“Oh, we’re in education, copyright laws don’t apply to us.”
I can’t tell you how many times I hear that statement and how much it makes me cringe every time I do. Copyright law is difficult. It is hard to find clear cut answers, especially for teachers and students. However, it is not difficult to help students understand that if they did not create an image, then they should not use it as their own, regardless of their intended use. Not only should we, as educators, help students learn this, but we should provide an example in our own practice as well.
Easy, right? Well…not so fast. True, finding usable images is not that difficult. There are several tools and websites out there that will help find Creative Commons licensed images. You can even use a plain Google Image search, with the correct settings, to return only images that are licensed for reuse. That is easy enough for us as teachers. However, I have been working with a third grade class on a research project. While it may be easy to help them FIND the correct images, learning how to give proper attribution is difficult and a workflow nightmare. Especially when we are talking about young students just learning to use the computer. Asking them to switch between multiple windows and track down multiple pieces of information is daunting. I can understand why teachers succumb to the idea of just letting students copy and paste any image into their project and move on. However, that is a missed opportunity for a learning experience and I recently found a website that will make it a bit easier. (Thanks to Kelly Martin and her Padlet on finding copyright free images.)
Photosforclass.com utilizes the photo sharing site Flickr. It searches Flickr for images that are licensed with the proper Creative Commons license. The part that made this site rise to the top of the list of tools for student use is that when you download the image it automatically creates the appropriate attribution and adds it as a watermark below the picture.
Eliminating this step in the process, while still teaching students the importance of giving proper attribution is exactly what I was looking for in working with my third grade class. Give it a try the next time you do a project with your students or want to include images in your own presentation or blog.