CC Talks With
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. As such, we recently caught up with Wayne Mackintosh. Wayne is the Director of the International Centre for Open Education based at Otago Polytechnic in New Zealand, member of the Board of Directors of the OER Foundation, and founder of the WikiEducator project. In our interview with Wayne, we discussed Creative Commons and openness as a “competitive advantage” to closed systems, how OER “levels the playing field” through open licensing and file formats, and New Zealand’s unique context and approach to teacher empowerment and experimentation using OER.
Can you explain your role and how these organizations are tied to the mission of open education in New Zealand and internationally?
I’m an educator – by choice. I have spent the majority of my career in the academy, but started life as an accountant. Realising that I would not be able to spend forty years of my life pushing numbers around, I made a career change and decided to follow my vocation and become a teacher. The act of teaching is fundamentally about sharing knowledge. OER embodies the purpose of teaching and is today’s most compelling manifestation of the core values of education in a digital world, that is, to share knowledge freely.
WikiEducator is by far the most rewarding project of my professional career. I founded the WikiEducator prototype in February 2006 as a social software experiment for educators to collaborate on the development of open source teaching materials. WikiEducator’s formative years were nurtured by the Commonwealth of Learning (COL), an intergovernmental organisation created by Commonwealth Heads of Government to encourage the development and sharing of open learning/distance education knowledge, resources and technologies. Today, WikiEducator is a flagship project of the OER Foundation. As a philanthropic organisation, the OER Foundation is responsible for raising and administering the funds for the purpose of supporting the adoption and implementation of OER for the benefit of education institutions and the learner communities they serve. The OER Foundation also maintains the technical and operational infrastructure of the WikiEducator community in accordance with the policies approved by the open WikiEducator Community Council. In short the OER Foundation is nurturing the development of sustainable ecosystems for the OER movement.
In our search for fertile ground to host the headquarters of the OER Foundation, we decided on a global leader in Open Education, Otago Polytechnic in Dunedin, New Zealand. Otago Polytechnic is the first New Zealand tertiary education institution to sign the Cape Town Open Education Declaration, the first tertiary education institution in the world to approve and implement an intellectual property policy that by default uses the Creative Commons Attribution license. Otago has an institutional commitment to education for sustainability embodied in their strategic plan. Otago Polytechnic is serious about collaboration and sustainable OER futures, as demonstrated by the Council’s decision to establish the OER Foundation as an independent entity rather than hosting yet another institution-based project.
It is not easy for smaller institutions to reap the benefits of reducing the costs of provisioning and participating in global OER networks due to the inertia of getting open content projects started. The OER Foundation provides a viable and effective solution for education institutions to stake their claim in OER, to test the open education waters and derive immediate benefits while contributing to the global sustainability of education.
How do you see the role of Creative Commons within the OER movement? How can CC help?
Creative Commons is the air that the OER movement breathes. It is the legal enabler that eases the complexities of intellectual property in education, helping us move from a restrictive culture to a free culture. Creative Commons fuels the efficiency and effectiveness of the OER movement by avoiding redundancy and unnecessary duplication of legal tools that facilitate collaboration in education.
As the OER landscape evolves, I believe the nodes in the free culture network should focus their energies on core competencies and prioritise areas of collaboration where collective effort enables each initiative to better achieve their own objectives. For example, education is not the core business of Creative Commons, however educating users on making informed choices with regard to Creative Commons licenses is potentially a productive area of mutual collaboration among mainstream OER projects and Creative Commons. Similarly, the OER Foundation is not necessarily well positioned to provide solid legal advice on intellectual property issues in education. Creative Commons could, for instance, leverage its networks to establish a global network of pro bono legal counseling services, or develop an array of draft intellectual property policies published as OER that can be reused and remixed by education institutions around the world. In this way, all projects benefit from the core expertise and tacit knowledge of our respective organisations.
In responding to these needs, the OER Foundation has launched the CollabOERate project. CollabOERate is the OER equivalent of research and development (R & D) for new “product” design in open content and open education. CollabOERate is an “OER remix” of industry’s “co-opetition” model where individual OER projects agree to collaborate on areas that allow them to “compete” better for their own sustainability and attainment of their own strategic objectives.
The uncharted territory, and arguably the biggest point of difference for OER lies in the remix. The open education movement is yet to master the remix, but I concede that this is a challenge riddled with complexity. At the OER Foundation we subscribe to free cultural works licensing. These licensing schemes provide legal compatibility for the essential freedoms and also provides a commitment to ensuring access to source files using open file formats. In this way, no educator is restricted from participating in the OER remix because they have to purchase software licenses or sacrifice their freedoms in software choices.
