Canadian Journal of Nursing Informatics

Possibilities with Photographs

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Technology in Education Column

by Dr Sandra Bassendowski

The Technology in Education column is written by one of our CNA Centennial 100 Award Winners, Dr. Sandra Bassendowski, who is a Professor at the University of Saskatchewan. Sandra recognized a need, and offered to write this important feature for the CJNI – this column is focused on how technology can be used in nursing education and by nurses in general. Sandra has been recognized by the Canadian Nurses’ Association, as well as the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses Association and the University of Saskatchewan for her inspiring, dedicated work in her educational practice.


Sandra BassendowskiAs copyright laws become more restrictive or difficult to navigate, it seems to be more difficult for educators to work their way through licensing agreements and at the same time become more creative in their presentations or lectures. Although I often have used graphics and photographs taken by other individuals, I am always concerned about using someone else’s creative works as part of my teaching. I often use sites where I purchase stock photos for one time use, such as 123rf or refer to Creative Commons that is one type of licensing that grants select rights to others requesting the use of a photograph. Creative Commons provides different licensing packages and often allows some flexibility as to whether the artist allows commercial use of his/her photograph along with certain inclusion criteria such as name, date, and type of licensing agreement.

Sandra BassendowskiMore recently, I have started taking my own photographs and finding that this is one way to create student interest in course content but at the same time not have to worry about copyright issues. I think with teaching a variety of courses nursing, there are many ways to think about photos and the underlying messages. For example, National Geographic recently ran an online feature called “What will happen next?” and I think that nursing students could be engaged in class discussions with photographs about nursing concepts and the question of what will happen next! “Photographs visually capture experiences within life that are often not captured by language alone. Photography is a powerful tool for understanding human experience and a useful healing strategy” (Hagedom, 1996, Abstract).

Sandra BassendowskiPhotography is about an individual’s perception of himself/herself and current events, as well as the preservation of a moment in time. Whether it is a news clipping or a flippant pose, photographs can provide invaluable insight to those who are looking at it at some point in the future (Mackey, 2013). Educators and students can select photos from their lived experience and choose the ones to showcase to others, much like the original photo album or scrapbook. The evolution of the photograph in the age of technology is irrevocable; educators need to discover techniques to bring the self-reflection back into the art of capturing images and using themes from the images.

Recently, I designed an assignment for nursing students that required them to accept a challenge regarding the environment and to submit a photo that illustrated their commitment to the environment by making a change to aspects of their lifestyle. The photos reflected thoughtful and meaningful points of view and it was clear from the photographs what the students had in mind for personal change. The students were reminded about privacy issues with photographs and encouraged not to take photos of people unless they had specific permission. Given the large number of students I had in my class, there were a number of selfies!

As nursing students and educators, you can approach the learning outcomes of courses in a number of ways with personal photographs without having the worry of copyright issues. Make your classes and assignments stand out from the rest!


Hagedom, M. (1996). Photography an Aesthetic Technique for Nursing Inquiry. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 17(6), 517-527.

Mackey, A. (2013). Scrapbook versus Facebook©. Online Journal of Nursing Informatics (OJNI), 17(2). Available at


All photos from personal collection


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