#ELTpics has just turned 100. Not years, but sets. The current set or theme is ‘Spot The Difference’ (16 Feb-1 Mar), in which contributors are being asked to send in two similar photos which have slight differences. Previous sets include adjectives, bookshelves, contrasts and ‘Things I see every day’. For the latest set, photos should ideally be positioned together as one image for ease of future use in the classroom, although this is not essential. It is proving to be very popular, giving contributors the chance to be creative with their imagery. Some are taking pictures which are seconds apart, while others are taking images from the same place on entirely different days.
#ELTpics, the Flickr-based photo sharing ready-made resource for language teachers, was launched in October 2010 when three teachers, Victoria Boobyer (at that time a teacher in Vietnam), Carol Goodey (Adult Literacies & ESOL Worker in Community Learning and Development with a local authority in Scotland) and Vicky Loras (a teacher in Switzerland and co-founder of The Loras Network) decided to start tweeting pictures to each other theme on a given theme. In Spring 2011, two more curators, Fiona Mauchline and Sandy Millin, joined the team. As of today’s date, 20 February 2014, there are well over 16,000 collected photos, which are grouped by sets. Any one photo might be placed in more than one set. Every two weeks teachers and other folks in ELT are invited to take and share photos on a given theme. This theme is publicised on Facebook and Twitter by the curators, which are now Victoria – @elt_pics, Fiona – @fionamau, @JulieRaikou and @mkofab – using the hashtag #eltpics.
The conditions placed on photos being uploaded and shared were – and continue to be – that photos must be the photographers’ own, they must be ‘live’ rather than computer graphics, and any recognisable person appearing as the subject in a photo must have given their consent. All of the photos are free to use under a creative commons licence. That is, you must give appropriate credit and it needs to be for non-commercial purposes, such as for use in the classroom. If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same licence as the original.
As well as the Flickr resource, there is a blog called ‘Take a photo and…”, maintained by #ELTpics’ gatekeeper, Fiona. This is an ideas site for how to use the uploaded images. For example, this post is about creating #ELTpics mosaics, possibilities and modal auxiliary verbs. It also suggests ways of using two similar, but slightly different photos, which is useful for the 100th theme/set, ‘Spot the Difference’. Another blog which focuses on a series of interviews with contributors and ran for one year is here.
The resource was the topic of two #ELTchat discussions on 30 May 2012, for which Shaun Wilden wrote a summary, and one year later – 29 May 2013, with a summary written by Lizzie Pinard.
Fiona and Victoria take turns in doing promotional stuff for the resource, including a 30 minute session given in May 2013 at the 6th Virtual Web Conference. You can view that session here.
#ELTpics was also shortlisted for an ELTons award for innovation in teacher resources in 2013. It was previously nominated for best group blog and best Twitter hashtag in the 2011 Edublog awards.
To date, I have mostly used #ELTpics when I want to illustrate something I have written about for a blog post or #ELTchat summary. For the summary on ‘How to teach Spelling’, for example, I used eight images from the ‘Things that look like letters’ set – see below. I have, so far, only used #ELTpics once in my own teaching, on a pre-sessional course last summer, when I created a mosaic of buildings in different parts of the world, from the ‘Important Buildings’ set. I know that the resource is a wonderful place to get interesting, copyright-free images from fellow professionals, which can be used, adapted or remixed as needed.
Interview with Victoria Boobyer
To mark the appearance of the 100th set, Fiona Mauchline suggested I write this post and that I contact Victoria Boobyer, the only original founder still actively involved, for an interview about this ongoing resource, now in its fourth year.
- Why did you start #ELTpics along with Carol and Vicky?
Well, we were sending each other photos of everyday things from Vietnam, Scotland and Switzerland via Twitter anyway… and it soon became clear that we had the makings of a really nice resource for teachers. The next logical step was to involve other teachers via the hashtag #eltpics
- The project seems to be an all-girl thing – the ‘#ELTpics chicks’ I have heard it called. Is there a deliberate policy or reason behind that?
‘Chicks’ really? It’s just happened that way. We put out a call for volunteers when it was becoming too much for me to manage as I was taking my Delta. It so happened women replied. Then as others have become busy for short periods (i.e. Sandy volunteering at the Olympics and doing her own Delta) further women volunteers stepped in.