Creative Commons licenses do not cater to the challenges associated with open file formats or digital rights management. Perhaps the free culture movement can learn from our industry counterparts. Today, a growing number of chocolate manufactures apply the “Fair Trade” logo on their products, communicating to the consumer that they pay cocoa producers a fair living wage. Similarly, most processed food items we purchase at the grocery store supply the details of the ingredients used in the manufacturing of the product. Clearly there are degrees of openness in digital OERs, and I believe the OER movement should work toward consumer awareness and branding of our OER artefacts, particularly insofar as free cultural works licensing and open file formats is concerned. In a similar vein I think we should be doing more in educating users on the implications of their license choices, most pertinently in relation to Creative Commons licensing. We can collaborate with mainstream projects in the free culture community to help in this work.
The precondition for building sustainable OER ecosystems lies in our distinctive “competitive advantage” when compared to closed systems. Our advantage is openness. Effecting real social change is facilitated through open philanthropy where we focus on achieving our respective aims through the principles of openness, transparency and networked collaboration. At the OER Foundation we believe in radical transparency and all our planning documents, projects and funding proposals are developed openly in WikiEducator, using Creative Commons licences. This has worked very well for us and we encourage all non-profits working in the open education space to do the same. This will reduce duplication of effort and scale our growth and success in the free culture movement by an order of magnitude in ways that simply cannot be replicated through traditional closed approaches.
Last week, Shareable—the online magazine about sharing culture—launched a survey asking you how much you share. The survey contributed to CC’s Catalyst Campaign, which is continuing through the month of June. This week, CC talks with Shareable co-founder and publisher, Neal Gorenflo.
The caption for Shareable is “Design for a shareable world.” “Design” is a huge buzz word nowadays — what do you mean by “design”? What is the purpose or mission of the magazine and how does it relate to openness?
The word “design” signals intent. We write about those who intentionally design for shareability, whether they be an entrepreneur creating a product service system like carsharing or a parent creating a babysitting co-op in their neighborhood. And we host discussion about how to make different facets of the world more shareable.
Like Creative Commons, Shareable acts on the idea that sharing is not merely nice, but essential to our ability to create, thus survive as a species. As in the digital world, so is it in the material world—our ability to change depends on sharing and openness.
Our mission at Shareable is to help people share. We write about the sharing lifestyle with lots of How-to’s. And we report on the emergence of a new society based on the logic of sharing to inspire action. We think sharing is one of the best ways to cope with the social, economic and environmental crises we face.
What led you to start Shareable? As the publisher, what exactly do you do?
I didn’t have a choice. I saw from the inside how the global economy worked. And how it felt to live out its value system. From these experiences, I saw that it was moving us toward collapse. I also wanted a better life for myself. I found the earn-and-spend-life meaningless, not to mention incredibly boring. I took a year off in 2004 to find a purpose for my life. That eventually lead to the founding of Shareable.
Wow, the title ‘publisher’ sounds old fashioned. Maybe I should change my title. Any suggestions? Whatever the title, my job is to attract talented people to the project and help them succeed. A lot of the time that means staying out of the way. But it also means raising money and helping our stakeholders reach consensus on important decisions.
Can you give us an example of a story that would be Shareable (aka particularly compelling for your magazine)?
Dude, Where’s Our Car? is the Hightower family’s struggle to survive the Great Recession, how they use sharing, not always enthusiastically at first, to create a new life, one with less stuff and more satisfaction. It talks about the surprising results of giving up the prized family car, the last vestige of their identity as high-powered consumers. It’s a Shareable classic because it’s a poignant story of transformation with practical how-to advice.
Shareable readers also value our social enterprise pieces like Would You Share Your Car With A Stranger?, which is about the rise of peer-to-peer car sharing. And our Shareable Cities series epitomized by Can Cities Be Designed for Happiness?.
Shareable is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA. Why did you guys go with this particular license? What does the CC license enable that traditional copyright cannot? How has CC changed or contributed to the sharing landscape?
We went with the CC BY-NC-SA license because not all of Shareable contributors are OK with commercial use of their work. Our CC license is incredibly useful. It gives anyone permission to share our work without needing to ask, which is exactly what we as a mission-driven nonprofit want our readers to do. So please dear readers, republish our stories!
Creative Commons has had a huge impact on sharing by making it cool, and for telling the sometimes scary truth in a capitalist society—that we need sharing to survive.
