Why educators should use creative commons images?

I have regularly blogged about different tools to locate creative commons images, however I thought it would be useful for me to go into more information about ‘why’ we should use these – and not just from the logical response of staying on the right side of copyright law.

To start with, we need to understand what Creative Commons is. The following YouTube video explains this quite clearly. This is a New Zealand based video but the principle is the same in the UK and elsewhere.

Now onto the question of  why? I will be talking about this in an event next week, for which I have created an audio and an associated transcript (pdf) below.

Why it is important that educators use CC images (audio)

Why it is important that educators use CC images (transcript)

So – as well as the legal reason for using Creative Commons images, there is also the moral and educational reason – in that we need to prepare our current learners not just for their current studies, but also for the workplace beyond.

I was running some training at a primary school, where I introduced them to the idea of the Xpert attribution tool, and how this attaches the reference to the image, and if we get primary school children used to seeing correct referencing of images, when they get to secondary and FE/HE levels, they will be more familiar with this notion.

How to locate images on Wikimedia and embed into Moodle or Blackboard

There are lots of people that work in education that sadly think that Wikipedia is the work of the devil, and think that it will undermine academia as we know it, and should be banned at all costs. There are others that think Wikipedia is a wonderful source of information, and there is no point of looking elsewhere for facts.

Regardless of your viewpoint on Wikipedia (which hopefully is somewhere between the 2 extremes above), one aspect of it that is very useful, is that there is lots of high quality media (mainly images, but also videos and audio) available on Wikimedia – that can be easily (and legally) embedded into a VLE like Moodle or Blackboard.

As organisations scramble to set up online courses, the reality is that most people won’t have the time or money to generate their own high quality media – and I don’t think we need to, seeing as there is so much media out there that we can easily and legally use – the key is the academic structuring of this information and the asking of challenging and stimulating questions around this available media and information. e.g. the image below identifying a muscle in the human body – I couldn’t draw this myself, and it would be a waste of my time trying to.
Musculi coli sternocleidomastoideus

The video below shows how easy it is to find an image on wikimedia and embed it into a VLE like Moodle or Blackboard

Using Creative Commons Search to find images on Flickr and embed into a VLE

I have blogged many times in the past (see bottom of post for links) about different ways to locate and use Creative Commons images (e.g. ones that can be used without breaking copyright). My favourite 2 sources of images are currently Xpert and Wikimedia but if I don’t find what I want there, then here is another useful technique.

The website http://search.creativecommons.org/ is another very useful tool that will allow you to search different sources of media (including images, video, audio) with one of the search options being for the image sharing website Flickr.

In the past I have used a site called CompFight to achieve this, but with compfight the default settings are such that you have to tick to choose that you want creative commons, and if you want the commercial option, then you have to tick that as well, so there is a real possibility that someone could forget to tick these options, and end up with an image that isn’t Creative Commons. With the creative commons search tool, it ticks these 2 options as default, so when I am showing this technique to staff, I am now using this site for that reason.

Here is a video showing how we can use the tool to locate an image and then embed it into a VLE such as Moodle or Blackboard, or any other webspace that you can edit.

I regularly run training for organisations, in topics like this, including different ways of using the images once they have been located. For details of training please contact Dave Foord via http://www.a6training.co.uk/contact.php

Links to other posts in this blog on this topic.

Using Compfight to locate creative commons images

Compfight is an excellent little website, for locating images on flickr that have been released under a creative commons licence which means that we can use the images in resources etc, without having to gain explicit permission from the image owner.

I have posted about Compfight before at https://davefoord.wordpress.com/2010/05/18/finding-and-using-creative-commons-images/ and https://davefoord.wordpress.com/2011/01/11/finding-images-without-breaking-copyright/  but the interface has changed slightly, so I thought it was time to create a new screencast for this service.

Having located and used an image this way, I then use another service called ImageStamper which then records which images I have used and when, and most importantly what the licence agreement was at the time (in case someone on Flickr changes their licence agreement at a later date).

Using Xpert to find images and insert them into a PowerPoint

I use images a lot in my work – most of my PowerPoint presentations, are very image based, and the place that I use most to locate these images is a site called Xpert. This site has been created by the University of Nottingham, to compliment the Xerte tool that they have developed for creating content, but I use it mainly for finding images for my PowerPoint and Word based resources. The thing that I really like is the way that under each image that I locate on Xpert, it adds a black bar containing the licence information and the reference, showing that I have the right to use this image and it references it correctly, and the black bar will always follow the image around.

I have posted about this service before at https://davefoord.wordpress.com/2011/01/11/finding-images-without-breaking-copyright/ but I thought it was time to update the video showing how to do this.

Finding images without breaking copyright

For me, one of the best benefits of the Internet over the last few years has been the abundance and quailty of images out there, and how easy it is to use them educationally.

Most of these images can be found on image sharing sites such as Flickr, or Picasa and some of them are released under creative commons – which means the person uploading the images has given certain permissions for these to be used.

So a very useful skill for an educator to learn is the ability to search for images that are released under creative commons licence – and luckily for us various tools have appeared to help us.


The first place that I go to find images to use in my educational materials is Xpert – http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/xpert/attribution/ a recently developed tool from the very clever people at the University of Nottingham (of Xerte fame).

The beauty of Xpert is that it attaches the relevant reference information and licence to the image as part of the image. This is very clever – as it shows where the image has come from, that it doesn’t break copyright law, it shows learners how to reference an image (and sets a good example to them) and because all this information has become part of the image it cannot be accidentally be seperated from the image.


If I don’t find what I want then I go to Compfight – http://compfight.com/ which searches Flickr and displays the results as a series of small images (thumbnails) if you click on an image it takes you to the relavent image page on Flickr. This doesn’t attach the reference to the image the way that Xpert does, but it searches in a different way so will find different images. I then need to reference the image seperately.

Creative Commons Search

And then the third place that I go if I haven’t found what I want is the creative-commons search tool http://search.creativecommons.org/ which searches a variety of sources and returns images, videos and other forms of information from different sites.

All of these sites are very good, a lot will come down to personal preference as to which to use, but the main thing is that we can hopefully start to see the back of  low quality, low resolution images that have been taken illegally from the Web, and replace these with high quality, striking, stimulating images correctly referenced to show the learners the importance of referencing sources of information.