Using Flickr In The Classroom … Or Should We?

I posted earlier today about the break-in at our school – In that post I mentioned using our class Flickr account. That prompted a comment and question from Jim:

“Sorry to hear about your break in. Looking at your pictures generated a question. I have been wanting to use flickr … but am sort of hesitant because frankly I am concerned my kids are going to get places they shouldn’t and getting both me and them in trouble.
How is it working for you?”

Jim – Great question.

I found that for the first year plus that I used Flickr we used it with minimal teaching from me about “inappropriate” photos they might find. Why? – 1) because we only ever accessed our class account … they didn’t know there was more than that. They got to Flickr through a link on our wiki page. 2) When we used it I was usually giving them step-by-step instructions on how to download or upload or whatever, and then moving on to something else … they weren’t sitting there perusing photos on Flickr.

Last year during a project we were working on we didn’t have all the photos we needed in our account … we would have to go looking elsewhere, namely searching photos on Flickr.

It was then that I did a lesson on the ethical use of Flickr (but really any tool). Also how to do searches safely – “be very specific” and the like – we practiced some and when kids were doing searches I kept my eye out and wandered around the room. I explained what kinds of pictures COULD be found there – why that wasn’t what we were about, that Flickr had been a great resource for us and that perhaps NONE OF US would be able to use it if anyone used it inappropriately – AND that anyone misusing it would be disallowed from using the internet for AT LEAST a year by school district policy. We then focused on all the positive things we had used it for and how it had impacted their learning. We reminded everyone of that pretty much each time we used it after that and so far no problems. I do think that the key is we keep that discussion ongoing.

My goal is to get my students where the work they are doing involves THEM making the decision about what tool to use and when … access will be at least mostly up to them (remembering that they are 5th graders and that the plan is that I keep them as sixth graders). At that point those “ethics” become even more imperative. Also since things are likely to go wrong on occasion, lessons on “Oops, what do I do now,” will be important too.

Please feel free to add to this discussion.

UPDATE: A conversation is going on about this over at “In Practice” thanks Alice Mercer.

Learning is messy!

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6 thoughts on “Using Flickr In The Classroom … Or Should We?

  1. You’re always one click away from inappropriate material. Whether it’s flickr, youtube or google…doesn’t matter. Your approach is going to be helpful in any situation. Kids will access inappropriate material, that’s part of what makes them kids. Just like kids will say inappropriate things. Good teachers like yourself aren’t afraid of that in fact they welcome the opportunity to teach. That’s why they pay us.

  2. Great questions and answers! Brian, I agree that we need to be the ones to teach our students how to be responsible online. By providing those experiences, we allow the students a safe place to make mistakes and help them learn from it. I use diigo for my students to access links, but they are in the same boat as your kids are with flickr. Dean’s comment was perfect, “they are just one click away”…it is up to us as teachers to help them learn from it.

  3. Thanks for sharing your experience with Flickr in your elementary classroom. It underscores the value of teaching appropriate use of online resources. Barring access out of fear is counterproductive in almost every respect. When we lock kids out at school, I think we sometimes even promote pursuit of the “forbidden fruit” when our kids are away from school.

  4. Instead of searching Flickr I use It is just an automatic CC search of Flickr with an attribution already written up for you. To me it makes it easier to search Flickr because I don’t have to turn on the specific search and it makes giving credit to the photographer easier. I’ve used it in my classroom before. I haven’t had much trouble with students trying to access inappropriate material (or they’re just really good at it because I never caught them.. ha).

  5. Brian I use Flickr storm you probably know about it you can search by CC and also download your searches as a webpage with the attribution listed under each picture. David Jakes showed me this site a few months ago and I use it frequently. We do need to teach students what to do in situations where they come across inappropriate information as well and have them be responsible for the content they are searching for in a well thought out manner. Flickr storm I have found to be a good resources for others who feel searching Flickr is more responsibility than they would like to handle on their own and this is a good alternative.