LIKE MANY TECHNOLOGY COORDINATORS AROUND THE COUNTRY, Craig Nansen of the Minot (N.D.) Public Schools doesn't need to be convinced about the place of digital cameras in school districts. "I promote their use in classrooms and do everything I can to make digital cameras available to teachers," he says. "Cameras allow them to document their world of students, projects, field trips and guest speakers, and many of our teachers have cameras available to them at all times." Such pervasive and creative educational use of digital cameras has become increasingly common in school districts, as falling prices increase access and expand usage. In the same way that computers were once rare but are now a vital component of K12 classrooms, digital cameras are no longer considered luxury items in districts.
Many of the inherent advantages of digital cameras--as opposed to film cameras--have essentially not changed since their introduction: photos can be viewed immediately and erased if desired, memory cards can store many more images than can rolls of film, and digital images can be uploaded to computers instantly to be edited or posted online. However, one important thing has changed: even today's most inexpensive digital cameras are of a quality once available only in high-end models. In 2002, the average price of a digital camera was $328, but today companies such as Canon, Casio, Kodak, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, and Sony offer quality models priced around $150. And some bargain brands have models priced at less than $100.
As a result, districts can afford cameras for various purposes and can purchase large numbers of less expensive "point and shoot" cameras for students to use, as well as smaller numbers of high-end models for the staff. It has become economical to use digital photos in district support tasks, including the creation of school calendars, ID cards, photo inventory lists, school newspapers and yearbooks. Teachers can also use cameras in classroom support applications, such as adding photos to seating …