Photographs - An important element in teaching and student learning.
Kultuur 18 Dec 2012 EWR OnlineEWR
Tiiu Roiser

It’s an animal that’s about the size of a Loonie, but sometimes it can grow to be heavier than a small child. It’s usually green, but some are also shades of brown and black. Some are “painted” with a yellow streak. It has small eyes and flaring nostrils along with four stout legs.
Do you know what animal I’m describing? Neither might your child or a student. If I further continue my description to include that on some species of this animal, its tail looks like that of a dinosaur, can you now guess the animal? Probably not. If, however, I were to post or show you a picture of the animal I was describing, I am sure that at any age, almost everyone would be able to identify it. Perhaps not the specific name of the animal, but you would certainly be able to identify the species.

Learning, at any age, takes repetition. Have you ever watched a young child watch the same video over and over until they “get” it? My aged mother has to repeat a new telephone number many times before as she says “it sinks into my old brain”. But repetition of the same method of learning is not as good as being exposed to new material or a new concept in a variety of ways. Just as we use our senses of touch, taste and smell to identify a food, learning about new concept, or, in this case a new animal, is made easier by the use of a variety of teaching methods in order to comprehend and grasp the new idea. One of the best learning methods is visual – seeing a picture.

Compare my talking about a “Teasel”, to that of seeing a picture of one. A Teasel, by the way, is a genus of a flowering plant in the Disacaceae family known as Dipsacus. It’s an amazing specimen of plant with lavender flowers located on prickly heads that form on tall stems. The plant blooms on the heads in an outward fashion resulting in what looks like a purple floral belt. The flowers continue to open blooming towards the top and bottom of the head leaving a barren cone where the spent flowers were. Get the idea? I’ll bet an image would help?

Have you ever wondered where the term “a picture is worth a thousand words” came from? Believed to have come from an article written by Fred R. Barnard used to promote images in advertising, the phrase affirms that a visual image can easily take the place of a lengthy, textual description.

Educators, be they teachers or parents, are ever in search of images to enhance their lessons. In fact, students also have a great need for photographs for school projects and assignments. Neither has much time to spend on research nor wants to expend the effort it takes to register and become a member of a website only to get access to a limited amount of free materials. Paying for image resources – have you seen a teacher’s budget or a student’s allowance lately? – is usually out of the question. Cutting and pasting images from your search engine’s internet image search result pages, may result in your using images that are copyrighted. Such usage is the same as stealing the work of others.

Find good sites that offer free images, bookmark them and check often for new materials. If you do find a website that offers free photographs, read the Terms of Use carefully. Ensure they hold the copyrights to the images they are offering and be very sure you understand what you can and cannot do with the pictures. Be aware of any restrictions or requirements there may be for you to use and download the photos.

The animal described above, by the way, was a snapping turtle. The reference to “painted” is in relation to Northern Ontario ’s wide-spread Painted Turtle species.

You can find free images by Tiiu Roiser for non-commercial use at Although not a professional photographer, her work has been published on a variety of websites and many of her photographs are part of Environment Canada’s photo bank and in use by ESL teachers.