This week I took it upon myself to peruse my boyfriend's Flickr account. My first thought was...Wait a minute...what a waste of time...he has these photos on his computer and I can check them out anytime I want. Then, I noticed some comments attached to some of the photos and, after some extensive searching, realized these photos were public and could be accessed from any Internet connections.
I explored the site and quickly noticed the tabs, favorites, groups and even blogger tools. The possibilities were limitless on this website when it came to picture sharing. You can upload photos from your cell phone (including the newly introduced iPhone) or computer, post them, and then have them available for viewing and comments to all the people you can add to your "friends" list. Not only are they available to all the people in your contact group, but they are also made public unless you opt to keep your photos private. Public or private, those who view your photos can add them to their "favorites" list, comment on them, or suggest you add them to a collection of similar photos. Furthermore, by selecting the photo or photographer as one of your favorites you get constant updates sent to you when they add a new photo or join a group.
Once you become familiar with this site you realize that you are part of a large socializing network with an eye for information and lots of creative talent. You can search through public photos for anything you may wish to see. My interest in Flickr led to me to want to learn more about this site. I found an article called "I'll Show You Mine..." which enlightened me about just how big Flickr has become. The article states that Yahoo (a major Internet company) had purchased Flickr in 2005 seeing the potential of this powerful Web 2.0 tool. The article outlines Flickr's unique capability to create communities of photo sharers throughout the glob binded by a single website. Flickr is different then many other photo sharing sites, such as Picasa (Google's main photo sharing site) and Shutterfly, because they have turned sharing photos into a social activity by connecting its users. Many of the other photo-sharing sites also have options like adding photos to your favorites list or sharing them with friends, but Flickr has taken this idea to a new level by making it global, fun and easy.
I can definitely see the potential for using this tool in a classroom or even the library at school. Perhaps one idea would be to create groups for an individual classroom within Flickr where students could post photos of their favorite books, favorite hobbies, etc and could post comments on each other photos as well. This would be a great way for students to communicate with others in their class and also make them familiar with a great visualizing Web 2.0 tool. I could also see creating a school library group for posting favorite book covers and commenting on each others favorites. One of the class articles called "Building Student Data Literacy:An Essential Critical-Thinking Skill for the 21st Century", mentions that with today's technology tools (such as photo-sharing sites) we, as educators, can help students "manipulate and view data in ways that help them develop meaning." With the internet students have a huge world of information in front of them and by exploring sites that interest them they will become more comfortable with using it and build their "data literacy". These sites can also be used by students to view public pictures that may be used for research etc. Students could go to the sites and find photos of a subject they type into the search engine on the page. For example if a student was doing a research assignment on bears they could view a large variety of bears in Flickr.
Another of the class articles "A Thousand Words..." reminds us that classrooms are still too text-based and that visual multimedia sources should be incorporated to re-capture the interest of students. I agree with this and think that students can greatly benefit from some of these sites when they are used in an educational setting.
We need to remember that teaching our students to be critical in their thinking when it comes to this technology is very important as well. I did notice that there were a few places on Flickr that I wouldn't want my students to ponder. This encouraged my thought pattern to return to some of the realities of these websites, they may not be used appropriately. In conclusion, when used appropriately I think that photo-sharing sites, such as Flickr, have the potential to create great socializing networks within groups of people. These groups of people can include small groups, classrooms or entire schools full of people to share unique photos and ideas with each other.