The Strength of Weak Ties

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Is Flickr Appropriate? The kids have their say...

To follow up my post today at, I'm publishing student comments collected from our Digital Storytelling Blackboard (gasp!) course. (when classes begin a digital storytelling project, we just add them to the class and they now have access to all the resources, documents, etc. that we use in our process). These kids were seniors, and now have graduated. As expected on a discussion board, their sentence structure/spelling was not the best.

I asked them their opinions on the usefulness and appropriateness of Flickr. Here is what they had to say:

Student 1: Well, I like the fact that there are lots of photos to use, but sometimes there are pics that I can’t use if i want to put it on the internet. And sometimes i can’t find exactly what I’m looking for, but i just have to try searching for something else, and it usually works out. Otherwise, it’s a pretty good site.

Student 2: The best thing about Flickr is the quality of the photographs. I also like that fact that it has the information on if the picture is copy written or not, however that information will not stop people form stealing the pictures. I think it’s a good image site.

Student 3: I have found that a large percentage of the images I want to use are at least partially copyrighted. Why would you copyright your pictures from a party or something dumb like that? Actually, I many of those "semi-copyrighted" pictures were technically illegal because they were pictures of DCI competitions (illegal for the same reason you can't take pictures at a NFL game.)

Student 4: I like the site because it has really interesting, creative and artistic photographs instead of the usual ones you see all the time from Google or another site. i think some of these photos have a lot more depth to them. i do not like that it is not censored because i saw a lot of pictures i would rather not have and some that were very graphic also. its hard to find ones that you can use without a copyright. but other than those two setbacks i really i find the site easy to use and very productive for this project.

Student 5: I agree with [Student 4]. I don’t like the fact that Flickr is not censored. Some of the pictures aren’t at all appropriate. But other than that I like using Flickr if I can find pictures that apply to my digital story.

My question to student 5: Given the inappropriate photos, in your opinion, should we not use Flickr?

Student 5 response: I think its okay to still use Flickr but it would be better if the inappropriate pictures were not there.

Student 6: Navigating through Flickr is easy, but it is hard to find the perfect pictures for the projects sometimes. I like the many different types of ways to use it like the color, cloud, and regular. Some of the photos can't be used which becomes frustrating because it is the perfect picture and it can't be used.

Student 7: I found some okay pictures on Flickr, but decided not to use any of those pictures. I decided to use my own pictures to make my story more personal.

Student 8: I like the page on Flicker that has all the tags in bold that are used most frequently. I like it because it helped me come up with ideas for keywords to search.

Student 9: I have found Flickr to be useful. There is a lot more variety to it than google. Although some of the images are inappropriate, I have found this search engine to be successful.

Student 10: I think that Flickr is an overall good site for finding pictures. I like how you get some pretty accurate images according to the tag you used. Also the number of images you get is incredible. The only disadvantage is that some of the pictures you want to use, you can not because they are spaceballs or etc..

Student 11: This site had more relevant pictures than just a Google Image search. It was much easier to find pictures that would better suit a project. The time that it took to search through the pictures was reduced. The disadvantage of this site is that some of the pictures are Spaceballs or copyrighted making them unuseable for this project. But the site is still overall good.

Student 12: I found out that you have to very unspecific when image searching. Most of everyone has probably found that out by now though. Like for example I needed a picture of a school bus. Under school bus and bus not much came up. So i ended up searching transportation and I found a usable picture.

Student 13: I honestly don’t think that the inappropriate images really matter that much. I mean were all practically adults, and if we can’t handle a few naughty pics, then we shouldn't be using it. All you have to do is scroll down and you’re good. So despite the inappropriate pics, I think using flicker is still a good resource.

Student 14: I can see both sides. Personally, I would rather not come across any inappropriate images if I could control the internet and all that is in it. But when I think about my search for pictures on Google while working on my last digital story this past month, I think I definitely came across a greater number of inappropriate pictures. Maybe not by a lot, but it's all a matter of what you're searching for and how people in the internet have stretched that word. It's hard to avoid so we have to be responsible in dealing with the things we see.

Student 15: I did not find to many inappropriate images on Flickr. There were a few images, but nothing high school student’s haven’t seen in or outside of school. No image web page such as that with hundreds of users, will be completely clean. Some people’s art may also be offending to others, and it is all opinion.

Student 16: The way I see it, it also has a lot to do with WHAT you search for. It's not like you're just going to come across an image that you don't wanna see by searching for blue skies or turtles... So what's my advice? Be smart with what you search for and for the most part you won;t see anything that you don't want to.

Student comment to Student 16: Student 16, I found pictures of scantily clad women when I searched for "marchingband." But, as it's been said, that's the risk you run when you use an awesome thing like the internet.

Student 17: Flickr is dirty. That's about all; I have my own copyright free pictures.

Student 18: I think that the chance of coming across an inappropriate pic is well worth it for getting pics that we can use for our story. Any search engine has the chance of that coming up. I think that flicker was a great source to use.

Student 19: I really enjoy's got a loooooot more image selection then Google or any other image search engine out there. Google gives you random images and nothing specific...Flickr gives you exactly what your looking for with one word or "tag." It's helped me out this far and hopefully will continue to do so. As long as you just ignore the inappropriate images then your OK...because there is inappropriate images and content everywhere you look now a days..and much worse on other search engines if you ask me.

As you can see, some didn't like Flickr, some did. Some did not like the inappropriate images, others just ignored them. Some really liked the site. Please note that if a student didn't like using Flickr they certainly did not have to use it. They were informed that the site contained inappropriate imagery before use.

There were no direct complaints to me (I was with the class when they constructed their digital stories) and no parental issues. (Hey, they were seniors...).

Would I use this with juniors and seniors in high school? Yes, but I would go through an education program with them about the site. Would I with freshman and sophomores? That depends on the class. Maybe yes, maybe no. It's not a simple question.

Would I let middle school and elementary kids use Flickr as is? Absolutely not.

But whatever the use, such as a digital storytelling event, or any lesson that requires digital imagery, it makes sense to talk with the kids about online imagery and the possibility of inappropriateness.

I think you can see with my comments that I still have some uneasiness about the use of Flickr. I think we need to have some alternative solutions that make the use of the great photography a more safe proposition.

But most importantly, in the majority of the comments, can you see some learning taking place? Not all I know, but some kids gained and communicated some important new understandings and that's what it's about.


  • At 10:17 PM , Blogger Miguel Guhlin (@mGuhlin) said...

    David, well-said. Thanks for sharing these comments by students. The more these comments are collected and shared, the better.

    If one goes looking for inappropriate stuff anywhere, chances are, they'll find it. It's the innocuous (sp?) searches that cause problems when they yield a graphic that just doesn't belong.

    I honestly wish that we had an "education-friendly' Flickr where adults reviewed the images, and decided if they were appropriate. That way, we could go to and see only ed-friendly stuff.

    Old suggestion and where would the money be? well, make it so that regular Flickr users who designate an image could say that it's education friendly. Allow reporting of inappropriate images with a single-click, and we'd have a nice repository.

    Has this been suggested before?


  • At 3:54 PM , Blogger Barbara Barreda K-8 Administrator, Tech integration advocate, Going 1:1 with netbooks said...

    Okay David...
    We have used Flickr at school 6 to 8 but only a group we created and monitored which brought togetehr other schools.
    I wanted to get into digital stories this year and I liked the Flickr Storm app you have in the tutorial... I have not run across any inappropriate pictures yet but now I am forewarned so...What would you use with 6th to 8 or 3 to 5 if they can't a;ways take their own photos????
    PS I like Miguels idea...


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