• Dave Foord
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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 http://www.compfight.com 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 http://imagestamper.com/, 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 http://screenr.com/EAp

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.

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Do you issue staff with laptops or desktops?

I have just responded to a post on a discussion list about the pros and cons of giving teaching staff laptops rather than desktops, and seeing as the laptop model was one that I used about 6 years ago in a team, and is the only way that I can personally work, I put together a few pointers for other people thinking about this, which I will share here

  1. Make sure the staff have a docking station, so that when at their desk they can connect their laptop to a proper keyboard, mouse, etc. (health and safety) Dell do a very good set-up where the docking station is an adjustable stand, so you use the monitor of the laptop as your screen, but the height can be easily adjusted.
  2. In terms of insurance, it generally isn’t worth insuring laptops, as the excess is usually higher than the value of the item. With insurance some home insurance companies will cover work laptops, some won’t – I certainly had a member of staff have a laptop stolen from home, and their insurance paid up without too much hassle (which surprised me) but some home insurance policies won’t cover something that you don’t actually own.
  3. Give people decent bags for carrying the laptops – I would now recommend laptop rucksacks, as much easier than the cheap ones that often come with the laptop.
  4. If all your main teaching staff have laptops, then one problem this does present is the part time casual staff who only teach a few hours each week, won’t have a computer to use when they do come in and want to print out their notes – so you do need some desktops dotted around for them.
  5. In theory if staff are using it for personal use then it becomes a taxable perk, but how you differentiating what is home use and what is private use is very hard – as almost anything that one does at home, could be classified as learning how to use the computer/internet and therefore part of their job.
  6. One thing to decide is whether to allow the computers to connect to peoples networks at home – and this is something that needs careful thought – we did allow it, which meant that staff could use them effectively, but it did cause a few problems with conflicting settings, staff downloading stuff onto them that they shouldn’t etc.
  7. Think about your rotation policy of new laptops – if you get a batch of new laptops who do these go to – the new members of staff, or the existing staff (who then pass theirs onto the new staff) – again just needs thinking hrough, and consistency is the key.
  8. Lifespan – a laptop used by teaching staff will probably last 2 years, whereas a desktop might do 3 years – so there it is the more expensive option, but is cheaper than giving everyone a desktop and laptop, which often happens.
  9. Colour coding – Although some people made fun of my system, I was managing over 70 laptops within the team, so I set up a colour code scheme using electrical tape – I had 6 colours of tape, and by using combinations of 3 colours, I could create numerous unique combinations (e.g. someone may be red, white, blue, and another person may be yellow, yellow, green). I then put tape around each separate piece of kit – e.g. the laptop bag handle, both parts of the power cable, the mouse ….so if cables get muddled then it is very easy to repatriate them with their owners, by matching the colour codes to people.
  10. Provide a Kensington lock with every laptop (give them one key, and keep one yourself, for when they lose theirs), so staff can lock them to a desk when not attended – however you need to educate people as to what to lock it to – I have often seen people wrapping the cable around a table leg, but forgetting that you can lift the table up to remove it!

Do you issue staff with laptops or desktops?