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How To: Find Good Sources of Online Images

A picture doesn't have to be a thousand searches.

The Internet is a natural place to look for images that teachers can use in lessons and students can use in projects and assignments. What sources are there for finding appropriate images?

Google, Yahoo, AltaVista — many of these popular search engines offer image searching. Usually there is a tab to click at the top of the page to select image searching; just enter a search term and go! However, this type of searching can cause problems.

Try a search for bunny, for example. Google fairs better than Yahoo and AltaVista, but all three search engines contained some images that were inappropriate for students. However, each search engine offers users the ability to turn on a filter. Yahoo and AltaVista can even password protect the filter so that students cannot turn it off. Here are some other options.


Flickr is a good source for images.

Specialized image search sites. Some sites have been developed specifically for image searching, such as picsearch, which crawls the Web and creates a searchable index of images. It advertises "family friendliness" with offensive material filtered out. Pics4learning has an image library for teachers and students that is copyright friendly, and many of the photos have been contributed by students, teachers, and amateur photographers.

Image sharing.Flickr is a Web site on which people can store, search, and share photographs. It is the sharing capability that sets it apart from many other photo storage sites. Looking for photos of Iraq? Flickr has hundreds of relevant photos uploaded by other Flickr users.

Subscription services.Unitedstreaming is known primarily for its digital video library, but it also contains a still image library of more than 20,000 pictures, all selected for educational appropriateness.

Specialized sources. Need photos of space? Try the NASA Image Exchange, searchable by keyword and multimedia type. The Library of Congress has a Prints and Photographs Online Catalog containing images of people, historical events, the environment and architecture, and more. A good way to find other subject-specific image libraries is to search for them-for example, a Google search for math image library yielded the MathMol Library of Math Images; history image library returned the U.S. History Image Library.

Copyright. Now that you have a good idea of places to go to find images, what are you allowed to do with them? The doctrine of fair use specifically mentions "teaching" as one of the purposes for which the reproduction of a work may be considered fair. Note this does not bestow carte blanche privileges to reproduce a copyrighted work for teaching-the law specifies four factors to be considered in determining whether a particular use is fair. Check the law, and read the terms and conditions of the Web site or service from which you are getting the image.

Jeffrey Branzburg is a contributing editor and regular columnist for Technology & Learning.

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