One of my more popular “The Best…” lists is The Best Ways To Use Photos In Lessons. Though that list includes several online tools, I recently realized I hadn’t included many that I use and have previously posted about. So, I thought I’d bring them all together in a new list.

You might also want to explore The Best Sites For Beginning iPhone Users Like Me for even more online photo tools.

Here are my choices for The Best Online Tools For Using Photos In Lessons:

I’m a big proponent of the Picture Word Inductive Model as a strategy for English Language Learners to develop reading and writing skills (I describe it in detail in this month’s ASCD Educational Leadership in my article, Get Organized Around Assets). It begins with the teacher labeling items in thematic photos with the help of students. The webtool Thinglink could be a great deal to help ELL’s maximize the advantages of this instructional strategy. Thinglink lets you upload or grab an image or video off the web and annotate items with the image or video super-easily. It basically looks like a photo in the Picture Word Inductive Model, just online. Thinglink’s recently announced for educators and students that you can now annotate fifty images free, and the cost for far more is next-to-nothing.

Students can pick photos online or upload ones that are reinforcing the theme we’re studying, and label the items. In fact, you can even choose to have your photos/videos be able to be annotated by others, too!

“ImageSpike” Seems — Almost — Just Like “Thinglink”

Szoter doesn’t require registration, you can upload or grab images off the web (just insert its url address), and the final product looks just like an image would look like using the Picture Word Inductive Model.

Pic-Lits lets users pick an image from selection and then “drag-and-drop” words onto the image. The user’s creation can then be saved with a link posted, or it can be embedded. It has some elements that might make it particularly useful to English Language Learners. The words you can choose from are labeled by their parts of speech, and once you drop the word on the image you can see all the different verb conjugations and choose one. You can write a poem or describe the picture. You also have the option of writing whatever words you want if you don’t want to be limited by the words available to drag-and-drop.

Five Card Flickr Story lets you pick five photos from a group of pre-selected images from Flickr and then write a story about them. It saves your selection and story, and provides you with a link to it. No registration is required.

I take photos (and have students take photos) using iPhone apps that let you provide an accompanying audio commentary.

The best app for this kind of excellent speaking practice exercise is Fotobabble. The web version is already on The Best Sites To Practice Speaking English list, and I’m adding the phone app there, too (here are several examples where I’ve used both the web and iPhone version in class). You take a photo, provide an up-to-one minute commentary, and then can it several ways. You can email it to yourself, too, where you are provided a link to it on the Fotobabble site. You’re given the opportunity to re-record if you don’t like how it sounds on the first try, and you can make other changes to it, too. It also provides the option to embed, as I have done with this quick experiment (a photo of one of our dogs, Lola):

Another option is an app called Picle. It only gives you ten seconds of commentary, but you can choose to have it record at the same time you’re taking the photo or afterwards. It doesn’t offer an embed option, but you can link to it on the Picle website. It also doesn’t appear to give you an opportunity to re-record if you’re not satisfied with your first try. Here’s a sample – again of Lola.

enpixa is a similar iPhone app. It’s free, and you can add a thirty second recording.

Phreetings lets you search for an image (it appears to use Flickr, but I can’t be sure), drag and drop it on a virtual card, and then write something below it (it looks like you can write a lot there). You’re then given the url to copy and paste. During our study of natural disasters, for example, I can see my students finding an image labeled “Katrina” and writing a short report on what they’ve learned so far about the hurricane.

Bubblr is a super-easy tool to use for adding “speech bubbles” to online photos. ImgOps lets you do the same thing.

The Art of Storytelling is a site from the Delaware Art Museum that allows you pick a painting (they don’t use photos, but the site is so good I decided to inlude it in this list anyway), write a short story about it, record it with your computer microphone, and email the url address for posting on a student website or blog. It’s extraordinarily simple, and extraordinarily accessible to any level of English Language Learner. No registration is required.

Dubbler joins the list of several free Smartphone apps that let you record a sixty second audio caption for a photo.

Wave joins the list of several free Smartphone apps that let you record an audio caption for a photo.

Feelit joins the ever-growing list of Smartphone apps that let you record audio along with your photos.

In Looking For Assets, Not Deficits I talk about a new site and strategy called TimeSlips.

PhotoBlab is yet another Smartphone app for adding audio to your photos.

Image Quizzes is a very helpful post from Life Of A Perpetually Disorganized Teacher.

Stipple is another tool that lets you annotate photos with links to other sites or text.

Web 2.0 Tools For Beginning English Language Learners – “Szoter”

Post it is very similar to Szoter. You can upload an image from your computer or from a url address (you can put the url address of a photo in the “File Name” box and it will work, too). Then, you can easily annotate/label different parts of the image.

Quizlet Gets Even Better – You Can Now Create “Interactive Diagrams”

Using “Spot The Difference” Pictures With ELLs

Googlink: Creating Interactive Posters with Google Drawings is from Eric Curts.

Use Google Drawings as an Alternative to Thinglink is a post by Richard Byrne.

Caption Bot is a cool tool from Microsoft. You either upload an image or input its url, and its artificial intelligence software will provide a simple…caption. It seems pretty accurate and, more importantly if one is thinking about it as a language-learning tool, the captions are very simple. I’m wondering if this could be a cool self-learning tool for ELLs – they take images they find interesting on the web, try to write their own captions for them, and then make a comparison to what the Bot says?

Pixorize lets you annotate online images. You can read more about it at Richard Byrne’s blog and watch the video below.


Capsure – Share Collections of Images With Audio Notes is from Richard Byrne.


Feedback, as always, is welcome. Please contribute your own suggestions on using photos in the classroom.

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