Posted by David R. Wetzel, Ph.D.
Like everything else on the Internet, trying to find images is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Without the right tools for finding science and math images on the web it is often an impossible, or at least mind-numbing, task. What is needed are search engines which make the job easier.
This is where the tips and tricks provided below help this seemingly impossible task by using the top search Web 2.0 search engines and tools available today. These are valuable resources for both you and your students when trying to find just the right image for lesson or project involving digital media.
Image Search Engines
The search engines and tools discussed below are specifically designed to search the billions of images available on the web. The following are tips for finding images, along with selected tricks for using the features of each search engine or tool.
Google Images Swirl – organizes image search results based on their visual similarities and presents them in an intuitive interface. Image Swirl currently works for nearly over 400,000 queries and they have plans to include additional queries in the future.
The trick to finding the right science or math image is to type in a specific word(s) such as fractal geometry or bald eagles. A collection of images appear and clicking on one of the images provides the following.
You can continue clicking on images until there are no longer any images within the category for you to view.
Image Swirl also provides a list of additional search words which lead to additional images related to the initial search word(s).
For example: in a search for images of Bald Eagles you can also use the search words Endangered Species, Birds, and Aleutian Islands.
Fagan Finder – is a directory of search engines, data bases of stock photographs, photo sharing sites, science and education sites, news and blog sites, and others. If you’re in need of specific science or math images, this is a great place to begin the search. Fagan Finder is designed to help you and your students find things on the web, in this case images.
PicSearch – connects you and your students to the vast image resources of the Internet. PicSearch searches the web for images which are perfect for schools and educational settings. This search engine uses filters to ensure offensive images are eliminated from its data bases.
When a query is sent to PicSearch the result is received as a set of thumbnail images, which are then sorted to ensure that they are as highly relevant as possible. By clicking on a selected science or math thumbnail image, you are forwarded to the original web site where that image is located.
Tag Galaxy – is a search tool which provides an exceptional visual experience when searching for images on Flickr. You can make an initial search using a keyword or tag, for example geometry. This keyword or tag appears as an image of the sun in our solar system, with planets circling the sun. By clicking on the sun all Flickr images related to the search tag are displayed. Next a sphere appears with all the Flickr images related to the geometry tag.
The sphere can be rotated in any direction to find a science or math image of your choice. One trick when using Tag Galaxy is to use the advanced search feature by selecting one of the keyword or tag planets circling the sun. Clicking on a planet narrows the search to fewer related images. Continuing this advanced search technique narrows the search to find the desired image.
According to Educause Learning Initiative (February, 2008), the use of images provide both teachers and students with visual stimulation for critical thinking in any educational endeavor where projects use digital images for visual learning.
An important tip for your students is to ensure images are copyright free before using them for assignments, especially those which will appear on the web when complete.