Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Test replaced with team project on the history of photography

  Tests. I don’t like them, but who does?
  Yet tests are necessary because they force students to study material, and help gauge how students comprehend material.
   So, with that in mind, I recently decided to ditch a test for my Black & White 1 class, and replace it with research.
   The students took the traditional midterm test, which focused on camera controls. They also take five-question sponge quizzes once a week that earns them bonus points. Between the midterm and the sponge quizzes, I’m able to tell which students need extra help.
   This is where the compromise comes in: I’ve tossed out the final test (which is basically the same stuff I’ve been testing them on all semester) and replaced the points with a team project on the history of photography.
   There is no getting out of teaching history because this is academia, after all. As photography majors they must know the origins of their chosen art form.
   However, if I stood in front of the classroom and regurgitated facts about Daguerreotype and wet plates, they would probably hear “blah, blah, blah.” I’m not saying history is boring. I’m saying there might be a better way to engage them in otherwise dry material.
   This assignment involves the entire class working together to complete a single PowerPoint slideshow that highlights the history of photography. Each student was given a topic (an historical process or person), and they must submit at least two PowerPoint slides on their topic. The class will then work together to combine the slides into a single PowerPoint.
   Not only will this require them to research their own topics, it gets them to work together as a team. Because this is their final, they are totally responsible for helping each other learn how to use PowerPoint, download photos, source their material, and organize the slides into a coherent story.
George Eastman
The following are the topics they are researching:
·      What does the word photography mean?
·      Joseph Nicephore Niepce
·      Daguerreotype
·      Camera Obscura
·      Pinhole cameras
·      George Eastman
·      Timeline of photography
·      Light sensitive chemicals
·      Eadweard Muybridge
·      Calotype process
·      Wet plate and Dry plate
·      Edward Weston
·      Reflex mirror
·      Sir John Herschel
   It was a joy watching them get to work after I gave them their assignment sheet. And I’m confident we'll all have fun viewing their team project.  
   If you have another topic you think should be added next time, let me know! 
(George Eastman image from

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