Pixabay – free graphics and photos with no restrictions

Pixabay-logo.svgNothing beats free and Pixabay offers pictures and graphics with the CC0 license which is the least restrictive license possible. Simply put: take the image and forget about it.

Pixabay_screenshotBest yet, these are good quality images.   Pixabay has almost 300,000 images which can be found with Google.

Pixabay does not require attribution although I always require my students to credit their sources even when they are public domain. Pixabay does not require sign-in although they limit your downloads to medium size.  The site comes in Spanish as well as number of other languages.

colored-pencils-168392_1280This is a fantastic site.   My only minor quibble is that they also include Shutterstock photos which are not free. This might be confusing for some students.

If your students need pictures for their projects, Pixabay is a fantastic resource.


Resource: Pixabay

Description:  Thousands of high quality pictures and graphics with no licensing restrictions.

License CC0/no restrictions

Alternatives: Wikimedia Commons

Rating: highly useful

morgueFile – free stock photos

jjffjj_morgueFile_logoMorgueFilemorgueFile includes a collection of free photos with very few restrictions. Many of the photos in morgueFile (why the name?) have that “stock” look associated with commercial sites.

Helpfully, photos can be searched with key words.  Less helpfully, the site also includes links to commercial stock photos which are not free.  Students will need to keep within the free portion of the site.

morgueFile uses its own license which is similar to the Creative Commons license but is slightly more confusing.  The photos are meant to be used for “reference” and not redistributed unaltered.   As I understand the license, if you put a photo on a blog or web site, the photo should have attribution and link back to morgueFile (as I do below) rather than redistributing it from your site.

For in-classroom use, this should be no problem since you are not redistributing the photo.

by Middlewick







Tool:  morgueFile
Description:  stock photos licensed for reuse
License: morgueFile license
Alternatives: Wikimedia Commons, Flickr, Yahoo CC image search
Rating: very useful

Getty Open Content Program — free photos of fine art

Getty Logo




The Getty Museum provide high quality public domain images of their collection available with virtually no restrictions (attribution is requested.)   Kudos to the Getty Trust for their dedication to open content — an effort that more appropriately should be led by publicly funded museums.   Getty_screenshot

Currently Getty provides over 87,000 public domain images which can be found on the Getty Search Gateway with the “Open Content Images” filter selected.

Click on the image below to see the excellent documentation that comes with each image.

Digital image courtesy of the Getty's Open Content Program.
Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.








This is a fantastic contribution to the open information movement.  Thank you Getty Trust!







Tool:   Getty Open Content Program
Description:  Public domain photos of the Getty art collection.
License: Public domain with attribution requested.
Alternatives: Wikimedia Commons
Rating: very useful


openclipart – free clip art (yes, really free)

Open Clipart LogoThere are a lot of sites that offer “free clip art” but they are, in fact, a hassle to download. Some have viruses or spyware.

Openclipart ScreenshotOpenclipart is truly free… find a piece of clipart and download it. No registration, no watermarks, no royalties.

Openclipart has 50,000 images which may seem like a lot but you can not have enough clip art! As I browsed around this site, I sometimes didn’t always find what I wanted.

Even so, I suggest you bookmark openclipart and make it your first source for clipart.

Tools: openclipart
Description: free clip art
License: public domain
Alternatives: many others
Rating: very useful

Free Music Archive – legal music for your students’ projects (and yours, too!)

jjffjj Free Music Archive LogoObviously, many students steal music without a second-thought.  As educators, we can make them think twice by not accepting projects with stolen content.
And, by “think twice,” I mean teaching them about respect for artists.
But, it is not a reasonable requirement if permission is too hard to get or if royalties are more than a couple of bucks.jjffjj Free Music Archive Screenshot
Free Music Archive helps solve that problem because nearly all of the artists have given permission to use their songs non-commercially.   And, importantly, the music is usefully organized by genre and properly documented.
Free Music Archive is a service of WFMU, one of the great “open”  radio stations in America (another is KEXP who also contribute to this project).
With 63,000 songs, organized into 15  genres (including some specifically for video soundtracks) it is reasonable to require that students use legal music for their videos and multi-media presentations.   While licenses vary at FMI, nearly every song I surveyed had a Creative Commons license that would allow classroom use.

Tool:  Free Music Archive
Description:  Free music, mostly licensed for re-use.
License: mostly  Creative Commons
Alternatives: Audio archive at Archive.org
Rating: very useful

Dinky page – free web pages, no account required

  SAD TO SAY, Dinky page is no longer running.

Dinky page proDinkypage - logovides you with a place to create web pages without registration or any personal information. The pages don’t expire and have very few restrictions.  And, Dinky page is completely free.

What’s the catch?  Ads, both on the top and the bottom of your page.  Worse, their is no guarantee that your will be suitable for a younger audience.