What’s this I hear about Shareable paying people $10 to take a survey, and that the money may be donated to Creative Commons or the Project for Public Spaces?
Yes, guilty as charged. Shareable and Latitude Research are doing what might be the first ever sharing industry survey. The point of the survey is to uncover actionable insight that can help accelerate the growth of the sharing industry.
Want to help? Then please take the survey. At the end of the survey, you can chose to donate your $10 incentive to Creative Commons.*
Are there any last thoughts you’d like to share with the CC community, or the world?
Sharing is the killer app. We live in a time of interrelated social, economic, and environmental crisis. We can not treat these crises separately. We need systemic interventions like sharing. Sharing is arguably the most effective form of resource use reduction, not to mention it can build social solidarity, alleviate poverty by increasing access to resources, and grow service jobs at home.No Comments »
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. As such, we recently caught up with Cathy Casserly. Cathy is the Vice President for Innovation and Open Networks and Senior Partner at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Cathy is also a member of the board of directors at Creative Commons and a longtime leader, strategist and advocate of OER. In our interview with Cathy, we discussed sustainability, challenges to integrating OER in education reform, and the infrastructure role of Creative Commons.
Q: You used to be Director of the Open Educational Resources Initiative at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Hewlett has been a huge supporter of OER over the years. How do we expand interest in OER and open education to a broader set of funders? Perhaps more importantly, how can OER initiatives within institutions transition to becoming more sustainable? What do you see as the role of government in OER?
From the funder perspective, we need to continually educate funders to help them understand that openness will aid in their core mission–which is typically to spur innovation and disseminate the knowledge developed within the projects they fund. Oftentimes that knowledge sits within the foundation, or with the program officer, and we don’t have a very reliable system to distribute it to a broader audience. As a result, there’s a lot of that knowledge goes untapped. When foundations begin to use Creative Commons licenses, and to begin to practice openness and transparency to disseminate the knowledge from within the foundation, we’ll see a multiplier effect in the reach and impact of that investment. At this point, some foundations just don’t understand that. Part of what we need to do is to help more foundations understand the role of Creative Commons and the potential for open licensing to add value to their core missions. Foundations can get their feet wet by implementing open licensing on a part of their portfolio they feel comfortable with, and extend this practice to a broader percentage later on.
Cathy Casserly by Carnegie Foundation for the
Advancement of Teaching / CC BY
Sustainability has always been a core issue. At Carnegie, we’re trying to design for sustainability and openness from the beginning. Ultimately, for a project to scale in the long term, it has to become self-sustaining in some way. We have some core funding from the Carnegie Foundation itself, and we’re securing funding from outside funders, but this won’t last forever. There will be a point in time where need to figure it out on our own. And, it can be difficult to add sustainability afterward. Today, many more organizations are much more aggressive and thoughtful in thinking about issues of sustainability. In the early days of the OER movement, we were thinking about sustainability, but as a first step we really didn’t know if or how people would use the content. We had a chicken and egg problem because we needed to find out if there was really a thirst for this content. We wanted to know whether people would use it, repurpose it, and reshare it. We’ve heard a resounding “yes” to those questions. But, the OER community is relatively young, and with any new space, some of the issues are tricky to figure out–we’re still trying to understand it.
In terms of government support for open education, I think the government obviously leads the way, certainly in investing a huge amount of public dollars in education. Some of this investment includes many types of materials and learning assets that could be created for less cost, while maintaining the same–if not higher–standards of quality. These open resources would have the added benefit of allowing iteration and continued improvement on them. The federal government, state governments too, are beginning to understand that making investments in educational materials without erecting the traditional boundaries around them is sound practice. By making content systems more permeable, such as by releasing educational resources under Creative Commons licenses, governments empower educators to build on these resources again, so they don’t have to start from scratch. We see this in the open textbook space. Right now, it’s difficult in that the market is shifting, and the publishing industry is fighting. But, at some point we have to realize that we have a new distribution system with the web, and we don’t have to resort to some of the same old models for updating and improving materials. Also, we have a data backend now such that we can begin connect students to materials and learning tools that are complimentary to their needs as an individual learner, whether it be a video, a game, or an ongoing assessment. There are powerful tools we can harness via the web. It’s imperative we do this, and that the government invests in this area too.
Q: In Opening Up Education, you wrote, “the most important obstacles to rapid innovation are not technical…[t]hey have to do with the customs, standard practices, and vested interests of people in the universities and schools and within the markets, such as publishing, that may be forced to change as OER strategies gain more traction.” Since many of the challenges to incorporating OER are social (changing perceptions and practices of teachers and learners) and institutional (traditional school systems are slow to change and risk-averse), how do we approach this set of problems in an effective and scalable way?
