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 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

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 and  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).

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 – 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 – 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 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.

Updating a blog from Flickr or email

Following on from yesterdays blog post where I talked about using a blog for reflective practice I have 2 more screencasts for some of the things that we can do.

The first is looking at setting up a connecting between Flickr and the blog. This is a technique that I use loads – as Flickr is a wonderful source of high quality images, which can enhance my blog posts, and once the connection is set up, is easy to use.

The second technique that I think is really useful, is the ability to post to a blog by simply sending an email. This makes blog posting really easy, can be achieved from any email connected device (including many mobile phones), and can be used by a tutor to create a class blog, that multiple people (e.g. students) can post to.

Finding and using creative commons images

A few years ago, if someone wanted to use an image in a presentation, then the norm would be to do a Google search for the image, then copy and paste that image into the presentation. This had 2 problems:

  • The images were often uploaded to the web as a low resolution to increase the download speed, so often ended up pixelating when enlarged.
  • The images almost always broke copyright, and were thus being used illegally.

Thankfully, due to the rise of image sharing sites such as Flickr, Picasa, Photobucket there is an abundance of high quality images out there, that are easily searchable, easy to use, and often uploaded with a creative commons licence. Creative commons is where the person that owns the image, has released it with a licence giving you permission to use it (with certain conditions) without having to ask their express permission.

So if I want to use an image for a teaching resource, and I don’t have an appropriate one that I have taken with my own camera, then I use these services to find what I want. Personally I use Flickr (just because it is what I know), and rather than searching within Flickr, I use a website called this searches Flickr for me, only selecting images that are released with a creative commons licence. Once I have found an image to use, I then use a site called, what this does is record the images that I use, and records the licence agreement associated with the image at the time that I used it. This is just an extra level of protection just in case the owner changes the licence agreement in the future. I have created a video to demonstrate how the 2 sites work.

(if you cannot view because YouTube is blocked then it can also be accessed at

It should be possible to find a high quality legal to use image on just about anything, which should make a huge improvement to the quality of teaching materials, and the learning experience as a result.

What does Whole Organisation Approach to eCPD look like?

Last week I was involved with the LSIS eCPD programme event in Birmingham, and one of the activities was asking the delegates about Whole Organisation Approaches, and what would it look like if they were successful in creating a whole organisation approach to eCPD.

We put the answers on post-it notes and then stuck them onto a flipchart, a photo of which I have uploaded to Flickr, and then used the ‘notes’ feature within Flickr to label the notes. (You will need to click on the image to see this effect).

As much as anything I want to show here how I have made use of simple technologies to create a learning object. I have used post-it notes, pens and a flipchart (which won’t scare any anti-technology teachers) – I have then photographed the output using a basic compact camera (again a anti-technology teacher could get a learner to do this if necessary), and finally I have uploaded it to Flickr and added the notes – which is quite easy and free to do.

The output can then embedded into a blog (like here) or a VLE area, it can start a discussion, be used for reflection etc.

Finding Creative Commons Images on Flickr

Flickr is a wonderful resource for people in education, as there are millions of high quality images that can be used, most of which are released under something called creative commons, which basically means we can legally use them.

Today I was introduced to a couple of new websites, that will help with the finding of these images, and then date stamping them to show that the image had an appropriate creative commons licence at the time that you found it.

The first site is called Behold and is a very simple page, where you enter your keywords, tick the box next to ‘free to use’ and search. It will search Flickr for images that have been tagged with your seach term, and show them as a gallery, if you click on a desired image, it then takes you to that image on Flickr. This is very simple and quick and saves having to use the advanced search feature in Flickr.

The second site is called ImageStamper With this you create an account on the site (in the usual sort of way) and then having found your image on Flickr, you pop the URL into this site, and it will record for you your search and the licence agreement at the time (so if in the future someone changes the creative commons licence, you have this as evidence that it was available for you to use at the time that you used it). Obviously common sense is still required, as some ‘commercial’ images are sometimes uploaded to Flickr without the owners permission, but this simple system will make it very easy to record and log any images used from Flickr.