital photography is used. The students are introduced to our digital cameras at the beginning of the year. The cameras are then available as learning tools for the children, just like the pencils, scissors, crayons, etc. The children do use the cameras to document science activities. We use the photos to create our own “second grade science text books.” Very grown up!! I now have “press passes” for my students. One or two children are given the cameras during school assemblies and special events and are free to roam the event to take the photos. It is very empowering.

  5. Maryann Molishus said:

    Sorry for not proofreading. I clicked post before rereading. I hope you can make out what I was saying. Yikes!!!!

  6. Phy Chauveau said:

    Rosie- The book you mentioned sounds fantastic. What great ideas! I cannot imagine a day without photography in my classroom, and I am always looking for new ideas. I have been excited about photography in the classroom since my early days as a student teacher. Aren’t we spoiled, nowadays, that we don’t need to have slides and photographs developed?

    Most recently, I sent teams of students out on a geometry scavenger hunt, entitled Where Has Polygon? They needed to locate random geometric shapes that I’d given them in a sealed envelope. When they returned to the classroom, each team downloaded and saved their files in iPhoto, then proceeded to create individual Inspiration graphic organizers to sort and classify the shapes they had photographed around our campus. Part of this process involved adding “notes” in Inspiration where they defined each shape. Even my weaker math students went on to score surprisingly well on their geometry tests, and I do think that this is because they could better visualize the concepts. They really owned those images and made important learning connections.

    We have also done digital storytelling projects as thank you gifts for guest speakers and classroom helpers. Students take pictures during the project, and each student then has a chance to write the script for any particular photo. (Photos are projected as writing prompts, and everyone works at the same time writing potential script entries.) I work with the class to choose the best narrative for each photo, and of course, everyone ends up with several parts. We do our recordings in GarageBand, and then coordinate the photos and audio in an iMovie. I demonstrate the process at the start, and then I have a student “trainer” assist the rest of the students with recording and saving the files. I’ve found it extremely helpful to use a headset that has a noise reducing microphone. (Do you know of any really quiet classrooms??)

    I agree with Kristin H. that students do an incredible job of rising to the occasion when technology of any sort is involved. One of my students who barely utters a word in class amazed all of us when it was her turn to record. What a natural! The class broke into spontaneous applause because of the enthusiasm and animation in her voice. The grin on her face said it all. She was quickly voted “narrator” for our upcoming podcast about Ancient China.

    Rosie – thanks for getting the discussion going about digital photography and the learning it promotes! It’s great to hear everyone’s ideas.

  7. Chris Champion said:

    Rosie – I have to concurr with other commenters – PhotoStory has transformed the traditional photo album and has moved student portfolios to EASY multimedia experiences – in High School, many students complete graduation portfolios – imagine how impressive a PhotoStory would be as an addition to students’ portfolio.

  8. Donna LaRosa said:

    As usual, you are right on target. I know that I will be able to use your ideas (and, hopefully, borrow your book). Now that we have purchased more cameras, I will be able to put the classes into groups and let them explore more about digital photography and technology. I am also looking forward to using the PhotoStory. Thanks! Donna

  9. Gil Dyrli said:

    Thanks for the interesting article! It takes me back to a teacher workshop I once took in Boston, where we were each given a camera and asked to prepare a photo essay on a neighborhood. That experience got me to “see” as I had never seen before, and you motivate me to try something like that again! Thanks!

  10. RJ Stangherlin said:

    Well, Rosie, you got me to buy not one but two digital cameras that now live at school. I also bought a CD-DVD player that has a VHS converter. So now I can take all my aging VHS tapes of student presentations and with the push of a button, I have three VHS tapes on one DVD. You are an expensive motivator.

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