13 February, 2009

Choosing Images

There are lots of reasons that you might want to use images in your teaching and in the development of online materials. You might want to illustrate a point in a document or in your presentation slides. You might want to change the icon image in your VLE area to better communicate to students what the link leads to.

Whatever the reason, you'll need to be able to:

- Find images that help communicate your point. The images should always be there for communication, not to decorate. Using images as decoration can just add extra unimportant information that detracts from what you are trying to communicate.

- Find images that are copyright cleared to use. Go to a site which supplies copyright cleared images, and keep details of where you got the images so that you can credit the creator.

- If the images are being used for icons, you'll need to edit the images to a usable size.

Image Collections

The two sites that I use to get images are Flickr and Stock.XCHNG.

Flickr is a site where anyone can upload any of their own photos. Not all will be licenced for use but you can search through those photos that are Creative Commons licenced at the bottom of the Flickr search page, or the independent flickrCC search page made by Peter Shanks.

Stock.XCHNG is a site where people upload their own quality photographs for other people to use. You'll need to sign up for an acoount, but it is free and only quality images are allowed.

There are different licences attached to images on these sites, but generally if you search for images that you can adapt you'll be fine. Some of the licences require you to give the creator credit - and that is only polite anyway.

In my projects I now keep a list of where I got the images from, who the author is and a link to the licence agreement. In a website or VLE area, I'll have a small link named 'image credits' which lists this information and in presentation slides, I'll have a page at the end doing the same. This makes sure that you and anyone who re-uses your work at a later time, knows where they are regarding copyright.

Thinking about Purpose

Images can help communication if chosen well. If you are presenting you want images behind you that support what you are saying - not ones that are talking about something else and just creating 'noise' for the students to process. If a student gets to a link on your website or Blackboard area they would benefit from you communicating what it is they will find by following the link - they will benefit from an image that communicates this.

Let's say I'm creating a template for my department to use for its online materials on the VLE, and we've decided to use photographic images for the icons. The icons are probably going to be small - perhaps 150 pixels wide (pixels are) and 75 high - which gives us something else to think about. Will a picture I find look good at that size? Will a small section from the image help to communicate what I want to say.

Firstly I need one for the Discussion Board. I'll go to search through the Creative Commons licenced images on Flickr. I start off by searching for board and get images of chess boards, surf boards and notice boards. It's important here to remember is will the image help the student know what the link is for, and give as much information as possible about it's use.

A photo of people talking would be ideal for this, as the Discussion Board is for communication. OK the Discussion Board is text based, but the image communicates a lot. Don't fall into the trap of using a picture of a notice board, and forgetting that that would not communicate anything useful to the students.

Editing Images for use as Icons

If you are using images, or sections of images as icons, you'll need to edit them and save them as perhaps 75 by 75 pixels. Pixels are the tiny little squares that make up the picture on your screen. Here's how you can do it.

If you are at Edge Hill on campus you'll have access to PhotoEditor (pdf).

However, even if you don't have access to any software there are free web sites that will enable you to edit your software. For example Snipshot.com is very easy to use and is free.

Creative Commons License
This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.

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