Monthly Archives: August 2013

About Those Pictures: Teaching Students to Give Credit for the Images They Use

As students become creators of content and makers of apps, websites, and more, all those images brought to the schoolhouse door via the Internet hold tremendous appeal.  Need a graphic for your wiki page? Just download it and insert it on your page. Found a cool photo using an image search engine and think it would look great in a PowerPoint or Glog presentation? Just embed it, and voila!

Most students are taught that they should not borrow the words of others and then use them in a way that makes it appear as if they had done the writing. However, photos, clip art, and other multimedia components are just as much the creative work of another person or organization, and borrowing them without citing the source of the image is also dishonest.

Who Gets the Credit?

When students have used images in their digital creations, teachers can help them learn to give credit where credit is due by having them ask five simple questions.

  1. Do I have permission to use this image?
  2. If I don’t have permission to use the image, is it possible for me to get permission?
  3. Who will have access to the presentation? (Just my classmates? Parents? The entire world via the World Wide Web?)
  4. Where can I find images that are free for me to use in my digital creations?
  5. How should I give credit for creative works of others that I’ve used?

All images and other creative works should have credit given to the creator, except in very limited situations. When in doubt, include credits! Permission is tricky. Some types of images (and other works, such as music) are in the public domain. That means that anyone can use them. Other types of work are protected, but teachers and students can use small portions in limited ways. For example, using an image that will be seen only by the students in one class would be “fair use” by the student who created the presentation. However, if it becomes part of a presentation that is live, online for everyone in the world to see, then that might not be a fair use of someone else’s work.


One easy solution to the permission issue is to simply ask the author or creator. I have found that most people are happy to give permission if I only ask. Many graphics found via image-search tools link to pages where the original creator’s email address can be found; very often, asking permission has never been easier.  Another good solution is to use works that are in the public domain or works that a creator has specifically given permission for others to use in advance. This permission is typically in the form of a license that is included on or near the image or other work.  My favorite source, but not the only one, is the Creative Commons Search.  With this tool, it is relatively easy to find images that have had permission given in advance. Usually, the type of permission and how to cite or credit the source are provided right on the webpage, too.

Finally, giving credit for images found on the Internet or other published sources is not always the same as citing work from a book, magazine, or the text on a webpage.  First, if the creative work you and your students want to use offers specific directions about how to give credit, follow those directions even if it doesn’t seem to follow standard style guides.  Huffman (2010) also has ideas for citing the images in a presentation that may be useful for crediting media in presentations, including citations near the image on a PowerPoint slide, and a reference slide at the end. I suggest a separate list of “Multimedia Used” after any formal reference list.

Style Is Everything

Most style guides (such as MLA or APA) have some guidelines, as well. Because there are so many multimedia formats (e.g., Glogs, Prezi, video PowerPoints, and so on), how to cite can be murky.  For elementary students, the main thing their teachers can do is to help them understand that some sort of credit is needed, even if the arrangement of the citation is not exactly spot-on. Even for presentations and multimedia productions intended just for class, credit or attribution is always the right approach.

Reference :

Huffman, S. (2010, May/June). The missing link: The lack of citations and copyright notices in multimedia presentations. TechTrends, 54(3), pp. 38-44.

Additional Reading:

Wolsey, T. D. (2013, August 14). Copyright and fair use in the classroom [blog post]. LiteracyBeat. Retrieved from

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