Mick Waters introduces: Learning Through a Lens

It's all about photography

By: Jane Hewitt


Products specifications
Attribute name Attribute value
Size: 210 x 280mm
Pages : 224
ISBN : 9781781351147
Format: Paperback
Published: March 2014

This full colour book will show you how to use photography in the classroom across all subjects.

Sometimes there are real barriers to learning – whether social or cultural or simply ability or motivation – but photography has something to offer everyone: it provides a vehicle for either teamwork or self-discovery, inspiration, wonder, exploring hidden depths in iconic images, and subsequent philosophical questions. It allows for creativity but also for structure, freedom and rigour. It gets beneath the surface and beyond the obvious.

Subjects covered in this book include:

  • Camera basics – composition, camera functions, basic uploading, editing, printing and presentation
  • Self-portraits – self discovery, all about me, secrets, hidden depths, expressions
  • Dear Photo – putting old photos into a scene, then and now
  • Using Tiny People to create whole new worlds, scenes and stories providing real scope for creativity and fun
  • Using images for philosophical discussion
  • Looking at the local community and how to use images such as street art for project based activities

 For use by all teachers, parents, youth workers and anyone wanting to teach using photography.

Picture for author Jane Hewitt

Jane Hewitt

Jane Hewitt taught mainly at secondary level for 30 years. Jane still loves learning, discovering new ideas and photography and is rarely found without a camera around her neck!

Click here to try out Jane's Collage Challenge.

Visit Jane's photography Website here or her Den Building site here.


  1. What a really special book Learning Through a Lens is. I ordered it for my partner, who is a teacher, an autism specialist, in the secondary school in our village, to add to her resources for various creative activities she does with some of her more difficult' classes. But since it arrived I am also finding it useful and inspirational as well. After being a journalist and photographer for 40 years I am now half way through a degree in photography as fine art, and it has sown the seed of me working up a third-year project in a classroom environment.

    I flagged up Learning Through a Lens in the photography department today and within five minutes it had been ordered for the campus library. As I said earlier, it is a really special book -¦ I must have read hundreds of books on photography over the years and only very rarely felt really engaged by one, or found myself believing what the book is offering is genuinely practical and real. It's a top piece of work. Feel free to write another one!
  2. If you've read our blog articles (like A Spinnin' Safari) or follow us on Twitter, you may have noticed that we're heavily inspired by the visual. The work of clever designers, photographers, web-designers, film-makers, street artists and illustrators is a constant source of appreciation and inspiration for us.

    The statement “Ooh, that's interesting. Can that be used somehow?” is something we've thought about so many things we've come across on the internet-¦ From the work of a giant duck artist (a story starter for KS1?) to then and now wartime photographs (a great way to bring the past to life?).

    The problem, of course, is locating all these wonderful images and ideas. Twitter's excellent, as is Pinterest, but for the time-pressed teacher sometimes it's more helpful to not have to go trawling on the off-chance you catch something useful.

    Jane Hewitt is a teacher, author and photographer similarly inspired by the visual. In her new book, Learning Through a Lens she takes inspiration from all sorts of places to show us how photographs (and the skills involved in photography) can be used to powerful effect in the classroom - whatever the age-group, whatever the subject. It's also not just a book for teachers (as you'll notice if you leave it lying around when visitors come).

    We began teaching in September 1999. It's not that long ago and yet we've witnessed several changes in the use of photographs and photography in the time since. If not already, we will all one day look back at this period of time in awe at the speed of change when it comes to technology.

    When we started, photographs in the classroom entailed bought packs of laminated resources (photos of life in Lesotho or images of the water cycle) that sat in the back of the classroom cupboard until time came to study that particular topic and dust off the photos for another year. Any photos of the class were taken using a camera with film in (imagine such a thing!) and developed.

    Then came the IWB and the ability to display electronic images large. This put pay to the laminated photo packs. At this point the school had one digital camera, shared between all the classes. Usage was limited and you had to book your slot with the camera when there wasn't a school trip on.

    Over time, colleagues' confidence in using digital cameras increased, they became cheaper and the school we were teaching at could afford one per class. Students learned how to use the camera and were allowed to do so - two or three at a time.

    Now we live in a world where most devices - iPads, phones etc - have cameras built-in. Better cameras than the original one-per-school digital cameras we began with. Not only does every child have access to the means to be a photographer, most may well arrive at school already having dabbled. There's certainly no excuse on our part for not using this opportunity.

    In other words, the time is ripe for this book.

    We are all becoming more tech-savvy and, with a camera on most phones (and the ability to do something with the photos there too in the form of apps), the art of taking, uploading, sending, storing - even editing - photos is easier than ever. Our students are often better at it than we are. Learning Through a Lens gives you the tools to tap into their abilities and enthusiasm and use photography for so much more than the obvious. The strapline on the back of the book reads,

    "Transform the way you and your learners look at, think about and capture the world around you."

