Sunday, November 29, 2015

New Technology: Photo Spheres & Class Instagram

Half way through the semester, and I'm realizing that I haven't had the chance to blog much. There's been both the struggle of having no time, as well as the feeling that there's nothing worth writing about.

But I've been trying to encourage other teachers to blog and share, because even if it's an everyday occurrence in their classroom, it will be brand new to someone else looking to try something new. So here are some new image-related tech things I've tried this year.

Photo Sphere

If you're familiar with Google StreetView, you're familiar with 360-degree images: photos that you can pan around and see from all perspectives, as if you were really standing there.

Most of these StreetView images were taken with the special spherical camera (mounted on a Google car that has made the rounds through neighbourhoods), however it's possible for anyone to take these 360-degree pictures and add them to Google Maps for all to see.

A flat Photo Sphere of our road on Manitoulin

The process is fairly simple, provided you have the right app. With an Android device, download the Google Camera app: "photo spheres" is one of the options when you go to take a photo.

On an iOS device, download the Google StreetView app, which guides you through the photo spheres process. From here, you can also use the image in Google Cardboard. There appears, however, to be no equivalent option for Blackberry users.

You can see (and play with!) the full image here.
In our Earth & Space Science class, part of an assignment had the students locate examples of local surroundings that demonstrate erosion and take 360-degree images of them (here are some examples: Bridal Veil Falls, road-side rock cut).

It was a neat way to encourage students to get outside and apply what they've learned, and it was a new tool for the students to try (most didn't know they could take photos like this). My plan was to create a shared map for the class using My Maps, and have the students share their spheres to the class map.

Sharing the photo spheres turned out to be tricky, though - the only way to share/publish your spheres is to upload them to the public Google Maps, much like you would contribute a normal photo of an area. This process takes upward of a day (each photo sphere that is uploaded needs to be approved by Google), and once published to the public map, the links seemed to disappear randomly - visible one day, and gone the next. There doesn't appear to be a way to publish the spheres to a private map. Yet.

Those without the app were encouraged to take a panorama photo, and barring that, a series of photos, of their chosen location. Not quite the same effect as a 360-degree photo, but it still got everyone outside hunting for erosion.

Class Instagram

Earlier in the school year, I mentioned wanting to try a class Instagram account, but wasn't sure what to post or how to go about it. My grade 12 Earth & Space Science class seemed interested in taking up the challenge, and came up with the name for the account: @SESforyou (a play on our course code, SES4U (SES = Science, Earth & Space; 4U = grade 12 University-stream)).

A photo posted by @sesforyou on

The account was created, and I gave the students the login and password information so that anyone could post to the account. The plan was to post photos what we're doing in class (with the understanding that we keep students' faces out of images), or their own photos of geology around the island.

A photo posted by @sesforyou on

The account was fairly well-received in class, but even with full login access, only one student has posted his own photo so far. Many say it's too tedious to log out of their own Instagram account and log in to the class one on their devices. This week, I hope to set up the account on one of the class tablets so that students can use that device to take and post pictures.

I love the idea of being able to share what we're doing, especially as some of the projects the students are creating are fantastic (blog post on those, coming soon), but I was hoping to interact/share/connect more with other Earth Science classes through it. We are getting better at using social media, though (especially harnessing the power of the hashtag to get our photos noticed).

What have you tried?

Have you tried either of these image-sharing tools? Any tips or tricks to share? Please comment! We're always looking to learn and try something new.

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