Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Plentiful Picasa Pleasures

How many words is it worth?

If a picture is a worth a thousand words, then using software like Google's Picasa for photo sharing and collaboration must be worth a billion. Well, maybe not a billion words, but given its capabilities it certainly exceeds a thousand.

Picasa can be used as a cloud-based platform, or the user can also download the software (Windows or Macintosh) if they prefer to organize and edit their photos on their system before uploading them
to Picasa's site. This is a helpful feature for those users who want their photo management to be consistently integrated from the computer to the cloud service. However, Picasa does offer a plug-in for iPhoto for the Macintosh users who prefer Apple's desktop application over Picasa. This powerful integration is also available through mobile application options, email accounts and other online services (Steve's Digicam).

The combination of Picasa on the computer and what it offers online makes it a serious contender in the image editing and storing arena. It offers many Web 2.0 features while also acting as another backup option for your photos. Further, if your school or district is presently using Google Apps for Education, Picasa can be a beneficial addition.

What's in a name?

The name Picasa is a play on words on the name of the great artist Pablo Picasso. It blends "mi casa" ("my house" in Spanish) with "pic"ture (The History of Picasa). Created in 2002 by Idealab, Picasa was acquired by Google two years later and became one of the many Web 2.0 offerings from the current "friendly" giant of the Internet. In 2008, Google added face recognition to Picasa and this new feature can be a major time-saver for categorizing and grouping photos (The History of Picasa). As part of the family of Google products, Picasa integrates quite well in other products, such as Blogger, YouTube, Google Drive and Google+.

Picasa in the Classroom

Picasa can help enhance learning experiences in the classroom while also supporting current technology integration. For starters, teachers can easily use Picasa to showcase student work and utilize all of Picasa's sharing options to share student work on the Internet.

Students can also use Picasa for storytelling. For example, photography can be one way that students capture their learning experiences as part of a formative assessment/reflection. At the end of an assignment or project, students can present the story of their learning experience through either a slideshow or video as a summative assessment/reflection (Using Picasa in Your Classroom to Publish Student Work).

Selecting slideshow size and embed code on Picasa 
Additionally, Picasa allows students (and teachers) to easily share their work on the Internet through a variety of methods. If students have blogs, they can retrieve the embed code from one of their Picasa photo albums and paste it on their blog to offer their viewers an online slideshow. Slideshows can also be exported and shared on YouTube. Students can also post links to their work from Picasa through social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or send out the "traditional" email.

Picasa offers a number of basic editing features. If students are using photos in their assignments, Picasa will probably be the only application they will need. They can use Picasa as the platform to store and present their assignments, and they can also take advantage of Picasa's editing features. There are also new additions in version 3.9 such as more editing effects (Vignette, duo-tone, borders) and side by side editing which allows the user to compare the edit and original versions simultaneously.

Editing on Picasa through Google+
In what appears to be an effort to promote Google's social network (Google+), cloud-based editing with Picasa is now only available to users if they are members of Google+. However, users can still utilize the desktop Picasa software which offers the editing features and then syncs the changes with the online service. But if your school does not block Google+, the online editing features work well and are very intuitive.

Another great idea for using Picasa in the classroom is creating an online class or school photo database or what has also been creatively called a "free classroom photo sandbox" (Create a Free Classroom Photo Sandbox with Picasa). Educating students about copyright and how to obtain copyright free or friendly photos should always be included in classroom instruction that involves Internet use. But why not also compile an online classroom or school photo database? If students are creating assignments and projects and need photos, then maybe part of the requirement should be for them to take their own photos which, in turn, can be added to a growing database where they and other students can access photos for other projects and assignments.

Keep in mind, however, Google only offers one free gigabyte of cloud storage on Picasa Web Albums. So if you are creating a robust photo database and plan to use Google's space for storage, you will likely have to purchase a plan. Plans are relatively inexpensive, starting at $2.49 per month for 25 GB. Such a plan is unlikely to be necessary for regular classroom use of Picasa by a student or teacher.

You can explore other features of Picasa and how it can be used in the classroom by referring to the links in the resources below. The links explore other Picasa features such as geo-tagging and creating collages.  Many of the links also offer specific activities and even lesson plans on how Picasa can be used in the classroom.


Below are links to sites that discuss Picasa and offer additional suggestions on how to use it in educational setting and/or provide tutorials on how to use Picasa.

If you are new to using Picasa, then this video is a good place to start as you become familiar with its features:

One of the neat features of Picasa is creating a collage. In this video Peter Gorman shows how to create a collage in Picasa (using the Windows Picasa software):

In this video, Susan Adams, explores some of the new additions to Picasa 3.9 and how to watermark your photos.

And don't forget about Google. They have a very helpful support page for Picasa.

Kathy Shrock's first slide from her 2007
"Shedding Light on Web 2.0" presentation

Picasa in Action

It seems only fitting to include Educational Technologist Kathy Schrok's presentation "Shedding Light on Web 2.0" as an example of how Picasa can be used for creating, sharing and presenting slideshows on the Internet.

Providing a shout out to my school, another example is Blackville School's The Blackville Talon. Using embed codes from Picasa Web Albums, the students continually update the online student newspaper's photo feature, providing a slideshow of school activities or sporting events. Additionally, The Blackville Talon's Picasa account has been the main storage space and photo management Web 2.0 platform for both the online newspaper and the school's yearbook since 2008.
Photo slideshow from Picasa embedded on
The Blackville Talon
Future Educational Implications

As previously mentioned, Google has embedded many of Picasa's features in their social networking space, Google+. At first glance, this transition may irk some educators who have avoided using social network spaces in their classrooms. However, this move may be an overall clever one on Google's part, not only in an effort to build their membership base for Google+, but also because online social networking does not appear to be going away anytime soon, and this amalgamation of practical Web 2.0 applications to social media spaces provides educators with more reasons to experiment with online social networking. One big obstacle for educators is determining how to effectively integrate social networking in their classrooms and trying to decide if it is worth the effort. Indeed, social networks can lead to frustration when "teachers and students do not see their instructional value" (Greenhow, 2007). However, if social media platforms like Google+ continue to offer integrated Web 2.0 applications that possess proven educational purposes, then the frustration levels are lessened and the prospect of integrating social networking in the classroom is strengthened.


Fenton, E. The History of Picasa. Retrieved from

Fryer, W. (2012). Create a Free Classroom Photo Sandbox with Picasa. Retrieved from

Gorcesky, B. (2010). Using Picasa in Your Classroom to Publish Student Work. Retrieved from

Greenhow, C. (2007). What Teachers Education Needs to Know about Web 2.0: Preparing New Teachers in the 21st Century. In R. Carlsen et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2007 (pp. 1989-1992). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

Steve's Digicams. How to Download Photos from Picasa to Your Computer. Retrieved from

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