New Year’s Resolution, Part II: See the Big Picture

My friend Molly is still looking for powerful images that she can use for instructional purposes. She knows that great pictures can enhance learning by making content more engaging, relevant, memorable, and ultimately, meaningful. Though Molly understands the efficacy of stopping by the Creative Commons Search site (CC Search), she’s hungry for more photographs, illustrations, and graphics. After reading yesterday’s post about the importance of looking for digital graphics with good image resolution, Molly now knows to pay attention to pixel count.

Molly knows that people use Google’s search engine to find images. In fact, she’s done so herself. Molly is well aware of all places at Google where one can switch over to an image search.

Simple Google Image Search

However, Molly wants to know if there are any quick tricks that she can use to make her Google image searches more productive. For example, when she’s searching for images of Charles Dickens and simply clicks one of the many links to Images, she gets any number of pictures.

Results of a simple Google Image search

Even so, Molly has to hover her mouse over a particular picture to discover the image resolution (number of pixels) for that image. In the example above she finds and image that is 311px wide and 400px. That image won’t be so pleasant to gaze upon if she has to increase its size. If Molly is looking for images with a lot of pixels this kind of search will take a long time. Ugh! If only there was  a quicker way to find pictures with a larger image resolution.

Wait! There is a way to do that. Google’s Image Search allows Molly to look for pictures with a certain image resolution. This means she can get Google to return only those images of a particular pixel size.

Detailed Google Image Search

There are only four steps to the process:

  1. Click on the Search Tools button.
  2. Look for and click upon the Any Size drop down menu.
  3. Choose a size. In this case, Molly wants digital images that are Larger than a specified size.
  4. Choose a specified size. Molly is going with 1024 px wide and 768 tall (Why? It’s because most 21-inch monitor screens can show images that are 1024 px x 768 px. If she’s going to be displaying images with a digital projector, she could look for even larger images with (*gasp*) even more pixels!)

After successfully using this technique, Molly will have her pick of digital images rich with pixels! The images have such great image resolution that it’s very unlikely she’ll need to resize them to be larger. This means that her students won’t be subjected to awful grainy pictures. They’ll marvel at how clear and impressive her images are!

Google Image Search Big Pixels

I’m sure this handy trick for zeroing in on the biggest, best images will only server to whet Molly’s appetite for even more compelling images.

New Year’s Resolution: Find Clear Images

My friend Molly is always looking for powerful images as a prompt for rich discussions in her online class. She usually completes a quick Google search and finds pictures that look promising; however, when she stretches those images they become grainy. Her students are less than impressed. What a waste of time! Ugh! What if there was a trick that would help Molly find images that look great regardless of their size? There is a solution! Anyone who targets a search for high resolution images can find and use great graphics. Want to feel proud of the pictures you find, too? Here’s how to find great pictures every time: look for lots of pixels!

The images we see on a computer screen are digital pictures. These digital images are made of small squares, just like a mosaic tiles called pixels (a portmanteau word made from picture element). Generally, the more of those little digital mosaic tiles, pixels (abbreviated px), we have in an image, the clearer the picture will appear to us. We generally refer to this as image resolution. If we keep that in mind when searching for images we can find  crisp looking images and avoid grainy graphics.

Suppose Molly needs a very sharp image of Charles Dickens (she teaches lessons about literature, after all). The first place I’d suggest she look is the Creative Commons Search site (CC Search). Why? In addition to leading her to high resolution images, CC Search will also help Molly identify a greater number of images she can modify, adapt, build upon, and use for commercial purposes. Though she could search through all kinds of places at CC Search, I’d guide her to select Wikimedia Commons as it’s a safe bet that the content there isn’t going to lead to copyright hassles.

Creative Commons Search

After Molly’s search returns a few images, I’d draw her attention to the pixel count on each picture. An image that is 1,300 pixels wide and 1,852 pixels wide means that the picture has a total of 2,407,600 pixels! Wow! That picture will have a higher resolution which means more image detail.

Pixel count comparison

The more pixels in an image, the better that image is going to look if Molly has to increase the image in size; however, given the size of the image, that’s pretty unlikely. An added benefit of choosing a higher resolution image is that the image will look good if she has to decrease its size.

In the past, even though she’s ferreted out a great image with great resolution, Molly’s made a mistake. She’s copied the thumbnail picture of the image she’s settled upon using. If all she copies is the thumbnail image of that great Dickens image, she’ll be disappointed. The thumbnail is only 84px x 120px, totaling a paltry 10,080 pixels–ugh! If she stretches that small resolution image out, she might get something like this:

Blurry enlargement

Thankfully, Molly clicks on the thumbnail which is a link that takes her to the read-deal image with the higher pixel count (and better resolution). In fact the image she finally gets to is enormous. The  high resolution image is so big that she has to decrease it in size. Here’s what her final image looks like compared the thumbnail. Much better, Molly!

Image with higher resolution

Now that Molly knows the secret to finding excellent looking images she’s on her way to quite a few rich discussions with her students. She can also teach her pupils how to track down better pictures for the multimedia presentations she wants them to create.

