Monday, June 30, 2008

A Quicker, Safer Way to Access Flickr CC Photos

This past semester, most of the classes I work with used the Creative Commons section of Flickr to find photos for their Voicethreads, wikis, websites and other projects.

For the most part, I was pleased. Students found great insect photos to illustrate their insect life cycle diagrams. Other students found powerful photos to put on their Read to Feed brochure that they were creating to solicit sponsors. Still others created movies about problems affecting the oceans using still photos from Flickr CC. The list goes on and on.

However, all was not as good as it could be...
  • Flickr pages can be really, really slow to load

  • Some kids would forget and use the search field at the top of each Flickr page instead of returning to the Flickr Creative Commons search page. Then they would find photos with all right reserved. Sometimes they could save these photos, but they woudn't insert into projects. It took me quite a while to figure out what was going on.

  • Our process of searching, then saving the photo and copying the source information to give proper credit to the photographer was complex. Some third graders never mastered it.

  • We started to find inappropriate images. I had prepared the children for that possibility. We had reviewed what they should always do if they come across inappropriate content. The children did a good job of using those few opportunities to practice safe internet use, but I don't like taking elementary children to a site that I know has inappropriate material.
Given these limitations, you can imagine my delight to read about Compfight. It is a very simple, very fast way to search Flickr.

compfight / a flickr2122 search tool
Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

See the little search field at the top? That's what you see when you go to the site.
Click on the...
  • Tags button to toggle between searching tags only or all text
  • Creative Commons link to toggle between all, off, or commercial searches
  • Seek Original link to choose whether or not you are only looking for original images
  • Safe Search link to make searching safer for young users
As you can imagine, that last item has me thrilled. I plunked in some of the innocuous search terms (such as books) that brought up inappropriate images but all the hits were appropriate for my students.

I hope the searches are as quick at school as they are from my NECC hotel room. Photos start appearing withing a second of me hitting enter. The search results are posted many to a page instead of the ten that are on a typical Flickr search results page.

I think this tool is going to solve many problems for us. Give it a try and let me know what you think. Any idea what the name Compfight has to do with searching Flickr? That one has me stumped.

A big thanks to Sue Waters for her post at The Edublogger that introduced me to Compfight.