Tag Archives: photo

Teaching with Google Images

canoes on google image search

In a recent meeting with the executive council of our student association, one of our class representatives suggested organizing a canoe trip.  Judging by the puzzled looks around the boardroom table, many students did not recognize this word.  So, I pulled up Google Images and did a search for canoe.  The results were similar to what you see above.  Instantly, students could understand the word and the discussion could continue.

I really enjoy the challenge of working with a group of students with a wide range of ability.  Using Google Image search is a good way to help level the playing field so that students can communicate with each other more efficiently.  If you have a projector and internet access in your classroom, images can be pulled up very quickly as a teaching aid.

A word of caution, though.  Be sure to set the Safe Search setting to “Use strict filtering” if you are doing a search in front of a whole class in order to reduce the chance of objectionable images appearing.  And be aware that even strict filtering is not 100% perfect.  So, if you are working with a group that is young or particularly sensitive to certain images, be ready to hit the back button immediately or, better yet, mute the image on the projector until the search comes up, preview the images, and then make the projection available to the class.

Once you begin using it, Google Image search is the kind of simple tool that you will wonder how you lived without.  While there are certainly benefits to having students define unknown terminology for each other, there are also times when you just want to provide a few words to define a term and move on.  In these cases, an image search is worth a thousand words.

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Show Me The Money

statue of liberty dollar coin

I’ve posted about finding royalty- and copyright-free images on line before.  In this post, I’d like to share an often overlooked source: the U.S. Government.  Many government departments have images in the public domain, which usually means that teachers can use them in presentations, classroom activities, and almost any not-for-profit ways you can imagine.  Of course, there are exceptions, so be sure to read the fine print.

coinsThe U.S. Mint

The Mint publishes some very nice images of the money it produces including coins commemorating states, presidents, first ladies, national parks, and significant historical events.  Most are available for free download, though a few are copyrighted (such as the Sacagawea dollar coin).  There are also a few anti-counterfeiting restrictions on reproducing paper money, so be sure to read the fine print on the website.

astronaut on the moonNASA

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has some amazing copyright-free images and videos available.  Whether you are looking for images of astronauts, rockets or other spacecraft, or images of outerspace, the NASA website has you covered.  Some of the images include those from the Hubble Telescope which has captured extraterrestrial images for over a decade.  There are lots of science- and engineering-related images, and the website makes it easy to search for them.

washing a dogCDC

You might not ordinarily think to look on the website for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, but but the Public Health Image Library has lots of interesting stock images available, related to topics such as home safety, personal hygiene, agriculture, child safety and more.  Of course, you’ll also find lots of images of bacteria, microscopic pests, and other diseases, some of which may not be suitable for children.

More

For links to photos from more U.S. Government photos and images, visit the USA.gov website.  You will find links to images from lots of other departments related to agriculture, the environment, defense, safety, science and technology and others.  In essence, these images are “free” because you’ve paid for them with your taxes.  So, don’t hesitate to take a look and use them if you need to.

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More Free Photos

robot toy

MorgueFile.com is a morbid name for a useful resource.  Despite what you might expect, this website does not contain pictures from a morgue.  A morgue file is a term from the newspaper industry to describe paper files that are inactive and only kept for reference.  Illustrators later adopted this term to refer to files of images that could serve as inspiration or reference.  MorgueFile.com is a large collection of images that are contributed to be used for reference by artists and teachers.

Once you get past the name, this is a very useful resource.  I was struck by a link on the homepage to a collection of photos of robot toys, including the one above.  There are a total of 116 toy robots in this collection, which is really interesting to skim through.

Of course, toy robots may not apply to all of your teaching needs.  Other searches revealed 66 photos labeled classroom, 234 photos labeled student, 734 photos labeled books, and 1190 photos labeled computers.   Many of the photos are high resolution and have a very professional stock-photography appearance, by which I mean objects are on white backgrounds and scenes are generic enough to be useful in many situations.  Next time you need an image for your PowerPoint presentation, consider an interesting and relevant photograph instead of canned clip art.

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How Did He Do That, Too?

alphabet carved into 26 pencil tips

“How did he do that?” wasn’t intended to be a series of posts, but I couldn’t help posting this picture.  It’s the entire alphabet carved into the tips of 26 pencils.  How did he do that, indeed.

I think this would be an interesting question to pose to an ESL class looking at this picture.  It would certainly get them talking.  Were these letters made by hand?  By machine?  How long did the alphabet take?  How many letters broke while being carved?  Which letter was the most difficult to create?  And why were such old, chewed up pencils used?

a chain carved out of pencil leadUnlike last time, I actually have some of the answers to these questions.  The alphabet was carved by an artist / carpenter from Connecticut named Dalton Ghetti.  He carves all of his sculptures by hand, without magnification, using a razor blade and a needle.  Pretty amazing stuff.

The patience required for this work is astounding.  In an article in the New York Times, he talks about this being the thing that strikes people most about his work.

