One Learner’s Journey

MaryH’s blog for reflecting on the EVO08 SMiELT session

Collaborative projects through tags on Flickr February 10, 2008

Flickr and Food. Inspiration for this post was gained from this found photo of Buckeyes and my related post about Chinswing, where I explain how Buckeye candy relates to Ohio culture! Wouldn’t it be fun to extend the conversation of food, culture, recipes, and cooking even further outside the classroom? I wanted to think of a way to use Flickr to help make these kinds of connections with language students and teachers in other parts of the world possible.

There are so many ways to use the photos found on Flickr in the classroom! Recently my mind is on the power of tagging. It is easy to look for photos with a certain tag in Flickr, but the real power of tagging and Flickr, and essentially of social media, is to use the tags to find, connect, and share with people who have similar interests. What does that mean for the language learner or language teacher? Here is my idea for a online collaborative project using Flickr.

Scenario A (no social media): One common class assignment is to write a process essay. In my writing classes, students often choose to explain how to make their favorite dish; in other words, they choose to write a recipe. Then, they write down the steps in paragraph form and turn their paper in to me for a grade. Read on for Scenario B (or how writing a process essay could be made more interesting by incorporating social media).

Scenario B (using social media): Students write process essays explaining how to make their favorite dish. In order to add more writing, students can add additional personal comments, such as why they wrote about this dish, what this dish reminds them of, and/or what special meaning this dish has for them or their culture. Next, students take a picture of their dish. Then, both the written work and the photo are uploaded to Flickr and tagged.

Much along the lines of the writingmatrix project where students tag their blog posts with the tag writingmatrix, students could tag their Flickr photos and recipes with a unique tag. Updated: Let’s use the tag “globalcookbook” to connect! Then, students can easily read and comment on not only their classmates’ work, but if the project were publicized, then they could read and comment on the work of students in other cities or countries. The conversations about their recipes, photos, and feelings could be extended to a larger audience, and students could explore the intersections of food and culture further.

Food is something that unites everyone. Although I haven’t tried this before, I think it could be motivating for many learners. For instance, adult learners who have recently moved to a new country often enjoy swapping recipes from their home countries, and learning how to use the ingredients of the new country. Even young adults and teenagers in an EFL context would enjoy sharing their favorite foods and recipes; furthermore, they would most likely enjoy the opportunity to make connections with others through English! Shall we give it a try? Any more ideas about tagging and Flickr? In what other ways could students work collaboratively via Flickr?

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14 Responses to “Collaborative projects through tags on Flickr”

  1. Gabriela Sellart Says:

    Mary, I love this project. I’ve worked with food and cooking many times (Scenario A, of course). Strong bonds are developed between group members when they cook for each other and share their favourite dishes.
    There are several features I love about your project.
    It’s highly inclusive. Adults, teens, and perhaps even children could take part. Language level is not an obstacle. The language production would vary, of course, but photos add a lot of meaning.
    Synchronism is not relevant (though the ones to start first will need another group). The project can extend in time (provided flickr remains free) and for the ones to start it will always be new.
    Students will have the chance to get in contact with people from other cultures through a highly relevant and at the same time simple topic.

    Count me in.

  2. MaryH Says:

    Hi Gabriela,
    I’m glad that you think the project sounds interesting! I love the topic of food, and have often used it in the Scenario A way too! However, this past year, when I started the Chinswing thread, I started to think about how interesting the topic of food can be in a cross-cultural sense. It is definitely a topic that all kinds of learners can collaborate on. When looking at cookbooks, I am often drawn to the photos first; in my opinion, they really make the instructions come alive! Let’s stay in touch, and get something started!

  3. Nancy Says:

    I agree with Gabriela: this is a great assignment. I just had my beginning students write down their favorite recipes, and I printed out copies for everyone. They were thrilled to see the finished product. I can only imagine how excited they would be to see them on the Flickr. Too bad we have no access to technology. Maybe someday!

  4. Sabrina Says:

    I agree with both of you. I think the project is great and it is a great way of starting creating networks among our students. I believe that communication is a key issue of these days so we should make sure that we expose our students to this. This project would be a good starting point. Count me in too. Do you use skype? I believe it is a great tool to help us organise projects when we leave far away. My id is sabridv. Let’s keep in touch!

  5. MaryH Says:

    Thanks, Nancy! Sharing recipes is a lot of fun, and your students must have enjoyed producing their own cookbook. Although not carried out online, your project has a similar aim — to go beyond a simple assignment and to connect to others by creating something that can be kept and enjoyed for a longer time!

  6. Mary, you are inspiring me!
    My first idea comes from your comment on my flickrshow. Get 2 different classes from 2 different countries take pictures during a cultural celebration, put them on flickr and then share the links. The two classes begin commenting on the similarities and differences of the celebration between the two countries. This could, of course, include food!

    The second idea comes from thinking about the needs of my own class. They are preparing for the CAE. I could give them a key word. They then look for pictures tagged with this particular word and then describe them, comparing and contrasting and explaining the reasons for choosing these 2-3 pictures. A very exam-like task made personal (though not as social as the above).

  7. Barbara Dieu Says:

    Mary,
    This works really well – I did it with my students and they enjoyed it a lot. To extend it, you can make Flickr mosaics (see Flickr tools) and add them to VoiceThread in 3 pages: fist page: recipes;2nd page: laying the table for the guests; 3rd page: preparing the party .
    Different students can then record each step (which corresponds to the frames of the mosaic) and others can pitch in for missing details.

  8. MaryH Says:

    Illya,
    I love your ideas of how to use Flickr! Sharing cultural celebrations through photos showed us that “distance is no longer a divider”!
    http://illyasoet.wordpress.com/2008/02/02/flickring-away/

  9. MaryH Says:

    Bee,
    Thank you for your comment and for sharing your experiences with your students. Making Flickr mosaics sounds like a lot of fun, and a very useful activity for the ESL/EFL class.

  10. annforeman Says:

    Though entering this discussion a bit late, I think it’s a great idea and would like to try it out with my classes. What tags are you going to use in Flickr?

  11. MaryH Says:

    There seems to be a lot of interest in this project. I’ve just checked the availability of tags on technorati and Flickr. Let’s use the tag “globalcookbook” when posting photos with recipes on Flickr or blogs.

  12. […] Participate on your own or with students — food is a great way to make connections. See my previous post for all the details! […]

  13. MaryH Says:

    Hi Gabriela,
    thanks for sharing the link to the lunchboxproject. I think that lunch boxes in Japan, bento, are really fascinating because they have such a variety of foods and an interesting history! It is awesome to see that images are being used to share this part of culture among elementary school students in different countries!


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