In K-12, it’s well recognized that we have a big chasm now between what students do in school and what they do outside of school. Outside of school, students find information, interact with friends, and engage with the world in ways that are very technology-centric. In schools, it looks very much like it did in the 1950s. This is not surprising, because large systems tend to be very inert, so the structural education systems are very inert. Our education systems are not structured to look for innovation, and there needs to be something that is pushing on these systems to get them to integrate innovative ideas. There are pockets of innovation in the K-12 sector, but they’re on the edges. John Seely Brown has talked about the edge influencing and re-shaping the core, and this is beginning to happen within education systems.
In new markets utilizing new technologies, we can disaggregate and unbundle the commoditization of higher education, which has traditionally revolved around the intersection of the tutor (the teacher), the knowledge base (the content or other educational curriculum), and the assessment (the means to certify the knowledge that exists). Emerging models like the University of Phoenix, Kaplan, and other online groups have begun to challenge the incumbent system. We realize that many individuals can’t take the time to enroll in a four-year program at a university, or want to have flexible learning anywhere at any time. The system that we have now was structured for a good reason, it’s existed for a very good reason, and it’s been very resistant to change. When there’s pressure on these longstanding institutions, new organizations will pop up, and will begin to pull some of the education market their way because students realize they’re not being served as best as they could, or because they need more alternatives to a traditional degree, or because there’s more demand than there are spaces, allowing breathing room for alternatives to deal with the supply.
Q: How do you see the role of Creative Commons within the OER movement? How can CC help?
Creative Commons is the foundation for open education. Without flexible licensing there’s no way to determine which materials are shareable, adaptable, reusable, and localizable. Creative Commons is absolutely an incredible asset and core to the work of open education. It’s critically important that we get a broader group of people understanding the need to adopt Creative Commons licenses. A lot of educators and creators in the education space are creating different types of content and curriculum and want to share them. They think that other people can just pick them up and take them, but they don’t realize they’re most likely locked up under copyright. Teachers go into education because they believe in it, they want to share knowledge, and they like the idea of playing around with other ways of teaching. From individual conversations I’ve had with faculty at MIT, Yale, Harvard, and other universities, the ability for them to have their resources widely shared through open courses/courseware has been an incredibly affirming aspect to why they became an educator in the first place. We really haven’t tapped the depths of this volunteerism yet. What’s encouraging is that students who are now going through our schools of education are digital natives. They’ve grown up in a very different way, and it’s just a matter of time until they create so much pressure on the existing system that it will have to shift. What I’d like to see is that the system be very thoughtful about shifting, so it can serve students well, and equally.
Q: In our interview with the Virginia Department of Education, the respondents reiterated that OER is one component of comprehensive education reform, and that we have to think systematically in the incorporation of OER for it to be implemented into the education system. What are some of the things that OER producers (like open textbook providers) and infrastructure providers (like CC) should keep in mind in order to mesh OER in a smart and effective manner?
OER can’t be a siloed reform effort; it has to become a part of the larger system. The Holy Grail is integrating OER with student assessments, and setting up systems to feed back loops so we can understand how students are learning and what is needed to improve. In this way, we can begin to connect students with the best lessons for them at the right time, and organize individuals into smaller groups to work through different topics–for instance, I might be faster in grasping physics, whereas you might be better in math. We don’t really have a way to differentiate instruction right now, and we won’t really be able to until we have more of an individual assessment system. Such a system can take advantage of the underlying power of technology and openness. We know that courses that use this kind of embedded assessment scaffolds the student’s learning in a very structured way, and the learning outcomes–as best as we can measure them–far surpass courses taught using traditional methods. We need to scale these innovative assessment tools and materials in a systematic way. We need to figure out how to integrate face-to-face teaching and online tools and resources so that we can create better learning communities that pull from the best parts of both worlds.
Q: 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?
I think that in the next decade we’ll see a significant shift–online communities will become part of accepted hybrid models for learning. These models will blend what teachers and those with expert knowledge can best contribute to help teaching and learning, scaffold learning for individuals, and utilize the best of what we can harness with technology and the web so students can learn in interesting, animated, and engaging ways. We need to begin to understand and differentiate content, learning styles and education processes to works for individual students based on that student’s prior cognitive and non-cognitive skills. There’s a huge untapped white space in better integrating OER, and we need to think about how to blend the efficiency and effectiveness of open materials.No Comments »
One venue for the advancement of Open Educational Resources (OER) is through policy change at the local, state, federal, and international levels. In addition to an Education landing page and OER portal that explains Creative Commons’ role as the legal and technical infrastructure behind OER, CC has been conducting a series of interviews on open education and policy to help clarify some of the challenges and opportunities of OER in today’s education landscape.
