A few months ago, I stumbled onto a post on Flickr's blog that discussed how one Flickr member had created a set of pictures to give step-by-step directions on how to make cupcakes that look remarkably like cheeseburgers

My son and I finally tried this step-by-step, how-to project ourselves this weekend, as we made home-made crayons.

It was pretty straight-forward:

1)  Take a picture of each step of the process.

2)  Upload the pictures to your computer. (I just removed the memory card from the camera and plugged it into the slot on the side of my laptop.)

3)  Ditch the bad pictures

4)  Upload the good photos to Flickr

5)  When it comes time to give a title and a comment to each photo, make the title the actual direction you want the reader to follow, with a more detailed explanation in the comment section.

6)  While you're at it, create a new set for these pictures.

7)  After that, it's just a matter of playing around with your new set and arranging it the way you want it.

8)  Go draw a picture with your new crayons. (Or eat your cheeseburger cupcakes, or defuse your bomb, or whatever you've been step-by-stepping...)


So I was fooling around on Flickr today, when I stumbled on the Flickr Blog

(Okay, so that's something right there I didn't know - I had no idea that Flickr has a blog. It would definitely be worthwhile to read this periodically to find out what cool things people are doing on Flickr.)

Anyway, this blog entry was about how a woman named Kate and her boyfriend had figured out how to make cupcakes that look like cheeseburgers and furthermore, they had put together step-by-step instructions with photographs on how to do it in a slideshow on Flickr.

This strikes me as important for several reasons, not the least of which being, "Oh my God! You can make cupcakes that look like Cheeseburgers?!  Is that the coolest thing ever? 

(No - this is - but the cheeseburger cupcakes are still pretty spectacular.)

Next, the idea of using a Flicker slideshow to put together a set of instructions seems like a very powerful tool for the classroom. One immediate use that springs to mind is that a teacher could put together step-by-step instructions for his or her students, but even more intriguing is the idea of students putting together the instructions. One area of student Literacy that is very challenging to a lot of teachers is non-fiction. Children will buy into reading and writing narratives pretty readily, but getting them to invest themselves something less plot-driven can be quite a bit more difficult. "How-To" writing is often specified in school or state curricula. 

Having a class of younger students break down a complex task into individual steps would be valuable in and of itself, but then letting each student or team of students take and edit pictures, then post them with written instructions could be really engaging. 

This would also address the goal that many schools have of getting students to write for a larger audience. It might also be a good way to get reluctant writers more engaged - I'm imagining a not-very-academic boy putting together a step-by-step explanation of how he gaps the spark plugs on his snowmobile or eats a hot slice of pizza before his brothers can get their hands on it.

This would also be a good way to document a Science, Health, Art or Phys-Ed project.

I'm also thinking it would be a creative way of meeting the requirements in some students' IEPs.


Plus - you'd have the possibility of cupcakes that look like cheeseburgers!


I download a lot of pictures from the internet to use in my classroom - either in PowerPoints or as illustrations for worksheets and homework packets. Searching for really good pictures that really fit whatever purpose I want them for can be challenging.

Let's say that you want to find a good picture of ice cream for a class activity. If you do a simple image search on Google for "ice cream", you will get six and a half million hits. (I wish that was an exageration.)

Now, you are pretty sure that at least one of those six million images will be perfect for your needs, but you will have to wade through huge numbers of pictures until you find what you are looking for. (If you are like me, you won't know what that is until you see it.)

You can cut down on those six million hits by restricting the size of the images. If you are looking for something to use in a PowerPoint, for instance, "Large" is a good bet.

Unfortunately, that still leaves you with 26,900 pictures to slog through. At twenty images per page that means that you will have to look at...um...er... - well, a lot of pages, anyway! After three or four pages worth of searching, this whole process becomes a lot like work and you end up settling for any picture that more-or-less, sort-of, kind-of serves your purpose.

I've just discovered an application that makes the process of looking at large numbers of pictures a lot more pleasant. It's called PicLens.

Instead of presenting multiple pages of twenty or thirty images at a time, PicLens allows you to look at them all at once, in an almost three-dimentional experience. The pictures are laid out in a sort of a wall that you can zoom over, looking quickly to see if any of them look promising to you. If any do, you can zoom in for a closer look.

How To Use It:

Once you have downloaded the program to your computer, just do an image search like you normally would on Google Images, Flicker, YouTube, etc..., then click on the triangle button that appears on any of the thumbnail images. After ten or fifteen seconds, you will get the UltraCool Wall of Pictures. A li
ttle experimentation will show you how to navigate around and find pictures and videos quickly and gracefully.

Click here for a link to the PicLens website.

When you do find an image that you want to work with, click on the little icon beneath it shaped like a globe with an arrow (click image to see a larger picture), and a new browser window will open with that image's webpage on it.

I've only been using this toy for a few days, but at the moment, I'm still smitten. It seems to be an elegant program that is easy to use.

Plus, it looks really cool.


Flickr is one of those websites that you discover and suddenly realize that everyone in the world knows about it but you. (Welcome to my world!)

Flickr is a website designed to allow people to share their pictures with each other and with the world. Let's say you just bought a new puppy and you wanted all your friends and relatives to see it (especially your Aunt Helga who said you were too irresponsible to keep a cactus alive - take THAT, you old biddy!). You could upload a photo of your puppy looking very cute and allow:

a) nobody to see it,

b) a selected list of friends and family to see it or

c) the whole world to see it.

This third catagory of photos is what is most interesting to me as a teacher. There are literally many millions of people out there, constantly uploading their pictures that they really really want people to look at. Some of these are incredily useful in the classroom.

For instance, let's say that you are preparing your class for a fieldtrip to the New England Aquarium. There are hundreds of teachers and parents out their who have already visited the aquarium and posted pictures of it on Flickr. You can download these photos and pop them into a PowerPoint or print them onto an overhead, to give the kids a heads-up of what they will see.

If you are nervous about the ethical issues of using other people's photos, you can do an advanced search of pictures. One of the options is to select only photos with a Creative Commons licence - that means people who have really thought about this and decided that they would like the world to see their pictures and use them, as long as they don't use them commercially.  Also, you can contact the person who uploaded the work and ask their permission. I did this for a great photo I wanted to use, but which was not listed as Creative Commons. The photographer (a professional art photographer from Toronto) happens to have a daughter in Grade Eight and not only gave me permission to use her photo (with attribution) but sent me a much larger, higher quality copy of it.

Flickr (Aaargh! That's the fourth time I've had to retype that name, I always insist on putting in an "e") also has some cool features like Interesting Photos of the Last Seven Days, which is pretty much what it sounds like. A lot of professonal photographers post their work on Flickr, as well as really, REALLY good amateurs, who want to get feedback and an audience.

Try Flickr and you'll be hooked. (Okay, I know I say that about everything, but it's true. At least for some of you. Okay, for me. Try it anyway.)