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Gaga Over Google: Photo Images Bring Lessons to Life

Voice of ExperienceNot long ago, educator Max Fischer stumbled upon a virtual goldmine. You probably know about the Google search tool, but have you made use to its image search engine? Google's image library has helped Fischer bring many lessons to life. Included: Ideas for using the Google image search tool.

Max W. Fischer

Some time ago, I introduced to my students a unique role-play technique. Before undertaking a study of the Greek philosopher Socrates, I projected onto a screen an image of his imminent poisoning in an Athenian prison. About a half dozen followers surround Socrates, who is sitting on a bed preparing to take the cup of hemlock juice that will cause his death. Then, I selected students to assume the identity of key characters in that image, and had them act out their perceptions of the action behind the image. Although only one class, which happened to include a student familiar with Socrates, correctly inferred the action in the image, all the students became actively engaged in the activity, either as role players or as "scene detectives."

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A few days later, I used the identical technique to introduce the concept of an oracle. The image I used presented the oracle seated high upon a tripod over the deep chasm as she breathed in the vapors that allowed her to foresee the future. Once again, students took on various roles and acted out the scene. As you can well imagine, that deductive thinking strategy was highly appealing to my students, especially to those who thrive on dramatics.

Some time later, I read an article that included an activity in which a teacher used similar images to engage an entire class. First students listed people, places, and things they saw in an historical image. Then the teacher challenged them to infer from those items what was occurring in the scene.

Reading about that strategy reminded me of the photographic role-play technique, which I hadn't used in some time; the reminder prompted me to action. Like a child on Christmas morning, I pored feverishly over books and magazines in search of the perfect images. I took several rolls of slide prints of colorful illustrations and photographs from our textbook and from magazines, especially National Geographic. My school's librarian let me use a special 35mm macro lens to enlarge images as small as postage stamps into highly detailed slides. Now, I am prepared and eager to use those new slides as anticipatory-set activities to draw my students into content as I introduce it.


Since investing those hours in taking photographs and converting them for classroom use, I have stumbled on an even easier way to gather images. Forget involving your camera, a librarian, and a macro lens! Have you explored Google's monstrous inventory of photographs and art images? Images are available at our fingertips via Google's image search capability. Since being introduced to that goldmine of images, I've been printing out my own color transparencies on just about every subject and topic that appears on my curriculum radar.

In addition to using those images as comprehension, predictive, and dramatic prompts, I have found many other uses for Google's image inventory. For example, I've substituted card stock for transparencies and used historical images on bulletin boards. The transparencies I've made also can be used to supplement classroom lectures.

Yet another use! I recently combined two images printed on card stock to create an eye-catching visual. I combined an image of fighting hockey players and a gladiator scene from the Coliseum. I mounted the image on foamboard and set above it the text "Thumbs Up? Thumbs Down? Are We as Violent as the Romans?" That image is sitting in my classroom now, a teaser advertisement for a WebQuest I will soon introduce in which students compare contemporary American entertainment to the recreation of the ancient Romans.

Because my curriculum is devoted to historical antiquity, Google is a godsend that provides me with an array of illustrations and portraits from almost every era. But that huge image library has applications across the curriculum. Whether you teach history, science, literature, or mathematics, you are sure to find an image to match your current unit of study. Give it a try. Just type any topic into Google's image search engine. As quickly as you can say Google, you'll have a picture you can build a lesson around!

A teacher for three decades, Max Fischer currently teaches seventh graders the marvels of ancient history. A National Board certified teacher in the area of early adolescence social studies/history, Max has authored nine resource books for teachers in the fields of social studies, health, and math. You can read a previously published article about Fischer: Simulations Engage Students in Active Learning.

Article by Max W. Fischer
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