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How Cool is Google Image Search? You Can Even Use a Picture as a Search Parameter!

by Kelly Walsh on March 4, 2012


Google Image Search is a pretty fascinating tool with plenty of possibilities for teaching-related uses.

One day last year my son told me that he had learned who painted a picture we have hanging in our home (it had no readily discernible signature) by taking a picture of it and doing a search for it using Google Image Search. What?! You can search using an image as your search criteria? I wanted to learn more about Google Image Search. I finally got around to it this weekend.

This video illustrates what I learned about this intriguing search tool.

Here’s a few key takeaways from the video:

  • You can upload an image and use it as your search criteria. If the image is a published one (a painting or other work of art for example), it may return an exact match. It will also return “visually similar images”, which can open up a world of interesting possibilities. I have to imagine there would be a number of ways that teachers (and students) in the arts and even in the sciences could envision leveraging this functionality.
  • Google Image search is a great tool for searching for images based on textual criteria, and the Advanced Search features can allow you to focus or narrow your search in a variety of useful ways, such as image size, aspect ratio, file type, region and more. One of the most useful features in Advanced Search is the ability to search based on usage rights, which will allow you to find content that is acceptable for reuse, or modification – something many instructors often seek when developing learning materials.
  • The Google Safe Search function will give you some control over the appropriateness of returned content. By default, this is set to “medium”, but you can set it to “strict” to get the highest level of protection (or you can turn it off entirely). This page and video from Google explains more about this.
  • Another related tool I discovered, thanks to Richard Byrne’s great FreeTech4Teachers site, is something that is labeled as Google’s Unofficial Search by Drawing tool. The video above shows an example of this tool in action.

I (and other readers) would love to hear your ideas for creative ways to put these cool tools to use in education-related application, or similar about any similar tools you may have heard about. Please comment and tell us all about them.

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
Tutorial – 5 Fun Free Photo And Image Editing Applications For The Classroom

Picasa – Google’s free picture and image editing and management tool

This is pretty cool – 3D motion video created by capturing extruded light from an iPad.


Kelly Walsh is Chief Information Officer at The College of Westchester, in White Plains, NY, where he also teaches. In 2009, Walsh founded As an education and instructional technology advocate, he frequently delivers presentations on a variety of related topics at schools and conferences across the U.S. Walsh is also an author, and online educator, regularly running Flipped Class Workshops online. His eBook, the Flipped Classroom Workshop-in-a-Book is available here. Kelly also writes, records, and performs original music ... stop by and have a listen!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

K. Walsh March 6, 2012 at 7:22 am

Hi Sanjay – I use Camtasia for screencasting.

We’d love to hear more about how Google Image Search helps with the iClassroom project, so please be sure to let us know how that goes.


Sanjay March 5, 2012 at 11:55 pm

Hi Kelly,

Good blog. I will try it out soon too. We can use this for posting images of biological similarity or physics diagrams in my iclassroom project. Will talk about it soon.

Btw which application do you use for screen capture?



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