Teaching Students About Using Images off Wikipedia

We want our students to start creating…
We want them to use different media to express themselves, demonstrate their understanding, learning and connections to the world.

So, the teacher has agreed to the substitution of the traditional written book report (from years past) with allowing students (5th Grade) to create and record a PhotoStory based on a biography of  a famous person.

Step one was to give students an overview of using PhotoStory. Step two was the issue of obtaining images they could us.  I was amazed at how many students were STILL thinking that it was OK to just google images, right click, save as and voila!

I know for a fact, that most of them were introduced to the issue of copyright through one of the projects they had done in TechConnect last year.

  • They did not listen?
  • It was too complex to understand?
  • It did not sink in?
  • It was not reinforced on other occasions?

Some students had even their parents help them save images obtained from a google search. (Note to myself: Need to offer Copyright issues workshop for parents next school year)

So, Step two was an opportunity to revisit and reinforce copyright issues students encounter when creating digital projects involving images.

Allowing my elementary school students to “freely” search for images on the web is not an option.

At the beginning of this school year, I had created a  Media Library on our server, where I placed public domain and creative commons licensed images, sounds and video clips to be used in projects.

The question is though: How are they going to learn, if we (teachers)  pre-chew everything for them?

For this biography project, I wanted them to search for images of their famous person on Wikipedia and learn to be  (1) aware, (2) check the licensing options of each image and (3) cite the image credits properly in the PhotoStory project.

As a whole group. I showed them to check  for copyright license by clicking on the image itself .


Scroll down, pass the image to take a closer look at the license of the image.


If the image is in public domain, students are free to save the image and import into their project. They do not need to credit any source.


If the image is licensed under GNU Free Documentation License or  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License, students are free to download the image, but are required to give credit to the author or owner of the image. They are to save the image with the “by author or username” before importing it into their project and include the name in a credit page in their project.


I believe that elementary school students are NOT too young to learn about copyright and copywrong. A school project should not be placed into a different  category that make it ok  to not follow the law because:

  • well, it does not really matter…
  • it is not “real”…
  • it does not count…
  • I am not “really” doing anything wrong…
  • no one will know, except my teacher…

Expressions, like “YES!!” with accompanying body language could be heard all around the classroom, when students found a good image and it happened to be in public domain.

They are being aware of copyright issues and they are becoming familiar with terms such as Creative Commons and Public Domain.

Will it “sink” in this time?