CC Talks With

CC Talks With: Elspeth Revere of the MacArthur Foundation

Allison Domicone, October 29th, 2010

Elspeth Revere
Elspeth Revere,
MacArthur Foundation
/ CC BY

Elspeth Revere is the Vice President in charge of Media, Culture and Special Initiatives at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The MacArthur Foundation has generously supported CC since our founding in 2002. Join MacArthur and help keep CC going strong by making a donation today.

Can you give us some background on the MacArthur Foundation?

MacArthur is one of the nation’s largest independent foundations. The MacArthur Foundation supports creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. In addition to selecting the MacArthur Fellows, the Foundation works to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places, and understand how technology is affecting children and society.

With assets over $5 billion, MacArthur will award approximately $230 million in grants this year. Through the support it provides, the Foundation fosters the development of knowledge, nurtures individual creativity, strengthens institutions, helps improve public policy, and provides information to the public, primarily through support for public interest media.

The Foundation was established in 1978.  Last year, it made 600 grants for a total of $230 million.

What is your role there?

I am Vice President in charge of Media, Culture and Special Initiatives.  We have three ongoing areas of work. The first is in public interest media, where we support public radio, documentary films, deep and analytical news programs, and investigative reporting. The second is support to over 200 arts and culture organizations in our home city, Chicago.  The third is institutional support to help strengthen nonprofit organizations that are key to the Foundation’s grantmaking fields so that they will exist and be effective over the long term.  In addition, we conduct a changing set of special grantmaking initiatives that are intended to be short-term and responsive to a particular problem or opportunity.

The MacArthur Foundation is a private foundation (not a corporate sponsor) that supports Creative Commons – what was the motivation behind this generous giving? What is it about CC that you find important?

In about 1999, MacArthur began exploring the question of how the digital revolution would impact society and the issues that the Foundation cared about and what a Foundation like MacArthur could do to help people understand and shape this phenomenon for the overall good.  We held a series of consultations and some of the people who later became founders of Creative Commons, including Larry Lessig and Jamie Boyle, talked to us about both the promise of technology to unlock information and make it widely and easily available, and the concern that digital tools could also be used to limit the public availability of information.  They, and others, helped us to understand that copyright laws, originally intended to regulate industry, were increasingly regulating consumers and their behavior — and this was even before blogging, podcasts, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and all the other sharing tools that we now rely on.

In 2002, MacArthur began a six year funding initiative on Intellectual Property and the Long-Term Protection of the Public Domain.  Our first grant to Creative Commons was made that year.  It was an exemplary organization for us to support because we were looking for new models of thinking about intellectual property in a digital age.  All told, we have made 4 grants totaling $3.15 million to support its work.  And Creative Commons has become a successful tool for sharing information in the arts, sciences, governance, and education throughout the world.

What is the link between the MacArthur Foundation and CC? Do you use our tools in your work? Or are our tools more applicable to your grantees?

MacArthur policy calls for openness in research and freedom of access to data. We encourage our grantees to explore opportunities to use existing and emerging Internet distribution models and when appropriate open access journals, Creative Commons licenses or other mechanisms that result in broad access for the interested field and public. While we do not insist that grantees use Creative Commons licenses, we do suggest their use when appropriate and practical.

What do you see as CC’s role in the broader digital ecosystem? How does CC enable the MacArthur Foundation and its grantees to better innovate in that space?

Creative Commons has made all of us more aware of information sharing — how and why we use the information of others and when and how we will let others use what we create.  It has provided the tools to allow us to share what we make both easily and widely if we want to do so. It has enabled communities to form around the world to work on common interests ranging from music and governance. And it has demonstrated that these communities can solve legal, technical and practical problems together.

Help make sure Creative Commons can continue to develop and steward tools that are crucial to sharing information in the arts, sciences, governance, and education throughout the world. Make a donation today.

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CC Talks With: Ton Roosendaal, Sintel Producer and head of Blender Institute

Chris Webber, October 27th, 2010

Sintel poster
Sintel poster by Blender Institute / CC BY

Ton Roosendaal is head of the Blender Institute, leader of Blender development, and producer of the recently released 3d short film Sintel, which is released as Creative Commons Attribution 3.0.

Sintel is the Blender Institute’s third “open movie”. Could you describe what “open movie” means to the Blender Institute?

Oh… many things. First, I love to work with artists, which goes much easier than working with developers! And making short animation films with teams is an amazing and very rewarding activity. With this large creative community of Blender artists, the financial model enables it even; not many short film makers have this opportunity.

But the practical incentive to do this is because it’s a great development model for Blender. Putting artists together on a major challenge is the ultimate way to drive software like Blender forward. That way we can also ensure it fits ambitious targets weeding out the ‘would be cool features’ for the ‘must need’ ones. And it’s quite easier to design usability with small diverse teams, than have it done online via feedback mechanisms, which easily becomes confusing with the noise of hundreds of different opinions.

It’s also a fact that the Blender Institute was established for open movie projects, so for me (and the Blender Institute) it means our core business.

Blender Institute projects have a rare but heavily developed intersection between free and open source software (Blender the software and its developer community) and free culture (the films the Blender Institute produces). How related and similar are these worlds?

I don’t consider myself much related to “free culture” really, and certainly not in the political sense. For Blender projects it’s just a natural way to deliver it in open license like with [the licenses provided by] CC. We want our users to learn from them, to dissect our tricks and technology, or use them for other works. And not least: to allow everyone who works on a project to freely take it with them; as a portfolio, or companies who sponsor us who need demos or research material. So in that sense we are free culture!

But each time I meet people who work in this field, it’s mostly theorists, not practicists. so I’m a bit biased [...] people who talk about free culture don’t seem to make it (at least here in the Netherlands, at conferences or meetings). I get regular invitations to talk on this topic. I do it sometimes, but the blah-blah level disturbs me a bit. Free culture is about doing it.

So at the Blender Institute, you have artists working on these works, and you have programmers working on this code. How similar are those worlds?

For Blender, I think we have a great mix, with a lot of cross-overs. Several of our coders started as users, and we involve artists closely in design for tools or features.

This doesn’t always go perfectly, especially when it’s highly technical, like simulation code. But if you visit our IRC channel, or mailing list, or conferences… it’s always a great mix. Maybe this is because 3d art creation is quite technical too? I dunno… not many users will understand how to construct bsp trees, yet they use it all the time.

In general compared to other open source projects, I think we’re quite un-technical and accessible. A big reason for that is because I’m not even a trained programmer. I did art and industrial design. When coders go too deep in abstract constructions I can’t follow it either and can simply counter it with an “Okay, but what’s the benefit for using this?” And when the answer is “It makes coders’ lives easier” I usually ignore it. In my simple world, coders suffer and artists benefit! But one coder can also do some stuff — taking a few hours — that saves hundreds of thousands of people a few seconds in a day. And that’s always good.

What’s the development of a film like Sintel like as in terms of internal development vs community involvement in production? Has that dynamic changed at all from work to work? I partly ask this because some people think “Oh, open movie, they must have their SVN repository open the whole time and just get random contributions from everywhere,” but Blender Institute films don’t tend to work that way.

Right, we keep most of our content closed until release. I’m a firm believer in establishing protective creative processes. In contrast to developers — who can function well individually online — an artist really needs daily and in-person feedback and stimulation.

We’ve done this now four times (three films and one game) and it’s amazing how teams grow in due time. But during this process they’re very vulnerable too. If you followed the blog you may have seen that we had quite harsh criticism on posting our progress work. If you’re in the middle of a process, you see the improvements. Online you only see the failures.

The cool thing is that a lot of tests and progress can be followed now perfectly and it suddenly makes more sense I think. Another complex factor for opening up a creative process is that people are also quite inexperienced when they join a project. You want to give them a learning curve and not hear all the time from our audience that it sucks. Not that it was that bad! But one bad criticism can ruin a day.

One last thing on the “open svn” point: in theory it could work, if we would open up everything 100% from scratch. That then will give an audience a better picture of progress and growth. We did that for our game project and it was suited quite well for it. For film… most of our audience wants to get surprised more, not know the script, the dialogs, the twists. Film is more ‘art’ than games, in that respect.

Ton Roosendaal
Ton Roosendaal by Kennisland / CC BY-SA

You also did the sprints this time, which pulled in some more community involvement than in previous projects. Do you think that model went well? Would you do it again?

The modeling sprint was great! We needed a lot of props, and for that an online project works perfectly. The animation sprint (for animated characters) was less of a success. Character animation doesn’t lend itself well for it, I think. There’s no history for it… ehh. Like, for design and modeling, we have a vocabulary. Most people understand when you explain visual design, style, proportions. But for animation… only a few (trained) animators know how to discuss this. It’s more specialist too.

How has the choice of the Creative Commons Attribution license affected your works?

How would it affect our works? Do you mean, why not choose ND (no-derivatives) or NC (noncommercial)? Both restrictions won’t suit well for our work. And without attribution it’s not a CC license.

I did get some complaints why not choose a FSF compatible license, but the Free Software Foundation has no license for content like ours either.

What kinds of things have you seen / do you expect to see post-release of a project such as Sintel?

A lot of things happened with previous films, Elephants Dream and Big Buck Bunny, ranging from codec research in companies, showcases on tradeshows, to student composers using it to graduate. Even wallpaper!

We are working now on a 4k resolution of the film (4096 x 2160). The 4k market is small, but very active and visible in many places. They’re dying for good content. I’m also very interested in doing a stereoscopic ‘3d’ version. As for people making alternative endings or shots; that hasn’t happened a lot, to my knowledge. Our quality standard is too high as well, so it’s not a simple job.

But further, the very cool thing of open content is that you’re done when you’re done! A commercial product’s work stress only starts when the product is done. That’s what I learned with our first film. Just let it go, and move on to next.