In this installment, we spoke with Linda Wallinger, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction, and Lan Neugent, Assistant Superintendent for Technology, Career & Adult Education–both from the Virginia Department of Education. The Department has been exploring open education initiatives, including their work on the open textbook The 21st Century Physics Flexbook: A Compilation of Contemporary and Emerging Technologies. In general, Virginia has been supportive of openness, and passed legislation that indicates a preference for state-funded materials to be released with a CC (or equivalent open) license. Linda and Lan shared benefits and drawbacks to the Flexbook, challenges to teachers utilizing OER, and the potential for OER to dovetail with new student assessment tools.
Q: Virginia is well known for developing the Physics Flexbook, in collaboration with publisher CK-12. The FlexBook is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license (CC–BY–SA) and thus can be used as is, used in part, or enhanced by teachers based on their curriculum and classroom needs. What is the status of the Flexbook project and to what extent is the Flexbook used in class instruction? What are the reactions from teachers and students?
Lan: Because Physics is not a verified credit course in Virginia, we had a little more latitude with that particular subject. We’ve been hearing a lot from the business community and some educators about how long it takes to go through the review cycle. It’s a 7-year process. Obviously, a lot of content can change within that time period. Science changes all the time and there are topics that teachers would want to add to their teaching plans. For example, nanotechnology is not something we were concerned about seven or eight years ago. Now, it turns up in all sorts of areas like cosmetics and clothing and might be something teachers want to put into their curriculum. As we speak, there are additional Physics content areas being added to the Flexbook. The Physics Flexbook ended up being an ancillary document. Scientists, high school teachers, and college professors were recruited and each selected an area of expertise to write on. The Flexbooks are in use right now, but we don’t collect data on how much they are being used. My expectation is that teachers who want to go beyond the curriculum and have the time to do that are likely using the Flexbook as a resource repository for their teaching.
Developing the Flexbook helped us to see some of the benefits to and limitations of this model. One of the limitations of the Flexbook structure is that you could clearly tell who authored the content by the style of writing–a scientist writes differently than a businessperson, who writes differently than a teacher. How to address quality control standards have been somewhat problematic with the Flexbook. In traditional printed textbooks, you don’t notice these different voices because it’s edited as a whole to maintain a consistent tone. Another limitation is, of course, copyright issues. Most of the graphics and photos used came from the Library of Congress because they are free. It’s not to discredit these materials; we just thought it was interesting. One of the reasons why we are a state partner with some of the major publishers is that they have solved some of the copyright issues in their development and publishing process.
Linda: The Flexbook was a good way to get some experience in an OER endeavor, but from an expectation of instructional materials I would have hoped that it would have been more interactive. In many ways it was like a paper book that was displayed on the Internet. While that certainly makes it more accessible to individuals and opens the content, I’m still not sure it’s where I hoped it would be to engage teachers with best practices for teaching. By providing textbook resources through technological methods, it might prevent schools from having to buy textbooks. But, students often don’t have access to computers and the Internet at home, or at least it’s not guaranteed that they have it. So, schools have to turn around and print out the resources anyway. It’s not actually as much of a cost savings as it’s made out to be.
Lan: After we were working on the Physics Flexbook for awhile and started to realize some of its limitations, we thought it would be good to conduct pilots with companies that publish textbooks. We put out a call for groups to come in to talk to us, and 40 people came, representing all the major textbook publishers, and some smaller ones too. The publishers have seen what’s been happening with all the changes and consolidation within the music and newspaper industries. We said to them, “you spend a lot of money in binding and printing and physical production…how’d you like to talk about the core stuff you do?” They seemed amenable to discussing this. We’ve met with companies that are demonstrating incredible uses of technology. Some are creating a whole new digital experience. We’ve talked to them about teaching and learning through apps too. We’re very excited about new technologies like the iPad–not that we’re not excited about other technologies–but we thought the iPad would provide a good way to test the technology. Technologies like the iPad overcome the limitation in interactivity that we mentioned before, because it allows users to interact with content beyond traditional text. A year from now other computer companies will have similar products.
Q: Many of us in the OER world talk about the need for teachers to be able to take educational content and manipulate it, repurpose it, remix it, share it. How do teachers want to use content?
