Saturday, April 23, 2011

Tag is Better Than Hide and Seek

I started using Flickr in August 2007, and now have 12,,814 (and counting) photos stored there. These items have been viewed 187,336 times, with referrals coming from Flickr itself, Google Images, Facebook, Twitter and various other sites.

When I started out, I had no idea of the volume of work I would create. It was easy enough to scroll through my account to find images that I needed. My first organizational tool was the Sets option, which allows the user to create albums of related pictures, which can then be manipulated as a unique entity. Collections are where I then group Sets of similar content.

By far the most useful tool, however, is tagging:
"Flickr asks photo submitters to organize images using tags ... which enable searchers to find images related to particular topics, such as place names or subject matter. Flickr was also an early website to implement tag clouds, which provide access to images tagged with the most popular keywords." -Wikipedia
I now tag each photo that I upload with as many useful keywords as I can think of - month, season, location, genre, etc. For example, Hometown Graffiti has some inherent visual interest, but by tagging it with "Jimmer Fredette, " "Jimmer," "Brigham Young," and "BYU," I ensured a much wider audience: 525 views, to date.

There have been a number of interesting connections made because of my Flickr tags, as people search online for a wide range of information.

A woman in Washington state saw some photos I took in a local cemetery and asked if I could look for additional family headstones. When I was able to comply, she wrote

"The photos are perfect and are worth more than gold to me! Pictures support my family connections between Amos, Hannah and Amos Jr. conclusively... As I mentioned before, I am trying to tie up loose ends so I may present our family genealogy history to my dad for Christmas. I've been working on this project for over 6 years.
Thank you again for your thoughtfulness and generosity. You made my day!"

My Crandall Public Library set, taken in the newly-renovated facility, brought this request from Iowa:

My library is currently creating a slideshow illustrating our need for a new library building. I was wondering if I could use some of your photos as examples of what our library could look like.


The most recent contact, and farthest afield, came from Bonifacio Global City, Philippines:

"...We understand that you are the owner of the copyright of the Actaea Pachypoda Baneberry found in this link. We humbly ask for the high resolution copy of this image to use in the Kingdom Plantae exhibit in the Mind Museum and also for your permission to do so..."

How cool is that!

Unfortunately, I didn't understand the value of tagging when I first starting archiving my photos. I sometimes feel like I'm playing a game of hide and seek as I search for images I uploaded back when labeling was not a concern. According to my Flickr stats, 7,278 items are tagged, 5,536 are not. Believe me, it's much easier to tag as you go, rather than trying to backtrack.

Tagging only takes a few minutes of your time, but its value is immense. By consistently attaching keywords to photographs, you make it easier for yourself - and others - to locate and *use your images.

*Except for some portraits and my husband's artwork, I attach CC permission to the bulk of my photographs.

"Old Photos" by dmcordell

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Emma and the Perfect Storm

The term "perfect storm" commonly refers to a worst-case scenario caused by the combination of significant phenomena.

In this case, the contributing elements are all good, and the perfect storm is a best-case scenario.

Emma Durflinger is a 12-year-old student at Van Meter School, in Van Meter, Iowa. We first met when I became co-advisor to Club Click, the school's photography club; now we're Twitter friends and Skype contacts.

Emma is comfortable with all those 21st century skills that the education community values: collaboration, communication, critical thinking, creation. She has participated in conference presentations, most recently the Iowa 1:1 Conference.

These accomplishments didn't just "happen." One component is, of course Emma herself, a bright and articulate young lady. But she might not have blossomed so early, if it hadn't been for a few key factors:
Emma isn't merely posting chaty Twitter updates. She is using her connectivity to stretch her wings and expand her horizons but with adult supervision and parental permission.

Emma is learning to ride the winds of change.

"I'm not afraid of storms, for I'm learning to sail my ship." -Aeschylus

"Sailboat # 8444" by Nemo's great uncle

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Poetry and Images

Although Poem in Your Pocket Day is over for this year, we still have a few weeks left of National Poetry Month.

My friend, Buffy Hamilton, was updating a topical display in her library when

"I began thinking about what I might feature in addition to student created poems, quotes about poetry, and images of favorite poetry occurred to me it might be fun to combine favorite lines of poetry or short poems with a carefully selected photograph to unpack a feeling, idea, or image I associated with the lines of poetry or short poem."