And at least one “free culture” aspect then: it’s quite amazing how our films have become some kind of cultural heritage already. People have grown fond of them, or at least to the memory of them. It’s part of our culture in a way, and without a free license that would have been a really tough job.

Might there be a Sintel game (Project Jackfruit?) using the Blender Game Engine like there was a game following Big Buck Bunny (Yo Frankie)?

Not here in the Blender Institute. But there’s already a quite promising online project for it.

You can watch Sintel online and support the project (and get all the data files used to produce the film, tutorials, and many other goodies) by purchasing a DVD set. You may also wish to consider supporting Creative Commons in our current superhero campaign.

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CC Talks With: Lulu

Cameron Parkins, October 18th, 2010

Our fall campaign is in full swing and superheroes are giving at all levels – as such, it’s a great time to shine the spotlight on some of our most significant donors.

Lulu, the fantastic open publishing platform, is one such organization. Beyond offering creators of all types the means to publish their own work, Lulu offers a CC-licensing option for authors when they are creating their books. Over a million creators have used the service to date with approximately 20,000 titles to Lulu’s catalog each month.

We caught up with founder and CEO Bob Young to talk about Lulu generally, why they’ve chosen to support CC, and how our licenses have helped Lulu grow in the past decade.


Bob Young by Lulu / CC BY

Can you give our readers some background on Lulu? What is your role there?

Lulu’s mission is nothing less than to accelerate the transfer of knowledge from one generation of humans to the next. We are doing this by empowering authors of all stripes to bring their knowledge and expertise to their markets without having to ask permission of anyone.

Harnessing the power of the Internet and the free market, our goal is to ensure authors and other creators, as well as the publishers who serve them, are rewarded for creating and documenting the knowledge and expertise that they have accumulated from their research, experience and expertise.

We enable authors to publish their books for free, to create books as printed paper books and as ebooks in all formats and for all devices, and sell those books across the globe.

As Founder and CEO I get much more credit for the success of Lulu to date than I deserve. I prefer my Lulu title of Coffee Mug Washer. At least when I wash dishes in our break room I know I’m creating value.

What is the link between Lulu and CC? Do you all use our tools in your various projects

As Sir Isaac Newton pointed out, all knowledge is the result of “standing on the shoulders of giants”. Creative Commons is doing critically important work helping our society understand that without an active public domain of knowledge and content future generations will not be able to stand on the shoulders. Even more importantly CC is building the tools that enable the protection and expansion of that public domain of knowledge and content.

Lulu is all about giving our authors control over their content. We offer both standard copyright licenses as well as CC licenses and other options in the “select your license” step of the publishing process on Lulu.com. This allows Lulu authors to contribute back to the same public domain of knowledge they benefited from when they learned the knowledge that allowed them to write their book.

Lulu is a corporate sponsor of Creative Commons – what was the motivation behind this generous giving? What is it about CC that you find important?

It was mostly a selfish instinct to protect my own ability to succeed. I doubt I’ve ever had an original thought. All of my success has come from borrowing ideas from people smarter and more knowledgeable than me. But if every idea or thought is someday going to be subject to a copyright or patent owned by some individual or some corporation then where am I going to get my next good idea?

I use the term “borrowing ideas” in the sense Thomas Jefferson meant when he said passing along knowledge was like letting someone light their candle from his. The person who now had the light from the newly lit candle benefited, while Jefferson still had all the light from his own lit candle.

Besides the specific licenses and tools it offers, CC has built a powerful brand that communicates everything Lulu wants to say about how authors should be in control of the content they create, and about how a robust public domain of knowledge contributes directly to improving our lives, liberty, and our pursuit of happiness.

Join Bob Young and Lulu in supporting the future of good ideas by donating to CC today!

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CC Talks With: Student PIRGs’ Nicole Allen: Open Education and Policy

Timothy Vollmer, October 14th, 2010

At the beginning of this year we announced a revised approach to our education plans, focusing our activities to support of the Open Educational Resources (OER) movement. In order to do so we have worked hard to increase the amount of information available on our own site – in addition to an Education landing page and the OER portal explaining Creative Commons’ role as legal and technical infrastructure supporting OER, we have been conducting a series of interviews to help clarify some of the challenges and opportunities of OER in today’s education landscape.

One major venue for the advancement of OER is through policy change at the local, state, federal, and international levels. Nicole Allen is the Student Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs) Campaign Director for Make Textbooks Affordable. In our interview, Nicole discussed the Student PIRGs approach to advocacy and education with regard to open textbooks, their latest report on college textbook affordability, and the necessary role of CC and related groups to raise awareness about open licensing in the academic community.

Can you briefly describe the history of your involvement in Student PIRGs and the Make Textbooks Affordable campaign?


Nicole Allen / CC BY

As a lifelong environmental activist, I originally got involved with the PIRGs in college on a campaign to stop water pollution. But I was compelled to make higher education advocacy my career after Congress cut $12 billion federal student aid to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy during my senior year. I first worked as an organizer with WashPIRG (the “PIRG” in Washington state), and after passing a state law mandating textbook price disclosure, I took over as head of the Student PIRGs’ Make Textbooks Affordable campaign in 2007. Since then, I have worked with students across the country to run the campaign and conducted research and advocacy at the federal level (including work on legislation that reversed the cuts to student aid!).

The Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) passed in 2008, and a provision relating to textbook affordability and access to pricing information recently went into effect. Furthermore, bills supporting the development of open textbooks have been introduced in both the House and Senate. What would you say are the primary characteristics of an open textbook? How does the Make Textbooks Affordable campaign relate to open education?

We’re excited how rapidly open textbooks are gaining momentum, and the HEOA price disclosure law will help accelerate the pace. When we talk about open textbooks, we mean college texts that have been published online under an open license that allows free digital access, low-cost printing and customization by instructors. In most ways, open textbooks are quite similar to the texts seen on bookshelves today – they have a table of contents, exercises, and they’re written by expert authors. In most cases, they even can be printed to look exactly like any other textbook. The big difference is the open license, which enables a wide variety of affordable textbook formats, including free web-based versions, printable PDFs, and printed and bound hard copies for $20-40 (traditional textbooks usually cost $100-200!). Increasingly, more innovative formats such as audio and e-reader versions are becoming available. Another notable difference is that open textbooks can be customized. Instructors can remove the chapters they don’t plan to cover, or they can add in other materials, homework questions or annotations.

Our goal is to get more open textbooks adopted in place of expensive traditional textbooks, so we think of ourselves as part of the “transition team” for open education. We’re getting more professors to use OER as textbooks, the format they feel most comfortable with, which will pave the way for future exploration of more innovative forms of open course materials. So far, it’s been going well. Since 2008, we’ve generated more than 2,500 signatures on a faculty Statement of Intent to consider using open textbooks and more than 500 news stories citing open textbooks as a potential solution. Early this year, we launched a student marketing force consisting of hundreds of grassroots activists on a mission to promote the top open textbooks directly to professors. Already, at least 50 professors we’ve contacted have switched to open textbooks, and we hope to continue this trend throughout the rest of the school year.

The textbook publisher Flat World Knowledge offers free online access to textbooks under a Creative Commons license, and charges a modest amount for printed copies and supplemental materials. What are some things to consider to ensure the sustainability of such new publishing models? What are some of the primary benefits for professors and students in using open textbooks?

Our experience in the field has been that many professors are concerned that students fall behind on reading and homework because they haven’t purchased the text (it’s true – our recent study found that about 10% of any given class hasn’t bought the book). Furthermore, professors are frustrated that publishers unnecessarily revise textbooks to undermine used book sales, creating extra work to keep syllabi and homework questions up to date. Open textbooks offer relief from both of these problems, because the text is accessible free online or at a low-cost in print, and it always remains open even if a new edition comes out. Open textbooks also offer the increasingly attractive benefit of customization, so that instructors can tailor the text to their class.

The benefits for students are obvious. Our latest report, A Cover to Cover Solution: How Open Textbooks Are The Path To Textbook Affordability, found that using open textbooks could reduce costs 80% – that’s $184 per year, compared to the current average of $900!  But cost isn’t the only advantage. In our survey, student preferences were split 75% for print and 25% for digital, and two out of five said they’d be comfortable using both. Students listed readability, convenience and cost as their top factors in choosing a format, although there was no consensus on which format represented these qualities best. Given such variance in student preferences, open textbooks are a far more effective solution than conventional options like rentals and e-books, since students can choose from a wide variety of affordable options.

This raises an important question: if open textbooks are free online, why would students buy anything at all?  Actually, our research shows that students are willing to purchase formats they value even in the presence of a free alternative: more than half of the students we surveyed said they would rather buy a reasonably priced print copy than use the book free online. Student spending on optional products could be the foundation of sustainable models, such as the model used by Flat World Knowledge.

College professors want to use the best textbook available, regardless of price. The Making Textbooks Affordable campaign supports the adoption and use of open textbooks, and encourages faculty to sign a statement indicating their intent “to include open textbooks in their search for the most appropriate course materials, and declare declare their preference to adopt an open textbook in place of an expensive, commercial textbook, if the open textbook is the best option.” What can the OER community do to make it easier for faculty to discover and adopt open textbooks? How do we continue to address the issue of quality?

Open textbooks are available for dozens of common college subjects, but the challenge is making professors aware of them. Despite nearly universal willingness to consider more affordable options, we’ve found that instructors typically hear about textbooks through publisher marketing efforts, not by seeking books out themselves. Therefore, simply posting open textbooks online is not enough; they need active promotion. We encourage the rest of the open education community to join our efforts to get the word out to professors.

