#Eltpics & Crowdsourcing resources

There’s been a bit of discussion recently as to how useful a tool Twitter can be for teachers, about a year ago everything was gushing with praise(I put together a quick guide here: Twitter for Educators ) but now there are a few more dissenting voices (See this post by Gavin Dudeney).  As with all big discussions, some of each side of the argument is correct. While I’ve been using twitter less than I was a year or so ago (and updating this blog less…hmmm) I would like to highlight a project that has tapped into twitter (as well as another great Web2.0 name – Flickr).

Sota la pluja/Bajo la lluvia
Shared on #eltpics

Eltpics is such a simple concept that was just waiting for someone to do it well. It is a way that teachers can donate images to create a crowdsourced creative commons repository of images which can be freely shared and used for teaching and learning. It provides copyright-free images, arranged around a set of themes. It’s another example of how Twitter can be a powerful tool.

While it is easy to google images online, most are copyright and using them in lessons without permission is of dubious legality. This is obviously a concern when we are trying to develop responsible digital literacies in our learners. Eltpics allows us to demonstrate responsible use of the net to our learners. It was started by @VictoriaB52, @vickyloras and @cgoodey who just started tweeting pictures to each other on given themes, (read about how it started here: http://weblogg-ed.com/2011/crowdsourcing-a-lessonyour-thoughts/) it then got picked up by others and has snowballed into a bank of over 2000 images.

Some ELTpics topics

While Eltpics was started by English Language Teachers (hence the name) it could be useful for teachers of any subject. Images are arranged around a set of themes, with a new theme being added each week. To submit, contributors just send a tweet with a link to their image, the category that the image fits into and the tag #Eltpics. Most images have been posted via Flickr or Twitpic (both of which are free). The hashtag #Eltpics can also be used to suggest topics for future weeks. To get a feel for what’s going on, just search for Eltpics on either Twitter or Google Realtime. The images can then be found by searching for eltpics on Flickr, where they can be freely downloaded. For those who like to keep it online you can also embed the images in another site like a blog or VLE (The picture at the top of this page is embedded from Flickr).

Eltpics is driven by the twin concepts of Creative Commons and Crowdsourcing:

  • Creative Commons is a looser form of copyright where authors (or photographers) allow their work to be shared as long as certain specified conditions are met – in the case of Eltpics this means that the images cannot be used for commercial ends and that the original author should be credited. This covers the vast majority of situations where they may be used for teaching and learning.
  • Crowdsourcing is a concept which lies behind most of what people term Web 2.0. It is the idea that a large number of people contributing a small amount of content can create useful resources; the most famous example of this would be Wikipedia.

There have probably been load of us who have taken pictures to use in a lesson and now got them lying around – this is a great way of putting all these images to use. I started to wonder how else crowdsourcing could be used, or is used in Education:

  • Resource repositories – this is something that has been brought about by the internet – Websites such as TES Connect, Talent.ac.uk, Skills Workshop, etc. These are all driven by the content submitted to them by the users.
  • Videoclips via Youtube etc. Nowadays it is fairly straightforward and cheap to put together a usable quality video – you are only limited by your own acting skills! A video version of ELTpics could work – though fewer people will have the right clips ‘just lying around’. I suppose Teacher Tube is trying to do that – I’ve never used it that much.
  • Ideas – there is an interesting blog from @sandymillin, which is attempting to crowdsource lesson ideas etc. I suppose most blogs, if they are fairly active are trying to build reality out of crowdsourced ideas – on this blog, the comments on My Prezi vs Powerpoint post contribute lots of ideas.

What about you? Can you think of any way that crowd sourcing is being used in education? Or maybe there’s a way that it could/should be used – it’d be great to read your thoughts. Stop Press – I’ve just seen a new post from Gavin Dudeneythat carries on the discussion of how useful twitter is as a tool for getting ideas etc – A number of comments have mentioned how it seems more unmanageable than it had been…. Have to be honest – I think I’ve noticed the same thing – Does anyone have any ideas for getting the most out of twitter past a certain point?

Sticking on the topic, and back to eltpics, some of the blogs underneath are starting to suggest eltpics lesson plans, I’ve also added links to a few other sites that give suggestions for using images in class. Please add any ideas that you have to this page… And if you haven’t yet, try adding some pics to #eltpics – what are you waiting for?

***hurries off to find ‘Urban’ pictures on his Flickr***

Further Reading:

Blog posts about ELTpics


















Teaching with Images







15 thoughts on “#Eltpics & Crowdsourcing resources

  1. Nice post 🙂

    Just one question – you mention that eltpics cannot be used for commercial ends – but isn’t this a grey area? Obviously we cannot sell the pictures to our students directly, but what happens if the pictures are used in worksheets or in presentations? Isn’t our income as teachers based partly on those worksheets? Seems like commercial ends to me.

    1. Hi Evan and Phil,

      I helped establish #eltpics as @VictoriaB52 . It seems to me that there isn’t really a grey area here.

      The CC license means that you can’t directly sell any of the photos as a teacher. There is no problem, however, in your using them in worksheets or presentations. This is because neither the worksheet nor the the presentation is a direct source of income.

      Also, those who contribute to #eltpics know the score and contribute, generously, knowing this score. Each week the new set of photos is accompanied by this description:

      “A set of photos, based on a weekly theme, taken by ELT teachers, trainers and writers from around the world.
      These are, in turn, available free to others in the field of ELT under a CC license.
      Anyone interested in joining in can tweet an image with the hashtag #eltpics”

      I hope this helps clear up any areas you may have felt were ‘grey’. I also hope that any teachers who have used #eltpics in the past and who are thinking about using #eltpics in the future are happy that they can do so without any legal repercussions.

