There must be something in the air right now. Perhaps it’s the warm-up that is finally hitting the Badger State after such a long and brutally cold winter. On my way to work, I have to avoid hitting robins, ducks, cranes, and red-winged blackbirds—seasonal arrivals and long missed. The snow is slowly receding and the playground has become a giant mud-puddle. Unlike many schools, we only have a small strip of sidewalk to keep kids from the thawing turf, much of which ends up being tracked into the school on tall rubber farm-boots.
It’s in the spring that I like to start teaching digital photography. It ties really well with the ongoing science fair projects and allows students to record their experiments and use the photos for their demonstration booths.
I don’t like to give the kids cameras right away. First, I train them up on the basic parts of a camera, and some of the more basic functions. My favorite cameras to use in the classroom right now are the $70 Kodak cameras. Why? The fewer the features, the less likely that the students will goof up any of the settings. And really, what kinds of photos do the kids need to take? They need a simple point and shoot where the flash is easy to turn on and off and a decent “auto” function. Too many features and you end up with a disk full of blurry photos from accidentally leaving it on “landscape,” or shot after shot of flashbulbs reflected on aquarium glass (the flash can’t be good for the fish can it?).
I give the kids a good once-over of the parts of a camera, how and when to turn the flash on, and how to operate the shutter. Then, the most important part of the lesson: How to get the photos off the thing! I don’t know how many times I have seen students plug in camera after camera looking for their lost photo. A great way to get kids to understand how files and folders work is to show them how to copy photos from their camera to their network drives. Basic copying and pasting is vital to get down, or else you end up with a lot of headaches when you start to edit the photos.