Digital cameras offer new ways to be creative. You can see your pictures quickly and print them minutes later. They are also tools which encourage imaginative use of information and communication technology in the curriculum. Chris Flanagan helps you come to grips with this exciting development.
WHAT - NO CAMERA?
There are ways to explore digital images without spending a fortune.
* Use a scanner to convert ordinary photos into a digital image. Use them for any of the projects.
* A photo CD from the chemist can hold up to 100 pictures and costs about pound;25. You can then use any of the images with your computer.
* Buy a "web cam" for as little as pound;50. The software that comes with most of these products allows them to be used like a conventional camera - taking still shots as well as transmitting on low-quality video pictures across the Internet. They have to be attached to the computer to take pictures. Unless you have a laptop computer, you will be limited to indoor shots. The length of cable may also restrict what you can do.
* Use digital photos freely available in some clip art packages or on the Internet. You can transform and combine them into something new with a paint program.
A PHOTO TIMELINE
Things to do
Ask pupils to photographically record a project you may be doing in science or design technology. Get them to focus on details, such as how a model was built or how some seeds were grown.
1. Make sure all the pictures are taken from the same angle and distance and in similar light.
2. Make sure the subject fills most of the frame.
3. Save the pictures to the computer and edit them as necessary.
4. Import the pictures into presentation software such as Microsoft PowerPoint, using one picture on each slide. Set the slides to change automatically. A multimedia program such as Multimedia Textease or HyperStudio gives the same effect by linking pages. Viewers will be able to see how a wonderful model took shape or how a runner bean actually grew.
WHAT'S COOL amp; WHAT'S BLUE
The good news
* You don't have to wait. You can see at once if you have cut people's heads off, or if someone blinked, or if your subject is standing in shadow. The camera offers instant learning.
* You can re-take pictures again and again, until they are right.
* You don't need film - the camera can take a large number of pictures.
* You can print your best shots immediately.
* You can e-mail your best pictures or post them on a website.
* You can alter your pictures on the computer.
THE BAD NEWS
* Most cameras take several seconds to warm up.
* The camera needs time to store a picture before allowing you to take the next shot.
* Pictures don't always print as well as they do from an ordinary camera, depending on the paper and printer you have. Print paper is also expensive.
* Some have rechargable batteries, but you can use them up quickly if you use the built-in screen for composing and viewing shots.
* The better quality the picture, the more memory it takes up. If possible, buy a camera that can download images on to a card and carry spare cards.
* LCD screens can be difficult to see in bright light.
DIGI-DO'S amp; DIGI-DON'TS
Do: * Use the viewfinder for composing genera * shots. It saves batteries and helps you hold the camera more steadily. * Use the LCD screen for close-up shots. What you see is what you get. * Try and use rechargeable batteries if possible. Nicd (Nicads) or NI-MH are recommended. You will save money and it is environmentally friendly. * Take spare batteries when you are out of school. Always have a spare set fully charged. * Give your pictures names so you remember which ones they are when you transfer them to the computer. * Use the flash when photographing people on sunny days. It will prevent shadows on their faces.
Don't: * Try and produce large prints from images that have a low resolution setting. They will be poor quality. * E-mail pictures which have been taken on high-quality settings without first compressing them with software, such as WinZip (produced by WinZip Computing Inc). High-quality settings take a long time to download. * Print pictures unless your project isfinished. This saves ink and paper. * Tell your friends how great digital cameras are - they'll all want to use yours!
THINGS TO DO
* Take a close-up picture; a picture in good light; a long-distance view and a portrait. Use them to make your first photography portfolio. l Take a picture of your class for another school and invite the recipients to exchange letters and images with you.
SECRET AGENT ID
Things to do
Ask pupils to make an identity card with lots of information about the owner of the card, including a photo. Pretend they're making an ID card for a spy!
1. Get them to take a photo of themselves, or a friend, on a digital camera and save it on a computer.
2. Using a paint or photo-editing program, get pupils to: a. Draw on some glasses.
b. Put spots on a clean, white school shirt.
c. Give yourself a moustache or beard.
d. Change your hair colour.
e. Make your eyebrows bushy.
3. Use a word processing or desktop-publishing program - A6 landscape is a good paper size.
4. Position your finished photo on the page.
5. In the blank space, invent some descriptions for these headings, such as: a. Name.
b. Country of birth.
d. Favourite "hangout".
e. Favourite food.
f. Favourite phrase or saying.
g. Distinguishing features.
NATIONAL CURRICULUM LINKS:
* Select and record from first-hand observation.
* Collect visual information and other data to help children develop their ideas.
* See how visual and tactile elements can be combined and organised for different purposes.
Science * Obtain and present evidence.
Mathematics * Transform images using ICT.
English (Writing) * Broaden vocabulary and use it inventively.
* Use ICT tools for layout, presentation and organisation.
* Develop and refine ideas by bringing together, organising and reorganising images.
* Share and exchange information in a variety of forms.
* Work with others to explore a variety of information sources and ICT tools.
Digital cameras often have image manipulation software with them. This is usually comprehensive enough to do most things within the classroom. There are many others available. You might consider for Windows:
* Paint is a simple program that comes free with Microsoft Windows. The latest versions will handle JPEG files, which is the type produced by most digital cameras.
* Paint Shop Pro 6, from Jasc Software (www.jasc.com or call 01295 258335) is a powerful program which is suitable for advanced users.
* MGI Photosuite, from MGI Software Corporation (www.mgisoft.com or call 0207 365 0034) has lots of templates and helps you use photographs in calendars, cards and posters.
* Microsoft Image Composer (comes with Microsoft Front Page) is easy for children to come to grips with. It has lots of effects, and if you follow the easy introduction and tutorial you will have a good basic understanding of image manipulation and editing. (www.microsoft.comukofficefrontpage or call 08706010100).
* Kai's Power Goo from MetaCreations (www.metacreations.
comuk) is a fun program for creating unusual effects with pictures.
Common imaging terms:
* Crop. Trimming away unwanted parts of an image.
* Compression. A way of reducing the size of the file that the image is saved as. This is most often used with JPEG files. More compression equals less quality.
* Layers. Rather like a computer-generated overhead projector, where transparencies are laid on top of each other. Each layer contains images which can be edited individually. When they are laid on top of each other you see the combined effect.
Other Resources BECTA has useful help on digital cameras. Try www.becta.org.uk inclusionesolresourcesimages. html or view an information sheet that includes many digital camera sites on the web at www.becta.org.uk technologyinfosheetsitadvice.html (Adobe Acrobat Reader needed).
Chris Flanagan is headteacher at Sutton-on-Sea county primary school. The school's website, www.sutton. lincs. sch.uk won the Road Ahead Prize 1998
MAKING A MONTAGE
Things to do
1. Ask pupils to make a montage. Ask them to decide on a theme. Here are some ideas:
* Shapes around school.
* Colours around school.
* Wheels and cogs.
* A verse from a poem.
2. Start taking pictures that fit in with the theme.
3. Take pictures from different angles. Take something familiar from an unusual angle.
4. Include distant and close-up shots.
5. Save pictures and use paint and photo-editing programs to "crop" and re-size the images. Apply special effects to your pictures, stretching and swirling them.
6. Create a new image from scratch. An 8 x 6 inch image will print nicely in landscape format. This will be your "canvas". Arrange your prepared photos on it.
7. Cut and paste your chosen photos and arrange them on your "canvas". Rotate or overlap some of the photos.
8. Use the text tool to add some words.
9. Print your montage or publish it on your school website.