Lan: Traditional textbooks have served us well, especially for me as a beginning teacher, because the textbook was the curriculum. The concept of looking at different ways to deliver textbooks could be as simple as putting it online or making it able to be viewed on an iPad or similar device. It could be more complex by including lots of multimedia and other interactive resources. But fundamentally, even experienced teachers are looking to textbooks for guidance on what to teach, what the content should be, and what the process should be. In developing electronic textbooks, you have to hold onto those concepts. The textbook is a teacher’s guideline and roadmap. Any of the multimedia and enhanced materials that you can include to enliven instruction would attest to that.
Linda: Teachers don’t work in isolation when they’re teaching. They are bound to a curriculum that’s been designed by their school division in Virginia and the curriculum is aligned to the standards of learning set by the state. Teachers want the flexibility to mix and match lessons, but they first need a structure whereby they have an idea of the order in which materials should be presented. This is important because many school divisions have a pacing guide that determines at what point in the year teachers should be on a particular chapter of a book or specific topic within a lesson. While creative flexibility is important, it’s important to have structure too. Most teachers don’t teach just one lesson plan. Elementary teachers teach all the content areas. Teachers don’t have the time to develop materials to support their curriculum and their lessons. Over a period of years teaching I’ve developed a sort of library of materials. I’m envisioning that this could be one way a teacher might use the internet-based materials or resources available under Creative Commons licenses.
Lan: Virginia is well positioned to do OER. We deliver just under 2 million online tests per year. Our general assembly and governor’s office have been very helpful in proving the connectivity and devices in order to do online testing. Fairfax School District in Virginia is working on a project called eCart, which is a bucket of OER and other electronic resources that are accessible and shareable by teachers. The Fairfax system ties together the resources and data on student achievement. The system helps teachers analyze whether their students are learning what they should.
Linda: One of the pieces required for states’ Race To the Top applications was addressing an instructional improvement system that was technology-based. It sparked a lot of conversation. I envision a dashboard that allows access to electronic tools used by the school division, like a grade book, but also something like an electronic filing cabinet where teachers can import other electronic resources. We also realized that there should be a common format for all of these electronic resources, along the lines of the Schools Interoperability Framework (SIF) so that all of these resources can truly be shared by many, as opposed to materials being developed just for the iPad, etc.
Q: The Common Core Standards are a shared set of core state standards in English-language arts and mathematics for grades K-12. How can the Common Core standards intersect with OER?
Linda: Certainly when you have Common Core standards in place across multiple states, any kind of technology that helps communications among these states is going to be invaluable. Most states have expended tremendous resources in developing content standards either before or as a result of No Child Left Behind. Virginia has spent a lot of money in providing resources and materials to support teachers and students, not to mention the assessments that are aligned with these standards. The sheer act of creating common standards is not anywhere near the end of the journey. Having looked at the Common Core, they’re not really written at a classroom level yet. Instead, they are broad statements describing what a student should know. In many cases, states may have to recreate educational resources they already have because the new standards are in a different order or are somewhat different than the standards their boards have adopted. As this work proceeds in reading and math across 13 grades, it’d be wonderful to have the opportunity for teachers to collaborate on developing these resources, or to have one state work on one grade and another state to work on a different grade. That way, there doesn’t have to be duplicative effort.
Q: One piece of legislation in Virginia in support of OER creates an Open Education Curriculum Board. How can it help with the adoption and exploration of OER in Virginia education?
Lan: Virginia had HB 724, which would establish an Open Educational Curriculum Board. The law was sent back to committee, but was not acted upon. We certainly expect it to move in 2011. The board will include governor appointees and general assembly appointees. They will be charged with taking a look at OER that will hopefully be utilized by Virginia schools. The board will be establishing criteria to do their review. We’ll serve as staff to the board.
Q: How do you see the role of Creative Commons within the OER environment? How can CC help in terms of educating policymakers and Virginia teachers?
Lan: We need to look at a state like Virginia, look at all their existing policies and procedures, look at the types of things impacted by OER, and make recommendations as to how states might reconcile those policies that don’t fit well in the new learning environment. We need to disseminate best practices around using technology, as well as the SREB guidelines. Right now, there’s a bit of chaos in the OER arena around copyright issues. Teachers know they can make a single copy of things to use. We need more guidance on these legal issues. With respect to the eCart program I mentioned earlier, OER needs to be tied to student learning outcomes. It’s too easy to take OER and shotgun them all over the place and be done with it.
