Beyond providing a little visual pizazz, the right image can really help to illustrate concepts for your students. If you need a little refresher course on the power of images in the learning process, this is a succinct overview, complete with examples of various image-related cognitive tasks.
But how to find the right image? I’ve found a few helpful resources and wanted to bring them to your attention while there’s still time left in the semester for you to make good use of the tips.
First, you’ll want to watch out for items that are copyright protected by either institutions or individuals. In general, you must contact the copyright holder for permission in those instances. Because that can be onerous (and expensive), you’ll likely want to stick to Creative Commons images. Creative Commons can be a bit confusing, so it’s a good idea to make sure that you’ve familiarized yourself with how Creative Commons licenses work.
Note that while the above video is super-informative and does a great job breaking down the different elements of Creative Commons licensing, it is also from New Zealand, so there may be a few national differences to consider (we’re not lawyers!). For specific issues, you can also check out the Creative Commons FAQ.
With the ground rules out of the way, let’s get started.
1. Google Images. This is probably my go-to image source. As we’ve written about before, you can even search by license type. Here’s a great tip for using the color filter search option to help you find the precise image you need.
2. Google Art Project. Do read the copyright information provided, and note the terms vary by the institution that owns the images. However, for an interactive, international art experience, this is a pretty amazing resource.
3. Image Editing. If the image you’ve found permits you to edit it, you may wish to do so for any number of reasons (space, focus, to make your point, etc.). The link above points to some free programs that are pretty user-friendly.
4. Infographics. Think beyond the photograph! Infographics are “visual representations designed to quickly explain complex information”. There’s usually a fair amount of data presented in chart/graph form, along with a few short paragraphs and key sentences.
5. Comics. Continuing to branch out from the tired stock photograph, why not let some cartoon folk illustrate your point or model the cognitive skills you are hoping your students will gain? Similarly, you could use a free online animated movie-maker to type dialogue for an interactive scene.
Once you’ve located / created your image and are ready to (legally!) use it, you’ll want to think about where and how exactly you are going to put the image. Where will it pack the most punch? Where will it look the best? What else should – or shouldn’t – accompany your image? Here are a few visual design tips to help you make the most of your image.
p.s. If you want to turn this around and have your students find the images, here’s an informative blog post about PicLits and visual rhetoric. Of course, your students could also make infographics or use Google Art Project to create their own galleries related to course concepts.