Two years ago I was looking for a way to have students in my AP Environmental Science class analyze urban design during our unit on land use and management. I decided to ask students to go on a scavenger hunt of sorts, documenting examples of well and poorly designed areas in and around Charlotte, NC, USA using digital images. Flickr was the host site for our little project, and I wrote about that first experience in a previous post.
Over the last few years, I have tried to make the experience more authentic. This year, I invited a local urban planner to join our current flickr project group (see our pics in a slideshow-be sure to click show info) and participate. We did the project prior to her coming to speak to the class on urban planning issues. So, the students were front-loaded with examples around town and she knew what they were. Check out this exchange between the students and the urban planner or this one.
This little trick let us be very efficient with the 45-minute class period we had to work with that day. She gave a short presentation and then let the students participate in map activities planning the redesign/redevelopment of some actual infill sites in Charlotte.
Urban Planning Map Activity
What was even cooler was that we had a Chinese exchange student in the class. Since she did not know our community very well, I let her feature images she found online (or her sister sent to her) from her hometown. Check this out this urban planning dilemma from China:
How as else has the project changed in three years? Now I see students much more like to use Google Earth or Google Maps for aerial views or street-level views instead of taking the images with their phones in person. Not that one or the other is better, just different.
So, what do you think of our use of Flickr for a class project? Have you done one or seen other similar projects?
In my last post, I explained a new project I tried this year using flickr. I was excited that the project continued and culminated despite school being closed for a snowstorm. In general, I was pleased with the results of my experiment. However, I am always curious as to what the students think of such ventures…
Being a science type, of course I like some data to scrutinize:
Student Feedback (click to enlarge)
So, it seems as if the 27 seniors (of my 34) who responded most got something of value from the project. Right? I did encourage students to provide some written feedback also:
1.A complete waste of time.
2.It was fun, but I can’t say I really “learned” much, I just got to see what needs work in our city.
3.None of these choices really fit my thoughts. I did the project and thought it was cool to actually identify locations around Charlotte that we see everyday as either “good” or “bad” urban planning. However, I felt that, for me, the end result wasn’t as worthwhile considering the effort it took for me to find a satisfactory picture/location, upload it, add some descriptions, and comment on other photos. It was also frustrating considering I put a lot of effort into finding the pictures and examples, yet had no comments on my own photos.
4.I enjoyed this project because it applied what we’re learning to our own hometown and it was not difficult. Doing this made me think while I’m going around town as to what is a good design and what is a bad design in my own city! I love when classroom material is applicable in my own life because I am more interested and therefore, I learn more from it.
5.It was cool to see all the poorly designed areas.
6.I definitely liked using flickr as a resource.
7.I learned how to use flickr, but I didn’t necessarily look at everyone’s pictures. The comment aspect was probably the most helpful part of the project in terms of understanding. That being said, I think I would’ve understood urban planning at the same level without doing the project.
8.If we spent more time on the project I think I would have had more time to appreciate what we could learn from it.
9.It was a lot a work for a little project. And it didn’t help me learn anything about urban planning.
10.I thought that it was a really cool project…I found it interesting and clicked through most of the images and left two comments…It was interesting to see areas near my house or areas that I know but hadn’t considered from an urban planning point of view.
11.Not so much frustrating but not the most useful thing.
12.Flickr confused me.
13.I did not feel the assignment was necessary. I could have learned just as much if you showed us a few pictures.
14.I mean it was interesting but I’m not really sure how much I got out of it. Some of the examples were pretty obvious and I probably would have known all that without having the whole flickr.
15.I really liked this project and it wasn’t too difficult but i think it actually helped me a lot.
Feedback is always a bit of a mixed bag. What advice should I use for the next time I try this with a group of students? What should I ignore? Which students “get it?” Which students missed the point (sharing and collaboration)?
So, this year I finally decided to try an experiment in photo sharing with my AP Environmental Science students using flickr. I was first introduced to the concept when I was a part of a Powerful Learning Practice cohort two years ago. We were are a part of a photo sharing project to help build community (31 pictures posted in 31 days) between group members from all over the world. But in this case, my class has already established some sense of community this year and I was looking for something more. We were exploring urban areas and there impact on the environment. We were discussing urban planning, so I issued the following challenge:
“You must take and upload at least 2 photos (or short video clips) by 11pm on Tuesday, January 11th.One photo should illustrate an urban or suburban area that has employed good design, and the other should illustrate an area that is in need of redesign. You must leave a meaningful comment on ONE photo/video you find interesting that has been uploaded to our group by 11pm on Wednesday, January 12th.*Don’t be surprised if you get comments from our guest speaker (an urban planner) who I have invited to join the group.”
I had already posted two pics in our flickr pool as examples. One was a street level view and the other was an aerial view using Google Earth (screen capture using Jing). So, I expected kids to use their cell phones when they were out in our community (Charlotte, North Carolina, USA) to take pictures and then upload and share them. A few students did this, and a few students used Google Earth also. Well, in the mean time this rare massive winter storm system rolled in:
So, this really cut into my student’s ability to take pictures out in the community. But…sometimes kids surprise you. I was sitting at home, checking in our group pool when I noticed a student had used Google Maps to get a street level view of an area from their home! Well, I did not say they could not do it…this started a trend. Other students started using online satellite and mapping programs in lieu of taking pictures in the community in dangerous conditions. I love it! This is part of the beauty of a blended classroom. The snow shut our physical classroom down for a few days, but the learning continued in a virtual space. Check out the project at our group pool. Feel free to contact me if you want a copy of the assignment.
*Update (1/13/11): Now that we are done, check out the slideshow: