The Simple Power of Photos and Video

Remember analogue photos and video? Taking care not to waste film, no one leaving comments on your photo of the day, inflicting pain on friends and family with living room slideshows instead of tormenting the world with them on Youtube?

I’m still amazed by this digital imaging thing. I can’t believe the ease with which we capture moments in our life. I love the fact that ‘photographer’ is now a relatively subjective title, and that ‘movie making’ can be done on a handheld device (not to mention what it means to be a news reporter). People talk about learning styles and multiple intelligences, but I don’t think it takes much rigour to come to the conclusion that virtually all of the kids walking through the halls of our schools can be called visual learners.

A digital camera is not only one of the most underrated #edtech tools around, but is also a perfect illustration of where we want all educational technology to be: normalized, mundane, at our fingertips.

I try and leverage this in the classroom at all times. I have witnessed the power of digital photos and video for reflection and metacognition in learning. Here’s an example of a simple activity I do regularly with my class:

  1. Take photos and video during a unit of learning.
  2. Do a quick edit of the clips and view them together.
  3. While viewing, record a voiceover of discussion reflecting on the learning. What went as planned? What surprised us? What should we do differently next time? What was your favourite part?

Some of the benefits for learning are as follows:

  • It legitimizes the learning and conversations that occur inside the classroom.
  • It reminds students of the importance of collaborative learning, knowledge building, and timely feedback.
  • It values oral language.
  • It lauds the learning process as much as its product.
  • It motivates and engages students to ‘perform’ their learning.
  • It is a great assessment archive.
  • It makes students accountable for class talk and conduct towards one another.
  • It makes the students the stars of the show. Not the teacher.

This process is something I learned while witnessing my own children’s fascination with our family’s iMovie and iPhoto library. Below is a short clip of my son Jackson’s first time riding a two-wheeler. As many parents know, teaching a young child to ride a bike can be laborious and demanding. Depending on the child, keeping their self-efficacy up is perhaps the most important part of the process. We were amazed to see Jack’s fascination with seeing his success. The effect it had on his intrinsic motivation was palpable. If you were to come over to my house tomorrow, you would like see a little boy run up to you and say, “Would you like to see my biking movie?”



  1. Hello Royan,

    I enjoyed reading your post and could see Jackson’s confidence as he was interviewed. I especially agree with the way oral language and visual learning can take the forefront when it is the students who are interviewing, describing, discussing and reflecting on their learning.

  2. Royan,

    I just found your blog via john spencer’s. I enjoyed today’s post in particular. You’re right: it’s about learning, not technology.

    I’m also a parent of some young kids, and I find myself wanting to write down everything that they do (just like I’ve wanted to do at other particularly good parts of my life: wanting to capture it all in writing). But of course, as a parent of young dudes, time is tight and I don’t have a lot of energy at night.

    I realized this week that with cheap digi photos and videos, I actually *have* been capturing the good stuff all along.

    We look back at this stuff to reminisce, but also to help us see all the learning we’ve done.

    You take it a step further than I have with (a) the reflective interview and (b) a bit of polish on publication.

    Thanks again for sharing this-

  3. Extremely cool. I think this would work very nicely with with something like Evernote or Diigo to collect and organize the pictures along with notes (or images of). Another awesome idea brother. Thanks for sharing.

  4. As a teacher of deaf and hard of hearing students I think your suggestionsa re very important and easy to implement! You don’t have to have a hearing impairement to be a visual learner!
    Thanks for sharing!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s