The Power of the Image

To stay true to the spirit of this blog post, I will begin by crediting a fellow blogger for inspiring it, so thanks to John Sutton of Creative Blogs for raising the profile of copyright infringement – a hugely important consideration for any blogger.

Images are a fantastic tool for bloggers. A well chosen picture can hugely enhance a blog post and add another dimension to your writing. In particular, on twitter, tweets with an image attached are likely to get more views, likes and retweets, simply because they catch the eye of the reader. It’s easy to overlook a text only tweet, but if there’s a picture attached you are more likely to make that split second decision to read the tweet.

This begs the question – where should we get images from and how do we know they are safe to use?

For years now, I have wrestled with the dilemma that is Google images. On the one hand I know that nearly all the children I teach will, at some stage find themselves searching images unsupervised. Given that, is it not sensible to teach them how to use it safely and responsibly by using it in school. On the other hand, should I not be pushing them towards alternatives sources of images which are safer and more secure? The answer, of course, is both.

When it comes to image searching it’s not just the suitability of the image which is important. The other significant issue is copyright, and it’s something which is potentially about to get a lot more serious – there are ‘copyright trolls’ out there actively targeting schools who infringe copyright, threatening fines up to £800. Copyright is an issue which is equally important to children and teachers – the number of times I see teachers posting images (in their own posts and posts by children which they have approved) subject to copyright on blogs proves it.

At least in schools we (should) have the filters to ensure that in the vast majority of cases children will not find unsuitable content on Google images, and in the unlikely event that they do there is a clear teaching point – stay on the page and tell a responsible adult so something can be done about it. We can therefore teach children how to find copyright free images on Google in a relatively safe environment. However, once they are away from school, any filters in place are unlikely to be as robust and may not be there at all. We are also compelled to inform parents about the potential dangers and what they can do to mitigate them of tools such as Google images.

This is where images search resources targeted more at bloggers and children in particular can be introduced. There are a number of sites which enable to you find and re use creative commons images. These include photopin, pixabay and photosforclass. If you are using any of these it’s worth checking search terns before introducing to children – on the former two sites I have found some images which would be unsuitable for children. There is also an increasing trend for apps to embed creative commons searches. Currently, Pic Collage includes this feature, and there are plans for it to be incorporated into Book Creator too. This is great for children, as it means they can find appropriate, copyright free images without even having to leave the app they’re using.

As with all internet safety dilemmas, the key word is awareness. We as teachers need to be aware of the dangers of unfiltered image searches and copyright breaches. We also need to be aware that children do not have the same safeguards in place when they are away from school, and that they need help to use them safely and responsibly. Finally, parents need to be aware of these issues and of how they can support their children to help them stay safe.

The Power of the Image