    Whoever came up with it, it's a clever strapline - encapsulating the book's subject matter in just a few words. It deals with the sheer power of images (“transform”), the use of already-taken photos to provoke in the classroom (“look at” and “think about”) and the use of the camera to get your students doing the taking (“capture”). This isn't a book about Art, it's about “the world around you.” Photography can be used to explore patterns and sequences in the world around us in Maths lessons. It can also be used to record a great javelin technique in PE. Or to understand more about right and wrong in RE. Through the lens of Jane Hewitt's camera, we therefore learn about how to get out students to learn through their own.

    And so, the world around us is explored in 217 pages. In Part I, the author covers the -˜Background and Basics' which, in this day and age, are more neglected than you might imagine. Yes, cameras are everywhere, but how many of us know why we might want to alter the shutter speed or know our SLRs from our elbows?

    A particularly interesting section is -˜Ethics in photography - looking at questions that photos raise'. It taps into a crucial idea. Photos have the power to shock, provoke and demand a response. They are also personal things and the question of whether an addition of a lensman/woman to a situation is a good thing. The author also touches on “compassion fatigue” - another fascinating idea to discuss in class. Perhaps for a photograph to retain its potency, it has to be used sparingly.

    And of course there are then the ideas. Part II is -˜Projects and Applications' and Jane Hewitt bombards the reader with idea after idea (all of which are visually stunning) to use different photography techniques in the classroom. From street art to the golden ratio. From capturing student aims to recording their worries. From designing a book cover to developing a mini character. From stimulating writing to talking about feelings. You will come away from this book buzzing with ideas. And your classroom will become more vibrant place (in both senses of the word) as a result. If you're a Head of Department or Headteacher, buy a load for your teachers. You'll see the effect on the corridors of your school.

    Learning Through a Lens is a really well-designed book and special mention has to go to something we noticed whilst writing this review. Probably around 1/3 of this book's 200+ pages have at least one photograph on. These range from those that demonstrate photographic skills and techniques to artistic pieces. You might be forgiven for expecting that the author might have dipped into stock art images or got permission to use photographs to demonstrate her points. And yet, the vast majority of the photographs here were taken by the author. This book is not only written by, but “illustrated” by Jane Hewitt. No mean feat and one that didn't go unnoticed. Her photography skills are superb and if she is running a training course near you, check it out.

    Here's an idea for a follow-up, if Jane Hewitt is so inclined-¦ Learning Through a Lens II - the use of videos in class. We can see how that would make a really interesting companion piece.

    Learning Through a Lens is a book you will keep on your desk and dip into whenever you're faced with a new topic or a lesson you want to look at differently. “Can I use that somehow?” won't just be a phrase you say sometimes - this book is crying out to be used regularly and you'll come away from it knowing how you plan to use it. Above all, it will teach you and your students one thing - the use of photography in the classroom is simply about looking more closely at the world around us. And, in that sense, it's less about learning through a camera lens and more about learning through the lenses in our eyes.

    The world is an amazing place. You have the tools. Now get out there and capture it.

