K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education


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The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.

— Dorothea Lange, quoted in the Los Angeles Times, August 13, 1978

How we see

Mind Illusions

From the PBS series The Secret Life of the Brain comes the question “Can you believe your eyes?” How does the brain process visual input…and how much potential is there for “misreading” what we see? Try the demonstrations on this website to see how movement, color, angles and form are processed by our visual nervous system. You will be amazed at these optical illusions! (Macromedia Flash plugin required.)

Looking at photographs critically

Fake or Real?

Can you guess which photos are real and which are fake? This site from PBS brings attention to the fact that computerized photo manipulation can make anything seem real. Students are challenged to identify the photos which have been altered. This helps them find faked images in the future.

Apollo Moon Missions: photographic evidence

People have tried to argue that the moon landings never occurred, and they have tried to support their claims by analyzing photographs. How can an understanding of camera lenses, perspective, shadows and other elements of the images help us to accurately “read” the images from the moon landings? Photo analysis of images from the Apollo program are presented with conspiracist observations and then explanations of the context and circumstances in which the photo was taken. This site, appropriate for advanced photography students, is published by Clavious Moon Base, a collection of individuals devoted to the Apollo missions and debunking the “conspiracy theories” that deny NASA’s moon missions.

Using images in teaching

Remote sensing

NASA IMAGERS sites are designed to help elementary and middle school students understand remote sensing images. Amelia the Pigeon provides younger elementary students with a “bird’s eye view” of urban life and the advantages afforded by remote sensing technology (K-4). The Echo the Bat site (grades 5-8) explains the role of light and the electromagnetic spectrum as the foundation of remote sensing. Both resources are valuable resources for teaching Earth science using remote sensing imagery to help with identification of land use, exploration of featured habitats, and changes in the environment.

Sight Unseen: The Art of Active Seeing

by John Schaefer (Goodyear, 1995)

Information literacy and visual literacy help to correct our natural tendency to accept information without question. We have preconceived notions (prejudices) because our experiences have helped us to build a world that makes sense to us. In Sight Unseen, Schaefer explains that “when you break or undermine someone’s preconceived ideas, her mind is opened. For the moment, this is a teachable moment — an opportunity to change the person, to educate her.” This book will help you to build critical thinking capacity in your students, and to easily incorporate, without any equipment or expense, photography into your teaching.

This book is designed to guide the educator through the technique and language of photography not to make us all photographers, in the vocational sense, but to help us to see. Simple activities, profound observations, and powerful approaches to processing visual information make this an excellent resource for teachers at all levels and in all disciplines.

Sources of images on the Web

Washington Post CameraWorks
The day in photos, the week in review, subject-related galleries about current issues, this site helps students to clearly see current events.
National Geographic Photography
Multimedia slide shows on Orphan Gorillas, photo galleries about Islam or African-American Cowboys, or the sights and sounds of the Amazon: leave it to National Geographic to bring the world to your classroom through photography. This site is a treasure-trove of images for social studies and science topics. See also the Photo Tips, provides tips for improving your photography.