As for quality, I think the issue is different for open textbooks than other OER. Quality is inherently subjective, so it is challenging to establish on a large scale. However, there is already a notion of what is “high quality” for traditional texts, so it’s less abstract for open textbooks. Since most of today’s professors will use traditional standards, creating high quality textbooks is a matter of developing models that can emulate (and hopefully improve upon) the outcomes of traditional peer review and classroom testing. Great examples are Flat World Knowledge, which follows the standard publishing process to the letter, and Writing Spaces, which uses a peer review system similar to scholarly journals. Likewise, demonstrating quality is a matter of vetting books with respect to traditional textbooks through institutions, organizations and adopters. For example, both College Open Textbooks and our own Open Textbook Catalog offer editorial reviews of open textbooks. Traditional concepts like publisher branding and author reputation are important too.

How do you see the role of Creative Commons within the open textbook and open education? How can CC help?

Open licensing is the essence OER. It gives authors the confidence to grant worldwide access to their works while still reserving some of their rights. It enables instructors to customize and expand OER to better meet student needs. And it allows students to choose from a wide range of affordable textbook formats. We are grateful to Creative Commons for everything it has done already to create, promote and defend open licenses.

Sharing and customizing course materials (legally) is a foreign concept in academe. We can gloss over the details in the short term by emphasizing affordability, but a deeper understanding of open licensing will be necessary to broaden the use of OER beyond open textbooks. Therefore, we encourage CC to expand its educational and awareness efforts in the academic community, particularly among faculty.

Wrapping up, what does a successful teaching and learning environment implementing the power of OER “look like”? Do you have any lingering thoughts — worries, hopes, predictions?

I think we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of OER’s potential to transform teaching and learning. Although the pedagogical benefits are virtually limitless, we come from the consumer perspective. To us, OER means choice, and the ideal learning environment is one where students can take part in shaping their own experience as the “consumers” of higher education.

As for the future, I think the next few years are going to be a turning point. On one hand, we have the growing momentum of open textbooks and other OER. On the other, we have the traditional publishing industry, which has begun to diversify its offerings to include e-books, e-readers and even programs that imitate OER in a non-open environment like DynamicBooks and Create. It is imperative that the open education community help open textbooks gain a foothold before the market settles for less effective solutions. To do that, we need to call on government, foundations and institutions to fund the supply-side, and we need to fuel demand by actively promoting open textbook adoption.

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CC Talks With: The Open University’s Patrick McAndrew: Open Education and Policy

Timothy Vollmer, September 27th, 2010

At the beginning of this year we announced a revised approach to our education plans, focusing our activities to support of the Open Educational Resources (OER) movement. In order to do so we have worked hard to increase the amount of information available on our own site – in addition to an Education landing page and the OER portal explaining Creative Commons’ role as legal and technical infrastructure supporting OER, we have been conducting a series of interviews to help clarify some of the challenges and opportunities of OER in today’s education landscape.

One major venue for the advancement of OER is through policy change at the local, state, federal, and international levels. Patrick McAndrew is Associate Director (Learning & Teaching) at The Open University’s (OU) Institute of Educational Technology, Co-director of OLnet, the OER Initiative with Carnegie Mellon University, and affiliated with OpenLearn, OU’s OER portal. We talked with Patrick about OER research, the use of open social tools for collaboration around OER, and the role of CC as a flexible yet straightforward mechanism for communicating rights.

How did you come to be involved with open education projects? How do the initiatives you work on fit together?

I joined the Open University just over 10 years ago coming into the Institute of Educational Technology. The Open University has just celebrated its 40th anniversary and a key part of the University’s approach has always been to innovate in the way we think about helping people learn. In the past these innovations have been in the use of media such as broadcast television and methods to support distance learning; now they often focus on the online connections that can be made. The definition of openness has changed from one which focussed on low barriers to student entry, such as no need for prior qualifications, to allowing much more flexible study and free access. In 2005 we started working with the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to see if we could release some of our own content, openly and for free. This became OpenLearn, launched in October 2006. Within OpenLearn, not only is open content made available, but it also uses an open learning environment that allows others to contribute. As part of OpenLearn I led a research strand looking at the various impacts OER were having on Open University activities and on users. That research focus has resonated with reflections across the wider OER movement as it matures so that, with Carnegie Mellon University, we are now supported as OLnet by the Hewlett Foundation to gather research findings and evidence across global activity in OER.


Patrick McAndrew, courtesy OER10 / CC BY-SA

Part of what the OLnet project aims to do is establish an evidence base and research framework for the emerging OER field. What are the most valuable research questions to investigate?

We set out in the OLnet proposal issues of design, reach, and the cycle that brings open content into use for learning. These remain key elements, but we have also gone through a process of reflecting on our findings from year one and seeing how the environment has changed. We have expanded the focus areas to policy, design, approaches to learning, the impact of content, and the tools that help support research. Candace Thille (co-director of OLnet) made a very useful observation that we were watching OER move from an end it itself to being a means to an end. The potential impact of openness is significant, so we are paying more attention to the way it can act as a change engine and influence individuals, institutions, and policy. Many of our questions can be phrased in two parts, first as “What is the evidence … ?”, such as “What is the evidence that OER can help learning systems change?” The second element is “What conclusions can we draw about …?” This can challenge us as researchers where it is natural to find balancing arguments, but is an important part of helping the future direction for OER. Overlying this is the idea of different contexts, an aspect that OLnet is in a good position to contribute to through its international OLnet Fellows.

The Open University and OLnet develop and champion the use of open social networking and knowledge sharing tools such as Cloudworks and Cohere. What do these open source tools do, and who is the intended audience? How do they support teaching and learning via OER?

For OLnet these tools have come to the fore in helping us carry out and reflect on research in OER. In Cloudworks we have an open social platform that provides a base for discussion, asking questions and supporting events. It has been very effective in giving more impact to what are otherwise local and often transient events. It was developed at The Open University but can be used by anyone, with OLnet’s own use being just one strand. Cohere is a Web tool to enhance collaborative learning, sense-making and critical thinking. Cohere helps reasoning and is designed to help us cope with the challenge I mentioned above of drawing some conclusions while also knowing that there are arguments for and against. Cohere allows these situations to be visualised and explored in a collaborative way. In its current state of development, I think it is a tool for researchers, but its usability and the models for its use are developing rapidly. Similar to a previous knowledge mapping tool, Compendium, Cohere could well find a role for learners, especially in presenting arguments. Compendium was released as part of OpenLearn and is now used informally by learners to build connections and also in a simplified version by learners on some of The Open University’s own courses.

How do you see the role of Creative Commons within the OER movement? How can CC help?

Creative Commons has helped enormously. At the simplest level in OpenLearn we had originally put aside £100,000 for legal fees in writing a viable licence, none of that was needed as we adopted CC. Having a licence that is accepted across the world matters very much in the education system as people are trying to do the right thing, which can mean a reluctance to use free systems unless they are also clearly open systems. CC makes it easy to be clear. The CC licence also gave us a good way to work with our third party providers – we did not want to just strip out that content, but they also did not want to enable anyone to build a free rival to their content. This was a case where the varied licences of CC helped, in particular the non-commercial clause. Challenges do remain about compatibility though; at one stage it looked like incorporating a variety of licenses would get in the way, but guidance about compatibility and a layer of commonsense is helping. CC assists by tracking the take up in education and has also set up a good area for sharing information about the use of CC in education. OLnet was looking at how to attract such a community, and the presence and impact of CC achieved that for us.

OpenLearn’s 2008 research report highlighted a thesis of OER scholar and advocate David Wiley–“the sustainability of OpenLearn will be achieved by making OER part of the normal fabric of the University’s business, whether that is around teaching and learning, research and/or business and community engagement activities.” How does OpenLearn see its role in relation to the broader Open University?

OpenLearn is being sustained and is continuing now without direct external funding as we increasingly embed and integrate it into the University’s way of operating. OpenLearn itself now comprises three related sites, while we also use other channels such as YouTube and specialist sites for very specific OER work. As such OpenLearn has a broader scope around all open media work that encompasses other outward looking activities such as reflecting the research of the University, the links that we have with broadcast television and the very successful use of iTunesU (where incidentally The Open University now has more downloads than any other university). OpenLearn’s role through Explore and LearningSpace is primarily as a route to Open University outputs and continues to support the communities around it. But it has another important role as a catalyst for activity involving others. OpenLearn has also been the spark for a range of other major grant funded activities, notably OLnet, SCORE (Support Centre for Open Resources in Education), OPAL (Open Education Quality Initiative), SocialLearn, as well as many other smaller projects linking to OpenLearn’s LabSpace.

Wrapping up, what does a successful teaching and learning environment implementing the power of OER “look like”? Do you have any lingering thoughts — worries, hopes, predictions?

The power of OER lies in its openness; this gives it great flexibility so that material that we might release in the Moodle based OpenLearn environment can be used on WordPress or Slideshare or YouTube or whatever. What we do at the moment certainly is helping people–oftentimes some of the most disadvantaged–learn. However, there is a larger opportunity to build an environment that helps to track what people are trying to accomplish in their learning, assist them to link up with others, and share the evidence of their learning. Some of this is being looked at in a companion project, SocialLearn, for use inside The Open University. But again, in an open world we should not be expecting only one solution.

One possible worry is that education will close down around its existing models. However, the world has changed in that there is no controlling interest that can stop open content having an impact in some form. The hope is that the flexibility gained from openness will assist so many projects, as it has with the Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa (TESSA), by adopting an “everything in the middle” philosophy to sharing that helps address real needs for education. These sorts of predictions are always difficult. I suppose a fairly safe one is that the Internet will become a stronger base for learning without costs, and that a sense of achievement and advancement can grow alongside a sense of distraction!