    Read the original review here: http://www.sparkyteaching.com/creative/learning-through-a-lens-a-review/
  3. Jane has packed this book with a wide range of stimulating and relevant pictures and ideas which will inspire teachers and students of all ages. My grandchildren use their cameras, i-pads extensively to capture highlights of their activities, places visited and especially “little things” which no one else considers important. I particularly liked the sections on “All about me, Photo Challenges ideas in Dear Photograph.” The latter section enables the individual or group to re-visit experiences, places in their past or explore aspects of life in the past or in other areas. This is an outstanding resource which will give teachers and parents/ carers great ideas to bring pictures alive and a framework for promoting real learning of ourselves, others and the communities we and others live in.
  4. The world of photography has become more accessible in recent times, with most of us walking around with a camera in our pockets most of the time. Concerts, museums, disasters, weather phenomenon, etc. will all be covered by someone who has a smart phone camera handy. Many of these cameras have advanced so far that the point-and-click photography culture is now threatening advanced photographic skills, whose results are just as rewarding as any art masterpiece viewable in any gallery.
    In her new book, -˜Learning through a lens -” It's all about photography', teacher Jane Hewitt gives pupils the skills to understand how they can they can best take photographs, whether using smartphones, iPads or cameras, being used as creative tools that can be used every day.
    “Most children will have a camera on their phone, and I think banning them in schools is counter productive. We should be teaching them how to use them for their work. I'm not sure we should teach photography as a separate subject, but we should use it.” Speaking to UKEdChat, the Yorkshire based teacher celebrates this recent surge of photography, making it available to everyone. “Smartphones are making photography accessible to everybody, and if you want to take it further you can. There are stock agencies that are now using Smartphone images.”
    Just because you have an expensive camera doesn't make you a photographer. You can have the cheapest camera going and produce the most amazing shot.
    But the skills behind photography are essential, with many people not understanding the full features of their cameras. Helpfully, the book offers advice for the beginner to get to grips with such features as: shutter speed, aperture; ISO, white-balance; metering; and an explanation of the different modes on most cameras -” all helping to get a good understanding of the capabilities. “You can have all the gear, yet no idea on how to use it. You see people who have huge lenses and properly kitted out, having spent thousands of pounds, and leave their camera on automatic not knowing what the other buttons and features do, openly admitting that they don't know how to use their camera beyond the basics. Just because you have an expensive camera doesn't make you a photographer. You can have the cheapest camera going and produce the most amazing shot. It's about being creative.”
    “To me, photography can sit across the curriculum -” I have used photography to teach literacy, and have done for years with transition work using images and photography skills. I've used Preiser figures to build them into characters and build their homes, then taking photographs to turn them into a story. Pupils then need the photography skills, the literacy skills, the IT skills. To me, this is fun and a tool.”
    Photography can be a great substitute for those who have an eye, but are not confident at drawing. Indeed, Hewitt confessed, “I can't paint; I can't draw, which is one of the reasons why I got into photography, because I got frustrated. I maintain that anybody can take a photograph -” it might not be a very good one, but you can do it and you can see the results immediately. You develop an eye, and it is like art in that way.
    “I love dead flowers, street art, and texture, but my favourite photographs are from my trip to Uganda, as it was the first time I really realised the power of photography. If you look at the central image on the front cover of my book, the two children had turned a water carrier into a toy, but my favourite image was a little girl standing at a fence watching a school, which she couldn't afford to go to.”
    Gaining inspiration from other people's work is essential, and any budding photographer should explore images that resonate with them. Jane told us, “I love Steve McCurry's portrait work -” just the close-up of faces and love the expressions that he captures. But there are so many. You can see something and think that it's amazing, such as the Slinkachu (Little People) images. Even that can be adapted, with young people using Lego figures -” and there are so many different characters -” this can be linked to outdoor learning, creating all sorts of things. Like I said, you can use photography as a tool. I've used it with Year 7's in English when we've been writing about school -” their school -” and they are given the chance to take five pictures to sum up their school. They are evaluating; analysing; coming back with five images and it makes it so much easier than asking them to just write a passage about their school.”
    It's clear that Jane Hewitt loves photography, and has inspired many educators with her work-¦-¦
  5. A thorough and practical guide to using photography at a high level to enhance learning across the curriculum, Jane Hewitt's book is full of inspiring and achievable projects.

    As young people have more and more access to powerful cameras with their phones, the use of this medium to explore, create and explain curriculum areas is compelling.

    Jane is painstaking in her approach to photography, with detailed explanation of shutter speeds, composition and the legal issues involved in taking and publishing images.

    A very enjoyable and beautifully presented introduction to using photography to as a tool to enrich a wide range of curriculum areas and also provide lifelong skills for pupils.
  6. Jane Hewitt expertly manages to give every teacher the opportunity to bring the world alive through photography in their classroom. At last we all have access to a wonderfully constructed book that is not only a teacher's guide but a technical manual too. Combining her own expertise as a teacher and her skill as a professional photographer she captures the imagination and leaves you longing to get your camera clicking. Jane hooks you in with her own compelling photographs and explains proficiently how to use images to drive children's learning. Why not try a -˜photo essay' or thought provoking philosophical discussion based on a simple image. Use a -˜shape collage' to celebrate children's work and produce -˜photography letters' in a literacy lesson.
    Terms such as -˜aperture' and -˜composition' will be fully understood and adjusting your -˜white balance' will be second nature.
  7. Early on in her book, "Learning Through a Lens", Jane Hewitt quotes Arnold Newman - "a better camera won't do a thing for you if you don't have anything in your head or your heart." Well, there is a lot of head and heart in this book which is overflowing not only with exquisite images to stimulate teaching and learning, but also wonderful ideas for lessons, pulling together the curriculum into a kaleidoscopic learning lens of its own. Jane's excellence as a teacher shines through as she patiently explains for the novice how to use a camera and digital devices, shares some very cool apps and intersperses all of that with the sort of soulful and purposeful teaching ideas that you know will make children grow in front of your eyes. This is a real gem of a book, using photography to connect dramatic contexts, philosophical discussion, scientific, technological and mathematical thinking with global, local and personal issues. I couldn't put it down and I can't wait to put it into action.
  8. Photography had never been something on my -˜I really want to do that' list until I connected with Jane Hewitt. We have been linking up via twitter and Project 365 and I now have the bug!

    Despite only meeting her in the real world a few weeks ago, Jane has provided such a motivation for me that I was delighted to be able to review her book -˜Learning Through a Lens'.

