Caught on camera

6th January 2006 at 00:00
From maths to history, Nishani Kampfner looks at lessons where digital cameras help to catch children's imagination

"It's amazing how pictures bring subjects to life," says Helen Vivian, deputy head at All Saints primary in Maldon, Essex. She was inspired to order more digital cameras for her school after attending a training course on numeracy organised by her local authority (Essex Advisory and Inspection Services).

"When teaching polygons, for example, we ask the children 'How many triangles can you find in real life?' We take them around school and they photograph all the triangles they can find. Back in the classroom, they use their pictures to create PowerPoint presentations. Pictures increase their visual literacy and support them to achieve an analysis of maths they can see."

Helen also uses pictures taken with digital cameras to connect maths to the children's environment, showing them what maths looks like in life, and helping them develop a better sense of shape and space.

Inspired by the success of using pictures to teach maths, the school is extending the principles to other subjects. Helen is pleased to see good results with some of her Year 6 pupils, who are using digital storyboarding in literacy.

"Using plasticine models and digital pictures, we did a project based on Finding Nemo, and got remarkable results from students previously disaffected with literacy. By integrating digital pictures we found the students completed their storyboards and continued to talk about their work in their break and through lunchtime."

Helen is concerned that it won't be easy to bring in more cameras: the school's budget stretches to just two, and suitable models cost about pound;250. "There are cheaper ones, but a primary pupil's dexterity is not advanced, so cameras need to be easy to handle and strong enough to cope with being bashed about." Time is also an issue. "The curriculum is overloaded and working with digital cameras takes longer," she says.

Digital cameras are also a great way to create video, as Bartley Green Technology College in Birmingham is finding out in an original project that benefits both the students and the college. Pupils are creating a video diary using digital cameras. It's a chance for them to develop editing, organisation, time management and communication skills - and the diary, which shows what life is like in the school, will be used to promote Bartley Green to Year 6 pupils considering joining in 2006.

Developing the use of digital pictures in teaching came after the head visited a school in Singapore, where every teacher had a digital camera.

"They were part of the teacher's toolkit," says assistant head Carolyn Snaith.

As part of a school initiative on thinking skills, all departments had to deliver a lesson on historic France. ICT designed a creative thinking lesson and asked pupils to make a video. "One group produced a great film in the style of Steve Irwin's Crocodile Hunter," says Carolyn. "They hunted and wrestled to the ground historic French characters, such as Napoleon and Joan of Arc, who were hiding in a bush, skilfully integrating a synopsis of their life and achievements into the scenes - in the same way Steve Irwin describes the living habits and characteristics of wild animals he is tracking."

Bartley Green Technology College is in one of Birmingham's poorest areas.

"Even in a deprived area like this, more and more pupils have mobile phones with camera and video capability. We make the most of technology and motivate them to see these as more than just toys," says Carolyn.

Digital storytelling

Making digital stories is easy. You need some simple software that is free with PCs and Apple Macs, and digital stills. Then put the pics in order, and add music and voiceovers to create a storyboard.

Good storyboarding can be seen at the Living Archive project documenting history in Milton Keynes. The archive has set up a guidance site for storytelling at Click on Teachers'


What you need

Movies with stills: Microsoft Movie Maker; Photo Story; Apple iMovie.

Kit: camera, decent size memory card, rechargeable battery pack Links:

* - advice on using digital images in teaching resources

* - free digital photos for education

* - free photos and graphics for education

* - free photos

* - pics (click on collections) and resources Online's photo A-Z

This is the first in a series of TES Online articles on how to make the most of photography and documentary-making in learning.

We'll be seeing how photography can engage disaffected learners, and look at resources, where to go for inspiration and how to manage pictures.

Don't miss at BETT

Adobe Schools Collection Adobe Stand W70 "This is a wonderful collection of tools and resources and tremendous value for money," says Kathryn Macaulay, head of ICT at Bedford High School.

PaintShop Pro Corel Stand W4 A long-time teachers' favourite, now drastically overhauled.

Studio 8 Macromedia Stand E105 An animation and web-building fest! AST teacher Renaldo Lawrence, head of ICT at St John the Baptist school, Woking, and a Macromedia expert, will be on the stand on Friday. Students from South Axholme community school, Doncaster, will be demonstrating their Flash movies.

Other contacts

2Simple Software Stand C54 Tel: 020 8203 1781

Apple Stands E34 and F34 EKits Tel: 01332 843685

Grid Magic Stand SW80 Tel: 01949 830 850

Immersive Stand D70 Tel: 01865 793 177

Logotron Stand B30 Tel: 01223 425 558

Microsoft Stands D34 D30 Tel: 0870 601 0100 Picasa

Serif Stand X90 Tel: 0115 914 2000

SoftDeko Tel: 01239 654 903

Softease Stand C56 Tel: 01335 343421

Tag Learning Stand F50 Tel: 01474 357 350

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today