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CC Talks With: Lewis Hyde, author of Common as Air: Revolution, Art, and Ownership

Mike Linksvayer, August 27th, 2010

Poet and scholar Lewis Hyde has been writing about the commons for over thirty years. His first book, The Gift (1983), is regarded as the modern classic on Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World–the 25th anniversary edition’s subtitle. His new book, Common as Air, directly addresses the cultural commons, and could hardly be more relevant to understanding at a deep level the work of Creative Commons.

I’ve taken this opportunity to ask the author a series of long-winded questions about the commons. Many thanks to Lewis Hyde for his forbearance in answering, and for the great inspiration he has given to many who support Creative Commons, and the commons writ large!


Your first book, The Gift, evinces great concern for the cultural commons, in some cases (e.g., commentary on science) very explicitly in language recognizable to current movements that share such concerns. You were probably writing The Gift at about the same time Richard Stallman was becoming what we’d now recognize as a free software activist. Having been a Berkman fellow for a number of years and writing about free software, Creative Commons, and related movements in Common as Air, you’ve obviously been aware of these movements for some time. When and how did your path first cross with one of these movements?

My book is dedicated to my late father, by profession a physicist with a specialty in optics. As the dedication says, it was he who first told me about “Dollond’s case,” an eighteenth-century patent dispute involving telescope lenses in which Lord Mansfield ruled that ownership of an idea belonged not to the person who kept his invention secret but to the person “who brought it forth for the benefit of mankind.”

The point being: for a long time I’ve been aware of the commons narrative in regard to ideas and for a long time I’ve thought of something as old as patent law as being among the methods we’ve devised for moving potentially private knowledge into the public sphere.

As for the more specific modern innovations in this line, I had a vague awareness for a long time but the fight over copyright term extension in the mid 1990s managed to focus my attention. I wrote an essay–“Created Commons”–arguing against such extension; I was co-signatory to one of the amicus briefs in the Supreme Court case, Eldred v. Ashcroft; and I was present on the day that Lessig argued for Eldred before the Court. I consequently watched with attention and admiration as Creative Commons came to life in the years following.

One sentence in particular in The Gift presages current free software and free culture practice: “A gift community puts certain constraints on its members, yes, but these constraints assure the freedom of the gift” (p 107). This sounds exactly like the copyleft mechanism of the GNU GPL–the requirement that an adaptation be distributed under terms offering the public the same freedoms offered by the source work. In Common as Air you argue that copyleft would be better described as copyduty, reflecting that rights come with responsibilities. Two questions concerning this. First, the GPL is often described as a key innovation in the history of free software–clearly it is, but I wonder if its typical description doesn’t seem a bit taken out of history, not cognizant of antecedents in gift cultures nor of the likelihood the precise mechanism would have been invented in a similar time frame had Stallman never become a free software activist? Second, the copyleft mechanism is known as ShareAlike in the Creative Commons license suite–how do you think this terminology comports with your explanation of copyduty?

It is surely the case that the GPL has antecedents in gift cultures. As I explain in The Gift, one old ethic asks that gifts be “kept in motion”; they ought to be passed along in the same spirit with which they were received. Put another way, in a gift culture one is not supposed to capitalize on the generosity of others or of the community.

That said, such ethics belong to custom rather than law; the wit of the GPL was to give legal footing to the gift ethic of the software community. As for antecedents in that line, I note in Common as Air that I found one other example of a gift norm that got grounded in law: Pete Seeger and his friends secured the copyright on “We Shall Overcome,” then set up a trusteeship to donate the money earned to support “African-American music in the South.” That trusteeship has a “claim and release” structure not unlike the one built into the later GPL.

As for links between the Creative Commons license suite and my sense of copyduty, I’m not sure these need be limited to the “Share Alike” option. Many are the duties that arise from a person’s sense of both self and community. One might, for example, feel a duty to contribute to the public domain with no strings attached, in which case “copyduty” would be best expressed by the CC0 tool. That was Benjamin Franklin preferred mode, by the way. He believed that any claim to own his ideas and inventions could only lead to the kind of disputes that “sour one’s Temper and disturb one’s Quiet.” He never took a patent or registered a copyright.

Each of your three prose books concern keeping various aspects of society “lively”, through the circulation of gifts, transgressive art (Trickster Makes This World, 1997), and the cultural commons. Furthermore, the mechanisms required to maintain liveliness change with the overall environment (e.g., The Gift’s portrayal of usury as vice within a tribe, necessity for commerce with strangers) and can have the effect of changing or destroying a settled order (as primarily told through myth in Trickster). I don’t get a sense from Common as Air of the trajectory of the cultural commons in these dimensions–something to feel loss over (such as perhaps close knit tribal groups and pre-enclosure land commons) but never to be dominant again or something ascendant, and if the latter, something that will be digested by the current cultural order, or something that will replace the current order?

The question calls for a bit of soothsaying or prophecy and that makes me think of a remark of Foucault’s cited at the end of Trickster: “I’m no prophet. My job is making windows where there were once walls.” Are the cultural commons doomed to enclosure, or will they thrive and therefore alter (or replace) the current landscape? Hard to say! What I’ve tried to do in the book is describe, as clearly as I can, the cultural tensions we now live with, believing that clarity is the precondition of action, however action itself eventually plays out.

That said, for a thoughtful survey of how the commons, cultural and otherwise, might thrive inside of, or along with, with current conditions I recommend Peter Barnes’s book, Capitalism 3.0: A Guide to Reclaiming the Commons. One of Barnes’s points is that our debates about the future often imagine only two actors: the government and private business. Barnes suggests a third set, common property trusts (as, for example, the kind of land trusts devised by the Nature Conservancy). There is much to say about common property trusts but for now the point is simply that we already have a mix of cultural modes and should continue to have them going forward with, I hope, the commons recognized and strengthened.

You emphasize in Common as Air that maintaining a commons requires regular “beating of bounds”–for pre-enclosure land commons this involved destroying private encroachments such as fences and cultivation, often with a merry-making and somewhat extralegal components. Preserving the cultural commons necessarily takes a different kind of bounds beating–proprietary bits can’t be “destroyed”, nor must they (patents on math, genes, and other discovered as opposed to invented things, which you dub the third enclosure, might be an exception, as they do fence off areas from the commons). I can imagine at least three different cultural commons bounds beating activities: (1) Building up and expanding the bounds of the cultural commons, sometimes (perhaps increasingly) out-competing proprietary culture (Wikipedia and free software running the internet infrastructure being the obvious examples). This is obviously the strategy of Creative Commons, the free software movement, and similar–and a truly wonderful thing in that it relies entirely on construction rather than destruction. (2) Pushing back when the commons is threatened, e.g., fighting diminution of fair use and other exceptions and limitations, something which groups like the EFF do with some success. (3) Pretending to ignore the current order altogether (except when thumbing one’s nose at it), i.e., unauthorized sharing, especially the self-conscious pirate movement. I am a little surprised Common as Air does not address the third, given it is the clearly extralegal and putatively destructive option–at least superficially most like beating the bounds of a land commons. Surprised but not upset–I suspect that unauthorized use competes with building of voluntary commons, serving as a marketing and price discrimination mechanism for proprietary culture. What is your take on each of these three as bounds beating for preserving the cultural commons, and are there others I’m missing?

You offer a good summary of ways to enlarge and protect a cultural commons. I don’t have much to add except to expand on your third category a bit. It isn’t entirely true that Common as Air avoids addressing the piracy / unauthorized use option. After all, there’s a whole chapter called “Benjamin Franklin, Founding Pirate”! When Franklin ran away from his Boston printing apprenticeship, he broke the law and, in a sense, “stole” the craft knowledge that his brother had been passing on. More to the point, when Franklin was stationed in France after the Revolution, he encouraged British artisans to ignore their country’s anti-emigration laws and bring both machinery and know-how to America–clear acts of piracy from the British point of view.

Elsewhere in the book I discuss the fact that, in the eighteenth-century, Scottish “piracy” of books that London booksellers thought they owned outright triggered the legal battles that arose around the first copyright laws. It took about fifty years to sort that out at the end of which it became clear that the Scottish booksellers were not pirates at all; the London booksellers, rather, were monopolists hoping to fence off the public domain. Here as elsewhere the charge of “piracy” was in fact a harbinger of an enlarging commons.

In Trickster (p. 130) you say that among ways of acquiring things (make, buy, receive, steal, find) the last is the odd one out, for only it is accidental. However, for anyone who lives much of their life on the net, “acquisition” of intangible goods through “finding” is natural, intentional, and perhaps even dominant. In both Trickster and Common as Air (p. 202) you tell the story of a baby Krishna–“who when asked by his mother if he has stolen butter from the pantry, answers with a question of his own: ‘How could I steal? Doesn’t everything in the house belong to us?'” It strikes me that so-called digital natives, culture, and the net are akin to the baby Krisha, butter in the pantry, and the Krishna household, respectively–“How could finding and using any culture on the net be stealing? Doesn’t all culture belong to us in common?” It seems that to the extent there is a vibrant voluntary cultural commons to draw from, the tension between “finding” and “stealing” is obviated. Further, I wonder if “finding” is not the means by which “receiving” scales–gift-giving and -receiving via mechanisms like Creative Commons licenses tend to happen asynchronously, globally, and often with no further relationship between the parties–all in contrast with traditional gift cultures. Thoughts on the sanity (or perhaps mere inanity) of these extrapolations?

You touch on what I think of as the link between the book on gift exchange to the one on trickster figures: the Greek word hermaion means “a gift of Hermes” and is usually translated as “lucky find” or “windfall.” It is the gift that comes out of nowhere; it is an odd sort of gift, then, carrying with it none of the social obligations often associated with gift exchange.