Linda: When you convene groups working on OER, you need to include end users. Many of the people currently talking about OER are not the people that need to implement them in a school-based setting. Visionaries are important, but sometimes they get their feelings hurt when the educators don’t embrace everything they suggest. It’d be valuable to have people at the table such as principals, classroom teachers, school board members, and maybe state department staff form the instruction and technology side.
Q: 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, and predictions?
Linda: Lan mentioned that one of the biggest hurdles around adopting and implementing OER is that the policies in place now were mostly created for brick and mortar schools. Sometimes educators give off signals that they are intimidated by or not supportive of OER. But really, I think one problem is that the teachers are not able to visualize how OER can be introduced into existing teaching structures. This is complicated by the fact that board and state policies are not easy to change on a dime. Talking about OER, we get questions about things like assessment. The assessment process is high stakes–it determines whether a student graduates or whether a school is accredited. Clearly, there needs to be some policy changes or changes in the assessment process. Other questions revolve around the amount of time students should spend in school, as well as addressing appropriateness of some educational content and parent complaints.
Lan: One of the things interesting in K-12 is that when the classroom door shuts, all the policies, procedures and best practices really boil down to simply how the teacher teaches. If you take away the primary element of how teaching has been conducted–through direct instruction–many teachers are lost. I’m interested in looking at different methods of teaching. In college, you’re taught 20-30 different methods of teaching, but most aren’t used. In the virtual teaching environment, we’re prompted to look at those other methods beyond lecturing. We can energize students with technology, and there’s a lot of gold to be panned in exploring many new teaching methods. OER would allow many opportunities and latitude to have really good and engaging instruction. The sharing of resources and best practices would help teachers do other things to enhance the learning of not only mainstream kids, but gifted students too. Struggling students can use these resources to review content in other formats or at different paces. We’ve distributed iPod touches within our agency, because when people have the technology in their hands, they begin to see the new possibilities. In the teaching profession, teachers are enthusiastic their first year, they really learn how to teach in the second, third, fourth and fifth years, and by the sixth year they ask, “why am I teaching this in the same way forever?” Technology and open source can energize teachers and keep teaching fresh. We need to work through the nitty gritty of the policies, like copyright and restructuring books.
Linda: One of the big challenges will be to introduce the concept of OER as a methodology into our teacher preparation programs. Most teachers get their ideas of how to teach either from how they themselves were instructed or from the lessons learned in their teacher preparation programs. If they’re not made aware of the opportunities within OER, they’ll be slow to introduce them. I think the good news is that most teachers coming into these programs today are already familiar with many of these tools. Classrooms won’t immediately rely solely on OER, but will adopt a hybrid model. There will still be publishers and vendors that provide content in a structured manner that teachers can follow and school divisions can have confidence in. It’d be great if these vendors or publishers could then link into their own materials ways to import changing OER and apps.
One venue for the advancement of Open Educational Resources (OER) is through policy change at the local, state, federal, and international levels. In addition to a new Education landing page and an OER portal that explains Creative Commons’ role as the legal and technical infrastructure behind OER, CC has been conducting a series of interviews to help clarify some of the challenges and opportunities of OER in today’s education landscape. We caught up with Karen Fasimpaur, a blogger, author, creator of the Kids Open Dictionary, and co-founder of K12 Open Ed.
You run a small educational technology company. Can you briefly explain your business and how it relates to OER? Can you describe your past work and how it’s lead to what you’re doing now?
For almost 10 years, our company, K12 Handhelds, has worked with schools to integrate mobile technology into the curriculum. That work includes professional development, curriculum development, and coaching and mentoring to help facilitate differentiation of instruction, which is a key to reversing the engagement and achievement gaps that challenge our schools today. In the course of that work, I discovered open resources as a solution to several issues. The biggest was that in trying to customize curriculum resources (textbooks, etc.) for use on mobile devices and use with a variety of learners, we have always had difficulty with traditional proprietary content. In some cases, publishers wouldn’t extend rights for us to do this for schools. In other cases, when we were allowed to do this, the technical work required was expensive and time consuming due to proprietary formats. OER has been a great solution to this.
In addition, we work with teachers and students to create multimedia products, such as podcasts, web sites, multimedia book reports, etc. I always try to make sure students (and teachers) understand copyright and what is legal to use and what is not. Before open resources, it was a challenge to find resources that students could use legally, especially when they want to publish to the Internet. Now, with so much great content licensed under CC and other open licenses, the sky’s the limit. Students love using this content and learning about copyright and open resources.
Beyond that, I have come to really appreciate the philosophy of OER. The K-12 education community is naturally inclined to share, so OER really makes sense in so many ways.
