Friday, 9 August 2013

Using Images to Enhance Student Learning


It’s an animal that’s about the size of a Loonie (that’s a Canadian dollar coin to you non-Canadians), but sometimes it can grow to be heavier than a small child.  It’s usually green, but some are also shades of brown and black.  Some are “painted” with a yellow streak.  It has small eyes and flaring nostrils along with four stout legs.
Do you know what animal I’m describing?  Neither might your child or a student.  If I further continue my description to include that on some species of this animal, its tail looks like that of a dinosaur, can you now guess the animal?  Probably not.
If, however, I were to post or show you a picture of the animal I was describing, I am sure that at any age, almost everyone would be able to identify it.   Perhaps not the specific scientific name of the animal, but you would certainly be able to identify the species.
Learning, at any age, takes repetition. Have you ever watched a young child watch the same video over and over until they “get” it?  My aged mother has to repeat a new telephone number many times before as she says “it sinks into my old brain”.  But repetition of the same method of learning is not as good as being exposed to new material or a new concept in a variety of ways.  Just as we use our senses of touch, taste and smell to identify a food, learning about new concept, or, in this case a new animal, is made easier by the use of a variety of teaching methods in order to comprehend and grasp the new idea. One of the best learning methods is visual – seeing a picture.
Compare my talking about a “Teasel”, to that of seeing a picture of one.  A Teasel, by the way, is a genus of a flowering plant in the Disacaceae family known as Dipsacus.  It’s an amazing specimen of plant with lavender flowers located on prickly heads that form on tall stems.  The plant blooms on the heads in an outward fashion resulting in what looks like a purple floral belt.  The flowers continue to open blooming towards the top and bottom of the head leaving a barren cone where the spent flowers were.  Get the idea?  I’ll bet an image would help?
 

Teasel (Teazel or Teazle)
Although rather pretty,
Dipsacus is considered an invasive species.


Have you ever wondered where the term “a picture is worth a thousand words” came from?  Believed to have come from an article written by Fred R. Barnard used to promote images in advertising, the phrase affirms that a visual image can easily take the place of a lengthy, textual description.
Educators, be they teachers or parents, are ever in search of images to enhance their lessons.  In fact, students also have a great need for photographs for school projects and assignments.  Neither has much time to spend on research nor wants to expend the effort it takes to register and become a member of a website only to get access to a limited amount of free materials.  Paying for image resources – have you seen a teacher’s budget or a student’s allowance lately? – is usually out of the question.  Cutting and pasting images from your search engine’s internet image search result pages may result in your using images that are copyrighted.  Such usage is the same as stealing the work of others.
Find good sites that offer free images, bookmark them and check often for new materials.  If you do find a website that offers free photographs, read the Terms of Use carefully.  Ensure they hold the copyrights to the images and be very sure you understand what you can and cannot do with the pictures.  Be aware of any restrictions or requirements there may be for you to use and download the photos.
The animal described above, by the way, was a snapping turtle.  The reference to “painted” is in relation to Northern Ontario’s wide-spread Painted Turtle species. 
 
Tiiu Roiser  BAA, BEd.
 
Classroom ideas:  Use images -- to decorate your classroom, make vocabulary flash cards, include in slide presentations, add to your handouts & worksheets, provide as a resource for your students, and as inspiration for art work.  Images can help to illustrate items and sentence structure for English as a Second Language (ESL) students and may assist them in expressing their needs.  Consider making a picture book for young students.
 
To enhance your lesson plans and/or student projects, you can download 100% free images from FreeTiiuPix.com  There are no gimmicks and no registration is required.  Just follow the Terms of Use and download high resolution images and slide shows for use in the classroom.
The webmaster and owner of this blog is a retired teacher currently working with young children on a volunteer basis.  Although not a professional photographer, her work has been published on a variety of websites and some of her photographs are part of Environment Canada’s photo bank.  She has developed and maintains an educational website on which she freely shares her photographs and educational resources. 

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