Open Source

How Flickr could become the largest learning material repository in the world?

I wrote two weeks ago an article about the Creative Commons and learning materials to the – website. is an educational portal published by the National Board of Education, Finland. At the moment the article is only in Finnish but they have some plans to translate it to Swedish. The same story will be published in May in the Opetek – the Finnish Education Technology Magazine. I also made an easy to read and browse version of the same article under my home directory.

The assignment was to write about CC so that ordinary people, especially teachers, could understand what is CC about and what is there for them. Not an easy task although this seems to be one of the main objectives of the whole CC movement. I tried to use a lot of examples to illustrate the idea.

I thought that a good way to explain the CC is to talk about photos. More and more people take photos with their digital cameras and many also publish them online. We publish our photos to share them with our friends and family. But, the very same picture of Eiffel-tower – taken on a holiday trip – could be of course, used also as a piece of learning material. If the picture is published under CC license teachers can use it as a building block in their learning materials and students in their study projects.

If we then think about photo sharing services, such a Flickr, from the perspective what could they offer for schools, we may suddenly notice that they are actually becoming the largest digital learning material repositories in the world.

With Flickr you can publish your pictures under CC-licenses. If the CC-license used is Attribution, Attribution-NonCommercial, Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike or Attribution-ShareAlike you are free to use the photos as part of your own learning materials or give them as a building blocks for your pupils to be used by them in their own projects.

The search features of Flickr are not designed for school use. I am also afraid that the schools and teachers are not really in their focus customer group. However, I am sure that soon there will be better search for CC-licensed photos. They already have a page for Creative Commons.

But, what can we as educators do if we do not want to be depend on the Ludicorp Ltd, behind the Flickr and acquired lately by Yahoo?

Could there be interest to build up a separate repository and online service for school with photos found from Flickr?

The photos indexed and syndicated to this services should all be published under the right CC-licenses and with tags (categorization) related to school world, such as grades and curriculum subjects. I am pretty sure many teachers would find the service very useful. Also localization of the UI for different languages and automated translation of the tags (just simple vocabulary lists) would be useful. This way when searching with the Finnish tag “Pariisi” I could also find those pictures of Paris, where the tag is in Italian form of “Parigi”.

5 replies on “How Flickr could become the largest learning material repository in the world?”

There is a way to make the search easier for educational needs. This is possible because of Flickr API that enables development of third-party applications that utilize the FLickr resources.Why not a localized CC Flickr browser that could be plugged into learning environments?


Sure – plugging to "learning environments" is a good idea, though we should first have a consensus on what is a "learning environment". My current opinion is that we need three different kind of information system that are easy to plug and use together: (1) School / education “management” tools (users, schedules, curriculums, grades, etc.); (2) learning content management systems (course specific materials, publishing workflow management etc.) (3) Pedagogical tools (e.g. tools for collaborative learning). The FLickr resources should be primary used in the learning content management tool and secondary in the pedagogical tools to allow teachers and students to rip and mix the resources for their own use.


The example of sharing pictures is relevant, but maybe even more, or at least as important areas of use remain eg. in passing teaching and knowledge of teaching in between generations of teachers. Think about eg. an university, where teaching staff (for example doctoral students) stays typically only 2-3 years. When a person leaves, his teaching knowledge and materials seldom remain in the organisation, at least the copy right issue stays un clear. This fuszzines may prevent organisations to benefit the effective use of existing knowledge. By using CC-licensing this un clear situation cuould be avoided and development of teaching processes, materials and curriculums could be boosted. The escape of knowledge is current problem in other levels of education, not only in universities. At least in Finland a great number of teaching professionals are retiring in near future. During this process unneccessary ammount of experience and knowlege may be permanently lost


Information is not knowledge =), ( We must not confuse the thrill of acquiring or distributing information quickly with the more daunting task of converting it into knowledge and wisdom.) Even though the CC-concept is ideal for passing and sharing materials freely within ethical rights, the concept of transferring generations of knowledge via the form of cc-information seems still kinda ideal as saving the "legacy" at this point. This not so black and white issue relates also the to the pedagogical orientation of the teachers and of course organisation´s own copyright statements, which usually in default are not in favor for CC. Naturally the CC-factor provides tremendous opportunities for "the rip and mix" in TLeinonen´s comment. I am very much for the Open-Access publishing and repositories, maybe we should also address this CC-issue more general level in VLE-metadata settings and plugs mentioned above to promote the culture of openness and sharing also with that aspect.


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