PechFlickr is something I actually wrote about five years ago as a useful classroom tool for students who have to deal with pictures / imagery in their speaking exams.  I’m thinking here more about the Cambridge English: First & Advanced exams, where the students have a selection of images and a question to discuss.

One of the things that I am constantly emphasising to my students is that they really, really, really need to get away from the idea that they are being asked to say what they can see in the pictures.  They are not.  They’re being asked to answer a question about the pictures, in other words the pictures are there as support, as evidence if you like, that the candidates can use to answer the question.

What pechaflickr does, if you aren’t familiar with it, is show you 20 random images for 20 seconds each.  The challenge is to try and tie them all together into a connected presentation.  You can enter a theme word, for example “work”, and the software pulls up images from the Flickr site that have been tagged with that word.

As you will notice from the screen grab at the top of the page, people use tags somewhat randomly, but this is where it comes into it’s own for the exam groups.  For them, the challenge I set is not to talk about the pictures, but for them to work out or come up with a connection between the image and the topics – in other words getting away from the description mode and towards the discussion mode.

I have found this a particularly useful tool now that we are working online.  My current process is to share the initial link with the students through the chat function, make sure that screen sharing is enabled (I have it disabled as a default), and then put them into breakout rooms in pairs / threes.  I ask them to take turns, to give themselves a slight breather between pictures as otherwise I think it is a bit too full on.  Though if they feel up to the challenge, they can try doing ten slides each!

In the advanced settings, you can change the number of slides and change the amount of time to talk for (from between 5 & 30 seconds), so you can give students a bit more support if needed.  I haven’t tried this yet, but if you select two slides and go for 30 seconds each, that might make it a bit closer to exam conditions (for B2 First at least)….

If you try this and have any variations or tweaks to share, do please let me know in the comments.

Have fun!