Sunday, January 27, 2008

Picasa, printing, and portfolios

Picasa is currently searching my computer for pictures. Wow. I thought I had lost all the digital versions of my photos from Egypt, and there they are! I will be playing with this in the background while I do this posting, so more on Picasa as we go!

Arlene commented on my last post saying that she is the only one she knows that still likes to print pictures. Well, I like to print pictures too! I like to hold them in my hands, browse through them, put them in frames for the wall, fill albums, send them to friends! As a tactile person, having something in my hands makes it real. While I can look at images on a screen and enjoy them, it just isn't the same as looking at an image I am holding.

My parents live in Calgary, a long, long ways away when you are driving with an infant, and are always after me for more pictures of Sophie since we don't get to visit often. They know I can't drive over to the local wal-mart to print off pictures, so they accept emails. I have tried to convince them that looking at pictures on Facebook (more on that struggle in a later post) or Flickr or Shutterfly is just as good, but they too want physical prints to hold on to and find printing pictures easier from their email. This is a battle I have lost with them, despite all manner of wrangling and whining! Thankfully, I've finally figured out how to quickly upload pictures to email (it used to take forever, or at least 10 minutes). One of the reasons they don't like looking at Sophie pictures online is the same reason so many people love sites like Flickr-- the pictures are there for the whole world to see!

Sophie's grandparents don't feel special when they look at her pictures on the web, because everyone can see them. No matter what privacy settings I choose, there is still that sense that the pictures are too public, and that as grandparents, they deserve to see pictures no one else can. I would argue that a lot of people enjoy putting their photos on sites like Flickr so that everyone can see them-- a wee bit of exhibitionism perhaps? Or pride? A confession: I posted a picture I took on a Facebook group site and get a little thrill each time someone comments on it. So it is tempting to let all my pictures be publicly visible and let the accolades pour in!

As an early childhood educator, I think portfolios are one of the most effective assessment tools I have at my disposal. However, much of what happens in my classrooms doesn't 'fit' in a portfolio... how do you put a block structure or a pattern made with toy cars into a folder? I make extensive use of a digital camera in my classes to capture these moments. I've always printed these out on my mediocre printer and put the prints in kids' portfolios, but Flickr offers an intriguing option: online portfolios! What if I created a account for each student, made sure to choose the highest privacy settings, provided parents with access, and uploaded all relevant photos to that account? Parents could visit that site for constant visual evidence of what their child is learning!

Turnout at parent-teacher interviews tends to be dismal, so often parents end up not seeing all the great stuff and photos in their child's portfolio. Maybe making it digital will up the interest factor? After all, shouldn't I be trying everything I know how to make sure parents see what their kids are accomplishing? To that end, I did a search on ProQuest for electronic portfolios and discovered I am way behind the eight ball on this one. Lots of information out there! I found this about the use of electronic portfolios in teacher education using blogs, and this, explaining how making portfolios more visible and public can increase their educational value. Most of what I found had more applications for middle school and high school, and I would agree that at the early childhood and elementary level a full electronic portfolio may be a bit much (not a lot of word-processed report being churned out in first grade), but an electronic component may be just what is needed to further engage students in reflective learning, increase parental involvement, and improve assessment. I'm going to try it!

Back to Picasa: Wow. Now I wish I hadn't paid for Picnik, as Picasa has some great photo editing tools, for free! Very easy to move around in this program, very easy to email pictures (automatically decreases the file size for you), and you can order prints from a Canadian company starting at 13 cents each. All right! Also super easy to upload to a web album, right from Picasa, which I like a lot, since it has already found my pictures. I don't have to search around and deal with enigmatic file names, I can just browse through my actual pictures and send them to the web.

While Flickr might be more mainstream, I think I like this better.

I have also used Shutterfly in the past, but this is very much a commercial site. You put your pictures in an album there more because you want to order 'stuff' than share photos with others.

For examples, you can view my Shutterfly album here, my Flickr page here, and my (favourite) Picasa album here.

Intimidation factor: 1/5
Long-windedness factor: 5/5


Arlene said...

I've never heard of Shutterfly before. It looks a lot like Snapfish. Very commercial. Arlene

Joanne said...

I too love having prints to look at, but must admit I am getting lazier about printing them. I had started albums for each of my kids, but haven't updated them for a long time. We now tend to look at family photographs all gathered around the laptop...when I was a kid, we looked at photographs in the albums that my dad painstakingly kept updated with dates and captions (my parents now have a collection of probably 50 photo albums, each numbered and dated for easy access!).

One idea for sharing printed photos with far away grandparents is to upload your pictures to a store site (like Superstore or Walmart or London Drugs) and then select the store location closest to your parents. They can then go and pick up the pictures when they are ready--I have done that with my parents and I know Jennifer does it for her parents, too.


elizabeth said...

I think using a photo-sharing site for portfolios would be great for sharing info with parents. I can understand how your parents feel, I still have reservations about putting my family photos "out there". Joanne's idea of uploading them to a store site would work for me, providing a certain sense of privacy.

Val Martineau said...

Hi Jessica: I too love taking lots of pictures on my digital camera. I have it at school with me constantly. We have a bulletin board in the library, created and kept up by a group of students. They update our school life together. Students bring me the camera, story board the idea for the month then I print them. They put the design and content together (eg. what's on the menu for hot lunch this month, pictures of volleyball, kids playing on new playground equipment etc.)
The use of a portfolio might be a great way to give more access to these bulletin boards making them real and virtual.

Yeah, its nice to have found someone who prefers Picasa. I was thinking I was the only one. I too liked how it searched and found pictures. What a great feeling to have found your pictures of Egypt you thought were lost.

Elisa Orton said...

Portfolios are a wonderful tool for students to look at their development. Most of the courses I teach have a portfolio component. I also take digital photos and email copies of students and their to both the student and their parents. Parents who I never normally see in a school year (grade 11/12 students- are very happy to see what their students are doing and although most kids complain to me about the communication I have with their parents seem pleased that their efforts have been noticed)
Students also keep copies of everything in their school drives and most make cds/dvds at the end of the year.

Jennifer said...

I was (and am) a diligent daughter-in-law - I print the best photos of Andy (make 4 copies) and send them to Oma, Opa, Tante and Onkel and Tante Weibi.

Oma and Opa have separate albums so I send two copies. It is time consuming and expensive but they love to get the photos.

As Joanne said, I do upload them and get my Mom to pick them up at her local Walmart - either in Orillia, ON or in Sebring, FL in the winter. She loves the immediacy of it - she doesn't have to wait 2 weeks while they come from Austria or Edmonton.

I do have photos of Andy up on Facebook and on my own webpage but kind of hidden in a file with no link.

My sister-in-law does not believe in putting any photos online and she is busy with 3 under 5 and doesn't mail photos so we have very few pics of the kids.

I think grandparents have earned the right to have lots of photos to share with their friends.

Ronda said...

Hi Jess,

I love these new ideas for how photosharing can be used; your portfolio suggestion was one I had not thought about.

Great pictures!