Well-Rounded About Every Corner of the World: GeoCube

A long, long time ago many people thought the earth was flat. Today, we know it’s not. In fact, according to HERODOT, the European Network for Geography in Higher Education, these days, it’s cubed.

Screen shot 2009-11-12 at 7.28.44 AM

Geocube is an engaging, FREE, online resource devoted to the exploration of geography. With an interface based on the appearance of a Rubik Cube, its six faces and 54 topics invite users to learn more about our planet.

Sketchy Details

Drawing is a powerful tool for learning. Humans have harnessed the potential of graphic representations for millennia to communicate ideas. With the advent of interactive whiteboards and digital slates like those available from GTCOPromethean, and SMARTBoard, teachers and pupils still have the option of creating illustrations as a means of presenting, exploring, and refining ideas. Effective 21st century educators consistently model and facilitate the use of digital illustration to

  • engage pupils,
  • make learning relevant,
  • increase the efficiency and effectiveness of instruction, and
  • build a foundation for lifelong learning.

Employing the built-in features of the software that powers interactive whiteboards and digital slates is worthwhile. After all, each package allows users to create geometric figures with both ease and accuracy. That said, don’t allow the features of the program to confine illustrations to one computer in one classroom. Learners should be able to share drawings with audiences outside a classroom, school, and district. Think beyond the classroom computer to a web-based tool for drawing.

odosketch

Check out Odosketch. It’s a Flash-powered drawing resource that’s been around since 2006, thanks to Odopod, a digital agency that works with a number of major brands. This bare-bones artist tablet and colors doesn’t create accurate geometric shapes. However, users don’t need an account to use Odosketch (although, registering for one makes it possible for artists to save their work). Visitors who want to draw need only mouse over the toolbar at the bottom of the canvas. Colors, brush strokes, and other options will appear. It’s a simple means of sketching quick or detailed pictures.

pic_07 By allowing pupils to use an interactive whiteboard or digital slate in conjunction with Odosketch, educators facilitate the kind of powerful communication skills explored in Dan Roam‘s primer for creating problem-solving pictures, The Back of the Napkin.

Take a Closer Look: GigaPan

GigaPan

Science, Social Studies, and Geography teachers who want to grab student attention are using GigaPan because the site has images so big, so rich in detail that students want to concentrate and carefully explore them. Whether examining a scene from Venice in advance of discussing the history of Italy or poring over an electron microscope photograph of an ant’s head for discussion in Biology, learners crave the amazing clarity GigaPan delivers.

gigapan-nav-tools

Supplying simple  navigation tools,  GigaPan makes it easy for pupils to collect, catalog, and analyze details as they wander about inside its panoramic pictures. When used with interactive whiteboards like those produced by GTCOPromethean, and SMARTBoard, learning becomes efficient, effective, and exciting. The site is an offshoot of the Global Connection Project, (a joint effort among Carnegie Mellon University, NASA, Google, and National Geographic) and is dedicated to eliminating barriers between humans and helping individuals everywhere learn more about our planet by increasing the power of images to “connect, inform, and inspire people to become engaged and responsible global citizens.”

Digital images are composed of a pixels (or pix as in pictures and elements). Note that pixels are not necessiarily square picture elements. Many people regularly capture images with megapixel cameras. Megapixel images are composed of 1 million pixels. Gigapixel images, however, like those used in the panoramic images featured at GigaPan and the Gigapxl Project contain 1 billion pixels.

Related links:

You Oughta Be in Pictures: GIMP

Today, I had the great pleasure of working with students from Todd Veland’s class at Claxton High School in Evans County. As part of an ongoing assignment, Mr. Veland’s students have been conducting research and collecting images of historical events and individuals. The pupils will be using the images they collect in a series of videos generated with Microsoft Photo Story. In order to help his learners edit and stylize their images, Todd asked me to teach the young men and women in his class how to use an open source alternative to Photoshop. I was able to honor Mr. Veland’s request thanks to the help of Evans County’s kind and super-attentive tech support team, who made the (GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) available to all students and faculty members of CHS.

Months ago, in preparation for working with Todd’s class, I used a portable chromakey screen kit snapping photographs of the students in front of a green screen. Afterward, Jenny Price, the Media Specialist at CHS, followed a few directions I created (GIMPShop Part 1, GIMPShop Part 2, and GIMPShop Part 3 ) and learned how to remove the green from an image, leaving it transparent. Today, Mr. Veland’s students followed my directions for dropping their transparent images onto other “background” pictures. By the time we had finished, the pupils were eagerly using GIMP to edit their photos.

gimp2-6-01

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When You Need Art ASAP

I first wrote a post about BeFunky in July of 2008. Since that time BeFunky’s site has undergone a few changes. The site is even more impressive than the last time I saw it! For students and teachers who don’t have access to expensive or complicated graphics editing programs, BeFunky offers visitors a number of eye-catching effects. BeFunky‘s tools are free, require no registration to use, and allow visitors to apply their resulting graphics to coffee mugs, t-shirts, hats, and other items.

BeFunky