"Insert Photo Album"

In any given PowerPoint that I put together, just about every slide has a picture in it - sometimes two or three. (I put together a Food of the Month presentation last year with a slide that had twenty! What was I thinking?) One of PowerPoint's biggest strengths is that it lets you use strong visuals to get your points across.

This is how I used to put pictures into a PowerPoint presentation:

I'd go looking for a picture online, then when I found it, I'd copy it, then paste it into my slide. I learned the hard way to use the biggest pictures possible - it turns out that if you shrink a big picture, it looks fine, but if you try to expand a small image, it gets all pixelated and shmutzy. So, I'd paste in this big picture and it would actually be too big for the slide, so I'd have to drag it around until I could click on the corner and shrink it, then drag it around and click and shrink and drag and click and shrink, until it was finally the right size, then fool around with it until it was positioned correctly.

Then I discovered that all my PowerPoint files were insanely large.

After some experimentation, I discovered that if I saved the pictures I found online to a folder and used the "Insert Image" command in PowerPoint, my slideshows were a much more managable size, but I still had to do the drag/click/shrink thing over and over on each slide.

There had to be an easier way.

It turns out that yes... um... actually there is.

If you have all the pictures you want to use in a folder somewhere, all you need to do is open PowerPoint, choose the command "Insert" and "Photo Album". PowerPoint will ask if you want to make a new slideshow. You will say, thank-you-very-much-yes-I-would-if-you're-sure-it's-not-too-much-trouble (or something to that effect). You tell it which folder you want to take the pictures from and, BAM! There you go. You've got a brand new slideshow.

The whole thing takes less than a minute. I'd really like to come up with some clever story here that would make this seem like a bigger deal, but it really is that moronically simple. (That's why it only took me five years to figure it out.)

Try it. It's really fun.


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.)