No More Homework Images Clip

Not sure if you saw the news, but Microsoft is going to dump clip art. In its place, you’ll have access to a Bing image search, which will be filtered by Creative Commons licensing. Theoretically the images can be used in your courses and presentations. However that may not be the case.

Here are a few quick thoughts.

Clip Art is Often Crap Art

While there’s a lot of clip art available, most of it is dated and hasn’t been updated to reflect more contemporary visual design and styles. Unfortunately many of those images end up in presentations and elearning courses. Because people tend to mix and match these images, some of the presentations and online courses are a bit discordant. They lack a coherent visual design and fall into the Frankencourse category.

In that case dropping clip art is probably a good thing for course designers. It forces us to be more intentional about the graphics we use in our courses. It also puts some pressure on organizations to finally commit some of their training budgets to graphic and visual design resources.

Vector Illustrations Rock

Clip art gets a bad rap but you don’t see the same complaints about “vector illustrations.” However, most clip art images offered through the Microsoft site are actually vector illustrations. So if you’re still using clip art from the site, start calling them vector illustrations. And later when you need money for illustrations, you’ll sound more sophisticated and avoid some of the eye rolling you’d get asking for a clip art budget.

What’s the difference between vector and bitmap images?

Bitmap images are a grid of cells we call pixels. For example, if an image is 300×300 it is going to have 300 pixels from left to right and 300 pixels from top to bottom to form a grid of 90,000 pixels. If the image is scaled up, the pixels become larger and we get that blurry pixelated look. That’s not good.

Vector images are based on a mathematical formula to draw lines and shapes. When you scale a vector image it remains crisp because you’re not scaling pixels. Vector images also tend to have smaller file sizes because they have to store less information about the image.

The most common image formats are .JPG, .GIF, and .PNG. Those are bitmaps. In PowerPoint, the most common vector images formats are .EMF and .WMF.

Clip Art Offered a Lot of Options

Many of you work with limited resources so the free clip art vector illustrations that Microsoft made available was important to getting your work done. What makes vector illustrations great for work in PowerPoint is that not only do you always have crisp images, you can also ungroup them to their individual parts. That means they can be recolored and edited to meet the needs of your projects. That’s not as easy to do with a bitmap image which requires more editing.

Here are a few tips:

  • Take advantage of the free resources now and save what you can from the site before it’s gone. Here’s a link to the clip art site if you can’t find it.
  • Plan on asking for an assets budget when you begin work on your courses. Also, if you need specific images where will you get them?
  • Find cheap alternatives. Sometimes you can find old software applications at used bookstores. For example, it seems there are always greeting card creators in the discount bins. They usually have disks loaded with images. I buy them whenever I see them in the discount bins.
  • Learn basic image editing so that you can begin to create and edit your own graphics. Once the clip art site is gone, you’ll have to do more to create the right images for your courses. Now’s the time to learn some basic editing techniques.

Creative Commons Beware

I like that the Bing search feature will default to a Creative Commons filter. In theory, all of the images should work for your presentations and courses in some manner.

However, creating a student project or presentation is a bit different than creating a professional and commercial elearning course. That means you’ll need to verify that the images you use via the Creative Commons search can be used for commercial work. This requires a lot of extra work because you need to find images and then search their sites for the appropriate license.

I did a few image search tests and while the sites that hosted the image may have been under some sort of Creative Commons license, many of the images were not necessarily owned but the site author. In my tests, there was nothing to indicate that the site owner actually had rights to the image for me to use.

So basically, you can’t trust the images you find in the search. You’ll have to do a lot more digging if you want to use those images in your projects. Here’s a post I did on ways to attribute Creative Commons images when you use them in your courses.

Personally, I’m kind of bummed about the decision to drop the free clip art available from the office.com site. Years ago I worked for an organization that had no money for my projects. I took a lot of pride in MacGyvering the free PowerPoint clip art and making my own images. I was always able to create what I needed and it’s been a cool trick to show at workshops, too.

I’m sure many of you are in the same boat. You work for organizations that have no budget for graphics and illustrations and you don’t have resources to help create what you need. If you are one of the ones who depends on the clip art site, what’s your plan going forward? What suggestions do you have for the other blog readers? Share it with is in the comments section.

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Guide: Is homework a good idea or not?

The Christmas holidays are over and it's back to school!

That means lessons, assembly, seeing your friends and - for a lot of you - time to do homework again!

While giving homework to pupils in secondary schools is generally seen as a good idea, some don't think that kids in primary schools should have to do it.

For the last 100 years or so, experts have been trying to work out if it is beneficial to give homework to kids in primary schools.

In the UK, the government says it's up to the head teacher to decide whether or not their school will set extra work like this.