    Whatever I was expecting when I knew she had produced a book I don't know, but it wasn't what I read! I had expected a selection of her wonderful pictures each of which illicit a response. Instead I received a manual that will move the photographic skills of both myself, and anyone else who reads it, to a new level.

    The book is intended for teachers but I wouldn't restrict it to such a limited audience. Anyone who has enjoyed seeing life in pictures will find something of interest in these pages. The colour coding to help navigate the reader through the various sections is useful and means that you can home in to specifics if that is your need. Jane's very relaxed way of writing means even technical aspects are comfortable to take on board and of course there is a wonderful array of her work.

    My favourite has always been -˜Little People'. Jane introduced me to them a while ago but in the book she has extended my interest in them, linking it to my passion for creative writing in schools. In fact, so many of the projects just scream out to be undertaken. I'm very pleased that there is good coverage for those of us who are -˜device' photographers. Seeing how some of the many apps out there can be used will encourage many phone and tablet users to go beyond -˜a quick snap' to more of a composition.

    It is such a wonderful book that I will have to have it in hard copy so that I can flick through the pages to be further inspired and encouraged to have a go. There is SO MUCH contained in its 13 chapters that I did wonder if it should have been two books but I'm glad I won't have to wait for Part 2!
  9. It's brilliant! Simple and practical but packed full of inspiration! Just like Jane - a must for every school and class teacher!
  10. As an amateur photography enthusiastic I've fallen into the trap many times of thinking that by buying yet another book about photography it will instantly transform to the level of a professional. As someone who has been in education for 20 years I regularly read books in the hope that they will continually challenge me professionally and improve my competence in education. So, what could possibly be better, a book combining two of the great passions in my life? I have to admit though to being slightly cynical that this would be yet another functional instruction book “use f5.6 at 70mm-¦” that would leave me frustrated. And what could I really learn about using photography in education after 20 years of teaching?
    First impressions raised my hopes. An introduction by Mick Waters, someone who I have a lot of time for, immediately sets the tone that this isn't just -˜another' photography book and Jane's own introduction highlights the simplicity of using photography -” no need for full-frame highly expensive SLRs and her passion and enthusiasm shines out, showing that this isn't just some geek trying to earn a few easy bob.
    Once you get in to the book, the organisation and useful features included mean that for a busy teacher it is highly accessible. The first section deals with the technical functions of the camera but, and most importantly, Jane speaks human! No patronising, geeky, superior rhetoric; just down to earth, easy to understand advice to get the most out of your camera.
    Chapter 2 is where the fun begins to build. There are a number of activity ideas that are all easily attainable either at home or in school and that produce results that both children and adults would be instantly pleased with. What's more, once again, Jane has considered the needs of busy teachers by using a -˜recipe' format and clearly accessible information boxes meaning this activity could be up and running in a classroom within minutes. Pin hole cameras are covered, as are phones and apps with some great examples of low cost apps and their usage.
    Now that Jane has got you hooked, there's an important chapter on the use of ethics in photography (perhaps some -˜pros' should read this!). And the rest of the first section carries on exciting and informing and slowly but surely hooking you in-¦
    Boom! Like an old style flash gun going off, section 2 arrives with a feast of inspiring projects, activities, links and some all-round exciting things to do for yourself and/or your learners. From -˜little people' to street art via a highly informative and practical section on visual literacy I was left chomping at the bit to get my camera out, borrow some children (as a Headteacher I don't see children very often!) and crack on.
    Okay, so by now you've probably figured out that I really like this book. It's informative not patronising and easily and quickly accessible by anyone, but ultimately schools aren't measured on the quality of their photographs, so what's the point? Is it just another distraction from the core purpose of schools as measured by outside agencies i.e. English and Maths results?
    I guess that depends. Do you want learners who can infer, reason, explain, justify, collaborate, create, solve problems, research, empathise and communicate? What about widening the world to our pupils, challenging them to view and think about things differently? In my school we're constantly trying to motivate learners, to improve their ability to talk at length and depth with deep thinking to support their arguments and opinions, to collaborate and empathise and broaden their minds and ultimately to enjoy learning and succeed at it. This book will go a long way to helping us deliver this. Through projects and activities in this book, learning becomes relevant, stimulating and can be driven by the learners themselves whilst providing practical opportunities to apply English and Maths concepts. And they have fun doing it.
    Or you could give them a worksheet.
  11. I was engrossed! It was a pleasure to read 'Learning Through A Lens' and I am already planning on how I can use the ideas in my classroom. They are so usable and even the simplest of people (me) can follow to have a positive impact on classroom practise.

    The most powerful part of the book is the section addressing SMSC and how photography can capture and address these issues, certainly something I will be taking into school. I cannot wait to get my copy of the book and pass it out to staff to use!

    Thank you for the privilege of being one of the first to read 'Learning Through A Lens'.

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