Monday, January 09, 2012

I Thought They Were Just Playing

As hard as it might be to believe if you've been a reader of this blog for any length of time, but up until about 2 years ago, I'd never taken a photo in class. In fact, I rarely took photos in the rest of my life either: most of the photos I have of my daughter growing up came from grandparents.

"I don't want to experience life's peak moments through a viewfinder," is how I usually put it, whether standing in the shadow of Notre Dame or witnessing my girl's first swimming lesson. That had the virtue at least of being true, but it wasn't the whole truth. I also really disliked having to pack the camera around with me, a challenge that disappeared when I purchased my first iPhone and its quite satisfactory camera. I was going to be carrying my phone anyway, so that objection was handled. 

Other teachers pushed me a bit on the topic, insisting that they would never teach without a camera at their side, selling it to me as an important tool for promoting reflection, not to mention its ability to document what was happening during the day.

As anyone can see, I've come around now. I've forgotten my phone occasionally and spend my day feeling half dressed, repeatedly dipping into pocket and coming up empty. I take a lot more pictures than I use here on the blog, of course, and one of the most important parts of my day comes when I set down to transfer the day's collection onto my computer, taking me through a slideshow of the day just completed, giving me a moment to think through what I did (both right and wrong), what we learned, and where we seem to be heading.

One of the best things I did was download a camera app for the phone that permits me to take photos by simply tapping anywhere on the screen. This gives me the chance to snap away, even if I'm not viewing life through a viewfinder. Sometimes I know what I'm shooting, but often I'm sort of absently recording moments while talking, observing, or otherwise handling teacher duties. I'm often amazed by what I find when I get home.

A case in point are the girls in the two photos illustrating this post. They're not particularly good photos because I was just tapping the screen while they played with magnets, but I was sort of stunned when I saw them. I've been told by people who should know what they're talking about that all of math, no matter how far you go, is just learning increasingly complex ways to sort and create patterns. Well, here you have it.

They found all the magnetic gowns and arranged them in a row, then demonstrated an interesting bit of cultural literacy by finding "word" magnets to arrange under each one like headlines in a graphic layout. They might not be able to read them, but they know they're words and know where they go. Down the left side, you'll notice a tidy row of circular boxes. And there on the floor I accidently photographed yet another girl who had gathered all the magnets of a certain type, then collected them in a box she had built from Magna Tiles. I thought they were just playing . . .

Just a couple the little things I would have missed without my camera.

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Melitsa said...

I love how blogging has made me so much more intentional about taking pictures of them just doing 'ordinary' things. Of course it's not ordinary

Deborah said...

I agree with Melitsa - Blogging makes me much more aware of all that I do in the classroom and its impact on my students. AND I AM LOST with out my camera. I don't even think I could teach a whole day if I left my camera at home - it would drive me crazy! I love capturing our day and fun or unusual moments. I go home and reflect on our day with these photos.

Katie said...

When I was teaching (I'm home with my daughter now) I was never without a camera. When I put the photos on my computer at the end of the day I'd organize them into folders with each of my students names. I'd then "title" the photos with a few words about what they were doing. I'd use the photos immediately for our classroom blog. But at various intervals throughout the year I'd go back and look through the individual student folders... AMAZING! It's a visual representation of learning and growth. So useful for conferences with parents. Also helpful for when I had a discouraging day - it was a great reminder of how far my students had come!

amy said...

Thank you for this posting. I, too, have gone on "camera boycotts" at certain times of my life, in order to feel more present and "in the moment". But then I've missed the opportunity to look back at images, and learn more about what I had been experiencing.
I'm curious, can you share the name of the app that allows you to only touch the screen to shoot? I'm a big fan of shooting from the hip, and being surprised at what turns up. Thanks.

Sarah said...

I would like to know the name of the ap too please

Teacher Tom said...

The app is called Camera Genius.