Flickr is one of those websites that you discover and suddenly realize that everyone in the world knows about it but you. (Welcome to my world!)
Flickr is a website designed to allow people to share their pictures with each other and with the world. Let's say you just bought a new puppy and you wanted all your friends and relatives to see it (especially your Aunt Helga who said you were too irresponsible to keep a cactus alive - take THAT, you old biddy!). You could upload a photo of your puppy looking very cute and allow:
a) nobody to see it,
b) a selected list of friends and family to see it or
c) the whole world to see it.
This third catagory of photos is what is most interesting to me as a teacher. There are literally many millions of people out there, constantly uploading their pictures that they really really want people to look at. Some of these are incredily useful in the classroom.
For instance, let's say that you are preparing your class for a fieldtrip to the New England Aquarium. There are hundreds of teachers and parents out their who have already visited the aquarium and posted pictures of it on Flickr. You can download these photos and pop them into a PowerPoint or print them onto an overhead, to give the kids a heads-up of what they will see.
If you are nervous about the ethical issues of using other people's photos, you can do an advanced search of pictures. One of the options is to select only photos with a Creative Commons licence - that means people who have really thought about this and decided that they would like the world to see their pictures and use them, as long as they don't use them commercially. Also, you can contact the person who uploaded the work and ask their permission. I did this for a great photo I wanted to use, but which was not listed as Creative Commons. The photographer (a professional art photographer from Toronto) happens to have a daughter in Grade Eight and not only gave me permission to use her photo (with attribution) but sent me a much larger, higher quality copy of it.
Flickr (Aaargh! That's the fourth time I've had to retype that name, I always insist on putting in an "e") also has some cool features like Interesting Photos of the Last Seven Days, which is pretty much what it sounds like. A lot of professonal photographers post their work on Flickr, as well as really, REALLY good amateurs, who want to get feedback and an audience.
Try Flickr and you'll be hooked. (Okay, I know I say that about everything, but it's true. At least for some of you. Okay, for me. Try it anyway.)