Smart Photography

Iphoneography? Can so-called “smart photography” engage students and develop creative writing skills? This question is at the heart of a recent Edudemic article, “Smart-Camera Photography: Enrich Students’ Creative Writing Skills,” by Weda Bory. It probably sounds like low-brow art to the professional photographers. But to that sentiment, I say why not? If it engages students with photography, who knows, it could spark the interest of the next generation’s professional photographers. For further reading on the complementary nature of photography and writing, refer to the closing section of this post.

At the offset, Weda addresses an important question: “Why does photography matter and how does it improve writing?” Weda argues, “ the trick to getting our students to craft powerful sentences rests on their ability to slow down a scene, stretch it out like saltwater taffy, and zoom in to the itty bitty deets (five senses’ worth), all the while describing the event or character in a palpable, emotionally resonant way. In their writing, we want kids to show us their tears, not tell us they’re sad, yet we know all too well that we can over-rely on the saying add more details – the battle cry of writing teachers everywhere – without having the engaging, concrete ‘hows’ to impart.”

From college essays to corporate boardrooms, presenting compelling narratives is of the utmost importance. We recognize and are attracted to compelling narratives. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills includes creativity, innovative and critical thinking skills under their “Learning and Innovation Skills” hedding.

Weda’s section on “The Marriage of iPhotography and Writing” lays out a detailed argument in favor of “smart photography” as a staple of ELA curriculum. It’s worth a read. There will be a follow up post shortly. I look forward to learning more and profiting from her ideas.

Further Reading

The Institute of Play has posted about one of their Quest students and his ability to capture ephemeral moments with his own brand of photography.

Another Institute of Play post by learner Whitney Burke reflects on his experience with and the relevance of traditional modes of education to our ever-changing world and social justice pursuits. The main focus of the article, however, is on “connected learning” and an amazing student Charles Raben. Raben’s blog, Urban Face, is a compelling collection of his work.

Connected Learning is one of my newly discovered and favorite takes on education and social justice. Connected Learning: Equitable, Social and Participatory states, “[It’s] a model of learning that holds out the possibility of reimagining the experience of education in the indormation age. It draws on the power of today’s technology to fuse you people’s interests, friendships and academic achievement through experiences laced with hands-on production, shared purpose and open networks.”

The National Archives has a comprehensive list of digital photography collections readily available online in their Archives Library Information Center reference section. They are organized by century. Check it out and use it in your classroom!

Richard Bryne has two solid posts about five free public domain photography sites and one more good site, Unsplash.

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