Teach Students About Creative Commons: 15+ Resources

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 5.38.58 PMIncluded in the Digital Tips Advent Calendar and part of the Effective Technology Integration category

“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination … Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery — celebrate it if you feel like it.” ~ Jim Jarmusch

Your students will often use images, music, and content created by other individuals. Part of teaching our learners digital citizenship, is showing them how to respect copyright and how to properly cite where they found the content they use. Creative Common licensing is a simple way for people to define how their content can be used and remixed. Below are a few ideas and resources to help you teach your learners about creative commons:

Sites for Creative Common Images

  • Flickr- Go to the Flickr Advanced Search page. (Flickr.com –> click on search –> click on advanced search –> enter a keyword, like “animals”, scroll down and tick the box that says “search only in Creative Commons-licensed content”).
  • FlickrCC- a website which will look for CC images on Flickr and give you the attribution. It  is a faster option than the instructions above, but it isn’t always updated. Please click on the original image to make sure the attribution details are correct.
  • Pics4Learning- Over 35000 images for educational purposes
  • Wikimedia Commons (4 million images in the public domain)
  • Free Images (6000 stock photos, and they require you to credit them as the source)
  • World Images (80,000 photos from the California State University IMAGE project, under a non-commercial  CC license)
  • ELT Pics (Images taken by teachers for teachers, collected via Twitter and stored on Flickr, under a non-commercial CC license)
  • PhotoPin (a search engine that finds Creative Commons images)
  • Wylio- Search engine for CC images for bloggers
  • CC Image Search Engine
  • Compfight
  • PhotoXpress offers 10 free stock images a day
  • Hubspot Stock Images

Sites for Creative Common Sound Files & Music


Teach your students about creative commons.

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15+ Resources to Inspire Writing with Digital Prompts

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Included in the Digital Tips Advent Calendar and part of the Effective Technology Integration category

“The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.” ~ Vladimir Nabakov

One of my favorite activities with my students was having them keep daily journals. Each day, they knew the routine. Grab their journals, grab a pillow, sit where they want and spend 5 minutes responding to the prompt on the board. Nowadays, technology provides us more engaging ways to encourage writing. Students can journal online with blogs or use mobile technologies to capture images, record videos, and post podcasts. They can make their voices more engaging, spread their ideas, and  receive comments from around the world. Below are a few ideas and resources.

  • Vary the types of writing students do! They can create comics, digital stories, dialogues, emails, etc.
  •  Corn Dog Art features many video and writing prompts.
  •  John Spencer’s Photoprompts Tumblr has tons of writing prompts accompanied by images. They spark imagination and encourage various types of writing.
  • Luke Neff’s Image Writing Prompts are aligned with the common core and have incredible visuals.
  • Make Beliefs Comix has over 350 free printables for teachers. These can easily be shown on a projector and used as writing prompts. They are sorted by topic, event, and holidays. Students can create their own comic with this tool in multiple languages.
  • Create a digital calendar similar to this one with a writing prompt a day. Here’s a post on how to create a digital calendar.
  • Have students create their own writing prompts and integrate a few throughout the year. You could have them add their prompts to the digital calendar, which frees up your time! Assign each student a day to be in charge of creating a visual prompt. You can give them a rubric or checklist to follow.
  • If your students blog, then they could exchange their writing prompts with their peers and each respond. It’s a writing prompt exchange. Each could embed the prompt on their blogs.
  • Students like memes. They respond to them on social networks like Facebook. Use memes as writing prompts. I provide resources and instructions in this presentation, Let’s Go Viral!.
  • Write About This- a free IOS app with prompts to inspire writing and students can create their own.
  • Journal Jar- free web and phone app that when shaken comes up with a question to write about.
  • PicLits- choose an image and your students drag and drop words onto the image to create a story.
  • Scholastic Story Starters- this is an interactive website where students write their names and fill out questions.
  • Plinky- a question appears and below the question students write their opinion.
  • StoryIt- print out a picture that has the first paragraph of a story.
  • Boggles World Creative Writing- several creative writing prompts to print that were especially designed for English language learners.
  • Five Card Flickr- 5 random pictures from Flickr are posted and students can write a story in the space provided or view several other pictures.
  • One Word- This excellent website posts one word and your students have 60 seconds to write on the website whatever comes to mind.
  • Writing Fix- hundreds of journal writing prompts, writing games, and more.
  • Lightning Bug- find a story idea or develop one.
  • 100 Word Story- an image is posted and you can submit a story that is only 100 words. This site doesn’t filter so you can use your own images and have the students create the stories in class.
  • The Storyteller Blog is full of writing prompts. Some are geared for older students. Here’s a monthly  calendar with various prompts.
  • Several visual prompts on the Teaching Ideas site.
  • Tell About This- Free iPad app for students to respond through their voice to picture prompts.


Try one of these resources for writing prompts.