There is a hidden problem in the gift book: much gift exchange takes place is communities with a strong sense of in-group and out-group. Gift giving may be a wonderful thing, but what if you happen to be in the out-group? What if all the scientists are men and they don’t share their data with the women? In the Greek stories, Hermes is potentially in the out-group (an illegitimate child, etc.) and he begins his relationship to the gods by stealing Apollo’s cattle (pirate!).

Well, there’s much to say about all of this–it’s all in those two books. Here let me just say that digital copying and the internet have created a kind of neo-Hermetic space in which many things “happen” outside of any domesticating or ethicizing container. The rules are not clear. Then we get these polar camps: amateur anarchists on the one side, who happily believe we need no rules, and old guard “intellectual property” purists madly trying to enforce and sharpen the rules that worked so well back in 1965. What Creative Commons and others are doing is trying to enlarge the middle ground.

The basic trope–or mischief, as you put it–of Common as Air is a comparative study, a method far too little used, in particular with respect to copyright. Your points of comparison (among many others possible: you mention “children in China”, and “during the Protestant Reformation” as examples) are the 1700s, primarily in the core areas of the United States and colonies that formed it, and current claims about cultural ownership. The critique of current copyright that falls out of such a comparison will be familiar to many readers involved with Creative Commons. However, you tell another story as well concerning changing attitudes not just about cultural ownership, but about culture, and public life in general, across the 1700s and 1800s–could you say a bit about that arc, and perhaps what current cultivators of the cultural commons might learn from it?

The main thing I might add, not fully rehearsed in the book, is the point that Neil Netanel makes in a Yale Law Journal essay, “Copyright and a Democratic Civil Society.” Put simply, in the eighteenth century, at least, if you wanted a civil society that could stand free of the government, the aristocracy, and the church, then you would welcome the rise of an “intellectual property” market. Independent authors, publishing houses, newspapers: all these appear as a print market arises. And right now, of course, we see many of them struggling as that market is undermined.

The Washington Post just published a fine account of the pervasive post-9/11 secret intelligence establishment: who will have the money (and therefore the time and resources) to do that kind of journalism if newspapers like the Post can find no business model fitted to the digital future? Here again we need more thoughtful work in the thinly populated space between the amateur anarchists and the old guard IP purists.

I should leave well enough alone, as you earlier answered that Creative Commons and others are trying to enlarge the (thinly populated as yet) middle ground. That is positioning we like. However, (1) I had in mind another shift occurring across the 1700s and 1800s–very coarsely, from the conception of great people as building on the work of others, with concomitant responsibility to society at large, to the conception of great people as singletons, with no responsibility but self-aggrandizement. In Common as Air you wonderfully note this shift in the changing public narrative about Ben Franklin during and after his life. (2) Does not your answer “money (and therefore the time and resources)” privilege the default argument of “old guard IP purists”? Though business and money are crucial, time and resources may flow from non-pecuniary sources–“cognitive surplus” is a newfangled term for one such source; you’ve described many others. Learning how to fully leverage such sources may be just as important to society as new “business models”–and would seem to be a major determinant of how big of a role the cultural commons has to play in this world. To wrap up, I wonder if you have thoughts on any causal relationships in either direction between popular conceptions of how innovation occurs (by accumulation of knowledge and widespread collaboration, or singularly great and self-aggrandizing individuals) and how innovation is pursued (with or without sharing) and the implications of such?

You are right that I answered in terms of “money” and “business” and you offer one of the useful ways to widen my response–to include all the non-monetary ways to tap time and resources.

I am obviously someone who cares about gift-exchange and sharing in the creation of knowledge and culture but I am also a bit of a contrarian and thus find that sometimes I want to underline the complications that necessarily arise around gift-exchange in our current situation.

In Common as Air I devote some space to the publicly financed part of the human genome project. It makes a good example of an enterprise undertaken in a non-commercial spirit. At the same time, in the background one needs to recognize that funding came from the public purse (in the U.S.) and private philanthropy (the Wellcome Trust in England). Behind each of these lies “money” and “business” (a pharmaceutical empire behind Wellcome, for example).

That said, the Internet has produced modes of production we could not have imagined 25 years ago. Yochai Benkler seems to me to be doing some of the best work on tracking these and suggesting future possibilities. We should keep ourselves open to surprise.

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CC Talks With: Open High School of Utah’s DeLaina Tonks: Open Education and Policy

Timothy Vollmer, August 23rd, 2010

At the beginning of this year we announced a revised approach to our education plans, focusing our activities to support of the Open Educational Resources (OER) movement. In order to do so we have worked hard to increase the amount of information available on our own site – in addition to an Education landing page and the OER portal explaining Creative Commons’ role as legal and technical infrastructure supporting OER, we have been conducting a series of interviews to help clarify some of the challenges and opportunities of OER in today’s education landscape.

One major venue for the advancement of OER is through policy change at the local, state, federal, and international levels. DeLaina Tonks is the Director of the Open High School of Utah (OHSU). The Open High School of Utah is “an online charter high school that is 100% committed to the use of open educational resources,” and the curriculum is fully aligned with the Utah State Core Curriculum. We talked with DeLaina about how OER can help customize student instruction, OHSU’s innovative and collaborative approach to teacher training and professional development, and the ongoing awareness, logistics, and incentive structures that are needed for OER production and sharing to increase. The Open High School of Utah begins its second year of operation today.


Photo courtesy DeLaina Tonks / CC BY-NC

Can you briefly describe the history of the Open High School of Utah, and how the school’s mission relates to the mission of open education?

The Open High School of Utah was founded by Dr. David Wiley and approved for charter by the Utah State Office of Education in 2007. OHSU completed its inaugural year with 125 9th grade students, and on August 23rd, 2010, we will add 125 10th graders for the 2010-2011 school year. By 2013 OHSU will offer 9th-12th grade courses to potentially 1500 students.

The Open High School of Utah is putting the focus where it should be – on the student. Our mission is to facilitate lifelong success by meeting the needs of the 21st century learner through individualized, student-centered instruction, innovative technology, service learning, and personal responsibility. OHSU is a public charter school designed to meet the needs of the 21st century student. As an online school, we combine state of the art curriculum with strategic one-on-one instruction. Our methods can be described as “one-on-one tutoring for every student in every subject”. Instruction is individualized allowing students to work at their pace. Our delivery of education is structured to provide maximum flexibility that is student-centered; responsive to the needs of each learner, eliminating the negative aspects of a one-size-fits-all system. Our technology sets us apart.  It is data-driven, providing real time information that instantaneously tracks the student and their performance. Unique to OHSU is our commitment to share the curriculum we have developed as an open educational resource. All of these elements combined make the Open High School of Utah the future of education. We are the face of innovation.

The objective behind creating open content is to create free and simple access to knowledge and information through collaboration and innovation. The OHSU mission dovetails nicely with that of open education because we are among the first, if not the first, secondary school to create our own OER curriculum and share it worldwide. We are thrilled that there are already multiple international groups eagerly awaiting the release of our first batch of courses on August 25, 2010, most notably CORE China Open Resources for Education.

OHSU champions individualized instruction for its students, using technology and data-driven, realtime assessment tools. And, the OHSU curriculum content is comprised of Open Educational Resources. What are the efficiencies and pedagogical advantages of using OER within this system? Can you give a specific example of how a teacher will utilize an OER to build a lesson for a student, and how technology tools can return data to see if the student is hitting the learning benchmarks for that particular lesson?

The simple fact that our curriculum is housed online in such a data-rich environment provides us with invaluable, real-time information that allows us to best meet learner needs. Students who are fairly impatient digital natives, growing up in the video-game era of instant gratification don’t have the patience to wait for a week, or even three days, to have an assessment graded and returned. In a bricks and mortar setting the work flow might look something like this: Day One: the teacher makes copies of the test, pass it out, the students take it during their 50-90 minute class, and turn it in. Day Two: the teacher grades the tests and enters them into a gradebook (electronic or hardcopy). Day Three: the teacher hands tests back to the students when they come to class.

The virtual arena presents a much more efficient model: Day One: Students work through online activities, take the assessment, portions are computer-graded giving almost instantaneous real-time scores, others are quickly hand-graded for balance and the student is notified of their complete grade in a very short timeframe. Instant feedback enhances performance.

Pedagogically, OER makes it possible to customize instruction. Special education is an area where OER and technology are critical to the success of our students. We have the ability to create mp3 files of our OER text so that aural learners or students with reading disabilities have an alternate way to receive the information. The use of open resources also makes it possible to very easily modify the curriculum to meet student needs. One of our ninth grade students reads at a third grade level, so our special education teacher reworks the existing higher-level curriculum so that her student can understand it better.

All of our curriculum is standards-aligned, down to a granular level of test questions and lessons. The real-time data allows teachers to look at the collective test results broken down by question to see which ones are missed most often. Teachers are trained to then assess the test question itself. Is it confusing? Can it be clarified? If the test question is valid, the teacher can quickly find the content where that particular standard was taught. Is the content confusing? Can additional clarifying information be added? Is another practice activity warranted to make sure students understand the concept? Within 30 minutes the teacher will have improved the curriculum by first using data to target weaknesses in the open content, and by then finding or creating additional resources to assist in boosting student comprehension, retention and ultimately understanding.

Teachers also look at individual scores and pinpoint where each student could use some additional instruction. If it becomes obvious that a certain student is struggling with factoring, which is in turn affecting their overall math grade, the teacher will videoconference and provide one-on-one tutoring. Teachers also create personalized screencasts/videos that the student can have access to view as many times as is necessary to master the area of weakness. On the next assessment, the teacher can compare scores for questions tied to factoring and see if there has been improvement. Having this type of data at their fingertips, coupled with adaptable open educational resources equals meeting individual learner needs.

