Image Choices

In the past two weeks I’ve had multiple conversations about images and their use by students. I’ve decided there are two issues when it comes to images and their use in curricular activities:

  1. Where to find appropriate images?
  2. What is the purpose of the image?

Of course, the first question has other underlying questions ~ copyright questions, filtering questions ~ those types of things. I’m hoping that by providing some resources, the first question will be answered and possibly address the underlying questions.

Where not to find images:

The first stop for many students is Google images. There are multiple problems with this!

  • The first problem is the high probability that students will be faced with inappropriate images. Image files can be named anything at all – the title may not actually describe what is in the image, or the keyword a student uses may be interpreted differently by the person that named an image. In either case, a student search may turn up a picture that is not at all related to their topic and may, in fact, be indecent or offensive.
  • Another problem with searching Google images is that the images found are often protected by copyright and use by students (if not of a transformative nature) may violate copyright and open the student, educator, and/or district up to a lawsuit.

Where to find images:

Elementary options:

  • Pics4Learning …a copyright-friendly image library for teachers and students. The Pics4Learning collection consists of thousands of images that have been donated by students, teachers, and amateur photographers. Unlike many Internet sites, permission has been granted for teachers and students to use all of the images donated to the Pics4Learning collection. This site provides a citation at the bottom of each image for students to give credit to the original photographer.
  • World Book Online …our school district has a subscription to this site for student reference and research. Images can be used from this site in student projects. This site provides a citation at the bottom of each image for students to give credit to the original photographer.
  • netTrekker …designed for use in schools to help educators meet individual students’ learning needs, This subject directory service has been provided free of charge to educators, students and parents in Pennsylvania for the past 3 years. Contact your district for login information. This site has an image search also. Included images may be subject to copyright, so it’s important to discuss that with students.
  • Take pictures themselves! This is by far the safest solution to copyright issues and may also deepen understandings as students spend time thinking about the purpose of an image prior to snapping it.

It’s never too early to discuss copyright with students. It is important that they understand that the ease of digital downloading does not supercede the protection of another person’s intellectual property. Fair use in education means educators and students are provided more leeway in the use of copyrighted material for educational purposes. Because copyright can be confusing, there should be much talk about it in classrooms from an early age.

Recently, there has been a focus on the sharing of content and materials through sites like flickr, youtube, etc… A new type of copyright, creative commons has emerged that allows creators to apply a CC to their works instead of the common C we are so used to. The video below should help students understand creative commons and hopefully help them make better decisions when searching for images.

In the case of upper level students, it is important to discuss the purpose of image use. In younger grades, students are adding images to supplement text in most cases. As students get older and are able to think more abstractly, the purpose of an image may become more abstract also. The image may be less literal with a purpose of evoking emotion, stating a point, forcing audience reflection. For instance, the image I chose for this post demonstrates making a choice which is the topic of my post. It’s not in your face obvious, but forces the reader to think about it and draw some personal conclusions (hopefully:).

Some upper level options:

  • Pics4Learning …a copyright-friendly image library for teachers and students. The Pics4Learning collection consists of thousands of images that have been donated by students, teachers, and amateur photographers. Unlike many Internet sites, permission has been granted for teachers and students to use all of the images donated to the Pics4Learning collection. This site provides a citation at the bottom of each image for students to give credit to the original photographer.
  • netTrekker …designed for use in schools to help educators meet individual students’ learning needs, This subject directory service has been provided free of charge to educators, students and parents in Pennsylvania for the past 3 years. Contact your district for login information. This site has an image search also. Included images may be subject to copyright, so it’s important to discuss that with students.
  • Creative Commons Search …Creative Commons search allows students to search for images across Google images, Flickr and Yahoo images for copyright safe images. There’s still the possibility of locating inappropriate content on these search sites. Being aware of this, the educator should discuss this with students and provide direction for what to do if an inappropriate image is displayed while searching.
  • Wikimedia Commons …Wikimedia Commons is a media file repository making available public domain and freely-licensed educational media content (images, sound and video clips) to all. Unlike traditional media repositories, Wikimedia Commons is free. Everyone is allowed to copy, use and modify any files here freely as long as the source and the authors are credited and as long as users release their copies/improvements under the same freedom to others.
  • Take pictures themselves! This is by far the safest solution to copyright issues and may also deepen understandings as students spend time thinking about the purpose of an image prior to snapping it.

This post brought to mind some related images issues for teachers and students, so check back for more posts on this topic!

12 thoughts on “Image Choices

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  3. Great post indeed – very informative. I’ll certainly share it with my colleagues as we have just started using webtools more and more so it is a must to get to know what can and can’t be done when it comes to copyright.

  4. Our school is part of huge technology grant and as such have had SmartBoards and five computers placed in each classroom in the building. It is a great opportunity; however, it has been difficult having students find images on the internet since our district has blocked several sites from use. Some of these sites are even educational, but because of something in the URL makes the computer block the site. Thank you for the list of resources, I will try them next week in class and hope they are not blocked. The second question has made me rethink why I have students use pictures. This is definitely something I will put more thought into in the future use of pictures. A class discussion with my seventh and eighth graders might produce some intriguing answers as well.

  5. I have added Creative Commons Search to my Firefox list of search engines and will have students working with it tomorrow. I’m wondering how CC Search assesses things like images. EG if there is a cartoon with a restricted copyright used but not cited in a blog with a more friendly one, which level of care would win?

    My students rebel at limiting their searches and citing sources tremendously. They think anything on the web is free for the taking, and I often struggle to get them to understand that: (a) just because other people’s work is easy to take, does not make the theft any less real; (2) they must respect the WORKPRODUCT of others in the way they’d like their own to be respected in turn.

    My at-risk high school kids are not very good at seeing situations from others’ point of view, so I have zing them with analogies that they can connect to: if you worked hard at McD’s all week and left the money you’d earned out on a table out in plain sight, does that mean it’s OK for me to use it? If you leave your iPhone in plain site and I need one, can I use it without asking just because it’s available & then do I have the right to put my name on it?

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  8. I have to join the bandwagon and say that this is really great information! I come from a developing country and have been fascinated with things the types of information that students can access instantaneously. As a university graduate student now who will take a lot of this information back home, you have provided great help in enabling me to know those links that will be for the most part, be accessible to my classroom students. I have often used Google Images, and as you rightly put it, has a lot of links that
    requires copyright sanction and also contains images that may not be appropriate. The u-tube link to Creative Commons is most instructive and would be a great way to explain to students the reasons for copyright laws! I have added the links you have provided to my list of educational tools for students.

    Thank you

  9. I’m posting a general ‘thank you’ for all the comments on this post. Helping students understand and respect the right of others is important today, as it has always been. I don’t have the answer to how creative commons determines the images returned, but would be interested if someone else does?
    Thanks again for reading!

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