Sunday, June 11, 2006

Flickr: Note this!

This is the second of what I hope will be an irregular series of posts on using photosharing websites in the classroom. (The first post was Getting to know you... with Flickr.) This time I want to focus on the notes feature provided by Flickr. Notes specify a rectangular area of a picture to which you attach some text. When the pointer is on the rectangle, you see the text. If the pointer is on the picture, but not on a note, you see where all the rectangles are. If the pointer is not on the picture, you see it without any indication of where the notes are so that you can enjoy the picture without visual interruptions.

Computer Room
Computer Room,
originally uploaded by DavidDMuir.
This is probably better felt than telt as we say in Scotland. (Stop me and ask for a translation if you are stumped by the Scots language.) Follow the link to the picture of the Computer room and have a look at the comments under the picture, but especially take the time to look at the notes on the picture itself.

The picture of one of our computing labs. It was posted as an example of an exercise we wanted the students to try on their first school placement. We wanted them to think about the layout of the computer lab in the school and to think about alternative layouts. We wanted them to consider what was good about the organisation of the room and what could make it better? We asked each student to take a picture of a lab and post it with some comments. The other students were then asked to add further comments and questions, but in particular we asked them to leave notes on the picture itself.

The notes feature allows very specific parts of the picture to be highlighted and allows concise, but targeted, comments to be made. In the sample picture shown above, I created all the notes, but in the students' pictures they left notes on each other's photos to ask questions or make observations. I even started a spot the John Walsh book game (like spot the ball, but with the semi-ubiquitous Walsh book). The exercise seemed to work well and interesting and inciteful notes were added to the pictures posted.

Once again, it seemed wise to use a private Flickr group and strict guidelines were given about how to go about this exercise. Guidance included the instructions that there should be no pupils in the picture of the classroom and that the school should not be named or identifiable in any way. Also, they were to seek the permission of the teacher in charge of Computing, explaining what they were going to do, before taking any pictures.

I got the idea from Beth's Art class. I loved the way the students were sharing what they learned about the picture and the symbolism. {Rats! She has just uploaded a new painting and, as yet, there are no notes or comments. I guess a new class is starting soon, so hopefully notes will start to appear in the near future. Update: The new, uncommented picture is still there, but the old picture of "Central panel of the Merode Altarpiece by Campin", complete with notes and comments, is back!} There must be loads of uses for on-picture notes in the classroom. What about a student science project - take a picture of the experiment and add notes. Or take a picture of a student's craft work - other pupils can leave notes with questions about technique or their understanding of the work. Or a photo from a school trip of a public building or monument. Or a local area study. Or a picture of classroom wall display. Or... Do you get the picture? :-)

As before, I'd love to hear about ideas, or see more examples of this in action. Please leave a comment to let me know what you think.

P.S. Ewan has just posted a picture of some Vikings and used it in a workshop session at a Modern Language in the Primary School Conference. He used it as an example of adding notes to a picture.

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David Noble said...

Hi David

Today, one of my pupils is adding notes to Flickr photos that he took in an Edinburgh museum last week, as part of his Ancient Egypt project. It's a real 'stand out' feature of Flickr, as well as giving us an opportunity to explain and experience 'tagging'.

David said...

Excellent. Are we allowed to see the photo or is it private?

I can see all sorts of possibilities for Flickr notes.

Heather said...

Hi David,

I'm one of the teachers who attended the MFLE course taken by Ewan. I've been trying to add notes to the Viking Invasion photo, but with great difficulty. How do you actually add the notes? I have managed however to create my very first weblog at, following Ewan's excellent training! Maybe you could leave a kind comment?! You'd be my first!



David said...

Hello Heather

Thanks for stopping by. I am more than happy to be the first, though hopefully not the last, to leave a comment on your blog.

As for your Flickr note problem... the trick is to sign in first. Unless you have signed in to Flickr, you cannot leave a note. Hope this helps. If you want more infor on how to sign in, ask and I'll try to help.

Heather said...

Hi again,

I knew I had to log in to Flickr first, which I did, but I'm not getting an option above the photo to leave a note. Can you shed any light on this for me?

On another note, I've just set my blog up on Typepad. Is eBlogger better?

David said...

Hello again Heather

Silly me. I suppose it was a bit patronising telling you to log in. I've looked more carefully at the picture and it's Ewan's fault not yours. I'll add a comment to your blog to explain (in case you don't come back here to read this) and I'll email Ewan to see if he will fix the problem.

As for Typepad verses Blogger... mostly it comes down to personal preference and which one you used first. When I started this blog, I actually tried three separate tools and decided to go with Blogger because I thought it made creating blog posts easier than the other two I looked at. Also, I liked that it had a spell checker (albeit for American English).

I would advise you to do he same. Pick three tools (at least), start a blog in each and decide which one feels right for you. A lot of people are rating just now (including David Warlick) and if I was starting from scratch, I think I would give it very serious consideration.

See my post on A numpty's guide to classroom blogging for further suggestions.

teacher dude said...

is a great site for playing around with photos and posting them on Flickr. It has lots of interesting ways to use your images.

David said...

Thanks Teacher Dude (or should I call you Mr Dude?). Flickr Toys is brilliant and is definitely going to feature in a future Flickr related post. However, don't let that stop anybody from going there now and finding out what it can do for yourself! :-)

David said...

There is nothing new under the sun... :-)

I have just stumbled across a post on cogdogblog (love that name!) titled Flickr Object which talks about the educational potential of Flickr notes... and it was written back in October 2004! Check it out, there are couple of good examples.

And while I am in update mode, I thought this example of a satellite image with notes was interesting.

Frank said...

Hi David,
I just discovered today a new FREE tool that is made specifically (and only) for flickr. It is at

It allows people to make a slideshow with their flickr photos. I would like to use this with my grade 12 Data management class. They have to learn how to use graphing calculators, so why not make them develop a slideshow in which they instruct how to use a graphing calculator.

I have already emailed the people who made this tool to ask if flickr notes are maintained in the slideshow.

But there is another similar tool. It's called Bubbleshare. It allows people to upload pics, and put notes, and include a voice comment with each pic.