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The Technology May Fail You

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 4.24.09 PMIncluded in the Digital Tips Advent Calendar and part of the Effective Technology Integration category

“Don’t panic!” ~ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

During the ISTEK conference in Istanbul, I was doing a partner presentation with Sue Lyon-Jones titled, Teaching with Technology: Plan B! Ironically, our projector didn’t work. We were in a room full of teachers and we couldn’t even show our presentation. We decided to go with my part on offline activities with mobile devices while Sue got a technician. Our session was successful, the teachers walked out with valuable learning. We didn’t allow our technical difficulties to interrupt the learning process. At times, the technology will fail you. Too often I have seen teachers and presenters spend too much time fussing over the technology, and apologizing profusely. At the end of the day, your audience (including your students) came to learn from you. Let them walk away with the learning. Below are a few tips when you face technology hiccups:


Don’t panic when the technology fails, just continue with the learning.

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Help Them Brainstorm! 50+ Tips & Resources

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Included in the Digital Tips Advent Calendar and part of the Effective Technology Integration category

“An idea, like a ghost, must be spoken to a little before it will explain itself.” – Charles Dickens

Brainstorming is an important process that students should do frequently so it becomes a ritual they continue throughout their lives. Students need to get into the habit of spending time with their thoughts, fleshing them out, and discovering the best way way to feed their inspiration. Brainstorming helps improve writing, organizes ideas, inspires discussion, and provides a roadmap for projects. When brainstorming is combined with sketching, drawing, and thinking on graphic organizers, it helps learners to organize their thoughts for better flow and cohesion. Moreover, learners can make connections to previous knowledge and expand on what they already know. This means the brain will process the new information into long-term memory. I integrate brainstorming as a pre-task to lay the foundation for nearly every task and project. You don’t have to waste tons of paper brainstorming, because we have access to many free apps and web tools that allow students to brainstorm more effectively and also keep a digital record of their brainstorming process. Below is a list of resources along with tips!


Storyboards are useful when integrating multimedia projects such as making movies and various digital storytelling projects. These are some of my favorite storyboarding templates and resources:

Graphic Organizers

Graphic organizers help categorize and organize thoughts and ideas to make connections the way the brain does. It helps clear the clutter of our ideas and gives our writing and creation process a direction. Check out my webinar recording filled with tips.  Below, I have included the slide presentation and also listed some resources.

These are some of my favorite tools and resources:

Free Brainstorming Mobile Apps

I’ve listed a few brainstorming apps but my personal favorites are Popplet, PenUltimate, and Educreations.

  • Idea Sketch IOS/Android Mindmapping App- Draw a diagram, mind map, concept map, or flow chart and convert it to a text outline and vice versa. Print with a PDF or download to Dropbox.
  • Popplet web/IOS App- The browser base app provides collaborative mindmapping. Students can support text with images from Flickr or Youtube videos. They can upload their own. Embeddable.
  • IBrainstorm IOS app- Create sticky notes as well as free form drawing. Email the brainstorming session.
  • Inkflow IOS app- Sketch & write ideas then move them around and organize them.
  • ***PenUltimate- Draw & write on notebook paper on your iPad. The writing becomes searchable, stored, and categorized with Evernote that is compatible with all devices.
  • ***EduCreations iPad app- Interactive whiteboard and screen recording app. Ability to include images taken and from the web and narrate with audio. Creates a video that can be embedded. Students can record their brainstorming while creating their mindmaps.
  • ShowMe iPad app- Interactive whiteboard and screen recording app. Ability to include images and narrate with audio. Creates a video that can be embedded. Students can record their brainstorming while creating their mindmaps.
  • Screen Chomp iPad app- Interactive whiteboard and screen recording app. Ability to include images and narrate with audio. Creates a video to download. Students can record their brainstorming while creating their mindmaps.

More Resources

Blog posts related to concept mapping and integrating graphic organizers:

Check out my bookmarks on PearlTrees.

brainstorming apps in Graphic/ Writing Organizers / Inspiring Writing / English Language Teaching


Find the right tool for your task.

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10 Ways Teachers Can Use BigMarker

Guest post from BigMarker, a free online tool for online teaching

Education is constantly changing. Technological innovations will increasingly allow us to break down the walls of the classroom to connect students with teachers, guest speakers, and professionals around the world. Virtual field trips are becoming more common, and in some classrooms, physical textbooks are a thing of the past. We are truly living in exponential times, and today’s teachers and students are fortunate to be at the forefront of our era’s technology revolution. BigMarker is a place where people come together to learn, share, and collaborate in live web conferences, and keep the conversation going between meetings in online communities. From the many communities using BigMarker for educational purposes, we have learned quite a bit. In this blog, we will consider 9 ways that educators can use BigMarker.

