Learning through a Lens by Jane Hewitt
As an amateur photography enthusiast I’ve fallen into the trap many times of thinking that by buying yet another book about photography it will instantly transform to the level of a professional. As someone who has been in education for 20 years I regularly read books in the hope that they will continually challenge me professionally and improve my competence in education. So, what could possibly be better, a book combining two of the great passions in my life? I have to admit though to being slightly cynical that this would be yet another functional instruction book “use f5.6 at 70mm…” that would leave me frustrated. And what could I really learn about using photography in education after 20 years of teaching?
First impressions raised my hopes. An introduction by Mick Waters, someone who I have a lot of time for, immediately sets the tone that this isn’t just ‘another’ photography book and Jane’s own introduction highlights the simplicity of using photography – no need for full-frame highly expensive SLRs and her passion and enthusiasm shines out, showing that this isn’t just some geek trying to earn a few easy bob.
Once you get in to the book, the organisation and useful features included mean that, for a busy teacher, it is highly accessible. The first section deals with the technical functions of the camera but, and most importantly, Jane speaks human! No patronising, geeky, superior rhetoric; just down to earth, easy to understand advice to get the most out of your camera.
Chapter 2 is where the fun begins to build. There are a number of activity ideas that are all easily attainable either at home or in school and that produce results that both children and adults would be instantly pleased with. What’s more, once again, Jane has considered the needs of busy teachers by using a ‘recipe’ format and clearly accessible information boxes meaning this activity could be up and running in a classroom within minutes. Pin hole cameras are covered, as are phones and apps with some great examples of low cost apps and their usage.
Now that Jane has got you hooked, there’s an important chapter on the use of ethics in photography (perhaps some ‘pros’ should read this!). And the rest of the first section carries on exciting and informing and slowly but surely hooking you in…
Boom! Like an old style flash gun going off, section 2 arrives with a feast of inspiring projects, activities, links and some all-round exciting things to do for yourself and/or your learners. From ‘little people’ to street art via a highly informative and practical section on visual literacy I was left chomping at the bit to get my camera out, borrow some children (as a Headteacher I don’t see children very often!) and crack on.
Okay, so by now you’ve probably figured out that I really like this book. It’s informative not patronising and easily and quickly accessible by anyone, but ultimately schools aren’t measured on the quality of their photographs, so what’s the point? Is it just another distraction from the core purpose of schools as measured by outside agencies i.e. English and Maths results?
I guess that depends. Do you want learners who can infer, reason, explain, justify, collaborate, create, solve problems, research, empathise and communicate? What about widening the world to our pupils, challenging them to view and think about things differently? In my school we’re constantly trying to motivate learners, to improve their ability to talk at length and depth with deep thinking to support their arguments and opinions, to collaborate and empathise and broaden their minds and ultimately to enjoy learning and succeed at it. This book will go a long way to helping us deliver this. Through projects and activities in this book, learning becomes relevant, stimulating and can be driven by the learners themselves whilst providing practical opportunities to apply English and Maths concepts. And they have fun doing it.
Or you could give them a worksheet.
I can guarantee you won't be disappointed with this book and it might just be the book that unlocks a whole new world and way of working that gets your sparky learners fired up, committing that learning to memory like...well...have a guess!