Buffy's exquisite slideshow, "Using Photographs to Dwell in Poetry," is embedded here, but you should read her entire posting to see where she and a collaborating teacher plan to take this project.

I have matched photos and poems before, but usually the image came first. Inspired by Buffy's example, I selected fourteen poems, then searched my own Flickr photostream and Creative Commons for appropriate pairings - which is not as easy as it might sound! This is my version, "Poetry in Words and Images."

While this type of activity is suitable for all ages, I would suggest that younger students be encouraged to choose poems that are concrete rather than abstract. A discussion of symbolism might be appropriate; knowing how to use and refine search terms and keywords is, well, key.

Final products could take the form of a collaborative slideshow, digital album, posters, or trading cards. Creating a VoiceThread or Animoto would provide the option of an additional performance component.

Of course, the enjoyment of poetry should not be limited to a single month.

"We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for." -Dead Poet's Society

Friday, April 15, 2011

Poem in My Pocket, Students on My Screen

Thursday, April 14, was National Poem in Your Pocket Day, an annual celebration which invites people of all ages to "select a poem you love during National Poetry Month then carry it with you to share with co-workers, family, and friends."

While this event was not designed exclusively as a library or school event, it certainly lends itself beautifully to those venues. Lacking students of my own, I was delighted to "borrow" some from my virtual colleagues.

John Schumacher started the ball rolling by inviting me, Shannon Miller, Jennifer Malphy, Kathy Schmidt, all school librarians, and teachers Donna Kouri and Stephen Gagnon, to collaborate in a Google Document, where we set up a schedule for Skyping throughout the day. For my part, I shared a few poems, read - and sang - a rhymed story, and listened to students recite their selections, some original.

Benefits for the students:
  • exposure to poetry
  • public speaking practice
  • the "cool factor" of connecting with adults and children in five states

Benefits for teachers:
  • having an audience made the experience more authentic for students
  • connections were made for future projects, possibly one involving photography and poetry

Our Skype interaction was the perfect example of using a tool to enhance and extend learning experiences. It was certainly not the only activity in which these students participated for Poem in Your Pocket Day, but it was a memorable one for all of us.

The poem I shared was:

Pretty Words by Elinor Wylie

Poets make pets of pretty, docile words:
I love smooth words, like gold-enamelled fish
Which circle slowly with a silken swish,
And tender ones, like downy-feathered birds:
Words shy and dappled, deep-eyed deer in herds,
Come to my hand, and playful if I wish,
Or purring softly at a silver dish,
Blue Persian kittens fed on cream and curds.

I love bright words, words up and singing early;
Words that are luminous in the dark, and sing;
Warm lazy words, white cattle under trees;
I love words opalescent, cool, and pearly,
Like midsummer moths, and honied words like bees,
Gilded and sticky, with a little sting.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Still Learning

While my husband painted en plein air today, I took the opportunity to wander with my camera.

We've been to this location before, a marshy section of Glen Lake, NY, bisected by the Warren County Bikeway. It's a lovely setting, but I was impatient for the wildflowers to make their appearance - snow and bare branches have lost their charm as photographic subjects.

An acquaintance and her hiking companion stopped to chat when they saw Tim's easel. Since they carried binoculars and cameras, I asked what they had seen on their walk. Luckily for me, both women are very knowledgeable about native plants; they were happy to "show" me a variety of shrubs and trees that I had barely glanced at before.

I take great pride in noticing details, but, without knowing what might be growing in that habitat, I had no foundation on which to build. After I photograph flowers, I use my research skills to identify and label them. Maybe I need to try a new approach and study the probabilities and possibilities before setting out.

Sue, one of the friendly experts, shared her favorite quote from Michelangelo: "I am still learning."

Obviously, so am I.

You can see my photoset of the Glen Lake Marsh here

"Artist at work" by dmcordell
"My experts!" by dmcordell
"American Hazel - female flower" by dmcordell

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Journey

April is National Poetry Month, so I'll start off the celebration with one of my (many) favorites from Pulitzer Prize winner, Mary Oliver:

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice --
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do --
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Related postings:
In My Grandfather's Voice: Found Poetry
365 Project: April
Earth Day 2010
Poetry of Another Sort
A Poetry Sampler
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird
The Bloggers

photo by Jackie Cordell