1. Professional Development

One of the most visible educational communities on BigMarker is Global Math Department.  With over 700 members in over 30 countries, the community is based on professional development amongst friends to improve math education for students everywhere. The community believes that no matter how experienced a teacher is, there is always going to be someone who has a different technique or perspective. Professional development through video conferencing allows educators to connect on a global scale to share thoughts and ideas. This admirable desire reaffirms the dedication that educators have as they are constantly striving to better themselves.

2. Streaming Classes Online

Streaming classes is a powerful teaching method. Most schools could benefit from having a distant learning option to reach students when they can’t make it to campus. During some of the worst floods that Southeast Asia has ever seen, high school teachers in Bangkok used BigMarker to stream classes, allowing students who fled the country to as far away as Japan and Korea to attend virtually. Despite schools not reopening for a matter of months due to the damage done to buildings, class was back in session within a matter of weeks.

3. Connecting Classrooms Virtually

By scheduling a video conference, teachers in separate buildings, schools, and even countries can connect their classrooms. Students can participate in case studies, debates, group discussions, and interviews, building relationships with peers in other locations.

4. Streaming Guest Speakers into the Classroom

By hosting a special speaker day, teachers can rejuvenate their students and provide international perspective on subject matter. Inviting an expert or author into the classroom through a videoconference can add a new layer to the lesson plan, adding another dimension and level of credibility. Video conferencing gives students access to learning experiences that previous generations could only attain through physical field trips. One school that has mastered streaming content into the classroom is the Center of Science and Industry (COSI) in Columbus, Ohio. Recently, COSI showed a live knee replacement surgery to a science class. Other notable examples include connecting political science classes to government leaders in Washington and even connecting students to the international space station.

5. Day-long Seminars

Get Read is a community established for author and writer collaboration. Recently, it hosted a day-long event divided into various seminars. Each discussion focused on a different area and members had the power to choose which areas they wished to attend. Opting for an event like this provides a low-cost way to host an educational convention, where teachers from all over can organize a day of collaboration and where multiple topics can be addressed through separate discussions.

6. Tutoring

Many educators use BigMarker for tutoring purposes. Kendall College, for example, has subcategorized their classes into separate online learning communities, each of which provide extra help, office hours, and study sessions for students. From business to culinary arts, there are many forums for students to receive the extra support they need.

7. Online Classes

DoctoralNet hosts a weekly class for students on their path to earning a PhD, helping with research, writing dissertations, and staying sane while doing it. Outside of their virtual classes, students and instructors can access recordings of past sessions, tapping into the institutional memory of the community. They remain constantly connected through threaded discussions, while sharing files and resources that everyone can benefit from. The door is always open for Q&A and individual support as well, through private messaging with the instructor team. Finally, by collecting membership dues to their community, DoctoralNet has been able to earn revenue. The combination of these tools and activities results in a community of well-equipped PhD students; DoctoralNet has helped 150 new PhDs successfully graduate so far.

8. Staff Meetings

Staff meetings are an ever-present aspect of education. BigMarker helps schools, departments within schools, and teams virtualize meetings so it is no longer necessary to sit through 30 minutes of traffic just to drive across town for a one-hour meeting. Meeting participants can listen to the meeting and participate using their computer’s microphone and webcam. Everyone can view the same file, presentation, or the presenter’s desktop. And attendees can use a chat feature to ask questions without interrupting the flow of the conversation. Educators from Michigan State University, Boise State, Kendall College, and Northwestern University have used BigMarker to cut travel expenses and make meeting face-to-face easier, no matter where people are.

9. Study Groups

Not only is BIgMarker useful for educators to provide extra support for their students, it is also a handy place for students to get together and share thoughts amongst themselves. BigMarker provides study groups an online space for learning, sharing, and collaboration, making it extremely convenient for group members to participate from school, home, or on the go. Groups that can’t secure a study room at the library now have a place to meet, and if a member can’t attend, they have the option to view the recording so they don’t miss out. Finally, the materials from a study group can be archived so future students can benefit from the lessons learned by those who came before them.

10. Alumni Networks

It can be difficult to stay connected to alumni as people move, take on new responsibilities, and start families. In person events can be difficult to organize and get to as we’re increasingly time-constrained. One community that has overcome this hurdle is the Stanford Military Service Network, which is organizing a vibrant alumni network that is social, productive, and accessible to alumni around the world, without commuting.

Final Thoughts

In the past three years of building BigMarker, we’ve partnered with, listened to, and learned from thousands of educators around the globe — from pre-K teachers, to college professors. We’ve found that rapidly-evolving technology creates a number of challenges. For example, how can we limit the distractions that the always-connected generation of students is facing? How can we productively make use of smart devices to enhance learning? How can we use connectivity to enrich lessons with the perspectives of others far away? BigMarker views these challenges as opportunities, and is aggressively building new ways for students and teachers to achieve their goals by being better connected. For more information or to come chat with us, visit BigMarker.com.

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