Teaching lower elementary students to find “free use” images with google drive.

After an entire day of copyright discussion at our COETAIL class last month, I walked away with the same question I usually have: “What does this mean for my students?” When a roomful of teachers needs 8 hours to sort out issues of copyright and “fair use,” how do we expect students in lower elementary to deal with the same questions?

My solution, for now, is to keep things as simple as possible. For imovies my class made recently, we used only “free use” images.

The first step is to explain to students that people own images on the internet, the same way a kid might own a bike.

Photo credit Ian Britton (freefoto.com)

Next, teach them that going around and taking images from all of the internet would be the same as going around and taking other kids’ bikes. They understand this metaphor pretty well.

Finally, explain that some nice people out there will let you use their bikes, as long as you  give them credit (citation is a whole different concept to be handled).

So now your students are hopefully familiar with the idea of copyright and “free use.” The next step is showing them how to search for images with these licenses. Again, this is not easy. It took me 20 minutes to get the above image of a bike, and I’m pretty sure I still didn’t cite it correctly. Google advanced search and flickr are both nice but a little overwhelming.

Luckily, there is an easy way to find free use images within google docs. Simply follow this tutorial I’ve made:

Unable to display content. Adobe Flash is required.
If the embed doesn’t work, please click here:


There are several other technical, copyright, and citation issues to tackle here, but hopefully this will get your students started.

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11 Responses to Teaching lower elementary students to find “free use” images with google drive.

  1. Ted O'Neill says:

    I like the metaphor. It is very apt. And, the tutorial is quite clear. I might send some of my students to watch it soon. Thanks!

  2. Tom says:

    Thank you for sharing this. It’s an easy way for the younger students to do things legally. Did Google recently update this to be able to filter by usage rights?

    One suggestion for you is to resize the movie on the blog because it is cut off.

    • Jeff Lewis says:

      Thanks, Tom. I’m not sure when google added the search by usage rights option. I learned this trick at the Google Apps for Education Summit in Tokyo this past February.

      And resizing the video…hmmm, I’ll have to work that one out later, looks like a tricky HTML thing that I don’t quite understand yet.

  3. Joy Cato says:

    Thanks for this really useful screencast. I did a similar lesson with my students where I showed them how to search for creative commons images using http://www.compfight.com I didn’t know about this function in google drive, I will definitely be showing this to my class.

  4. This is a nicely done screencast and the bicycle metaphor is clear and easy to follow. I liked, too, that in the screencast you showed an example of a photo that didn’t work and that you didn’t redo the presentation to avoid including that problem. Although you created this for elementary level students, this is also perfect for EFL students in upper grades. I can see real advantages to creating screencast tutorials like this for my university EFL students–especially since we don’t have computers in the classroom and they need to follow my instructions from a computer on their own at home or in the computer lab. I’ll have to give Jing a try.

    • Jeff Lewis says:

      Yes, Holly, when creating these tutorials there are definitely decisions that need to be made about how much of a perfectionist you are going to be. I’ve had to let go of that a little bit, and when my students are making videos I tell them the same thing. You could spend hours polishing and perfecting, but it’s easier to get it done at a decent level and then post.

      The nice thing about Jing is it’s limited to 5 minutes, so you’re forced to be concise. The basic software is free and easy to use.

  5. Aaron Reed says:

    The bike metaphor is perfect, Jeff. Enjoyed the video you made as well, although I couldn’t see it directly on your blog; it worked fine with the link. I’d never heard of Jing; will have to try it out.
    I think your comment about how complex the whole copyright and fair use issue can be — for adults even — is well taken. If children get bogged down in dull semi-comprehensible rules, there goes the fun in learning. Your approach of keeping it simple is perfect (I sometimes have to remind myself to do so, especially hopping around between 5 year olds, 8 year olds, and 11 year olds — “simple” being a bit different in the various grades I teach).
    The one good thing I think my school does as part of Digital Citizenship Week is to have the students focus on the home: their own and their family members’ screen time and online use. And by then making presentations to the whole elementary school AND the parents at the week’s-end assembly, it really makes that tie: that the responsibility for helping students be good digital citizens belongs both to parents and to teachers.

    • Jeff Lewis says:

      Thanks, Aaron, as I commented above, Jing is worth checking out. It’s free, simple to use, and easy to share. There is also a paid version that has some more powerful features–one of my colleagues in the high school uses it for biology tutorials.

      I would like to hear more about your school’s digital citizenship week and how you approach the home/school connection. See you at one of the F2F sessions!

  6. I find little kids “get it” when it comes to copyright, because they know how important it is to share and ask permission. I love the video tutorial, too. Thanks so much for sharing!

  7. There is universal appeal to your post. The bike metaphor is simple and clear – and the bike photo is brilliant – the bike does not appear to be locked and who wouldn’t want to borrow it? I liked too the observation that it took teachers eight hours to attempt to clarify copyright so how should we expect students to do so, and yet in your post, you do. There is in fact a clarity to all your posts; you reach effectively across grade level.

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