More sources of (good) images

Things that matter to me… the pictures of my kids in my wallet

In one of the CELTA sessions this week I mentioned the website of the freebie newspaper 20Minutos as an alternative source of images. They have a great Fotogalerías section, which is a much better source than Google-is-Evil if you are looking for topical photographs, especially ones that will be relevant to Spanish students.

An alternative is Yahoo News, which has a similar, magnificent news photos section.

Newspapers have a vested interest in providing quality images; Google has zero interest in the quality of the billions of images it steals from other websites.

I still think that an even better alternative is for your learners to create their own images (above, another one someone took during the session Wednesday — my own kids, so I gave myself parental permission to publish ,-) !

(Not) Happy Birthday, Google

Google is nine years old today… Although there were search engines before Google came along, it's still incredible to think that it's been around less than a decade.

I won't say "Happy Birthday" because I don't actually think it's cause for celebration. It's taken under ten years for it to become an Evil Empire. It's perhaps not that Google itself is Evil but — in its self-proclaimed bid to "organize the world's information" — it has become so important to business, that the latter will stop at nothing to appear "first in Google", with the result that the Internet is being swamped with c..p, written for that purpose [example].

Google is also bad for English teachers and their learners. Instead of doing and creating things, you just Google them, and then steal them off of someone else.

When I was at university, we used to say that the definition of a lecture was "the process by which the lecturer's notes become the student's notes without passing through the minds of either".

The danger is that Googling your lesson plans, your images (etc) starts a similar process, if you ask me…

Now you too can steal images off other people's blogs

Not sure if I've understood this correctly (surely they don't mean that!), but now Google-is-Evil is offering you a nifty little tool [FAQs] that enables you — automatically — to steal and display images at random from other people's blogs, without their permission, or any possibility of them being able to opt out if yours is a public blog.

If it's public, steal it — which is just what Google Images does…

Ungoogle your cats!

Titi the Cat…

Someone asked me the other day whether or not an image of a cat found on Google (not that shown above) was going to print out well for use in class — on the black-and-white printer they had access to.

As the contrast in the picture was low, I said I thought not and suggested looking for a different one.

And to enlarge it? Possibly the best way to enlarge is by using the photocopier to do it for you.

It was actually for use in a class on our young learners extension course and so I suggested that, rather than using Google, that the young learners themselves should draw the pictures — and would then be able to describe their cats.

I've got no idea how the lesson eventually went, but I later happened to be in the actual classroom used and noticed the drawings of cats on the walls (see one example above) — and like to imagine that the lesson meant much more to the kids, that they learnt more because they participated and were more involved in it.


I thought I'd just invented the word "ungoogle", but Google itself currently finds around 34,000 results for it.

But, because I think Google-is-Evil, and perhaps sometimes has an adverse effect on the lessons we take into our classrooms, it's one I think teachers should adopt.

There are better places to search than Google, there are better places to find images…

Why is it wrong to steal images… and text

Not actually stolen from Google, legally downloaded flashcards… But, if there's no involvement, that's almost as bad!

Why is it wrong to steal images?

First a misconception most users are under: no one has given Google (or any other search engine) permission to grab all their images off their websites. It is therefore wrong for Google to steal images in the first place — and that doesn't make it right for you to steal the same images from Google. Neither does the fact that "everyone else does".

As an educator, I think that you have a moral responsibility: you cannot condone and must condemn theft, and therefore can neither steal other people's images and use them, for example, on a blog, nor allow your student's to do that.

Images or content — text, that is.

Why bother creating your own?
But there's more to it than the moral considerations, which I imagine are not going to convince many people nowadays.

Teach your learners not to copy and paste, but to copy and paste; select judiciously, cut ruthlessly and quote correctly…

For example, with text, in a webquest you have asked your learners to find the answers to certain questions, and then to "publish" them in some way — in a Word document, as a PowerPoint presentation, on a blog. If they merely "copy and paste", as many will do, they are very unlikely to be doing very much manipulation of the language; they are not getting to grips with it, getting "under the bonnet" and getting their hands dirty, tinkering with it and reformulating it in any way. Merely copying and pasting it isn't going to do a lot for their language learning.

Teach your learners not to copy and paste, but to copy and paste; select judiciously, cut ruthlessly and quote correctly… And provide the language for that ("(….), according to Yahoo News"; "says a report on CNN" [+hyperlink]; etc)

And images…
If it's images, it's far better for them to create their own, than handle stolen property from Google. Why?

What you want, for learners to be truly engaged in their learning, is for them to be creative, to be imaginative. Google Images is not creative.

You want affective involvement in their learning — you want them to care. When they do, they learn more.

What you want is for them to be proud of what they've created. There isn't a lot of pride to be had in handling stolen goods.

How do they create their own images?
Images can come from digital cameras, from mobile phones, from hand-drawn art work (which is then either photographed or scanned), or be created in a simple image editing program like Paint.

Is it worth the effort?
Yes. Why? Because of the pride to be had in the creation…