Free Images Give Students Ability to Learn Creatively on Projects

Eric Braun Blog

Using Free Images to Tell a Story or Explain Learning

Using photos and images in a presentation or story greatly improves the interest of the viewer or reader and makes understanding the material much clearer and longer lasting.

The Internet is full of free images, and it’s not that difficult to find and use them once you know how.

Let’s take a look at how I do it in class and for my own projects. I hope this will give you ideas on how to use free images with your students to tell their stories in better ways and express their knowledge and understanding in greater depth and richness. The approach I am going to outline is very similar to the way we did it at 30hands Learning when creating Aesop’s Fables Remixed. By the way, this collection is not a retelling of the fables yet again, but rather a multimedia compilation of intertwined children’s stories inspired by Aesop’s Fables, and it’s all done with free open source images and videos.

Finding Images that are Free to Use

Selecting for noncommercial reuse is fine if image is for school use only

The first step to using free images legally and ethically is to understand which ones to use and which ones not to use. Two of my favorite sites are Pixabay and Wikipedia, which both have many public domain images.

I generally start with Google Search using the advanced options to get an initial idea of what is available. If the selection is slim, I try variations on the search to see what shows up. When searching with students, be sure to include the Safe Search option.

Once you have filtered your selection, hover over the image or click on it to see where it is located. Be aware that there are some “rogue” sites that appear to have free open source images but do not state that they are licensed by Creative Commons or Public Domain. You know these sites are not legitimate if the site does not indicate what type of license there is and who to give credit to.

Editing the Images

Once you have collected the images you need, you may want to edit them in order to make them fit better into your project, story or presentation. This is why it is valuable to select images that can be used AND modified. I like to cut out figures and shapes, remove backgrounds and crop imCutting out a character using Adobe Photoshop Mix on iPadages. One of my favorite apps for doing this is Adobe Photoshop Mix. It’s free for the iPad and very easy to use. If you know how to use Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, this is a good choice, too, but it’s much more complex.

  1. Open Photoshop Mix
    Adobe Photoshop Mix

    Cutting out a character using Adobe Photoshop Mix on iPadx

  2. Add your photo
  3. Click “Cut Out”
  4. Touch around the part of the image you want to keep. When you stop touching, the  rest of the image will disappear. You can use the switch on the bottom left to add or subtract from your selection. Play around with the other options to see how they can improve your selection.
  5. When done, click the check mark. Click “X” to cancel.
  6. Touch the action button in the upper right to save to camera roll.
Using Your Image Library

Once you’ve collected all your images and cut or what you want, you have a library of images to use for your story or project. 30hands Storyteller Pro v2.0 introduces Enhanced Drawing which allows you to add images to your drawing canvas to layer photos and create scenes.

For the app Aesop’s Fables Remixed, we used the above technique to cut out some animals and heads and paste them onto other photos to fit characters into scenes. See the example image below.

Scene from Aesop's Fables Remixed from 30hands

Cut-out head images are placed onto the detective bodies.


Cut-outs added to a 30hands Pro Background Seene

Citing the Images

If the images are in the Public Domain, they can be used freely without citation. Obviously, this is the easiest type of image to use. If the images are free to use but not in the Public Domain, be sure to keep a bibliography or index of what you are using according to their specific license requirements. Below is an example of a Creative Commons license:

  • The Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license allows the following:
    You are free:
    to share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work
    to remix – to adapt the work
    Under the following conditions:
    attribution – You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work).
  • The Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license adds that following: “share alike – If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one.”
  • The Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license is similar to 3.0 above.
Now that you know a little more about using Free Images and Creative Commons, go forth and be creative!

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