But, if your audience can tolerate ads, Dinky page is an excellent resource.

Dinkypage - main screenDinky page is very basic —  I could not get any plug-ins or “gadgets” to work properly even though the website says it can handle Javascript/Flash. But Dinky page provides most of the “Web 1.0” features you’ll need and probably more if you had the patience to get it to work.  You can create and link multiple pages to create a whole web site.  Graphics and photos will need to be hosted on Flikr, imjur or similar.

It has a “paste Word” button which seems like a very useful feature for Word users who understand that not everybody owns Word.

I can think of a couple of uses for Dinky page, the first being a place to host any anonymous web page.  If there are times where you don’t want to associate a site with either your personal or professional life, Dinky page provides that place. In this era where students constantly Google your name, that is a valuable service.

The second is as an HTML sandbox.  If you are teaching a course in basic web page authoring, it’s a time saver to have a site where the students don’t need to register or sign-in.

So, if you can tolerate advertisements, Dinky page could be very useful for you.

Tool: Dinky page
Description: a free (but ad-driven) web site hosting service that requires on account
License: open ethos
Alternative: Google sites, many others
Rating: very useful

Yahoo Image Search — for Creative Commons photos

Can we lecture our students about ethical use of media when we teachers just grab “All Rights Reserved” pictures off the internet?
Fortunately, Yahoo has a filter for Creative Commons licensed photos.
The filter is easy to miss, since it is tucked away at the bottom left-side of the screen after you do an image search.   But, once found, it’s as easy as a click to use.

In my “PowerPoints” I add a last page giving credit for the photos, saying “Photos Used With Permission”.  In my mind, this is part of the teaching process.

Tool:Yahoo image search, for Creative Commons photos.
Description: Photos licensed for sharing.
License:  Creative Commons
Alternatives: Wikimedia Commons, Flickr
Rating: very useful

WriteType – kids’ word processor with spelling assist

WriteType_logoWriteType is a simple word processor for younger children which scaffolds students in spelling.

It is available for Linux and Windows. The Windows program can be installed on flash drive or a LAN location. It comes in Spanish and other languages.

The best part of the program is what it does not have — feature bloat. It has just fifteen icon options but they are the ones young writers need — bold, italic, center, print, save, etc. Younger students should find it visually appealing.

WriteType_screenshotSpelling assist
Rather than distracting auto-complete it guesses a list of possible words on the right side of the screen. Students can insert the word with a function key. Although spelling assist is now common in word processors, there is debate on whether this hurts or helps spelling ability.  This feature can not be turned-off.

You may want to turn-off the text-to-speech buttons (which can easily be done) since it would be distracting in a classroom and I’m not sure how it assists typing. The voice is artificial-sounding (on my computer, anyway), so it probably isn’t very helpful for English learners. However it might be very useful for sight-impaired students.

Unusual file format
Rather than use the standard ODF file format, WriteType creates an HTTP document but with a .wtd extension. I’m normally critical of non-standard file formats but using a unique file extension allows young children to click on a file icon and automatically load WriteType rather than a web browser . The files can be easily exported (or renamed) as an HTML file which then makes this a rare child-friendly web authoring program.

Bottom line: this is the best (younger) kids word processor I’ve seen so far.

Tool: WriteType 1.3
Description: a children’s word processor with spelling assist.
License: GNU (free and open source)
Alternative: ooo4kids
Rating: very useful



ePub – open file format for eBooks

ePub is an eBook file format which allows text to be reflowed and resized to fit almost any screen or device.

In an era where your document might be read on a gigantic computer monitor or a tiny iPod, this is a huge advantage.

While ePubs can include graphics, it’s best for text-intensive files. While not good for graphic novels or an art book, it can handle just about anything you would create in Word or LibreOffice from a short poem to a full novel.  It would be a very good way to publish syllabus, for example.

Reading ePubs: ePub is an open standard and is the native file format for Nook and Sony Reader eBook readers. (Sadly, Kindle has its own format.) Other devices will need an ePub reader/app.  iPad users have iBooks which I haven’t used but seems cool. Google Play offers an app for Android users. On Windows and Linux, I use Calibre.

Creating ePubs: For creating files, Pages (OsX) and Abobe InDesign directly support ePub. Most users will need Calibre or Sigil to convert their word processor document to an ePub. It’s not difficult but it is an extra step. Sigil is my favorite. If you are a little geeky, ePub is form of XHTML and there are number of tools for that format.

I expect that ePub will be much better supported in the near future and will be an enduring file format. Google Books, Project Gutenberg and my local library use ePub. I suspect that many more will follow.


Tool: ePub
Description: a file format for eBooks
License: free and open-source.
Alternatives: PDF, .mobi (for kindle), HTML, RTF
Rating: very useful