Posts Tagged ‘images’

Using Images in Teaching: A Quick Guide
December 7, 2010

It might be cliché, but it is nevertheless true.

A picture speaks a thousand words.

How We Learn

Butterfly - CorbisThis is of course not to say that words are less important than pictures. But it’s useful to remind ourselves that our brains are essentially twofold, made up of the left hemisphere, which is often described as analytical and verbal, and the right hemisphere, the left’s more creative and visual counterpart.

This means that individuals will absorb information differently depending on how we respond to certain types of stimuli. A textbook or article might serve well in introducing a topic to the learner, but a relevant image to go along with it can then reinforce that learner’s recollection and comprehension of the material. Various studies have shown that this is the case.

This is inherent in what is known as the ‘Multimedia Principle‘, which states that people learn better from words and pictures than words alone.

So the right picture at the right time at the right place is a great way to boost understanding as well as helping your learners build a memorable mental construction around a topic.

However, not all images are created equal. What is one teacher’s trash is another teacher’s treasure. So what should you take into account when using images in your lessons?

Tips for Teachers

Firstly, the image should be relevant to the topic at hand. This requires a judgement call from you as the teacher, and that’s a good thing, as it allows you to be more creative around lesson planning. It’s not very useful to be ultra-prescriptive in aligning an image to a specific area or unit of the curriculum. The beauty of images is that they are ambiguous and can be repurposed across a range of different topics.

Secondly, be creative in how you use an image with your students. A picture is a snapshot in time with clear boundaries but as well as being informative they can also offer great opportunities for opening up wider debate. For example, asking the children to imagine or explore what might have happened before the picture was taken, what happened afterwards, or what might they be able to see just outside the edge of the picture to the right or to the left?

Thirdly, it is always important to bear in mind the origination of an image, and its associated copyright. Copyright is complex, but it can be broken down into a simple rule of thumb: assume everything is copyrighted and approach it from there.

Lastly, you should be aware of the limits imposed by the rights associated with an image. With GGfL, our license allows unlimited use, editing and repurposing of images for educational purposes. But not all sources will offer this flexibility.

Summary – The Hallmarks of a Good Image

Images are a great way for teachers to spice up a lesson and engage visual learners. However, there is a lot of uncertainty around the vast amounts of information available via the world wide web. So to be sure you are using images effectively for teaching, bear in mind the following:

Relevancy: The image should directly relate to the topic at hand. It should reinforce a concept in a way that words alone can’t.

Authority: Make sure the image is coming from a trusted source. As mentioned, there are a lot of known unknowns online. So be sure the source is a reliable one and that it won’t throw up any inappropriate or offensive content for your students.

Copyright: Not an easy issue but one teachers and schools need to be cognizant of nonetheless. Make sure the image is copyright-cleared for use so that you don’t end up on the receiving end of a hefty fine for copyright-infringement. Also be aware of what you can and can’t do with an image, even when it is copyright-cleared.


Are you a teacher or education professional who uses digital images for teaching? Let us know your views and opinions or even share some of the imaginative ways that you’ve used images in the classroom.



Enhancing Learning with Images: Evidence from City and Islington College
June 25, 2010

Image from GGfL Library: Corbis Images

In 2005 we ran a project called “engaging the visual learner”. The project took the form of an action research project for a group of teachers and a one-day staff development event that included contributions from, TASI, SCRAN and JISC RSC.

The theme was a conscious effort to;

  • Encourage teachers to investigate approaches to teaching i.e. the visual learner, learning styles, differentiation
  • Introduce new classroom technologies at the college, PC, interactive whiteboards, projectors, internet connection, sound and video
  • Introduce the Virtual Learning Environment and its potential for blended learning
  • Introduce the latest image bank resources for teachers and how to search them

A review of a small selection of the projects gives an insight to what teachers wanted to achieve and why;

Eunice Omowale

An activity to cover Health and Safety across a number of GNVQ subject areas, Business, Media, Beauty Therapy and ICT was designed to include: searching for images on the web and in image banks; downloading and storing images;  creation of a picture quiz to test knowledge, while other groups used the picture quiz as a class exercise. The use of images and the direct engagement of the learners in finding the images was a success, improving engagement in this otherwise dull area of the curriculum. It also made full use of the classroom technology, from the projected images for group work, to the picture quiz on the individual PC.

Kathryn Gordon

Strong images from the animal world were needed to illustrate a PowerPoint presentation and classroom exercise on the subject Non Verbal Communication and to be posted as a resource on the VLE for further study, for students on the Foundation Degree in Health Studies course. The strong visuals used on the classroom projector gave a stunning introduction to the subject and were later used in a handout. A number of image banks were searched for copyright-cleared images, or images free for educational use. The teacher had to learn to download the images and then import them into PowerPoint and resize them to fit the page layout.

Simona Candiolo

Simona teaches Italian A level using real life Italian news, and in this example, with branched story options using PowerPoint. The presentation was to be used first in the classroom, projected on the board, to introduce a new topic, to elicit existing vocabulary and to stimulate discussion. Afterwards students used the presentation to continue their independent research, deciding which story to follow in depth by choosing that branch of the PowerPoint. The learners commented that they liked the use of pictures as they: helped them remember things better, made the lesson more interesting and made the lesson more real. The teacher noted that she would like to continue with this practice and in future include sound and video in the presentations.

Student feedback on using images in the classroom

What’s changed since 2005?

  • More image collections have been digitised and are easier to find and use
  • Cheaper digital cameras and cameras on phones
  • Cameras are designed for the non expert, but produce high quality images
  • Skills in taking, manipulating and posting images have become more commonplace with the use of Facebook and other social networking sites
  • Cheap or free editing software is readily available, designed to be easy to use
  • New pedagogy and examples of good practice are available as case studies via the web

What’s new, what would this project do if it ran in 2010?

This year we have invested in wireless connectivity in parts of the college, plus mobile devices and laptops to try out a flexible approach to teaching spaces, there has also been a surge in interest in making video podcasts and sets of “podcast toolkits” (camera, tripod, hard drives & Mac Books) have recently arrived. Based on these recent initiatives, if this project ran again we would promote ‘Digital Storytelling’ as the theme. This practice is growing and encompasses a number of skills that need to be learned plus an emphasis away from teacher created content and towards learner created content. In a recent pilot a group of teachers took part in a digital storytelling workshop lead by John Whaley (of Molenet). They used Picasa, Photostory 3 and Format Factory to assemble a story using pictures, sound narration and text and then prepared it for posting on the web or for use on mobile devices. The sites below show good examples and expand on the theory behind storytelling.

Center for Digital Story Telling

Pedagogic Tools and Guides for Digital Story Telling

What next?

Teachers will explore what’s available to them, what’s been done already and use this knowledge to create new types of activities for teaching and learning and assessment that can challenge, stretch and inspire learners, utilising their growing confidence with creation and use of multimedia and the phenomenon of social, collaborative working via the web.

Browse the following links to resources and case studies to find out more about the technologies and approaches mentioned in this article and I hope some inspiration!

JISC support for digital media site

Case Study: City of Sunderland College – Innovative ways of using technology to teach

Find your local or regional network for e-learning

Slides from 4C Initiative Webinar