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Photo Documentation

Photo Documentation
Promoting Learning through the Development of Visual Literacy Skills

Photo documentation is a technique which permits students to investigate an aspect of a natural resource and then create a personal, visual message about that resource. This activity promotes active knowledge construction, is authentic, and is student-centered.

The actual photo document is comprised of at least twelve photographs focused on a particular theme and arranged with an organizational strategy that facilitates interpretation of the theme. Additionally, at least five questions are included to help the viewer interpret the visual message.

This activity is an alternative to more traditional forms of scientific investigation. Photodocumentation permits students to view an ecosystem in a non-traditional manner by using a camera for data collection. Topics typically overlooked, such as texture, color, shapes, natural framing, or contrasts created by natural objects can be investigated. New ways to view ecosystems can be explored; new understandings about ecosystems can be constructed.
Students are required to construct a photo document on their selected topic. They must use at least twelve photographs in their photo document. One of the photographs must be of the authors. Additionally, they must write at least five interactive questions which help the viewer interpret the visual message. The photographs and interpretive questions are then mounted on poster board according to a particular organizational theme. The teacher should collect photographs then help students interpret visual messages.
  • Promotes the development of visual literacy skills.
  • Encourages student-centered and authentic learning.
  • Promotes skills such as organization, cooperation, critical observation, interpretation, and visualization.
  • Promotes active knowledge construction.
  • Develops photography and computer skills.
  • Permits multiple assessment formats such as individual evaluation, peer evaluation, and instructor evaluation.
Subject Matter
  • Any type of environmental studies course
  • Reading and writing
  • mathematics
  • Biology
  • Integrated science
  • Adaptable for any grade level and ability level
  • Digital cameras with the capability of macro and manual adjustment of aperture and shutter speed.
  • PowerPoint and LCD
Developing a photo document takes place in three distinct phases:
  1. Identify a potential topic or develop ideas and organizational strategies related to the topic.
  2. Identify the main objectives behind and photo document.
  3. Select a local natural area where you can identify and photograph images related to the topic.
  4. Shoot between 12-15 images for inclusion in their photo document.
  5. Use PhotoShop to edit your photos if necessary by adjusting colors, contrast, brightness, backgrounds, edges, etc.
  6. Arrange and describe photographs.
  7. Write a short summary explaining the theme and organizational strategy employed. A description of their intended visual message is also helpful. This should be word-processed and glued to the back of the photo document.
  8. Construct photo document. And present it using a multimedia package (MS PowerPoint or MS PhotoStory).
  9. Once the images have been organized, students should develop at least five questions which help the viewer interpret the visual message.
  10. Ask your classmates to interpret your photo document and define its objectives.
  11. Try to improve your classmates observation skills and emphasize the importance of looking and seeing beyond the obvious, such as:
·         patterns
·         colors
·         textures
·         lines
·         contrast
·         edges
·         natural frames
·         light and shadows
Evaluation Criteria
  • Is the photo document created neatly?
  • Are the interpretive questions word processed using an appropriate font style?
  • Are the photographs clearly in focus?
  • Are the photographs properly lighted?
  • Is a summary of theme, visual message, and organizational strategy included?
  • What is the quality of this summary?
  • Are the pictures used representatives of the chosen topic or theme?
  • Do the pictures and organizational strategy convey the theme?
  • Do the questions promote interactivity with the viewer as it relates to the theme?