Student photos using and Blackboard

I have a hard time remembering names. When I used to teach, I used a strategy that not only helped me learn student names, but also seemed to help students get to know each other better too, especially in a face-to-face course. It’s not terribly earth-shattering, but here is what I did:

On the first day of class, I would bring my digital camera, along with a pad of paper. After the initial introductions and syllabus review, I would announce that I would be taking each student’s picture. As I took each picture, I would have each student write their name on the pad of paper. During that same day, I would transfer the pictures to my computer, resize and compress them using an image editing software, name each pictures the student’s name, upload them to a web server, and then create a web gallery of photos with students’ first names. I would look over this web page from time to time before the next class and then surprise students by actually knowing their first names. (Sometimes I had to cheat by referring to the images, but it sure helped.)

Of course, I’m talking about someone who had access to web space, could build web pages, and use image editing programs with ease. You might not have or be interested in developing those same skills. If you use Blackboard as your course management system, you can customize your navigation menu to show outside web sites, such as an online slide show or collection of photos. Here’s how you can do this using

  1. Take the students’ pictures with a digital camera (you can borrow one from Academic Technologies) and have students write their names as usual.
  2. Create a account if you don’t have one and create a group for the class, so that students can edit and contribute pictures. (Think of this as a “photo blog.”)
  3. Upload student photos to through a bulk upload process
  4. Tag all of the pictures the same and put them in a collection
  5. Put each student’s first name as a caption on the picture
  6. Create a slideshow in flickr and copy that link
  7. Go to your Blackboard site (Control Panel>Manage Course Menu) and click the icon that says “External Links.”
  8. Type in “Student Photos” (or whatever you want to call them) in the Name box and paste the flickr slideshow link in the URL box. Don’t select “open in new window.”
  9. Click “Submit”
  10. Scroll down and change the number to one, or a lower number that will show up on your navigation bar.
  11. Click “OK.”
  12. Click your course name at the top and see the new menu item called “Student Photos”
  13. Click this button (link) and your flickr slideshow should appear in the Blackboard main frame.
  14. If your students don’t like their picture (or if they change the color of their hair, which always throws me for a loop), encourage them to upload a new picture. Also, encourage them to upload any pictures they are taking that would be appropriate for class viewing.

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