Learning how to identify flowers is one of the easiest (and prettiest) ways to get kids interested in nature. Given how busy teachers are, it’s always nice to learn about a new educational tool to help engage students in the classroom. It’s even better when the tool is free.
Really, any time a tool can help get students outside and exploring nature, it’s a great thing!
Using technology to augment the skill and knowledge of teachers is nothing new. Until recently, there wasn’t a good way to help students learn to identify flowers using technology. PlantSnap changed that. It’s the premier flower identification app, and it’s free if you’re willing to watch the occasional ad.
How PlantSnap Flower Identification Works as an Educational Tool
PlantSnap is a great tool for educators and amateur botanists alike of any age. Aside from being free, easy to use, available in iOS and Android, PlantSnap has many advantages as a flower identification tool for educators.
Budding botanists love flowers. They’re bright, they’re colorful, and they’re easier to learn to identify than trees or grass (even many botanists avoid delving into the world of grass identification). For students in an introductory biology class, flower identification is a great launching point.
Especially with younger audiences, apps like PlantSnap can help hold the attention of students. Field guides can be quite cumbersome and expensive. They’re simply not practical for many educators and students.
PlantSnap lets students use the phones in their pockets to instantly identify flowers. Just because students don’t have the key out the flowers by hand, doesn’t mean that they won’t learn.
How to Use PlantSnap to Augment Biology Class
Once a student has used PlantSnap to identify a flower, they can learn more about its taxonomy, range, and uses directly in the app. In this sense, it works like a field guide. Students can log their flowers, allowing teachers to easily curate challenges to identify or catalog a variety of flowers.
1. The Reverse Engineering Method
Students can also easily learn to “reverse engineer” flower identification using PlantSnap. Once they’ve identified a flower with the app, they can backtrack to list out certain characteristics. This can help them learn to properly identify the flower later without the help of the app. While PlantSnap doesn’t have field note capability, students can create their own notes to help build their skills as naturalists.
2. The Double-Checking Method
Finally, more advanced students can simply use PlantSnap as an easy way to check their work. Once they’ve made their observations and have an idea of what they think the flower is, they can use the app to double-check.
3. Show the Power of Technology and Biology
While students learn about flower identification, they’re also helping to “teach” PlantSnap’s algorithm to identify more flowers. PlantSnap as an educational tool brings together technology, artificial intelligence, and biology in one package. It’s a great lesson and introduction into the multifaceted world of modern science.
4. Challenge Students to Help the App
Since PlantSnap is constantly learning, it sometimes doesn’t quite know exactly what your student is pointing their phone at. While this may be a frustrating experience for some users, it’s a perfect teaching experience for educators using PlantSnap as a learning tool.
If the students manage to stump PlantSnap (despite having a properly framed photo), that’s a great learning opportunity! PlantSnap will still automatically offer them a list of flowers that could be featured in the student’s photo, giving you the chance to challenge your students to use their new flower identification skills.
Since the plant still gives the students a list of possibilities, it’s natural to combine PlantSnap with field identification skills for the students. Are the flowers the right color, shape, and size? Which of the options grow in the ecosystems that the students are in? Which photo has leaves that look closest to the plant in front of your students? The students can learn to identify flowers from the suggestions, simultaneously helping “train” the artificial intelligence program.
Three Sample Exercises for Using PlantSnap as an Educational Tool
Now that we know how you can use PlantSnap as an educational tool, let’s talk about a few different simple exercises that students can do using PlantSnap. You can easily modify or expand upon these exercises to make them easier or more challenging for different grade levels.
- Identify all of the flowers on their block or in a garden store using PlantSnap, then write field notes on their favorite three.
- Create a map of their backyard or neighborhood with all of the flowers identified using PlantSnap.
- Go for a class walk through the woods and use PlantSnap to identify flowers, then use PlantSnap’s taxonomic information to group the plants by order, family, genus, and species.
All in all, PlantSnap is a great way to help students learn more about flower identification and the plants in their backyard with relatively little instruction (and no cost). It helps to demonstrate the intersection of technology and biology in a beautiful way, and it’s easy to use. PlantSnap is a great addition to any introductory biology program as an educational tool.