Flickr in the Classroom
By: Ryan Birkemose
What Flickr Is
Almost everyone who has used the Internet knows about Flickr. It is one of the most popular photo-sharing sites on the web. What many educators do not know however, is that Flickr has many features making it ideal for classroom use.
At its heart Flickr is a photo-sharing site. Users sign up for an account and post photos they have. The site's features go beyond just displaying images though. Photos can be included with titles, captions, and notes. Organizational features also exist that makes keeping track of all those digital memories easy. Privacy controls means you choose who gets to see them. Best of all, your photos are in one place, and easily accessible to anyone with an Internet connection.
Advantages and Features
Flickr is geared towards many people viewing the photos at once. When photos are available to the entire public there is no need to send a link to every student by email. Like D2L, students come to the instructor with Flickr; the instructor does not need to come to them.
Not having to constantly make their own slideshows as an email attachment means an instructor's photos can stay organized. Features on Flickr make this even easier. When an instructor is on their account homepage they can click "Organize and Create" on the menu at top. It brings them to a screen that allows for photos to be set into subfolders or sets in a snap. Drag those photos into a predefined set and the task is done. All photos are then placed into proper categories called "photostreams."
A Virtual Classroom
The group collaboration feature of Flickr makes it much more interactive than any traditional slide show. Students can form their own group and collaborate together on-line. They can even join other groups already in existence and collaborate with the community at large. By becoming a part of a group students and the instructor can annotate or make notes on the photo.
Purdue University has a good example for science classes. Suppose that the instructor is away and cannot be in class. Flickr can be used to give students instruction on a lab experiment without the instructor needing to be there. Before they leave the instructor takes photos of the steps needed to complete an activity, adds comments and questions, and then posts it on Flickr for every student to follow.
Flickr can also be integrated with a recorded lecture. Post the lecture sound file on D2L and give directions through it about what a student should be looking at on Flickr in conjunction with the recorded lesson. That can be even skipped entirely as extensive descriptions constituting the lecture can be attached to the photos on Flickr itself. To enhance the lecture further the instructor can even "geotag" the photo so the location of where it was taken can be placed on a map.
Instructors can also attach requests onto their Flickr homepage for their students. One example of this is people belonging to a Flickr group being asked to make a story using five frames. This is great example of visual storytelling, which coincides very well with the digital storytelling element many language teachers are now prescribing in their coursework. Third-party websites are available that take advantage of Flickr's vast photo collection to make Virtual storybooks. One of them is called Bookr. Simply search for the photos you need, paste them, add some text, and viola! Bookr's animated pages simulate a storybook without the laborious pasting and gluing of a real one.
Best of all Flickr does not require the user to pay for any expensive software program. Internet Explorer, Safari, and Firefox are fully compatible with the website. And as long as Flickr is being used with one of these browsers it does not matter what operating system is being used.
Instructors also have options of who can view the photos. Underneath all photos in their photostream is a link that allows them to chance the privacy settings for the image. An instructor can select that the photo can only be viewed by friends or in their case, students. If the students have a Flickr account entering their name will allow them to view the photo but no one else. If the instructor wants to make an entire photostream private they may do so by clicking the “Share This” tab on the top right of their user homepage. They can then send out the link to the photostream to those they email and also include a guest pass to photos that are private.
Free Vs. Pro Account
On Flickr there are two accounts to choose from. The free account is the most used, but it does limit the amount of photos uploaded to 100MB a month. Flickr does offer a pro account which offers unlimited uploading of photos, but this costs around $25.00 a year.
Creative Commons and Flickr
One of Flickr’s best uses in the classroom is its massive repository of Creative Commons licensing. Just what is Creative Commons licensing and how does it differ from a normal copyright? A Creative Commons license is a midpoint between copyright and public domain. There are 6 different licenses that the creator of the work can choose from. They range from allowing anyone to share and modify the work, to only allowing sharing for non-commercial purposes. All 6 licenses require attribution that tells where it originally came from and who made it. Keep in mind that Creative Commons does not equal public domain. And there are major differences between the 6 different licenses. Flickr does allow a user to see exactly what type of Creative Commons license When a photo is selected the license is labeled on the right underneath the tag option. Clicking on the license will take the user to the Creative Commons website and will tell what the specific uses this photo allows.
There is an option for finding photos with Creative Commons licensing on Flickr. When going into the advanced search options there are options the user can use to filter photos that only have a Creative Commons license.
If a user wants to make a photo available under a Creative Commons license, they should log in and go to their photostream. There is a small © symbol under each photo. Clicking on it will bring up a new page that allows one to select which license they want, either a Creative Commons license or traditional copyright.
More Information on Flickr
The best place to learn more about Flickr is Flickr itself. Take the tour at http://www.flickr.com/tour/. Most people are not disappointed. Those who want to upload more photos for free may look elsewhere, but the quality of attachments that can be included with photos makes Flickr excellent for education.