Wednesday, July 1, 2009

To Photoshare or Not to Photoshare

I have never been very involved in sharing photos. Even after I went to Hawaii last summer, everyone kept asking me when I was going to post the pictures on Facebook. I never did post them...

Part of me doesn't like the idea of sharing photos. I don't mid people looking at them, but I continue to think about the people out there who would take the pictures and use them for their own agenda. Even Facebook's previous terms of agreement had mentioned that they would own anyone's pictures posted to the website (even after that person closed his or her Facebook account). That may have deterred me slightly in posting more pictures there.

I watched the Creative Commons video pertaining to photosharing and the point that they emphasize is that the best thing to do is make your photos public. They also say that the photos are safe, organized and findable once you upload them to the Web. I really like the idea of these three capabilities. I don;t have as much time to scrapbook, especially when I am in school, so it is a great way to keep all of my photos together and not worry about them getting lost or damaged. They also opened my eyes to the idea of choosing privacy settings. I had absolutely NO idea that you could choose who would be able to view your photos. This changed my perspective of posting photos on the Web a little bit.

I decided to try Webshots for the purpose of exploring photosharing websites. I wanted to try something that was not as popular as Flickr. I signed up and uploaded my photos and I have to say that I was not overly impressed. I didn't like the fact that I could only select "public" or "private" as settings. The "private" setting is not clarified so when I encountered this, I assumed that I would be the only one that could see the photos. So I selected "public" (because the Creative Commons video said that's the best), and now I have this nagging feeling that people are going to use my photos. Maybe that's selfish in a way, but I just can't help it. I didn't like the numerous tabs at the top of the screen because I had no idea what to do with them. I thought there were too many.

After some thought, I decided that I had to explore Flickr. The entire chapter of Will Richardson's book, Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms, was focused on Flickr and I was quite impressed with the tools described and associated with that particular photosharing website. I signed up easily and in a matter of minutes I was uploading my photos.

I liked the set up of Flickr much more than Webshots. I found it easier to figure out where I should go, and I also liked that there were no ads (at least I didn't notice any). I liked the "plainness" (if you will) of the interface. It guarantees more of a focus on the photos as opposed to everything else on the site. I also liked that there were not nearly as many tabs at the top of the page.

I have been going over in my mind how students could use photosharing in the classroom. My immediate thought was "How do you deal with privacy issues?" Obviously, there will be some students who are not granted permission to put photos of themselves on the Web. This is understandable because of the issues revolving around potential predators. The more I think about it, though, the more I realize just how much students would benefit from using photosharing websites. Students would not necessarily need to post photos of themselves. Why not take photographs as part of a project and then share those photos with other schools and students on the other side of the world?

As I read Will Richardson's Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms, I realized that the opportunities endless in regards to incorporating photosharing into the curriculum. I didn't realize that there was a way to integrate Google Earth with the photos posted on Flickr to teach students about geography (p. 101). And I thought that it was a great idea to use the photos in slideshows and to put together "pseudo-field trips."

I can definitely see the benefits of using photosharing in the library. It is a great way to promote the library as well as promote special events. It's even useful for those who can't make it to the event - they can look at the pictures to see how it went. In fact, when I was the Summer Programmer at the Stony Plain Library in 2007, there were some photos of our Harry Potter Day (to celebrate the release of the final book in the series) and an author visit were posted on Flickr. The author even thought that this was great because it gave him some publicity as well.

Although there are many benefits to using photosharing in a school or a library environment, I think a part of me still fears the obvious - people stealing what is not theirs and people being photographed without permission. I am willing to explore the idea further, however, because I do see the possibilities that extend from using photosharing programs.

I found a list of popular photosharing websites with a one sentence description of each by Fotohacker. I really thought the list was useful - it provided a bit of information about each program. Although one may like to research each of these more, it definitely gives a beginner a place to start (especially because links to each of the photosharing websites are provided). Arnold Zafra also focuses on a few popular photosharing websites and he describes the pros and cons of each in more depth. While some of these overlapped, there were a couple of new wesbsites mentioned. For example, Picasa Web Albums. Zafra actually mentions that Picasa works well with Blogger, but it is not a vary popular Google program. I had never before heard of Picasa, which goes along with what Zafra was saying about the lack of attention it has been given.

By far the most important thing to do when considering implementing photosharing websites into the library is to explore in order to see what is available. The photosharing programs would be more likely utilized if the librarian is comfortable using it and if the program supports the purposes and the goals of the library. I discovered the differences between Flickr and Webshots and those are only a couple of the possibilities that are actually out there. By looking at what type of program would best suit the library, the librarian is able to use the photosharing program more effectively, thus giving the users the most meaningful experiences with the program.


  1. I hadn't heard that facebook can still use the pictures you post after you close an account. That makes me really uncomfortable. I don't like that they can use them how they want while I am a member, but I am benefitting from the service they provide. I thought that once a facebook account was closed they no longer had access to our photos. It doesn't seem right that they retain them. It is probably good that you are careful about posting pictures on the internet.

  2. As far as I know, that's what the big issue was a couple of months ago with facebook changing it's terms of use. They adjusted the wording in their terms of use so that they directly address the fact that they will NOT own your pictures after you close your account.

  3. As a teacher and librarian, how can you teach students about some of these issues related to privacy? How can you use sites like picasa or flickr to teach information literacy skills rather than just the basic uploading of photos?

  4. The issues surrounding Facebook's usage of personal photos and videos really does bring up our always looming topic of copyright and intellectual freedom. I was rather fuzzy about this subject, but being in library school has really brought it to the forefront in sharp relief as we won't be able to plead ignorance.

  5. Will Richardson discusses how educators (and this could easily apply to librarians and/or parents alike) can teach students about information literacy as they are using these Web 2.0 technologies. He mentions that you can teach the students how to search and navigate the Web "safely and effectively" (11) and by discussing what should and should not be published online (12). I think that by bringing this kind of a discussion forward shows students the importance of being safe online and it also addresses any concerns that they (or their parents) may have about being online.