Questions for reflection:
Does it matter where we find the images, music, text, and other resources we share we with our students and peers? Why or why not?
Do you know where to find the best images for you and your students? Where is that?

note: A Creative Guidelines document is included at the bottom of this article, you can save it to refer to if you like!
note 2: The resources here can also be adapted to use with your students for teaching them about creating responsibly and avoiding plagiarism.

Sharing our stories – or why using the Creative Commons is important

Whether we want it to or not, each element of the courses we teach help us to share the story of whatever subject we are teaching our students.

Educational technology is best used for just that – sharing our stories about teaching and learning – and how we tell the story is just as important as what our story is about. 

Video: The Images We Choose

As teachers and consultants, we use technology to tell our stories through slideshows, videos, document packages, timelines, and in many other ways.

A large part of our creation process has to do with finding media like images, music, and text that both support our story and that we are allowed to use – not always an easy task!

Let’s be honest. How many of us have used an image that looks something like this in their presentation or video? “What can it hurt?” we’ve asked ourselves, “It is just something for my students, no one will even know! 

A deer with a fake copyright attribution to racy Rosen Beautiful Animal Images
Please note, this is not a real copyright. The image is available in the Public Domain on Pixabay and I modified it to illustrate the point. It is therefore still in the Public Domain.

The reality is, that image belongs to someone and if they have put a copyright on it, then it means we need to make sure we have permission to use it. Even if there is no visible copyright – we still need to make sure we can use it.

Using an image without permission can be tricky. It may or may not be legal, depending on different situations. For the most part, unless otherwise specified, we can use images found on the Internet to help teach in our classrooms. The thing is, many of us are now making presentations and videos that we share online so their use goes beyond the four walls of our classroom – and this is good! It also means we need to take extra care about the images we use.

Creative Commons – freedom of mind

In order to make it easier to find images that I can use with a clear mind, I turn to the Creative Commons. The Creative Commons allows people to determine how they want to share their work with others. There are a number of different licences, which you can read about here: . The easiest to use are those licensed with a Creative Commons 0 licence (CC0). This means they are in the public domain and I can use them without even saying where I got them from.

Here is a Web page with a list of sites where you can find good quality images, video, music, and other resources you and your students can use when creating in – or out! – of the classroom. All of these sites have been used by the RECIT. You can bookmark the page to make it easy to refer to while you or your students are creating.

Collection of good quality Creative Commons resources.

Authenticity, modelling, and being nice

When telling classroom stories, I also try to take as many of my own pictures as possible. It adds a deeper level of authenticity to the stories. When I do so, I make sure that the people who are in them (or their parents if it includes minors) have consented to have their image used. Again, it just isn’t nice if we don’t (and this goes for pictures on Social Media, too!). 

It might be true that the owner of an image will never know that you used it in your classroom or in your teaching video. But when it comes to using anything in my classroom or in my PD sessions, I worry less about what people may or may not find out and more about what I am modelling for my students. It isn’t nice to use something that doesn’t belong to us without permission and if I do this in my classroom, then I am modelling that it is OK to do so and that doesn’t sit well with me.

How we tell a story is just as important as what the story is about! Each element of a course we teach makes up part of the story we are trying to tell. By using images that we take ourselves or that are available to us through the different Creative Commons licences, we can be sure that the stories we tell are ones we can be proud of.

Quick Guide: Creative Commons in Education

Here are some guidelines you can refer to, developed within our Quebec context.

Download the guidelines via Google Drive: Creative Guidelines

Note: to download on Google Drive, go to File and then click on Download and follow the instructions.


Tracy Rosen wrote this article based on one she originally published in a Dossier Spéciale du Carrefour FGA sur les droits d’auteur. Avi Spector and Emilie Bowles wrote the document Creative Guidelines.

If you would like more information about these resources or if you have something you would like to add to this tile, please contact Tracy Rosen.

All materials are expected to be reused and shared according to a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike license, unless otherwise noted: CC BY-NC-SA 4.0