Saturday, June 11, 2011

365 Project

This year I have taken on the task of documenting our school year as a visual diary using 365 Project. As I'm just about half way through, its time to reflect on the process and its value.

The Process:
The 365 Project is a simple photo blog, take an image a day, add a caption and tag and upload to the site. For some students and teachers in the school it's been an easy entry into the world of blogging and interacting online in a safe environment.
The fun part has been taking the photos. Each week I look at the school's ever increasingly busy calendar and decide what should be covered. Often two or three days have special events going on - visitors to the school, a fund raising activity, excursions, sport etc - so they are easy days, but often not the most interesting. Its the random little snapshots of the school I find the most endearing. For example a Yr 3 boy has started a 'french knitting' craze in the grade. Its building, and each day more boys are getting into it. In fact I overhead the other day one student saying to another "I'm going to take this up a notch and get into sewing". These moments are priceless and in the big picture of a school year would normally get totally lost and forgotten. Now its there for posterity.
Taking photos around the school also allows some students to shine - they are not the sporting successes, the brilliant musicians, the popular boys that always seem to get in the money shots for the school - but instead I have been also highlighting the quiet achievers, the quirky characters. This is what makes a school rich.
I've been also asking for teachers to watch out and send me shots that they think might be worth including. Here's where the buy in from teachers and students begins. If they have contributed - their willingness to join the conversation about the images is heightened and we suddenly have a social network talking and looking at the pictures.
The photos literally take a couple of seconds to upload and write a caption - not a burden and at the end of the week I send out an email letting teachers know what's on for the week so they can share it with their class.
Each month I take a screen capture of the month calendar and print it - so an accumulated set of thumbnail images is growing on a notice board. This also serves as publicity for the project.
Next term I'm going to allocate responsibility to different classes each week to take "a week in the life of the class" - where their class is showcased. Similarly I think that can also work for specialist areas such as Art, Music and Sport.

10 ways to use the project with students:
The project can be used in many ways by many members of the school community. Here's some of what I've observed from the project so far:
1) Classes look at the weekly photos and vote on their favourites - discussion, argument and stating a case and finally voting for a favourite gives the boys a chance to think and reflect on the week.
2) Teachers and students select photos to include - again this is whole class decision making in action. Classes can agree on captions to accompany an image - or a student can be set the task.
3) Boys independently log on and comment on photos and therefore events around the school.
4) Parents can see what's been going on and also be part of the community and comment also.
5) The schools we connect with in other cities can see what we are up to and when we do things together, these images can be included and they can also comment - joining our community conversation.
6) Teachers can set a reflective comment as a homework task.
7) Once the Project comes along some of the way, there are mathematics opportunities for the class to tally number of times a class or subject is featured using the tags.
8) There are also opportunities for text type writing that can launch from the photos.
9) It presents an opportunity for the students to become engaged in a web 2.0 environment, interact with others and value the power of the image and reflective thought.
10) By the end, it becomes a really nice time capsule of the year.

I would recommend the project to anyone, a class, a student or teacher with a special interest or as a simple a reflection of the year. A family even can work together and collect their favourite snapshots and share them online, the site really has many possibilities to use it in a variety of forms. I'm hoping exposure to the project will give our students and teachers some inspiration to have a go.
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