Flickr to me represents the good, the bad and the ugly of the Web 2.0 phenomena. Before I consider whether if facilitates interactivity , which is our killer question, I have been reflecting on my own use of it in the past. Yes, I have rummaged, often tirelessly, through the rubble, to find something I could use that represented what I had to say. In my own blog, just recently, I have used the flock of birds image to highlight the metaphor of “spreading my wings” (travelling to new places, cognitively speaking), being in a flock (Wenger’s Community of Practice) in the hope of getting a “bird’s eye perspective”, seeing different view points through online discussion and analysis.
All this means sense to me, when I wrote my blog on how I was feeling and where I wanted to be, but whether it conveyed the same message to my readers is another thing. See the example below. What do you see?
Technically, even though I have sourced this from an educational website I still feel I need to check for copyright.
When I think of Flickr in the context of writing our blog I harken back to days of research when we studied journals on the efficacy of multimedia for teaching and learning. Mayer’s (2003), Clark and Lyons (2004) and even Albion’s heuristics (1999) of good educational design all spring to mind.
Why? Because now when I support colleagues on how to use images in Teaching and Learning I ask them to think more carefully about what they are going to do with the images and why. Even popping an image into the VLE shouldn’t be done without some thought. Vrasidas (2004) explores the limitations of the VLE for constructivist learning and warns tutors to..
“select the learning strategies and appropriate media that will be more likely to help students achieve the desired outcomes. For example, decide when to use a visual illustration, a video clip, an audio strip, or an animation, and how it will support learning” (p.913).
Hence my focus, when thinking about Flickr, is not what you find but what you do with your find that matters. Once the practicalities of copyright and creative commons are out of the way, and without going into details about Mayer’s research on using images I do draw tutor’s attention to the “decorative eye candy” concept (Clark and Lyons, 2004, p.8) which can actually hinder learning. Considering this, I wonder if my use of the flock of birds from Flickr was just this, decorative eye candy. BUT, then scratching my head further and asking one of Feuerstein’s killer questions “why did I do it?” the answer is that it really did help me to focus on the purpose of writing my blog. So in this respect my use of graphics was significant and relevant, if only for myself.
I used the Gin and Tonic imagery in my blog “Gin and Tonic Anyone?” for humour, to add lightness to an already weighty blog that was beginning to groan with too much academic pampering. Clark and Lyons allow for this, warning against extraneous graphics but acknowledging that some images can be useful for their “aesthetic, humorous or motivational purposes” (p.19). In hindsight, this is a useful technique. I also remember advice from a colleague who commented on one of my first blogs which was to use a catchy heading to draw your audience in and although a G & T might not appeal to everyone it is perhaps more inviting than some of the titles of my other postings for eg. Reciprocity Quandary. In this latter blog I also used an image to promote the feeling of being a bit lost in a thick fog and perhaps I was trying to draw empathy from readers by using this. By reflecting in my blog I was hoping to lift the fog.
The picture of the lolly stick in my post “Who stole the lolly stick and why?” was used to intrigue my audience though I doubt the graphic had much relevance or impact as the question itself was all that was needed. So, I have queried my own use of graphics in the blog and I could evaluate it further by applying the aforementioned heuristics of well known research. And so, in regard to Flickr, for me the question is less about the site itself and more about what educators do with the images once they have been sourced. We are a long way from enlightening our educators here.
Look at this photo by daveblume. He is obviously a commercial photographer and he has rights reserved on some of his images but wants to showcase many more of them in Flickr. He belongs to groups of photojournalists but chooses to allow this image to be used by others under a creative commons licence. The group he is in probably offers him levels of interactivity by collaborating and sharing with other like-minded people.
What would a tutor do with an image like this? I have used similar images for pastoral care programmes for young learners in FE. Such an image is provocative enough to promote debate but a tutor must facilitate this process to allow for interactions amongst the learners.
What a unique image too. This one of the “good” sides of Flickr: users have access to millions of images, which were hitherto difficult to find, under the creative commons licence for Teaching and Learning. Not everyone understands that Flickr is a social networking site (SNS) like Facebook but communities do grow by a shared interest and relationships are nurtured. Holiday snaps are viewed amongst families and friends and budding artists can showcase their work. The rise of social media pivots around sites like Flickr. Tufekci (2008) differentiates between what he terms the instrumental internet which is the interface of online banking, shopping and seeking out the weather reports and the expressive internet, one of social interactions and what he terms “social grooming” where users engage in “gossip, small talk and generalized, non-functional people-curiousity” (p.544). In this respect Flickr firmly belongs to the expressive internet.
The bad side of Flickr is its marketing strategy which Andy so lucidly highlights in his post Tied up and Tied in. This is the method by which Flickr is free…up to a point before heavier users feel compelled to subscribe due to Flickr’s limitations. Also, there are a wide-range of images of different quality to have to sift through without the relevant metadata which makes the job of finding something all the more difficult. Other sites like wikimedia creative commons offer images of higher quality though this site still dwarfs Flickr.
The ugly side of Flickr is that all the images are not appetizing or age-appropriate. Some images may be culturally insensitive and searching the site for specific images may bring about surprising results – so don’t try this in class. Also, images cannot be removed easily so it can lead to online abuse of unsuspecting victims.
I personally do not see the advantage of uploading images to Flickr myself. Any holiday snaps are shared (very minimally) on Facebook where I have more privacy settings. I would, perhaps be more inclined to use that other commonly used multimedia site, YouTube, to upload material.
So to the killer question does Flickr promote interactivity. If you are a community member of the site who needs feedback within the information loop that Yacci (2002) refers to then yes, of course, it can. It is a social network site which users can interact with: user-content, user-interface, user-user. More importantly, though, we need to ask ourselves how to incorporate such Flickr images into our eLearning design more innovatively to support learning.
I couldn’t resist using Animoto to showcase a few images from Flickr and Wikimedia. They are all landmarks in different countries. If anyone has even got this far in this labyrinth of a blog post… can you name the countries represented? That is my challenge!
Clark, C. & Lyons, R. (2004) Graphics for Learning (Course Reader)
Mayer, R.E (2003) The promise of multimedia learning: using the same instructional design methods across different media. Learning and Instruction Vol 13, Issue 2, p.123-139
Tufekci Z. (2008) Grooming, Gossip, Facebook and MySpace. Information, Communication and Society, Vol 11, Issue 4, p.544-564