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You know what they say, "A picture is worth a thousand words." But what do you think? Is a picture worth a thousand words? And what is the connection between a photograph and learning?

Technology offers new possibilities for taking, finding, creating, and composing with pictures. Take a look at these different photography tools and mobile apps, and learn some new ways how your students can use pictures to demonstrate learning.

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Sphere: Take a Panorama Picture

Do you and your students have access to smartphones or tablets in your classroom? If so, then you need to check out Sphere.

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This free app, available on Apple and Android, allows you to capture 360 degree panoramic photos. It also gives you the chance to take virtual tours of over 300,000 spheres already recorded.

I've played around with Sphere a little bit myself, and it does take some practice to get the hang of it. Depending on the lighting and device you have access to, your sphere isn't going to turn out as perfect as you may like. But the fact that this type of photography software is available for free and on mobile devices is pretty remarkable. Just a few years ago you would have to pay hundreds of dollars for software to create these type of panoramas, and it would be a much more complex process.

So even with the learning curve, if you or your students are interested in an alternate way to capture memories with photographs, Sphere is worth checking out.

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Google Draw: Create Unique Drawings Online

Have you ever noticed that lesser-known tool inside your Google Drive account called Google Drawings? Let's take a look at how you can use it to draw online.

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In this 3-Minute Classroom Problem Solver video, master trainer and Teacher Learning Community presenter Kimberly Munoz explains how to use Google Drawings to illustrate, draw, and create in the classroom. Insert images, create shapes, label photographs, draw arrows -- you and your students will enjoy getting creative with this fun free tool.

Once you get comfortable with Google Drawings, you can use it to create custom Venn Diagrams, graphic organizers, sticky note boards, infographics, annotations, and more. Students can work alone on their work, or collaborate with peers and edit the same drawing in real-time.

One of my favorite things about Google Drawings is the feature that allows you to search and insert images. Using the insert feature, you can search the web and find relevant images to use in your drawings.

To learn more about Google Drawings, I recommend watching the on-demand training video, Using Google Apps to Create Interactive Student or Class Projects. In this fast-paced session, join experienced educator Meredith Martin as she explains how to use Google Slides and Google Drawings to go beyond the basics with your class to create interactive reports, projects, lessons, and more.

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BeFunky: Create Photo Collages

Would you like to create photo collages with digital photos from your classroom? This free tool allows you to create photo collages with the click of a button.

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BeFunky is a free online photo editing tool that offers a variety of features. You don't need to be a Photoshop guru to edit photos and put on some nice finishing touches with BeFunky. However, my favorite feature of this tool is the collage creator.

We've all been there - with technology readily available at every turn, we have an abundance of photos from field trips, class projects, or day-to-day school activities. The photos are there, but it can be difficult to find the motivation to use them. With BeFunky's collage wizard, you and your students can create photo collages in a couple of minutes, and share them out with students, parents, or the world.

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PicMonkey: A Hands-On Activity

In the brief video, tech trainer Kim Munoz outlines how to use PicMonkey to edit digital student work and apply copyright icons directly to the photos or graphics themselves. This brings up a wonderful opportunity to discuss copyright laws and best practices with students.

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This is just one way I see using this free photo editing tool in the classroom.

You could also use PicMonkey to create the following:

  • Student work collages - Have students create collages to share as a recap at the end of the school year.
  • Postcards - Students can depict a location from a novel or a place they'd like to visit one day.
  • Decorations - Put up famous quotations around the room to inspire students (and yourself!) throughout the day.
  • Memes - Insert captions on photos commenting on current events or political topics.
  • Photo timelines - Photographs can go a long way in helping students tell a story. Learn more here.
  • Digital posters - Spice up any student project with a poster or infographic.
  • School event invites - One benefit to making your invite online is it's easy to share a digital version. This means you'll save a bundle on printing costs.

These are just a few ideas that came to mind when I was playing with this fun tool. Check it out and let me know what you can add to the list.

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Blabberize: Create Talking Pictures

Are you looking for a fun storytelling tool to use with students? Sometimes we all just need a laugh, and that's where this simple tool comes in...

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Blabberize is a fun free tool that allows you to create talking pictures. Use their free editing tools to outline a mouth on your photograph. Upload audio, and voila! You have a talking photo. It's fun, it's free, it's easy to use. Try it out now and let us know what you think.

Interested to learn about more free storytelling tools? Check out some of these articles and online courses from experienced tech trainers:

Picture This: Grabbing Attention with Talking Pictures - Do you or your students need something new and different for presenting information? In this session, learn how to use Blabberize, a fun, free web tool that uses photos and audio to create talking pictures. Be anyone --or anything -- that you want to be! Discover how to create a blabber, and see how it can be shared using a link or embedded into your class website or blog. We will discuss some ways to use this in your classroom, as well as how to convert your blabber into a video for added fun.

Strategies and Tips for Getting Started with Digital Storytelling - Would you like for your students to create digital stories that go beyond just a basic beginning, middle, and end? Join experienced educational trainer Melissa Edwards as she shares a variety of strategies and questions that will help your students get started with and enhance their digital stories.

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Canva: Create Infographics or Reference Charts

Take a look at this simple web tool to create custom reference charts for your classroom...

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In the above 3-Minute Classroom Problem Solver video, SimpleK12's Teacher Learning Community presenter extraordinaire, Monica Burns, explains step-by-step how to update your reference charts with the free image creation tool, Canva.

You can see how easy it is to design your own reference material from scratch with Canva. You don't need to be a techie pro to build your own beautiful graphics. The best part about this tool is everything you need to get started is completely free. You can add on additional graphics or special fonts for a fee, but Canva has more than enough to get the job done with a free account.

Once you're finished with your creations you can print them out, or share them electronically. There's also a Canva App available for iPad, for those of you looking to create on the go.

For more on using Canva in your classroom, I encourage you to look at this on-demand training video, Creating Interactive Photos in Your Classroom. Join experienced educator and SimpleK12's Teacher Learning Community presenter Brenda Hauff as she explains how to use Canva to look like a graphics pro (we won't tell where you learned these insider secrets). There's no need to be a tech nerd – you can do it all without using HTML code. In addition, Brenda will share example project ideas and suggestions for using interactive photos in your classroom.

For more ideas on photography tools to use with students, check out this video, Say it With Pictures: Using Mobile Devices to Capture Pictures and Learning. Join Teacher Learning Community presenter Melissa Edwards as she explores how mobile learning offers new possibilities for taking, finding, creating, and composing with pictures. In addition to sharing strategies, mobile apps, and tips for working with pictures, Melissa shares classroom examples and ways in which pictures can be used to help facilitate and demonstrate learning.

6 Free Photography Tools to Use with Students Click to Tweet

What's your favorite photography tool to use with students? Tell me about it in a comment on this article.

Kimber Thompson is a Lead Moderator for SimpleK12 webinars and a Contributing Editor for SimpleK12.com. She writes frequently about education topics, and is passionate about tools and techniques that inspire young learners. You may reach her with ideas and comments at editor@simplek12.com.


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