MET:Pedagogical Uses of Flickr

From UBC Wiki

This page was originally authored by Jennifer Chu and Erik Van Dusen (2008).

Flickr Defined

Flickr is a popular online application, which allows users to store, sort and share digital photos. In addition to its rich database of images, Flickr is also a community site that facilitates collaboration and creativity amongst its users who contribute to the site’s content. It is a powerful application which holds enormous educational potential (Ricardson, 2006). Flickr is commonly cited as an example to define Web 2.0 (Cox, 2007). Originally launched by Ludicorp in February 2004, Flickr was acquired by Yahoo! Inc. in March 2005.

Tour of Flickr

  • Upload - allow users to upload from your desktop, send by email, or use your cameraphone.
  • Edit - allow users to get creative with fonts and effects!
  • Organize - allow users to use collections, sets, and tags to organize photos and videos.
  • Share - allow users to use groups and privacy controls to share photos and videos.
  • Maps - allow users to share where photos and videos were taken, and see photos and videos which were taken near.
  • Make Stuff - allowusers to make Sexy cards, photo books, framed prints, etc
  • Keep in Touch - allow users to get updates from family and friends.

Educational Uses

"Social networks bring people together who share common interests and give those participants the tools to produce, collect, share, and re-mix artifacts". (Dieu & Stevens, 2007)

Educators have the ability to give participants the freedom to explore and choose their own learning in online activities. Participation in social networks will allow learners to use the intrinsic motivation which lies within all students. Flickr is one such social network that allows people to use photos as a medium to break down not only geographic barriers, but educational barriers that exist in a traditional classroom environment.

Since many language learners may fear participation whether oral or written, here are a few examples of how Flickr can help to overcome linguistic barriers and begin to promote visual literacy skills: The educational potential of Flickr is endless, so the following is just a tasting:

Commenting of Flickr (Example: Image on the right)

  • Students are able to practice grammar and vocabulary skills learned in class.
  • Students will be able to learn conversational starters, making compliments and criticisms, and asking questions.
  • For assessment purposes, comments can be viewed at anytime.

Blogging With Flickr

  • Students can add photos to a blog they are writing or contributing to. *Teachers can assign certain topics for learners to write about.
  • Students can embed an image from Flickr photos in relation to what they are writing.

Digital Storytelling

  • Students can develop online stories through the use of images.
  • Students can upload their own images or search for pre-existing photos that would be relevant to their storyline.
  • Students can tell their stories through writing under each image in the "comment" box.

Bubbling Comic Dialogue (Example: Image on the right)

  • The application, Bubblr, allows learners to create dialogue using speech and through bubbles onto selected Flickr photos.
  • Students are able to select and search for photos according to keywords to add to each frame of their photo comic strip.

A Look at Local Communities and Heritage

  • A student studying about community and heritage can take a walking tour of a historic district and take photographs of various architectural elements. These photos are organized into a "set" and then viewed in a Flickr generated slideshow during an oral report to their class.

Exploring Geography Through Flickr (Example: Image on the right)

  • With the addition of geotagging to Flickr, users are able to see where users are located.
  • Students can explore the world around them from the comfort of their own classroom and home through photographs.
  • Learners are able to see the world's beauty from all cultural perspectives. *A great website that is trying to create a global community is

The Colour Palette

  • Educators can explore the use of colours in Art through Flickr.
  • Students can investigate the colour wheel and palette through an application like Colr Pickr where they could adjust the shade and tone of a specific colour to their own liking. *They could also compare and contrast between warm and cool colours.

Trading Cards

  • This tool from Big Huge Labs allows students to create customized trading cards using their digital photos on Flickr.
  • Student can create trading cards for Social Studies with information about a country they are researching, famous landmarks found in the country.


The use of photo sharing sites such as Flickr is not without criticism. The demands of commercialism and advertising have had an impact on the site's functionality (Cox, 2007) and uploads are limited to 20MB per month unless a user is willing to pay for an upgraded account. In educational settings, Flickr's user generated content can cause problems in terms of questionable and sensitive photos being accessed by students. Although the site uses a content filter, there is no guarantee as to the quality or appropriateness of the site's content for school and student use. Using web applications such as Flickr in educational settings carries some risks and it is usually the teacher's job to teach students what is safe to post in terms of safety and privacy (Richardson, 2006). There exists a difficult balancing act between maintaining a level of student safety versus the potential benefits of contributing to the read/write web.

External Resources and Links

A Flickr Tutorial

Common Craft's Online Photo Sharing in Plain English

Spell with Flickr

Mapping with Flickr

Categorizing Photos by Topic via Flickr

A Global Community of Photos

Add Bubbles (Dialogue) to Pictures

AlphaLearnr (Picture Dictionary)

Printr Killr (Calendar)

Flickr Colour Pickr

Postcards Using Flickr

Home of Flickr Toys

Categorizing Pictures by Date

Categorizing Pictures by Tags


Campbell, A. (2007). Motivating language learners with Flickr. TESL-EJ, 11(2). Retrieved February 10, 2008 from

Cox, A.M. (2007). Flickr: What is new in Web2.0? Retrieved February 10, 2008 from

Dieu, B. & Stevens, V. (2007). Pedagogical affordances of syndication, aggregation, and mash-up of content on the web. TESL-EJ, 11(1). Retrieved February 10, 2008 from

Jakes, D. (2007). Using Flickr in the classroom. Illinois Education and Technology Conference. Retrieved February 10, 2008 from

Richardson, W. (2006). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful tools for classrooms. USA: Corwin Press.