The OHSU curriculum is aligned with Utah state standards “to ensure the highest quality educational experience.” This is an important consideration for the growth of open education, because if OER does not align with standards, it will most likely be used less. Utah will be adopting the Common Core State Standards. What are the challenges to implementing content standards and aligning OER with these standards?

These are the instructions our curriculum writers are given prior to gathering, organizing and creating open educational resources:

  • The Open High School of Utah curriculum is 1) standards-based and 2) built from OER.
  • Each course is based on the Utah State Core Standards which are the foundation that the content is built upon. Courses are organized into 18 weeks, which each week addressing specific objectives. When building a course, lesson content is built, aligned to the standards, from available OER or self-created materials. OER versions of OHSU courses will be released to the public and must be built on content that conforms to OER guidelines.
  • Objectives should be assigned to each unit, folder, content page, assignment, assessment, and individual questions. By doing this, we will be able to have accurate data to evaluate the effectiveness of instruction and course materials, allowing us to adapt, evolve and improve the curriculum over time.

We have discovered that the most effective way to ensure standards alignment is to use them as the organizing principle or framework for the course. Teachers can then gather existing OER materials, organize them accordingly and fill in any gaps with teacher created materials. The greatest challenge our curriculum writers face is wading through the available OER and determining which content to use in order to create a cohesive course.

OHSU is committed to sharing the curriculum and resources it’s developed, to be usable by anyone at anytime. The first round of course materials will be published in August 2010. Is there a specific open content license that the materials will be offered under? What sorts of considerations were taken into account when deciding on a content license for the OHSU OER materials?

Course materials produced by the Open High School of Utah are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Open educational resources produced by other individuals or organizations that are embedded in Open High School of Utah course materials may be licensed under a different open license, so we notify potential users to please confirm the license status of any third-party resources before revising or remixing them.

We are thrilled that Creative Commons exists and provides a way to license content outside of a one-size-fits-all copyright system. CC licenses are adaptable to any particular situation, especially important for the Open High School of Utah since we gather content from so many different sources prior to arranging and compiling it as our own. A major consideration in choosing to CC license our curriculum is that our philosophies on sharing and collaboration are so closely intertwined.

Many teachers receive confusing information about whether they are able to share the educational resources they create. A Utah Administrative Rule clarifies that teachers are allowed to share curriculum materials under open licenses, specifically Creative Commons licenses. Can this rule be used as a model for other states, and what do you think are some of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to teachers sharing curriculum content?

Conceptually this appears to be a good administrative rule to have in place, and could be a step in the right direction. The practical application is more difficult to implement, however. On a granular level the challenges become several fold:

  • Awareness: educating superintendents, administrators and faculty on the intricacies of when and how to use the Creative Commons licenses
  • Logistics: creating a repository or streamlined method of cataloging, and distributing OER content once it is CC licensed, otherwise multiple filing cabinets and hard drives contain countless licensable lesson plans that never see the light of day
  • Motivation: cultivating intrinsic motivation for teachers to share their resources with fellow teachers outside of their department, school, and district

As a teacher, I was continually told to be very careful with regard to copyright laws, that whatever I produced as a teacher actually belonged to the school since it was being created with taxpayer dollars, and that I was allowed to distribute within the department but not throughout the school or district. This type of territorial behavior in our schools is counterproductive to what schools should be doing; educating children, not fighting over fiefdoms. Time will tell if the Utah Administrative Rule has the type of impact I would hope it could have, were it followed by every educator in the state.

Obviously, the faculty at OHSU are familiar with creating and sharing OER. What professional development or training do OHSU faculty go through to learn best practices for use of OER? In your opinion, what are the major hurdles teachers outside of OHSU face in incorporating OER in their teaching?

At the Open High School of Utah, we are continuously focused on improving the process for creating our OER content as evidenced by these three phases–

Advance Preparation and Teacher Expectations: We started out hiring subject matter experts and instructional designers to build curriculum for OHSU, and throughout the process determined that a critical element was missing; that of teacher input and guidance. We invest a lot of time and effort in auditioning teachers to create curriculum for us, and have instituted an extensive process to ensure that we have the very best fit available. We post the position, gather resumes, and invite teachers to progress to the second phase of the interview process which consists of building a lesson for us from open educational resources. We supply them with two pages of resources and websites, give them a week and see what they can come up with. Those who are unwilling to put in the time and effort self-terminate from the eligible pool of applicants and we end up with 5-6 terrific lesson plans to choose from. At that point we interview the top three, based on answers to written questions and the lesson plan itself. The process is very open and transparent because we essentially ask them to prove that they can create OER lessons by doing just that. We then hire the teacher who possesses a personality that translates well in the online arena, who has proven that he/she is capable of OER lesson creation, and is dedicated to supporting the vision and mission of the Open High School of Utah.

New Teacher Training: Once a teacher is officially hired to create content for the Open High School of Utah, we provide an intensive two-day training on curriculum design, OER, tech tips and tools and answer any questions they may have. There is a great deal of unplanned collaboration that comes out of this training and it allows teachers to get to know each other and feel comfortable sharing ideas.

Ongoing Professional Development: In addition, we provide ongoing support from our curriculum director, who combs through every page created to ensure consistency in design and formatting, appropriate use of OER, and alignment to state standards. The curriculum director serves as an invaluable resource to guide our teachers through the OER creation process. At every faculty meeting we highlight the work of one or two teachers as they take us on a walkthrough of their virtual course. They share new resources, technology they have incorporated, and anecdotal experiences of how students are reacting to the course material. In addition, each teacher is enrolled as a student in every other teacher’s course so they can view the curriculum on their own and gain insights and ideas to incorporate into their own classes. In this online setting, the openness and transparency of viewing everyone’s curriculum creates a collaborative setting so the collective result is better than anything an individual teacher can come up with on his/her own. The old adage, “A rising tide lifts all boats” holds true for the faculty of the Open High School of Utah.

Outside of the Open High School of Utah, especially in the virtual setting, much of the curriculum is designed by corporations and delivered part and parcel to the students with little to no input from the teachers. A textbook publisher in Texas is designing curriculum for students in Indiana, and the people closest to their students, the teachers, have very little local control to customize the curriculum to meet the needs of their learners. That said, in a brick and mortar setting, good teachers find or create supplemental content on a regular basis, but are either unaware that they are able to license their work, or don’t have a common repository in which to share their work outside of their department.

How do you see the role of Creative Commons within the OER movement? How can CC help?

The mission of Creative Commons, to increase sharing and improve collaboration, is powerful for all of the right reasons. It hearkens back to the things we learned in Kindergarten about sharing and playing nice with others. The best part about Creative Commons is the breadth of licensing options available to educators in all arenas, and how nicely they dovetail with open-source curriculum, giving us the ability to select the license that best fits our needs. The challenge becomes increasing awareness, helping educators to understand how best to use Creative Commons and why it is important, and providing a forum in which to publish. The Open High School of Utah is doing its part by releasing several courses at the end of this month, all appropriately CC licensed, of course, which will draw attention to the merits of Creative Commons licensing. Keep up the good work!

Wrapping up, what does a successful teaching and learning environment implementing the power of OER “look like”? Do you have any lingering thoughts — worries, hopes, predictions?

This is perhaps the most exciting aspect of the Open High School of Utah! Every student’s educational experience can be customized to best fit their needs, turning the one-size-fits-all, teach-to-the-middle education system on its head. For example, at OHSU if a student is struggling with factoring, the teacher creates an additional, personalized screencast highlighting specifically where the student is going wrong, complete with suggestions and examples on how to fix the problem. The online delivery allows the curriculum to be housed in the cloud, freeing up teacher hours to work with students in a one-on-one setting, giving them what they need, when they need it, so they can move on. This teaching model coupled with the use of OER can produce amazing results that will hopefully reignite the passion for learning that we all possessed in Kindergarten.

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CC Talks With: SoundCloud

Cameron Parkins, August 19th, 2010

SoundCloud has long been a preeminent destination for creators looking to share and distribute music and audio online. From the beginning SoundCloud has supported CC-licensing options – today they launched a slew of new features that bolster this integration broadly, with a particular impact on those looking for CC-licensed music.

Advanced search options, a CC portal, increased visibility for license choice, and a CC-licensed remix contest are just a few of the new features SoundCloud debuted today. We even got in to the act, posting loops from the Into Infinity project and setting up a DropBox to hear what kind of fantastic CC-licensed tunes SoundCloud users have been posting.

To help frame this update we caught up with SoundCloud-er Parker Higgins – read on to learn about SoundCloud’s history, the power of their new feature set, and plans for the future.

Let’s start by getting some background on Soundcloud – when and why did SoundCloud start? What hole was there in the online music distribution field that needed filling?

SoundCloud was founded in 2007, mostly as a response to the problem of moving around large music files. At the time, the options for sending around audio files, which can be uncompressed and very large, were a combination of e-mailing and large file transmission sites, or clunky FTPs. To make it worse, there weren’t any really elegant solutions for public distribution either. Musicians have a need to send around audio all the time: privately, like between band members or with producers or A&R guys, and publicly, when trying to give fans access to your tracks. This was the problem SoundCloud stepped in to solve.

In the meantime, a lot of very cool things has shaped its development. As the site has become more popular, we’ve added more social features and people have really started to see it as a community. We’ve also branched out more into embracing all sorts of audio, and not just music. SoundCloud is still the best way to move your music around, but it’s also become a thriving place for musicians, field recorders, comedians, sample makers, listeners, and everybody else to find and share audio creations.

What kind of people and organizations are using SoundCloud to distribute music? Anyone of particular note? Is it mostly creators that use SC or are there also music consumers using SC as a platform to find new artists?

