Flickr + Freesound = FlickrSounds

Jun 21, 2012 by


by Nickym007
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License

What you’re seeing (and possibly hearing) above is the result of some rather clever code & mashup work done by John Johnston, an amazingly creative ICT Development Officer (which is U.K. speak for “educational technology nerd who likes to create nifty tools for others”). I’ve been finding it difficult to get back into the groove of things after last week’s rather anticlimactic end to the school year (we had lots of layoffs and the mood was grim). I thought I’d try a few simple tools found over on the ds106 assignment repository to just play around and see what I could find that I haven’t tackled before, and wham! Here I find this amazingly little tool that John cooked up called FlickrSounds!
The concept of FlickrSounds is rather simple; enter in a search term, let’s say “cat” from the example above. John’s little magical tool scours two popular sites for an image and a sound that match that term. Once it’s found media tagged with your search term, it delivers a Creative Commons lisenced image from Flickr, and an equally Creative Commons lisenced sound from the Free Sound project (a fantastic site that I highly encourage you to go visit and use for all of your audio needs….just as soon as you’re done reading this post!).
While I was a bit skeptical of how I might actually create something of interest beyond the early elementary set of learners (look, a cat, and you can hear it meow!), what my search returned greatly astonished, entertained, and excited me! While I expected the Flickr search to return an image of a cat, I got a picture of a Catterpillar brand excavator instead!
I was estatic! What a fantastic way to not only violate the expectations of learners, but also help them explore the world of language, meaning, homophones, and more! The connotation of the word “cat”, while most universally accepted to mean a small furry pet, has other definitions in certain circles (construction and excavation work obviously). What a fun way to help students grasp the idea that our cultural and personal experiences with language help shape our view of the world through the mental images we bring up when we hear words. This is more easily identified when working with homophones (deer/dear, meet/meat, etc.), but the juxtaposition of the imagery and sound with the FlickrSound tool is astonishingly more eye opening!
As proof, I give you 4 more searches I submitted using the same term, “cat“. You’ll find what you expected, some cats and soft cat-like noises, but you’ll also find the electronic sound that “Nyan Cat” makes as it flies through the air leaving a rainbow trail (don’t ask, just go watch, it’s a Japanese thing). You’ll also find some “cat” beats from snares, and while I didn’t include it, there are plenty more images of construction equipment. I’m half surprised I didn’t find some “hepcat” jazz musician via the random Flickr search.

by Castaway in Scotland
Attribution-NonCommercial License


by WebSphinx
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License

cat (Betty McDaniels 3).wav

by WebSphinx
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License


by MiNe (sfmine79)
Attribution-NoDerivs License

If you work with English language learners, either as their primary or secondary language, the FlickrSounds tool developed by John would be a must in my bag of teaching resources to provide a really nice visual and audio twist on helping students explore the quite fluid nature of the English language. It’s free, it’s fun, and best of all, it has a real nice embedding tool that will let you add multiple searches to a preview window, so you can embed multiple creations all at once (as I did above).
Think it’s just for younger learners? Ha! Check out the searches I did for the word “rough“! Talk about a great way to build up vocabulary through visual and audio interpretations of a word! There’s so much imagery stored deep within our brains that a single word can conjure up, this tool might also be useful in illustrating just how easy miscommunication can happen, especially when conversing with just text across the web.

by Robert Hruzek
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License


by Capt’ Gorgeous
Attribution License


by Doun Dounell
Attribution License


by henna lion
Attribution-NonCommercial License



  1. John

    Hi Ben,
    Delighted and somewhat surprised that you found this useful. I never though it was that. Put together ricocheting off a cogdog post and shaped by Alan’s comments on his blog & mine. I’ve found this mix of serendipity and prompting a lovely part of DS106.

    • Are you kidding me? I would gladly pay for all sorts of little awesome widgets like this that allow you to mash up different sources of information and/or media! It’s great to play with the juxtaposition of what’s created, yet still run across the expected. It’s almost like you’re playing in a familiar, yet slightly off playground.

  2. Very interesting! This will be a wonderful way to explore the juxtapositions that arise based on the tagging that people use. I wonder if adjectives will give a more divergent result than nouns? Looks like lots of fun!

  3. Erin K

    I have to say your statement “violate the expectations of learners” made quite an impact. From my perspective, I think it’s a great idea. Students come to class with their set expectation to sit and listen, maybe interact…..ho hum. How wonderful to approach learning from a completely different angle and knock them off kilter. My thought is this would facilitate true knowledge acquisition because it becomes interesting instead of expected.

    • Only when we truly understand our learners, can we completely knock their sense of understanding off kilter, thus producing a radical shift in how they see the world (hopefully for the better). That’s my unofficial vision for education. Take students to the edge of what they understand, reveal something completely foreign and then see how they tackle the new knowledge.

  4. Cool ideas, Ben… love this mashup. A timely post for me, too, as I was just working on curating music/sound resources into this LiveBinder

    Have you had any issues with as far as inappropriate content? The “random sound of the day” on Friday was pretty raunchy.

    • As with all social media sites, there’s always the problematic issue of dealing with inappropriate content. Just today I had to chat with my daughter as she was watching some Thomas the Tank Engine videos on the iPad via YouTube (I was in the room monitoring as usual) when she clicked on a related video that had expletives in it (yikes!).

      I would recommend that when using FreeSound or other social media sites with elementary students, to create playlists, albums, or direct links to the material you want them to use.

  5. Andrew Hyland

    I love these types of things, thanks for finding and sharing with the non-DS106 crew out here in cyber school. I have a personal love for sandbox-y tools like this. I could use this for all kinds of things creatively and with students as well.
    The trouble I always have is in creating lessons to use this technology that is sufficiently structured for my students but still allows creativity and maximum functionality of the tool.
    For example I was given a link to an awesome California Dept. of Ed. website for looking up books sorted by grade level, topic, author, etc., all types of sorting. Using this with kids would be awesome and to make it successful I’ll have to really plan out the constraints and possible issues.

    Not to say I think the kids will have trouble navigating the technology. I think that if I don’t plan well in my lesson prep then the students will come up with all kinds of creative, and not school-appropriate material.

    Any thoughts on what questions you ask yourself when preparing for battle? My high school aged students are just as clever and creative at finding loopholes as the younger kids.

    I love to read your stuff and stew on it for a month before I do anything with it.


  1. sjuhan – web 2.0 - Thing 14: Breathe - [...] Flickr + Freesound = FlickrSounds [...]
  2. 106 drop in » Blog Archive » FlickrSounds Revisited - [...] usual I am not sure how useful this is, Ben Rimes found it interesting but no one completed it…

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