I’ve always been fascinated by chain links that are carved from a single material.  I have made a few minor attempts, but nothing like the pencil seen here.  In fact, that might be another interesting question to get students talking.  How did he do that?

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How Did He Do That? Revisited

Photoshopped photo

I’ve written about these photos before, but I recently had a chance to put them in front of some students and I learned a couple of things.  First, and most obvious, these photos are very well done.  There is a depth to the paradox of the two photos that is really engaging.

I started by asking students what they saw.  The first answers were mostly along the lines of, “a guy playing basketball.”  When asked about the “guys,” students began to notice these “guys” were all the same guy.  Interesting.

When I asked how the picture was made, many students said, “Photoshop.”  But, when I asked what picture was taken first, several students offered various theories.  Most agreed that the same head was not cut and pasted to different bodies, but that several pictures of the same person were laid one over another.  When I pointed out that some of the figures cast shadows on some of the others, they had to rethink their theories a bit more.  I told them I did not know how this was done — I still don’t — but we enjoyed talking through what steps would need to be taken to create this photo.

During the class discussion, I found it really useful to view the largest sized photos available (original size top and bottom).  I held the control button and clicked the photos (right-click in Windows) and chose View Image to view only the photos in my browser.  In my browser, I went to the View menu and clicked Toolbars and unchecked as many as possible so that my window was as big as possible to view the picture.  Because the original photo was so large, I could also click on the photo to zoom in.  (Your browser may be configured differently, but you should be able to set it up in a similar way.)  By clicking the control and tab keys together (alt-tab in Windows) I could toggle back and forth between these two images.  That combined with zooming allowed me to simulate zooming through layer after layer of this paradox.

If I had had more time, it would have been interesting to try to create some photos like these of our own.  If we had a couple of cameras and tripods, we could got out and snap some pictures and see what challenges they presented while slicing them together.

One student noticed that the top photo has a break between the figures in the right and left halves.  A simpler grouping, like that in either half, would not be too hard to put together.  (In fact, some cameras and at least on iPhone app allow you to stitch together pictures as you take them, allowing you to insert the same person in each of the frames that are stitched together into the final photograph.)

It would be interesting to see what students came up with, what challenges they met along the way, and how they were able to resolve them.

photoshopped photo

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How did he do that?

photoshop paradox

How did he do that?  Is that the first question you asked when you looked at this picture?  Look again.  Notice all of the people in the picture (and in the picture in the picture) are the same person.  Notice, too, that the person in the foreground is holding the picture being taken in the background.  To really blow your mind, scroll down to the bottom of this post to see the picture taken by the photographer in the background.  Click on either picture to link to larger versions for closer examination.

Impressed?  I was.  There are lots of examples of photoshopped dopplegangers on flickr, but few are this intricate.  With most others, it’s easy to see how how multiple images could be merged into one because the different images don’t interact and sometimes don’t even overlap.  When I look at these two pictures, I’m intrigued by how they were made.  Which image was taken first?  How many images were included?  These questions got me to thinking: I bet ESL students would have the same questions.  And it would be linguistically challenging to analyze these two photos (possibly by first priming them with something simpler) in the target language.

Next time you want to generate some discussion in your class, consider showing your students these images.  (They’re licensed under the Creative Commons, which virtually eliminates any copyright concerns.)  The discussion could lead to students planning their own doppleganger photos.  Even if they don’t have the photo editing skills or resources to pull it off, planning out the scene and even taking some of the photos required to make their own composite image could be a very interesting exercise.

photoshop paradox

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Free Photos

deconstructed camera

Deconstructed camera from flickr.com

About a year and a half ago, I posted some links to online resources for royalty-free photos.  Lately, I’ve been reading Presentation Zen (an excellent book and blog for improving your presentation skills) and thought I’d share some additional resources found therein.  If you need photos for your website, newsletter, or classroom, you can use these resources to find lots of images you can use without fear of violating copyright law.  (Of course, I’m not a lawyer, so read the fine print.)

Camera image from morguefile.com

morguefile.com

morguefile.com –  A “public image archive for creatives by creatives” contains lots of great stock photos.  For the sake of comparison, I’ve done a search for “camera” on each site.  See the results for morguefile.com and the terms of service.

camera image from imageafter.com

imageafter.com

imageafter.com – Images from “the raw base for your creativity” are not always as professionally stock looking as some other sites, but one nice feature is you can sort images by color.  See results for “camera” and terms of service.

camera image from sxc.hu

sxc.hu

sxc.hu – Stock.xchng is my personal favorite.  Get access to thousands of very professional-looking, high resolution photos when you sign up for a free account.  See results for “camera” and terms of service.

camera image from compfight.com

compfight.com

compfight.com – The best way I’ve found to search for photos on Flickr that are published with a Creative Commons license.  Results run the gamut from stock-looking to very creative, including the image at the top of this post.  This is a good place to look for something different.  See results for “camera” and read more about Creative Commons.

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