We consider SoundCloud to be about the music and audio creators, and as we work on new features and fixes, it’s with them in mind. Of course, music is an ecosystem, and listeners like to go where the creators are. It’s also important that by making it easier for music creators to use the site, we’re lowering the barriers of entry to become a music creator, and helping to empower traditional music consumers to become creators.

It’s gotten so easy for “non-musicians” to use GarageBand, Audacity, or any number of instrument applications on computers, phones, and tablets to actually create something. And with SoundCloud, it can be even easier to share those creations.
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CC Talks With: Curriki’s Christine Mytko: Open Education and Policy

Jane Park, August 5th, 2010


Photo by Christine Mytko / CC BY-NC

At the beginning of this year we announced a revised approach to our education plans, focusing our activities to support of the Open Educational Resources (OER) movement. In order to do so we have worked hard to increase the amount of information available on our own site – in addition to a new Education landing page and our OER portal explaining Creative Commons’ role as legal and technical infrastructure supporting OER, we have been conducting a series of interviews to help clarify some of the challenges and opportunities of OER in today’s education landscape.

One major venue for the advancement of OER is through policy change at the local, state, federal, and international levels. We recently had the chance to talk to Christine Mytko, who is advancing OER at the local levels through her work as a K-12 educator and the lead science reviewer at Curriki. As a teacher, Christine brings a unique perspective to the conversation around open education and policy, and gives us important insight into how teachers on the ground are thinking about copyright and using Creative Commons and OER.

You are a teacher and the lead science reviewer at Curriki, which is known as the “next generation wiki” for K-12 education. Can you briefly describe who you are, your current roles, and what led to them? What would you say is Curriki’s mission, and how is it helping teachers like yourself?

For most of my teaching career, I have been a middle school science teacher in public schools. When I moved to the Bay Area three years ago, I was fortunate to find a job that combines both of my passions –  science and technology. I currently serve as the K – 5 science specialist and middle school technology teacher at a small independent school in Berkeley, CA.

In 2007, I interviewed for part-time work at Curriki. Like many teachers, I was looking to supplement my income. What I found was a community of educators committed to creating, collaborating on, and sharing open-source materials. As part of the Curriki Review Team, I am responsible for reviewing submitted science materials and providing a public score and feedback for the contributor. I also help out with other projects as needed. Currently, I am working with another Bay Area Chemistry teacher to revise and submit an open source Chemistry digital textbook as part of the California Learning Resource Network’s Free Digital Textbook Initiative.

As stated on its main page, Curriki’s mission is to “provide free, high-quality curricula and education resources to teachers, students and parents around the world.”  Its name, somewhat recognizably, is a play on the words “curriculum” and “wiki.” The Curriki repository does have many curriculum options, from lesson plans to full courses, available in various subject areas, educational levels, and languages. Curriki offers other resources, too, including textbooks, multimedia, and opportunities for community and collaborative groups.

All Curriki content is shared under the Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY), planting it firmly in the OER space. Do you know why Curriki chose CC BY for all of its materials? If not, what do you see CC BY enabling that other licenses or “all-rights-reserved” content might not?

Contributors of Curriki content do have the option to select either public domain or a variety of CC licensing, but the default License Deed is CC-BY. I honestly don’t know specifically why Curriki chose this, but I must say it as an excellent decision. CC-BY gives educators the power to remix, share and distribute materials as needed to be timely and maximally relevant to their own curriculum.

The flexibility afforded by a CC-BY license allows for materials to be adapted quickly. I hear that a typical textbook revision works on a 7-year cycle. Curriki materials can be updated and “published” in a matter of seconds and the community can correct any content errors just as quickly. Many topics, especially in science and technology, are changing so quickly that education can no longer afford to wait for proprietary materials to go through their lengthy cycles of publication.

Currently, California and Texas are the biggest purchasers of traditional “all-rights reserved” textbooks, and publishers strive to meet these states’ requirements. Educators in other states (and countries) are forced to work within these proprietary constraints. However, OER [initiatives] such as Curriki allow teachers to freely adapt materials to best fit their pedagogical and cultural needs. Furthermore, by creating or uploading such materials onto a public repository, teachers will no longer need to work in isolation, continuously “re-inventing the wheel.”  As relevant materials are freely shared among communities of educators, individual time spent on adapting proprietary materials will decrease, allowing educators to spend more of their precious time on other important areas of teaching.

Describe a class- or school-wide project where you have integrated CC licensing and/or OER. What challenges have you or your students come across while searching for or using resources on the web? How would you translate this experience for teachers looking to mark up their own resources correctly for OER search and discovery? What do teachers need to know?

In my technology classes, I now require all incorporated media to be Creative Commons, Public Domain or No Copyright. At first, after having free rein in Google Images for years, my students felt very limited in their choices. But after discussing the reasons behind copyright and copyright alternatives, many students understood the importance of respecting rights reserved.

There are so many excellent resources to help teachers and students use Creative Commons in their classrooms. The Creative Commons search page, Wikimedia Commons, Flickr CC group, and Google Advanced Search all are wonderful tools for finding alternatively copyrighted images. Websites such as Jamendo are great for finding CC music.

The language was a challenge at first for my middle school students. Although there are only six main CC licenses, my students got bogged down with terms such as “Attribution” and “No Derivatives.”  It didn’t help that Google uses slightly different terminology (“reuse” and “reuse with modification”) in their license search filter. But the kids quickly became comfortable with the terms and procedures and, within a few class periods, they easily accessed and properly used “some rights reserved” media. Of course, I have the kids assign rights to their own work, which reinforces the licenses, and gives students the opportunity to think carefully about which rights are important to them.

As far as marking up my own resources for OER search and discovery, I am still learning about the process myself. In fact, prior to my work with Curriki, I was hesitant to “release” my work as open source. I had put so much time and effort into certain materials, I didn’t see the point of just giving them away on the Internet. However, the last few years, I have come to recognize the benefits of open source materials and have begun to post some of my formally guarded resources on Curriki as CC-BY; and I now freely share my new material. Now that I am more comfortable using and creating open source materials on my own and with my students, I hope to move on to work with other teachers.

What are the most common confusions or concerns of teachers when it comes to sharing their teaching materials? Do you think the average K-12 teacher is aware of open licensing alternatives, like Creative Commons? What are the various school or institutional policies for teachers sharing their materials?

I am certain that the average teacher is NOT aware of open licensing alternatives. In fact, many teachers I know still operate on the guiding principle of CASE – Copy And Steal Everything.  I don’t believe teachers are lazy or purposely deceitful for using materials in this way; anyone who has taught in a classroom knows how much there is to do in an incredibly short amount of time. Sometimes, copying an (often copyrighted) activity and tossing it in your colleague’s box is merely survival. Even those teachers who are aware of copyright will often claim “fair use.”  The problem is that teachers often overestimate their protections and privileges under fair use. And there is little training in copyright and fair use, let alone Creative Commons and OER. Not only is an average K – 12 teacher unaware of his or her responsibilities, he or she often does not know the rights and options available to him or her in sharing his or her own work.

There are a variety of roadblocks preventing teachers from sharing their own work. First of all, since creating curriculum takes so much time, many teachers are unwilling to share lessons because they feel the product belongs to them. Other teachers may feel that their work isn’t good enough to share. And even if teachers overcome these psychological blocks, there are still the technical issues revolving around how will they share their work as open source. None of the schools I have worked with had any sort of policies on, or time set aside for, sharing materials. In talking with my colleagues, they found a similar lack of school policy. Even in the rare case in which there was some sort of policy, teachers often selectively ignored it. Currently, most teachers do not have the access, training, and support necessary to confidently participate in the OER movement.

Curriki has been doing some work to tie their resources to state education standards (http://www.curriki.org/xwiki/bin/view/Main/BrowseStandards). Can you describe a little of that process to us? What are some of the benefits and challenges to including this information? How useful is it?

This work is not part of my professional duties at Curriki, however, I can speak to the process on a personal note as a teacher and Curriki member. Right now, when you visit a resource, you will see four tabs – Content, Information, Standards, and Comments. Choosing the Standards tab allows a user to view currently aligned standards, as well as gives the option to “Align to [additional] Standards.”  The process itself is very intuitive; the user clicks through a series of menus and applies standards as he or she deems appropriate.

The biggest benefit will certainly be the convenience of browsing for resources by standard through the aforementioned jump page. The biggest challenge is to align all of the existing and future resources in the repository. Curriki is depending largely on the community to gather momentum for this process. Right now, in its infancy, only about half of the states have standards-aligned resources to browse, and even those collections are far from complete across subject areas and educational levels. Of course, members of Curriki are always welcome to browse unaligned resources by subject, educational level, or other criteria by using Curriki’s Advanced Search.

There has been a lot of OER talk at the state and federal policy levels, especially surrounding open textbooks. What do you think is the future of the textbook for the K-12 classroom? How would you like to see this reflected in policy?

I, like many educators, feel that the reign of the textbook is coming to an end. As a science teacher, I have rarely depended on a textbook for curriculum, and rely more heavily on both online materials and self-created materials. OER allow me to take better advantage of creating and sharing work within a collaborative community. While science and technology lend themselves to early adoption of the open source philosophy, I believe other subjects will soon follow.

Textbooks will not be able to maintain their current stronghold in K–12 schools. A recent New York Times article points out that “[e]ven the traditional textbook publishers agree that the days of tweaking a few pages in a book just to sell a new edition are coming to an end.”  Textbooks are expensive and quickly become outdated. Printed errors are not correctable until the next edition comes out. In contrast, OER are inexpensive or free, constantly updated, and easily correctable. I would love to see the money saved by choosing inexpensive OER over pricey textbooks used for supplementary materials and teacher training. Or even better, districts can use that money to set aside release time and pay teachers to meet, collaborate and create OER content.

Lastly, what does a successful teaching and learning environment implementing the power of OER “look like”? Do you have any lingering thoughts—worries, hopes, predictions?

