Enhance engagement with the use of digital cameras in your learning environment

How can you enhance engagement with the use of digital cameras? And how, when there’s so many out there, do you choose the right camera for your learning environment?

Most people probably wouldn’t associate digital cameras with education. However, the rapid advances in technology have made the next generation avid tech consumers and the most successful schools in the UK are embracing this to help increase student engagement.

We think that one of the best ways to prepare your students for the future is to help them become tech literate. An easy way to do this is to show your pupils that technology will help them become content creators and therefore more active participants in their own education.

While gamification is still relatively new in education, the use of computers and the internet in education has really only come to the fore in the last fifteen years or so. Technology in the classroom can be a fantastic way to increase engagement and enhance learning if used as a way to redefine how lessons are taught, rather than as a mere substitute for conventional materials like pen and paper.

Young budding photographer using a digital camera on a field trip
Young budding photographer using a digital camera on a field trip

By making digital cameras an additional learning tool for students, you can help them embrace creativity and truly change the way a lesson is taught. Cameras can easily become part of the cognitive process as you ask students to reason and plan what pictures to take and why. Cameras can also enhance your pupils’ skills of purposeful observation, which again can broaden their abilities and help them prepare for their future careers. And digital cameras can make learning fun! They’re a great way to increase pupil engagement and help your students retain knowledge because they’re a way for pupils to become more involved with the subject at hand.

Things you should consider when buying a digital camera:

Remember, the way a camera will be used will help determine what you will need in all of the following areas.

  1. Resolution:

This is the number of pixels per image.  The more pixels, the better the resolution and therefore quality of the image is better. It may be hard to believe, but less than 20 years ago cameras offered only 1- to 2-mexapixels (MP). Now, you get at least 5-megapixels as standard on most smartphone cameras. All the cameras mentioned in this blog are at least 18MP. If digital cameras didn’t offer higher quality images than those inbuilt into other devices at an affordable price, they would be obsolete. As it is, 18MP is a good enough quality to print out A2 size prints without losing quality meaning you can create fantastic wall displays and create much more vivid prints that showcase pupil’s work.

  1. Size, Weight and Design:

Cameras range in weight.  If portability is important, you need to consider the size and weight of the camera. Smaller cameras are convenient, but also have smaller dials and buttons that could make using them more difficult. In this guide, we recommend sizes based on student age. Smaller cameras, due to their affordability, portability, quality and simplicity to use are well suited to younger students – those of Primary age i.e. 5 – 11-year-olds. For high school, HE and FE you can look at getting the larger more complex SLRs with greater functionality. This encourages students to experiment with different lenses, filters to see how their images can be adapted and restyled, which truly allows them to be their own content creators.

  1. Zoom Lens:

Digital cameras offer two types of zoom, optical and digital. An optical zoom moves the lens to magnify the subject, while digital zoom captures fewer pixels and magnifies them. Therefore with digital zoom, you can easily get the unwanted result of jeopardising image quality.  For best results, we’d recommend you use an optical zoom and encourage students to do the same. All of the cameras mentioned in this guide have at least 3X optical zoom.

  1. Focus:

We recommend using a camera that has an automatic focus. This makes it easier for all ages to take clear shots and teachers don’t need to worry about blurry pics. Aside from the Canon IXUS 175, all the digital cameras in this blog offer manual focus in addition to the automatic focus that they all have. A manual option is useful in the few cases when the camera cannot get a focus lock on a close-up shot and when being used in the arts, particularly at Key Stage 4 and higher where personal aptitude and creativity is tested.

  1. Storage:

When we talk about storage, we’re talking about where pictures are stored once taken. In a conventional camera, that would be the film.  In digital cameras, it ranges from floppy disks, to compact disks, to memory cards.  Floppy disks are the least expensive but storage on them is slow and the disks can only hold one or two high-resolution images.  Compact disks store more images, but the cameras that use them are bulky. Memory cards are the most expensive, but allow the most flexibility in camera size as well as storage capacity.  While most cameras have on-board storage, investing in additional removable storage allows for expansion of storage capacity.

  1. Movies and Sound:

Some cameras offer the option of video capture. This is handy if you do not have a video camera, but since video takes up more storage than images, the clip is usually no more than 30 seconds.

  1. LCD Screen:

Probably one of the most compelling reasons to purchase a digital camera is that you can see the image right away and decide whether or not you like it and want to keep it.  To do so, however, you need an LCD screen on the camera.  Low-end models often omit this option, thus taking away one of the most exciting features.  This is one feature you should not go without.

  1. Memory Card Readers:

These are similar to external hard drives that attach to your PC.  These allow you to download pictures directly from the storage medium, which saves time as well as battery life.

Student at a forest school photographing nature
Student at a forest school photographing nature

Our advice:

  1. Purchase an inexpensive camera for the students to use and a more expensive one for the teacher. Consider the potential for damage and do one-on-one training sessions with the students to ensure proper usage of the camera.
  2. Ensure that students take appropriate photographs. Go over basic photography rules with the students and make sure they know the difference between what is appropriate and what is not.
  3. Keep in mind privacy when publishing photographs and be aware of your school’s policy regarding pictures and publication of pictures.
  4. Let students work with the images, cropping, editing, etc. so they can learn to optimise images for the web.
  5. Have at least one computer that has Photoshop Elements or a similar type image editor.

Visit our education store for our top digital camera picks (geddit’?) for academic organisations.

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