Parents are always concerned about how to motivate kids with new and unique ways to encourage learning. The way to their hearts if often through their technology or technology in general. Digital photography whether it is with a digital phone or a digital camera is a way to get them hooked into a subject using technology. There is nothing that can’t be made more interesting through the use of photography.
Our children are certainly members of the technology generation. The first time I truly felt old was the day I took a phonograph record to school when we were working on sound. I was really surprised to realize that there were children in the room who had not seen a photograph record. After I thought about it a while I realized that my seventh graders have always had compact discs. They have never lived without cell phones. Most have never had to “dial” a telephone. Instead they push buttons. In some cases they simply tell the phone to “call mom”.
The digital camera provides another way to encourage kids to process information. Let’s say you are working on sequencing steps in a process. In the old days you might have the kids list the steps in some process like baking a cake. That’s ok. It might even interest some kids. But the truth is that writing the steps down just might pose a problem with motivation. But more important a pencil and paper project might not provide the deep processing that we all need in order to completely learn what we need to know.
You do the same things. Have the kids carefully read the recipe. Then gather the materials. Get everything lined out to do the recipe. Now is where the process will change radically. Instead of writing down the steps or recording on paper what is done the child will photograph each step. An important thing is to encourage your child to set up the lesson just as if he or she were photographing it for Food Network.
Your child will be motivated, by the technology, to think very carefully about what must come first, second, third and so on. If it were me I would have the child plan the steps on a computer rather than on paper. This will allow the child to cut and paste later as they get ready to present their “sequencing” exercise.
Have the child set up the first step. You might be the “assistant photographer”. Perhaps the child would rather use a tripod and use the the cameras time delay system to maintain complete control. Set up and take the first photograph. Continue this process until the child is finished with the cake right down to icing it, cutting it and serving it.
Download the pictures into the computer. Then use some kind of presentation program such as PowerPoint or the Google Docs application to design a step by step presentation. The student will then type steps to explain the slides with photographs or perhaps make a movie using an application like Movie Maker which is found with windows.
Lets say that you are working on a science project involving leaf types. Often kids are asked to draw the shapes, label them, make cards to drill the types of leaves and try to learn in that way. Good enough. But there is a better way. Make a list of the various leaf types. Check a guidebook for your area out of the library. Then take the camera to a local public park to photograph all the leaf types that can be found. Photograph everything. Photography even avoids touching the infamous poison ivy or poison oak but still getting examples of their leaf types. Bring home your samples in digital form. Down load them to the computer. Your budding scientist will then use a presentation program or perhaps a word processing program to create a booklet of leaf forms as the completion of the assignment.
Today I tweeted a hint to encourage parents who were trying to teach their children angles to take your child out with a camera to photograph as many acute, obtuse and right angles as they can find. These can be presented in any way imaginable.
Collect pictures of various types of animals at the zoo. Perhaps the student is working to learn the different phyla of animals. Off to the zoo you go with the camera to photograph animals you would never have a chance to see in any other way.
There is no limit to what can be done with a digital camera and imagination. Any subject—-I repeat —- any subject can be aided with the use of digital photography as a way to motivate you child with a subject.
In the near future, I will be working with projects involving digital video. Video may actually be more appealing to your child. Anything you can do with a camera, you can do with a digital video camera. You can for instance compile a tour of the historical sites around your city. Any child could take that recipe idea making a Food Network style show. Any process can be demonstrated from the steps of a recipe to how to assemble any kind of craft project. Want to get a child hooked on writing? Have the child write a script for a digital video program on some subject of interest to the child.
A few years ago a brilliant teacher had students in the Appalachian Mountains collect information on the “old ways” of their grandparents. They interviewed each of the elders. Then they took the interview material to school. There they wrote books that were actually published.
Can you imagine what you could do with your family history if you had your child do a genealogy project, or grandmothers recipes, or grandfathers hobbies. Can you imagine how valuable it will be to you to have video taped interviews with all the elders in the family. Trust me on this nothing will be more valuable in the future as a video record of what has gone before in your family tree. You will one day be glad you had your child do the project.
Look for more on this subject in the coming days. I have also written a small booklet on this subject — teaching with digital photography — which will be available here on this site soon.