- How many photos have now been uploaded in total to the #ELTpics Flickr page?
I’ve just uploaded the 16,894th. Which was one of yours, Phil. 🙂
- What is your favourite set and why?
This is one of those tricky questions. I’ll always like ‘Water’ as it was our first set, but I think in terms of a teaching resource, I love ‘Every Picture Tells a Story’. Each picture is an instant activity really because teachers have taken the pictures and have seen the potential and this potential will be seen by other teachers. Even if you start by asking, ‘What story does this picture tell?’ it’s a great language producing activity.
- Is there a set idea that you have had but have so far not used for practical or other logistical reasons?
We started but have had to be really careful with the PARSNIPS (things you wouldn’t usually find in ELT course books) set.
- Are there any legal issues when publishing images of people, for example your class of students? Is permission all that is required usually?
Yes, there are legal restrictions regarding portraits but also we want to be responsible. This means that we ask that permission is sought for recognisable images of people and from parents of children. Also check with the school policy on this.
- What is your favourite activity you know about that uses or can use #ELTpics in the classroom?
I really like Ceri Jones’ ‘An open door…?’ micro writing activity that she wrote for the ‘take a photo and…’ blog. http://takeaphotoand.wordpress.com/2011/10/30/an-open-door/ I like this activity because it takes an everyday object – a door – and results in a lot of classroom language.
- Who do you think has contributed the most photos, other than those directly involved in running it?
I wouldn’t like to name anyone in particular as some folks send lots of photos in short periods whereas others have been steady regulars. Also, some of the more recent contributors are quite prolific but joined later. Every single photo is gratefully received. 🙂
- Who is the most famous ELT person(s) that has/have so far contributed an image?
I have to say a huge ‘thank you’ to Gavin Dudeney, Jeremy Harmer and Scott Thornbury who are the big ELT names that gave us support right from the very beginning. I still think quite a lot of the ‘Food’ set is made up of Scott’s photos. 😉 Since then, many luminaries have come on board the #ELTpics train.
- Were you disappointed not to win an ELTon award last year?
Am I supposed to say ‘no’ here? No but really… we were very chuffed to reach the shortlisted stage because is meant that Carol, Fiona and myself finally got to meet each other.
- How do you see the future of #ELTpics? Are there any changes planned or is it more of the same?
Why change something that is working so splendidly?
- Is there anything you would like to add or make clear about #ELTpics that has not already been said?
Just that we would love to hear on twitter and the Facebook page how people use #ELTpics in their classes because then we can then share this with other teachers.
That’s it! My thanks to Victoria for taking the time to reply.
References and further sources for how to use #ELTpics:
Mauchline, F, 2011: #ELTpics – How Does It Work. Available at: http://www.eltpics.com/howdoesitwork.html. Accessed 17 February 2014.
Mauchline, F. 2011-13. Take a photo and… http://takeaphotoand.wordpress.com/about/ Accessed 16 February 2014.
Millin, S. 2011. How to join in with eltpics. http://sandymillin.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/how-to-join-in-with-eltpics/ Accessed 16 February 2014.
Pinard, L. 2013. How to use a great resource like eltpics for your teaching- a summary. http://bit.ly/1bd7pEJ. Accessed 17 February 2014.
Wilden, S. 2012. How do/could you use a resource such as #ELTpics? http://bit.ly/1hpexAV. Accessed 17 February 2014.
Thanks for this Phil… I would like to emphasize that as far as I’m concerned it is by pure chance that it is an all-female collective. It just so happened that three females started it and that females answered my initial request for more volunteers. There is no ‘all female’ policy. 😉
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Got it. Didn’t think there was. It was just by chance. Thanks again for the interview. Phil
Nice job writing up the history of #eltpics! I learned about it from two passionate promoters–Chiew Pang, a non-female contributor, and Sandy Millin in the summer of 2011. They encouraged me to submit photos even though I wasn’t an ELT teacher. Lately my contributions have dwindled, but now I am an ELT and have more use for the pictures. Your post got me re-inspired!
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