Thinking of buying a digital camera?
Well, do it, and you'll wonder how you ever managed without one!
Some ideas for use in school
We all use photographs as a way of recording children's work, but traditional photographs may take a long time before the film is developed and it can also be very expensive. With a digital camera you can pick and choose your best pictures and print out multiple copies within seconds of taking the photograph. Whilst printing pictures on the school printer is a lot cheaper than developing at a photographers, it is worth remembering to allow for extra ink cartridges in your budget.
With desktop publishing packages such as Publisher, it is very easy to prepare a worksheet containing a picture box. Images from the digital camera can be inserted directly into the picture box to produce a very professional worksheet in a very short amount of time.
Pupils can use the camera to take photographs. They could choose their favourite photographs and print them out. All part of the ICT Curriculum...
Images can be put into communication books, onto Augmentative Communication Devices (e.g. Tech/Talk) and Overlay Keyboards (e.g. IntelliKeys USB) to create personalised communication aids.
Writing with Symbols / Clicker / Inclusive Writer - Pictures of people and special places can be saved in a wordlist, e.g. a photograph of the soft room may be more useful than the symbol. The pictures will appear above each word as it is typed. These programs can be used by pupils in lessons and by staff to prepare resources. A nice idea is to write a story about your class, e.g. "class 7 at the seaside", where pupils are the main characters in the story. This can allow you to use simple story models in an age-appropriate way.
Photographs can be used to create a photographic timetable.
Photographs can be inserted into software such as SwitchIt! Maker2 and ChooseIt! Maker 2 to develop personalised programs. Most pupils are highly motivated by pictures of themselves, their friends and other relevant images.
Make it pay!!
Use the camera to raise money by taking photographs on Sports Day, the Christmas concert, Summer Fete, Red Nose Day... It is now possible to have photographs professionally printed at a reasonable price (around 24p each at time of writing).
You can email photographs to penfriends and family (especially useful for residential schools.)
School web site
Your school web site will look great with photographs, but remember to get parental permission if you use pictures of students!
Buying a camera
There are many factors to consider when choosing a digital camera and ultimately there is a compromise between performance and cost.
Digital camera performance is measured in 'megapixels'. The higher the number of megapixels the better quality the picture. Anything over 1.0 megapixel will look fine when displayed on your computer screen. If you intend to print your photographs then cameras with 2.0 are fine. Many manufactures boast megapixel figures of over 5.0. These cameras take photographs in at very high resolutions. In practice this means that your photographs will be very large and require a lot of space on your computer should you wish to store them.
A good classroom solution might be the award winning Digtal Movie Creator 3, which is a low cost digital camera which takes both video and stills. The camera comes with fantastic software that you can use to edit and create your own digital movies. These cameras are an ideal partner to SwitchIt Maker 2 enabling you and your pupils to make switch accessible multimedia activities and presentations.
Points to consider:
• Higher resolution cameras produce better quality images than lower resolution cameras but are more expensive to buy. 640 x 480 resolution is good enough for general school purposes and can be downloaded quickly. Although it is now possible to have images professionally printed on photographic paper, the quality of the printed image is limited by the quality of the printer and paper you use.
• Camera batteries can be a huge hidden cost. It is important to check whether the camera uses rechargeable batteries, and can be connected to mains power supply. It is worthwhile remembering that switching the camera on and off uses power, so keep the camera on if you are taking a number of pictures.
• Cameras will have an optical viewfinder and/or a LCD monitor. The optical viewfinder is like the viewfinder in a traditional camera. The LCD monitor allows you to view, change, delete and save images stored in the camera. It uses a lot of power, so remember to switch it off when possible, if you need to save battery power.
• Accessing images can be a tricky one. It is possible to download images from the camera onto the computer via a serial cable or USB port. This can be time consuming! USB is 30 times faster than the serial cable. In some cases the USB uses power from the computer, which will save your battery life as downloading can use a lot of power. Floppy discs can be inserted in some cameras, such as the Sony Mavica and this is a really useful way of accessing images particularly if the camera is shared amongst classes. Each class can insert their own floppy when they use the camera, eject it when they've finished and pass the camera on!! The images can be instantly accessed on any computer, no need to have specialist software, the camera, wires etc. This also means the camera can be used somewhere else while you access your pictures. Other cameras contain a removable memory card which fit into a memory card adaptor.
• Does the price of your camera include accessories? If accessories are not included in your package, you don't necessarily have to buy the manufacturers' accessories, e.g. for certain Sony cameras there are a number of accessories made by competitors that are of equally good quality but don't carry the premium that Sony products do.
Whichever camera you choose, have lots of fun using it