      All the best,

      1. Thanks for clearing that up Victoria – I hoped that was what it meant… It reminded me of something I thought of, just after posting this – maybe we need to organise somewhere to put eltpics worksheets… You can’t upload them to Flickr, but if they were uploaded somewhere like scribd, the links could be posted as comments under the images – anyone got any suggestions?

      2. Hi Victoria,

        You say that “The CC license means that you can’t directly sell any of the photos as a teacher. There is no problem, however, in your using them in worksheets or presentations. This is because neither the worksheet nor the the presentation is a direct source of income.”

        Is that stated in the CC license or is it your interpretation of it? The definition of commerical use I see in the current CC license is “directed toward commercial advantage” which seems to me to cover a school creating attractive teaching materials.

        I have no doubts that contributors to #eltpics are doing so for very generous reasons and I don’t believe that there is a real danger of any of them suddenly deciding to take legal action. My concerns are:

        (1) I believe the main potential benefit of using CC/copyleft/public domain works is the legal security it brings. If users of #eltpics images are relying on the contributors taking a generous view of the license, then that is better than relying on hoping they won’t get caught copying pictures from Google images, but it’s not legal security.

        (2) Worksheets that started out as teaching materials can end up as training materials, online course material, standalone self-access materials or even published materials. It’s not clear to me at what point photos from #eltpics would no longer be appropriate.

        Finally, a much smaller issue. The license requires that when images are distributed, the license terms (or a link to them) must be included. What does that mean to you? A CC link and/or #eltpics link on each worksheet? Next to each picture?



      3. This is all a long way outside my comfort zone – but I’ve been trying to look into it – there is some information (pretty dense) here:

      4. http://wiki.creativecommons.org/Defining_Noncommercial
      5. After a rummage, I found this “Currently, the noncommercial option only permits use of the work in any manner that is not
        “primarily intended for or directed towards commercial advantage or private monetary compensation.” (Page 17 of this:

      6. http://mirrors.creativecommons.org/defining-noncommercial/Defining_Noncommercial_fullreport.pdf
      7. )

        Now that could be open for interpretation… Are teaching resources primarily intended for educating learners or making teachers money? Are #eltpics enhanced visually attractive resources giving a private teacher a commercial advantage?

        This post suggests that a Share-Alike CC license gives the same intended protection as it means that resources produced have to be shared rather than sold:

      8. http://freedomdefined.org/Licenses/NC
      9. – Could that be a better option?

      10. I can’t seem to reply to your comment of Jan 3 directly, Phil, so I hope this ends up in some sort of sensible order!

        Anyway, I agree with you on pretty much every point and appreciate you taking the time to think this through.

  2. Hi Phil,
    Thanks very much for writing this post and for mentioning my blog! I really enjoy participating in #eltpics and love seeing the images from around the world, even without having used them in lessons that much. It’s always my first port of call when I’m looking for something specific though. I can see how Twitter could get a bit much too, but I think that by sticking to the hashtags that you know are useful you can manage…although I’m only on my 4th month of real tweeting, so who knows!
    Thanks again,

  3. Thanks for clearing that up Victoria – I guess the difficulty for me was that I work as a freelancer and my worksheets etc are definitely part of the “package” which my clients are paying for. Good to know this isn’t seen as commercial 🙂

  4. Folks,

    Many thanks for all the comments and questions…

    Adam, you say: “(2) Worksheets that started out as teaching materials can end up as training materials, online course material, standalone self-access materials or even published materials. It’s not clear to me at what point photos from #eltpics would no longer be appropriate”

    People don’t really go on training courses for the materials themselves, so I’m not sure that’s a great worry. I also feel that there has to be a certain level of mutual trust in a project like this. I can’t see the harm in the odd worksheet going out with an image from ELTPics on it, but don’t imagine for one minute that anyone would produce an entire set of commercial online, published or self-access materials based on the images. We assume that anyone who is worried about the legality of using one of the images will get in touch with us, and we will then field those questions and give answers – this happens regularly, and isn’t really an issue.

    In a sense this addresses Phil’s comment, too:

    “Currently, the noncommercial option only permits use of the work in any manner that is not “primarily intended for or directed towards commercial advantage or private monetary compensation.”

    I think that does cover ELTPics perfectly – we’re talking about using the images in class, in teaching materials – none of this could be interpreted as “primarily directed towards commercial advantage or monetary compensation”, I think.

    I’m fairly comfortable with the license chosen, but if others feel a compelling reason to look at alternatives it would be good to hear your comments in this space. Of course, any decision to change the license would entail informing every contributor and asking them to accept the change of permission. As it is, however, I think we’ve tried to make contributors as aware as possible of the type of license we’ve chosen and what it entails.

    All the best and happy 2012,


    1. Hi Victoria,

      It does seem that our interpretation of “primarily directed towards commercial advantage” is different, but since we’re not lawyers, I don’t think there is much point speculating which of our guesses is closer to its actual legal implications. I don’t think that sort of uncertainty is ideal, though again I’d emphasise that I’m *not* claiming that schools using #eltpics photos in their materials are at risk of legal action.

      Do you have any thoughts on my question about the attribution requirement in the license?

      Best wishes and thanks for all your work on this project,


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