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February 2, 2015 10 Uses for Digital Cameras in the Classroom By Meghan Everette
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

    Classroom cameras are popping up more and more frequently thanks to built-in devices in tablets, BYOD programs, and the lowered cost of digital cameras. The applications for photos in education are endless, with uses for everything from home-school connections to showing best practices at work. Even teachers who aren’t “techy” can harness the power of the camera and make big changes digitally in their classrooms. Here are ten simple ways to put your camera to work for you.


    Digitally Record Assessments

    One assessment my students have to complete is filling in hexagons using a variety of different pattern blocks. This is a really hard assessment to convey to parents because sometimes students can do the work, but lack the ability to transfer the information. Hello, digital camera! With a quick snap I can capture the student and their work, saving their results. Later, I can compare growth, share pictures with parents, and even show good solutions to other students. Digital video is available on most devices to capture student responses and oral presentations as well.

    Photo yearbooks

    Yearbooks, Gone Digital

    Our school sells yearbooks, as many do, but so often students only have one or two cameos in the entire thing. I snap pictures and take video all the time, especially during field trips and special events. At the end of the year I drop the images into a quick editing software program, (I use iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, or Smilebox) and burn a DVD for each student. They are a cherished present with many chances for each child to shine.

    digital yearbook

    photo documentation


    I don’t usually use cameras as a “gotcha” but occasionally they are useful for documentation. Some students have ongoing health problems that need to be monitored, while others color on their desks repeatedly. Just taking a picture or video is often enough to get students to stop the unwanted behavior, but it is also a way to keep records. At the end of the year I find most of these get deleted without ever being used, but a photo takes away the “he said, she said” argument from most any situation. It doesn’t have to be negative either; snap pics of kids caught doing the right thing too!

    facebook updates in the classroom

    Daily Updates

    My families never have students respond with “nothing” when asked what we did today. Why? My families are backed up with the power of photo. I post photos and videos all day to our private class Facebook page and @OurFirstGrade on Twitter. Parents are able to see the learning and fun going on in the classroom. It’s a great conversation builder and lets them see their child smiling throughout the day. If Facebook is banned at your school, even parent-contact services like ClassDojo now allow for pictures. And you can always put a few pics in the class newsletter each week.

    photos used in pln and plp evidence

    PLP Evidence and PLN Learning

    Personal Learning Plans often call for evidence to back up teacher learning and growth, but many times things that happen day in and day out in a classroom are hard to “prove.” Digital cameras can record photos and video of students, events, conversations, and lessons to be used as evidence. A short teaching video can be used in a learning network to examine best practices happening in a classroom. We’ve implemented Talk Moves in math and use videos of student discussions to show what is happening and to improve our practice, something that would be hard to do authentically without digital recording.

    student photos in digital work

    Student Products

    Students in my class create many different paper items to be used in digital group products. This way, each student is responsible for their individual part, but they are able to combine work for a greater finished project. Last year, for example, students made flip books of landforms. They each took pictures of their booklets to include in a Smore flyer made by each group. Using pictures the students took, rather than of downloading images from the Internet, gives a much greater sense of ownership in the final product.

    math work with digital images

    Student Learning

    One great project my students have done is scavenger hunting for mathematic angles all around the building. They are able to take pictures and record what they see, then bring them back to class and share examples of acute, obtuse, and right angles in the world around them. Students can also use photos to capture time-lapse events in class. Students can take photos to illustrate math concepts, show vocabulary in action, or add real life examples to any subject.


    time lapse photos in class

    pocket chart with pictures

    Classroom Organization

    Keep up with all students quickly and easily by adding their image to job charts, center rotations, and the seating chart. Pictures with names help room parents, substitutes, other teachers, and kids learn students’ names as well as help them to see where everyone should be with a quick glance. Take a good photo of each child on their first day and go ahead and resize them. You’ll have the picture you need quickly as charts change or for your next photo craft.

    photo pin gift

    Gifts and Presents

    Families love their child, and the more they see their kid’s mug, the better. Kids love to see themselves too. Create photo crafts and gifts for holidays and celebrations. Simple pins and buttons are big hits. Even door signs can come alive when student photos are added. I still have a plastic key chain with my son’s picture from three years ago and I’ll keep it forever! 

    photo guess who


    Photos and video make great additions to games in the classroom. Any classroom center where students match letters and sounds can be recreated with images from real life. Create a concentration matching game. To expand emotional vocabulary, video students making faces to express an emotion and have students guess which emotion is being shown. Stick photos of teachers, class visitors, local leaders, or students in an old Guess Who game for a fun update.


    The uses for photos and video are endless in the classroom. Connect students to each other and to their world around them in whole new ways while inviting families inside the class. Find "5 Fantastic Uses of Photos in the Classroom" and use basic rules for camera use in the primary classroom to get you started with more digital device uses. Follow along with our class photography at @OurFirstGrade.


    What innovative ways are you using photos to make classroom connections?


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Susan Cheyney