by Janice Friesen
Many of the students at University of Texas Elementary School, where I currently work, use only Google to search the Internet for projects that they are doing. I have found that many teachers and students are not aware of any other options and Google always seems to come up with something that works. The problem with Google is that sometimes (especially when searching for images) it returns inappropriate results. Students also need to understand issues of copyright and how to find images and other media that are free for them to use.
Here’s an example of how we learned about alternatives to using Google to locate images. Recently the second grade students were working on animal reports. They were all looking for pictures and information on the animal that they had chosen. Instead of just using Google, I wanted them to use a safer search engine. I also wanted them to understand some important things about the search results that they were getting.
Using the interactive white board, my students and I did the following:
1. I went to Google Safe Search and dragged the icon of the squirrel that appeared in the URL bar over to the desktop. Now there was something on the desktop that they could click directly on to search.
2. Then I spent some time talking with the second graders about how to use this search engine. I had them tell me one animal to search for and I typed in the term. This is what came up when we searched for Panda:
3. Then we looked at the results. I explained to them that the results that come up at the very top (See Panda Antivirus) and on the sidebar are paid advertisements. That means that someone is trying to sell something. If you are shopping, it is OK to use these links, but they probably are not good for research.
4. As we explored the search results for many different animals, we also found out that every animal we searched for had a link to National Geographic Kids, which was a great place to find pictures and information and it was written at their reading level.
5. I also showed them that the GREEN words below the name could give them some clues about what kind of site it was.
6. This also gave me a chance to teach them a few things about copyright. The project they were doing would stay in their own classroom and was used for educational purposes, so it is clearly under fair use laws. However, students are publishing more and more of their multimedia projects on the Internet. If something is shared with the world this way, all of the content needs to be copyright free. That means that the students need permission to use whatever they have found and they need to cite where they got it.
Here are a few sites that can make searching for images and other media a little easier and much safer. Some of these links also help with copyright.
- Pics4Learning: This site is a collection of photos that people have donated for students to use. There are no issues with copyright when using these photos.
- CompFight: This site searches Flickr (a photo sharing site) and can easily be limited to searching for images under a Creative Commons License, which is a license that clearly states that others may use these images in their work.
- KidsClick is a categorized search engine page with results for young children that have been hand selected by library media specialists.
- Sources for free audio in the classroom is a great website for locating audio clips. One strategy I have found that works well when helping students use audio clips in their work is to create a folder on your server (I use one called Music by Mood). Inside that folder, I create a few folders for moods like happy, sad, scary, and mysterious. Then I download a few audio examples for each mood to give children a place to start. There is just too much out there to sift through and it takes far too much time away from more productive parts of the project. I've found this strategy works well in helping children organize great sounds that others can use later.
Here are some really helpful websites about copyright issues for educators:
I encourage you to introduce your students to these safer alternatives to locate images and audio files that they can use in their projects while also teaching them how to navigate the challenges of search engine results and follow the terms of copyright usage. These will be useful skills for students to have as they move into the upper elementary grades and middle school.
Janice Friesen is a self-employed teacher. Her business I’m not a Geek.com helps people to be successful using technology. Her searchable blog http://helpimnotageek.blogspot.com offers tips for successful use of technology.
This article is part of a series from the Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).