A successful learning environment is relevant, engaging, challenging, and flexible. OER material is current, as well as easily, and legally, adaptable to meet the needs of various learners. An OER community can provide a teacher with materials and support in meeting the needs of his or her particular student population. Resources that are freely shared end up saving others countless hours of redundant individual work and frees teachers from stagnating in a proprietary curriculum.

Schools are beginning to recognize the cost savings of abandoning the current textbook model, and I predict that publishers will adapt as the market demands of them. I hope that schools begin to recognize that teachers are a valuable resource and skilled professionals, and deserve to be compensated for their time spent developing curriculum. I hope districts begin to create policies and provide support to encourage teachers to share the materials they create.

Ideally, the classroom should be a place where students are not merely passive consumers of resources and media, but rather active collaborators, synthesizers and publishers of their own work. I hope that, from a young age, students will be held accountable for using others’ work in an appropriate way, and encouraged to share their own work as open source with some rights reserved, rather than falling back on the default of full copyright, or worse, not sharing at all. I want my students and colleagues to understand that, by sharing materials, they are contributing to a collection of materials that will benefit learners far beyond the walls of their own classroom. This is a significant shift in current educational philosophy, but sites like Curriki are a great step in facilitating a move in the right direction.

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CC Talks With: ISKME’s Lisa Petrides: Open Education and Policy

Timothy Vollmer, June 29th, 2010

At the beginning of this year we announced a revised approach to our education plans, focusing our activities to support of the Open Educational Resources (OER) movement. In order to do so we have worked hard to increase the amount of information available on our own site – in addition to a new Education landing page and our OER portal explaining Creative Commons’ role as legal and technical infrastructure supporting OER, we have been conducting a series of interviews to help clarify some of the challenges and opportunities of OER in today’s education landscape.

One major venue for the advancement of OER is through policy change at the local, state, federal, and international levels. We recently got the chance to interview Lisa Petrides. Lisa is president and founder of the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME), an independent non-profit educational research institute located in Half Moon Bay, CA. Petrides also leads OER Commons, an open source teaching and learning network that supports and facilitates the creation, sharing, and modification of open educational resources (OER). We talked with Lisa about ongoing research that aims to measure the effectiveness of OER, the necessity for education about tools and services that enable the creation and sharing of educational materials, and the important work needed to link OER to content standards.

How is ISKME and OER Commons related to open education?

For the past eight years, ISKME’s research has focused on improving the practice of data use, information sharing, and knowledge collaboration in the education sector. The depth of our research is fed by applying what we have learned from on-the-ground educational initiatives that we have been engaged in. We have supported OER through three primary ways: first, in the development of a research agenda that has included studies on the creation, use, and re-use of OER in teaching and learning; second, in the creation of OER Commons, the most extensive curation of metadata on learning materials available, with over 350 content partners. We make our metadata available for services such as DiscoverEd, as well as the international OER consortium GLOBE. As such, OER Commons is not simply an aggregation of metadata through automated harvesting and RSS feeds. With smaller organizations, educational institutions and museums, we offer resources and training that enable content creators to establish and publish meaningful descriptive metadata themselves, allowing these learning materials to be more easily discovered and used by others. Lastly, ISKME offers professional development workshops and continuing education for teachers focused on innovative concepts and practices related to digital and social learning, and open education curriculum. We do this by integrating a range of collaborative practices using open-source learning content with a research-based pedagogy focused on participatory learning for K-20 teachers and learners.

At ISKME’s Big Ideas Fest this past December, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in his welcome remarks, “Online courses and open source materials are catching on fast, but we’ve made only limited investments in understanding which ones are most effective.” How do we determine which are most effective? From ISKME’s research perspective, what do we need to know about OER in order to make the case to policymakers?


Lisa Petrides / CC BY

Others have noted how interesting it is that we don’t ask the same questions about textbooks and other traditional forms of learning materials. For example, does any teacher actually know when they are given a textbook to use by their district or school, whether or not that books has been used to more effectively help students learn? That being said, the more we can learn about use and reuse of OER, the better we can help guide teachers, learners, and policymakers to high quality open education solutions that scale.

In this rather new field of OER, we have been looking at the processes and conditions by which open content can be adopted, used, and modified. For example, as researchers for the Community College Open Textbook Collaborative, we looked at how community colleges were able to identify, organize, and support the production and use of high quality, culturally relevant open textbooks for community college students. This involved looking at the process of open textbook creation and promotion, as well as the structures and processes needed to support it, not to mention ways in which to create replicable models that could be adapted to future OER initiatives.

From our research on resources that “travel well” conducted with our partners, European Schoolnet and BioQUEST, we found that subject and abstract were important considerations in determining whether a resource was viewed. However, in terms of actually deciding to use a resource, factors such as how current the resource was and whether or not it matched the learning level of their students were two important considerations. Additionally, knowing how previous instructors have used a given resource and whether or not trusted colleagues have also tried it and liked it was also a strong determinant of use.

Ultimately, we need to know what the impact is of open materials on teaching and learning. Yet it is important to remember that “effective” can be defined to include everything from the prohibitive cost of textbooks (as in the case of the PIRG study that showed textbooks were over 50% of the cost of community college students), to ease of use, to adoption, to the collaboration of teachers and instructors that fosters pedagogical innovation, and the creation of more dynamic and relevant resources from the perspective of today’s learner. 

OER Commons provides access to high quality OER content. Another goal is to “develop training and professional development models to support teachers and schools in effective uses of online content and to meet the demands of 21st century learning.” What are the hurdles for teachers and schools in using and creating OER?

Teachers do require new understanding, training, coaching, and support for all aspects involving the integration and sharing of digital and open learning content. One of the biggest hurdles is helping teachers make the shift from a consumer culture of educational resources, to one in which teachers gain leadership and support to adapt and develop resources for their own needs, and then share those resources with others. We work directly with teachers to engage with learning resources through processes that require collaboration and social learning, and that build expertise from within and from the bottom-up.

The use of OER is really a part of a shift happening in education that aims to support shared teacher expertise and peer-based learning. As such, free and open content is not only a new economic model for schools and students, but also a primary vehicle for disseminating more flexible, adaptable curricula that support learner-centric approaches.

Teachers face hurdles in terms of their experience in sharing their own lessons learned from the classroom and then venturing into online communities of practice and experimenting with new social networking environments, wikis, and other unfamiliar tools. Typically they also lack support for adding tags or other metadata to organize materials for their own use and then making resources more discoverable by others. In short, most online collections typically present static lists of resources created by experts, and they typically do not support teachers in evaluating education materials and aligning them to state standards, or in localizing materials to meet their pedagogical approach, classroom requirements, and student learning needs—all of which are necessary components for effective usage by teachers—the basic tenets of OER. Even in cases where technology adoption by teachers and digital resource quality is comparatively high, such as in the sciences—teacher practice, pedagogies, and supportive infrastructures may not yet be evolving to truly take advantage of the innovative potential of OER.

As customizable, remixable, shareable educational materials, what are some of the challenges with OER and K-12 educators in adhering to state education standards?

There are many of us working on the issue of linking open content to standards. There have been groups who have done this for years, such as the Achievement Standards Network, Teachers’ Domain, and Dolan DNA Learning Center, just to name a few. However, it has been complicated by the fact that state standards can change every two years or so, and that we have several different sets of state standards across the country. The Common Core State Standards Initiative certainly holds promise. Ultimately, it is just a matter of technology that can enable the mapping and crosswalking of standards to learning resources. This really isn’t that difficult. It just needs to be done. And if we can do this, then we have transparent ways of ensuring that standards met do in fact lead to better learning outcomes.

How do you see the role of Creative Commons within the OER movement? How can CC help?

I think the role of Creative Commons is more important than ever within the OER movement. We need to continue to raise awareness about issues of copyright through workshops and online materials as part of the professional development of teachers. For example, in our workshops with teachers as well as through our research, perhaps not surprisingly, teachers search the Internet for materials and are happy to find any high quality materials that are easy to use. Yet like many people who use the Internet, they don’t necessarily take copyright into consideration. This behavior in the digital world is really the same as the paper-based world. Have you ever seen, or been a teacher who, in our under-resourced education system, flips through books looking for great examples or exercises for their students, and simply photocopies selective pages to use? This is what we see online.

Creative Commons is certainly among the best solutions to this dilemma, but is not yet widely known in the education community. As we know, within Creative Commons, creators of content can stipulate the conditions of use through a set of options that unpack the “all rights reserved” as we know it, into simple pieces, but the process of thinking about intellectual property for most educators is far from simple. In a perfect world, your average teacher or educator should not have to master a combination of six licenses and use cases, but instead be able to easily use and remix content with conditions of use as a seamless conduit. There is still much work to be done at the system level as well, in terms of working with schools, districts, colleges and universities, to encourage the open and free use of materials, particularly in our public institutions—where our public tax dollars have already paid for these materials many times over.

Wrapping up, what does a successful teaching and learning environment implementing the power of OER “look like”? Do you have any lingering thoughts, worries, hopes, or predictions?

That is certainly a most exciting question! I think it’s really about the unbundling of the education system as we know it. It is about open and free access to all knowledge for all people, it is about peer-to-peer learning, alternative certification, and dynamic resources that can be adapted for use in a myriad of contexts. That is the promise and power of OER.  One lingering thought is how we can reallocate a portion of public tax-payer dollars from a $6-8 billion textbook market annually to support the OER ecosystem. Or will educators and administrators be convinced by those who want to position OER as some rogue movement and be scared away from collaboration and reuse? Yet, from the news media to the recording industry, there has been a leveling of resources that needs to happen. And if you really believe that education is a public good, or even a human right, then we must do more to ensure access for all.

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