Thursday 15 May 2008

Immersive Image Environments

If you enjoy working with images with your EFL students, especially on an IWB (interactive whiteboard) or a data projector, then PicLens is exactly what you need.

PicLens is a plugin (small program) that works within your web browser (there are versions for Firefox, Safari and IE 7) and it converts many of the standard image sharing websites, like flickr, Photobucket, Google Images, Yahoo Images etc. into "3D immersive environments"!

To understand what that mean have a look at this short flash video tutorial which shows how to use PicLens.
Click here or on the image to view the movie (5Mb Flash)
Download a version of this movie for i-pod / i-tunes here

At the click of the mouse the normal 2D web pages are converted into a wall of images which you can explore and enlarge.

How to use this with ELT students on your data projector or IWB
  • Pull up a wall of images and describe one while your students try to guess which one it is. Then get a student to describe an image and the others guess which one. (This will work best with quite similar images). You can then get students to do this in pairs.
  • Type in a search term and ask students to describe the connection / relevance of the image to the term (This works best when you enter abstract nouns like politics, alienation, paranoia etc.)
  • Use the resource for any new vocabulary words that come up in your lesson. Simply collect the words, type them in and find images that relate to the word. (This won't work for every word)
  • Get students to compare and contrast two images (A common task in EFL exams such as FCE)
  • Play just a minute and select an image for each student, they then have to talk for one minute about that image with repeating them selves or pausing (This is difficult to do, so don't expect too much) award points for the student who manages to speak for the longest.
  • Put students with their back to the images, select one and the other students (in two teams or groups) have to describe the image to the student who can't see it. The student then has to guess which image they described.
  • Pull up a single image and ask students to think about the photographer's intention.
    • Why did the photographer take the image?
    • What did they want to say?
    • What is their relationship to the image content?
    • What were they doing before, after they took the image?
    • Etc etc.
  • Students can select their favourite image and explain why they like it, or the one they like least.
  • Students can try to use their imagination to describe the space around the image that you don't see.
    • What's happening around the photographer that you don't see?
    • What is the photographer wearing?
    • What's happening behind the photographer?
    • Describe the photographer (age, gender, nationality, personality etc.)
What I like about it
  • The Plugin is free and very simple to download and install and less than 2 Mb
  • The interface is really easy to use and very attractive
  • It really highlights the images and frees then from the textual distraction that you often find on a web page
  • There's no advertising on it
  • You get access to some really fantastic images in class without having to download them or violate anyone's copyright
  • The most recent version also enables you to create immersive walls of videos from YouTube !!! Fantastic!

What I'm not so sure about
  • As with any image sharing / search bank you have to be careful with younger students that inappropriate images don't appear. You can get around this though by setting up your own account on something like Flickr and only using specific images from your account. This could be time consuming, but if you got other teachers and students to help, it could be a fantastic resource.
  • If you are on a slow connection it could take a bit longer for the images to load.

If you want to use PicLens then you can download it from here:

This is a really great tool for the connected ELT classroom and also great to use at home. I hope you are able to enjoy using it with your students. Do drop me a lne with any other ideas and activities you use with it.



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