Sunday, August 17, 2008

What Do You Want in a Flickr CC Search Engine for Schools?

Glenn over at History Tech blog has been using Compfight to find CC images in Flickr. Like me, he discovered that the safe search isn't really safe enough for student use, so he contacted them. The good folks at Compfight are considering creating a truly school-friendly Flickr CC search tool and are asking for input.

For the elementary students I work with the ultimate Flickr search engines would have the following attributes.
  • Light, not resource intensive because schools often have old computers and slow networks.

  • Basic interface, Compfight is brilliant because it is such a clean interface, nowhere for the children to get lost or distracted. Kids are instantly successful.

  • Large thumbnails. 8 and 9 year olds tend to like words and pictures on their screen to be big. They make their fonts size 18 and put extra space between words to make them easier to see, not just to fill the page. Compfights are a good size. FlickrCC is a bit small. I'd include fewer images to make the thumbnails a bit bigger.

  • Split screen like FlickrCC. On one side we see thumbnails of the hits. On the other side, we see an individual image, its URL, photographer's name, and links to the other sizes of the image. I like FlickrCC but it is missing a key feature, the name of the photographer. According to Flickr, to use the CC images, you need to credit the source by listing the name of the photographer and provide a link back to the image. FlickrCC lacks that and as a result, my wee ones are having to navigate through multiple pages. That is really tough for some of them. Being able to grab URL and photographer's name off one clear page before they go to get a larger or small size of the image would be much easier for them.

  • Open links in a new tab. If a child needs a larger size of the image and follows that link, it should open in a new tab so that after they download the image, they can close the tab and they are right back at the search engine.

  • Safe Search. No filter is perfect. Some photographers are wily in how they tag their photos. However, one that blocks 95% of nudity, sex, and violence would be great. A second grade girl who types in kitties doesn't want a screen full of sex kittens. Naked toddlers, victims of floods standing amidst the ruins of their home with only rags on their body aren't the problem. It is the art photos of nudity and the pornographic ones that are making our searches problematic. We haven't had a problem of accidentally pulling up pictures of violence in Flickr, but we don't want to start having one either.

  • Free. I am currently working overseas at a private school. I have a budget and could pay for this feature. However, most of my career has been in the public schools in the US and then it was only me on a teacher's salary paying for things we needed. I could do it because I don't have children of my own, but many teachers couldn't pay anything.
What would you like to see in a school-friendly search tool for the Creative Commons section of Flickr? Give Compfight your feedback by posting on Glenn's blog or by contacting them directly via the link under the About button at the bottom of their site. And drop by Glenn's blog for a good read and to thank him for taking the initiative to start this discussion with the Compfight folks.