My seven-day #staycation – Day One: #Photography in Learning

Capture the moment – I can’t even count the times I’ve thought of that. No, it’s not always easy and yes, you can get into an argument for being a random person with the camera at hand. Not that I go around taking pictures of people fighting or anything…
I just love taking pictures. I don’t know if I’m any good at it and, frankly, it doesn’t really matter. They say ”a picture is a thousand words”; I think it’s more like a thousand worlds. The same image can make someone laugh and some others cry, one may wonder where that could have been taken and another might dismiss it as commonplace. But everyone feels compelled to think about it. That’s the power of pictures for me. That’s what I’m looking for while learning (or teaching).
I started using my own pictures during classes mainly due to availability (in the pre – eltpics era), but also because I could plan around what set of images I would use. It’s the same tactic I follow while blogging, sometimes a picture I’ve already taken is the idea behind a post and at other times I go on a hunt for pictures to accompany my thoughts.


My first day of staycation was devoted to sorting out the pictures I’ve taken since October 2012 (previous ones have been sorted, of course). I turned the camera on, the number ”15506” appeared at the bottom right corner, I panicked and immediately turned it off. But then I thought ”come on, be brave” and sat down to business.

Here are three general tips of utmost importance that I have occasionally neglected:
-Make sure you’ve set the current date and time on your camera. It saves a lot of time later on; since machines haven’t taken over the world yet, it’s you who has to tell them what to do and when to do it!
-Know where you’ll find your photos. Have dedicated folders and provide for enough space on your hard drives.
-Don’t fear the ”delete” option. If the angle, the light or the background troubles you in any way, move on to the next photo. (Tip within the tip: take more than one shot of your subject if possible, so you can have a choice later).

Now what? Well, that depends on how you use those pictures,
Photos are  to me an inexhaustible source of teaching  material. I have recycled my pictures numerous times over the years, on a variety of subjects and learner levels. That’s why I normally keep them organised by theme more than by date or place taken and why certain groups of my pictures are connected to particular activities.
Here’s an example:
I use the following set at the beginning of an Intermediate course to initiate a guessing game and lead in to an open speaking session for computer skills and technology in learning

(You’ll notice that the pictures have no caption; even though I have set a title for them, a caption would be restrictive in this case and wouldn’t make good ground for a guessing game.)
This activity has proved extremely useful when trying to introduce ICT in class, and not only with learners; I’ve used the same set at parents’ meetings in order to explain the importance of tech-skills within the learning environment.

Is that it then? Not quite!
Now we get to more interesting parts: editing and sharing.

Sometimes pictures need an extra ”something”, usually because it seems right at that moment, for that specific thing you’re trying to portray. And why not make them available to other teachers? How do you go about that?

Again, that depends on individual needs and skills. If you’re a Googler like me (ok, not exclusively, but mostly), and you’re looking for something simple, go with Picassa – the latest version caters for your needs both in editing and socially though Web Albums and Google+. Things might seem a bit scattered, but it’s only getting used to it!
My personal favourites on Picassa are the Google Drive integration, the fact that you can have a private url for chosen albums  – very helpful for my start-of-the-year speaking sessions prompted by the learners’ own pictures which I can’t share online without permission! – and, more importantly, that you can upload most formats (like Photoshop .psd) aside from mainstream .jpgs and .pngs.
I also love Flickr, for its simple user interface, the unlimited storage even on the Free Account and the further ease in sharing through both Android and iPhone applications.

If, however, you’re a bit more design-savvy or willing to learn, I’d definitely recommend editing using Adobe Photoshop 7.0   (because it works like a dream, even when you stress it) or Photoshop Elements and then making up your mind on where you’ll share them.
Keep in mind that it doesn’t necessarily have to be in one place. Different accounts on separate hosts make pictures accessible by more people!



After deleting several duplicates and pictures I didn’t really like or thought I could use, the number of photos was finally reduced to 7104. Much more manageable. They’re all sorted now and will soon find their place in my Flickr and Picassa albums.

Last minute reminders:
-you can use all the pictures within this blog (under Creative Commons Attribution), unless otherwise noted (for images I’ve borrowed and/or edited from other sources)
-I’m only sharing what I have found useful; not endorsing any products.
-Your feedback is highly valued! If you have any suggestions, please submit your comments!

My seven-day #staycation – 7 paths to explore

Do teachers really have holidays? I’m not so sure. Not that we don’t have a break every now and then, particularly in the summer, but somehow everything around us seems to spark thoughts on lesson plans, activities and projects even though we’re technically off work – or is it just me? In any case, as of today I am officially on holiday for seven whole days. Yay!

Galatsiou Av. in Athens, August 7, 2013, 18:25

Galatsiou Av. in Athens, August 7, 2013, 18:25

This time of the year is by far my favourite. A serene atmosphere right at the heart of a normally busy and noisy city, nearly empty streets which reduces moving around times by half and endless opportunities to rediscover your home. It’s also quite productive in terms of development, as a no-obligations period helps you work on your skills at a slower pace (works remarkably for me and I plan to take advantage of it!)
I haven’t left Athens in August since my early twenties exactly for those reasons and have never regretted it.

I might be on holiday, but I’m still me (very difficult to escape yourself!), so I have a rough plan on how to spend those seven days. Nothing too restrictive, just a couple of things I want to get done before going back to work, like finally organising my endless array of pictures, working properly on this blog, exploring new tools and brushing up on skills. Well, maybe more than a couple. I’ll be blogging about what I discovered ( or rediscovered) each day, so we’ll see how that goes!

There are some other perks, of course . . .

Grapes and figs straight from Dad's garden

Grapes and figs straight from Dad’s garden