Find out more about both sides of the argument with Newsround's guide, and then let us know what you think of doing homework when you're in primary school.

What is homework?

Homework: A timeline

  • 1997: Just over 6 in every 10 primary schools made their pupils do homework
  • 1998: Government publishes advice for schools in England and Wales about setting homework (e.g. pupils aged 5 to 7 should do 10 minutes of homework a night)
  • 1999: Around 9 in 10 primary schools are setting homework
  • 2012: Government gets rid of its guidelines, saying that schools should get to decide for themselves

Homework generally means work that is set by teachers for you to do outside of your normal school hours.

When you're younger, your parents might help you to do it.

But as you get older, you will generally take more responsibility for doing your homework on your own.

Professor Sue Hallam from the Institute of Education - who is one of the most experienced researchers into homework in the UK - says that in 1997, just over 6 in every 10 primary schools made their pupils do homework.

Just two years later, this had risen to around nine in ten primary schools and the majority still set homework now.

Why do people think homework is a good idea?

Many think that giving homework to primary school children is an important part of their learning.

They believe it helps them to practice what that they have learnt in lessons, in order to get better at things like spelling and handwriting.

They say it helps to teach children how to work on their own and be disciplined with themselves - both skills that are useful later in life.

It can also allow parents or guardians to get involved in their children's learning.

To find out more about why people think homework is a good idea, Jenny spoke to Chris from the campaign for Real Education, which is a group of teachers and parents who care about how well schools are doing.

Members of the organisation believe that traditional homework is important.

Chris told Newsround: "If you like learning, homework helps to support your learning. It's really important to go back afterwards and think about what you're learning in class. Practice makes perfect."

"In parts of the world, children are doing much better in school than children in the UK. In most cases, they are doing much more homework.

"That doesn't mean you should be doing home work all the time.

"But a little bit of homework to support what you're doing in the classroom, involving your parents and guardians, is really good because it allows you to do as well as everybody else in the world."

Chris added that it is important to have a balance between homework and other activities.

"Homework shouldn't be overdone. Let's do some homework and some play."

Why do people think homework is a bad idea?

Some people think that giving homework to children at primary school is not necessary.

They think it puts too much pressure on them and that the time spent doing homework could be used to do other activities.

Jenny also spoke to Nansi Ellis - assistant general secretary of one of the biggest teacher's unions in England, made up of teachers and heads - who doesn't believe that giving homework to primary school children is needed.

She told Newsround: "There is other good stuff you can do at home, like reading, playing sport or a musical instrument, or helping with the cooking, shopping or with your siblings. You might be a Guide or a Scout.

"Those things are really helpful for you to learn to work in a team, to learn to be creative, to ask questions and to help other people. These are really important skills.

"The trouble with homework is that it gets in the way of all of those good things that you could be doing and it doesn't necessarily help you with your school work."

Sometimes parents or guardians try to help with homework and, if they have been taught differently, it can end up being confusing for the child doing the homework. They can also end up doing too much of the work themselves!

Nansi added: "Some children live in really busy houses with lots of people coming and going, and they don't have a quiet space to do homework, so they can't use it to help them to get better at studying on their own, which doesn't seem fair.

"Teachers set homework for you to get better at your learning - that seems like a really good reason. But actually, the evidence isn't clear that even that's true."

Another expert Rosamund McNeil, from a teachers' organisation called the NUT, said: "Pupils in Finland are assigned very little homework yet they remain one of the most educationally successful countries in the world."

Why is this issue being talked about?

People have been trying to find out if homework is a good thing or a bad thing for many years.

Recently, a report was done by an organisation called the Teaching Schools Council, which works with the government and schools in England.

It says: "Homework [in primary schools] should have a clear purpose."

The report explains that if there isn't a clear reason for the homework and the pupils won't necessarily gain something from doing it, then it should not be set.

Dame Reena Keeble, an ex-primary school head teacher who led the report, told Newsround: "What we are saying in our report is that if schools are setting homework for you, they need to explain to you - and your mums and dads - why they're setting it, and your teachers need to let you know how you've done in your homework.

"We found homework can really help with your learning, as long as your school makes sure that what you're doing for your homework is making a difference."

So is homework a good idea or a bad idea?

Many people have different opinions. However, the truth is it's hard to know.

Professor Hallam explains that part of the problem is that it is difficult to accurately work out how useful homework is.

Generally, people agree that homework is good idea for children in secondary school.

But for primary school, it isn't clear if there's a right or wrong answer to this question.

And you've been having your say too.

Nearly 900 of you took part in an online vote about the amount of homework you get: whether it is not enough, just right or too much.

It's just a quick snapshot of what some of you think. Here's the results:

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