You’ve written extensively on your blog about the potential for cost savings with OER. A lot of policymakers and champions of “open” rely on a cost-savings argument–not surprising, given the state of the economy over the past few years. Can OER save money and how should this be situated within the larger case for OER?
Perhaps, even more importantly in K-12, reform of the traditional core curriculum adoption and purchasing systems, can result in cost savings to schools. Doing things like unbundling textbook and ancillary purchases, allowing flexibility in how instructional materials funds are spent, and encouraging more collaborative participation in the development process are all important.
The most important thing about OER is not that it saves money in the short term, but that it is beneficial to learning by allowing more customization and differentiation. Ultimately, that will also save money by allowing schools to spend funds on the content and services that best serve their students and by improving student engagement and achievement.
A substantial concern around supporting open educational resources is the impression that the OER model, which releases content for free under an open license, will turn the traditional commercial publishing model on its head, especially within the textbook industry. At the same time, startups like Flat World Knowledge have demonstrated viable business models around OER, and that could benefit digital textbook adoption initiatives. How can we encourage new business models around OER, and what is the future of the publishing industry?
The traditional publishing industry has been struggling over the last few years and, like most of our world, is facing change. The industry needs to be more responsive to customer needs and to help facilitate more flexibility in how schools provide instructional materials. Open educational resources is one of they many factors that will likely help bring this about.
Having worked in both commercial textbook and software publishing myself, I understand the business challenges and believe that there are exciting new business models around OER. In particular, income can be generated around customization services, professional development, and premium add-ons. This not only gives publishers a sustainable profit model, but it allows schools to shift spending from expensive, proprietary textbooks to customized services packages in order to improve learning.
There will always be a role for the commercial publishing industry, and I hope that there will be more conversations with the OER community to find ways we can collaborate for the benefit of teachers and learners.
There is much discussion around what “open” means, and sometimes related terms are used, such as free/freely available/open source/digital/online. How do you feel about these differences in terminology, and what do you think is the best path forward for the OER movement?
The discussion of what “open” means can sound like tiresome semantics, but it is really important. To me, “open” means that materials can be used, adapted, and redistributed freely by anyone. “Open” does not mean simply free or digital. There are many educational resources that are free and digital, but proprietary, and those resources don’t have the instructional benefits of OER.
The OER movement would be well-served by getting this message out to educators. In presenting to groups of educators across the country, I find that it is an easy message for people to understand and that it is very well received by policymakers, administrators, and teachers, but unfortunately are not familiar with OER right now.
How do you see the role of Creative Commons within the OER movement? How can CC help?
Creative Commons has been a tremendous leader and mover in the OER movement. Without the simple-to-understand CC licenses and all the great open content that CC has helped make available to the world, OER wouldn’t be as strong as it is. In the future, Creative Commons can continue to help by getting the word out about open content and CC licenses to encourage more and more people to use these resources and to license their own work that way.
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?
Successful teaching and learning, with or without OER, includes differentiated learning opportunities, high engagement, and active participatory environments. While OER is not necessary to these, they certainly greatly facilitate this kind of environment. I believe that OER can really drive a powerful new model of learning. My worries for the future of OER are that the powerful commercial publishing lobby will fight OER adoption and that the word will be slow to get out to teachers about the power of this tool set. My hopes are that every teacher and learner will experience the power of differentiated instruction and see how OER can help enliven their learning experience. My predictions are that OER will change traditional publishing models; that printed, static textbooks will be a thing of the past relatively soon; and that change will be the only constant.1 Comment »
Filmmaker and artist Vincent Moon first gained notoriety with his verité style performance pieces for French music blog La Blogotheque. Over the past five years his creative output has been prolific, releasing music documentaries that range from impromptu performance Take Away Shows to event-based projects like Temporary Areas to Long Portrait features on rare musicians.
Beyond his distinct and influential aesthetic, a recent decision to release all his works under a CC Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license piqued our interest and we caught up with Moon to discuss his approach to art and creation in today’s world as well as his decision to release his work under a CC license.
Could you give our readers some background on yourself? How and when did you become interested in filmmaking?
I guess I started by accident. When I was 18 I studied cinema at university – sort of. I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand anything. They were just telling me about impossible things to make, huge movies. They were so complicated and I was way too young to imagine that I could do anything like that. Then I started to do photography and it was what I was really excited about. Just going out in the street and basically being, very simply, a creator. I didn’t need any budget or anything there. So I was doing photos but didn’t really know what to do with it until I got more interested in music and wanted to do something with music and musicians.
I started getting closer to musicians when I met a band called The National – they were just starting at the time and they used some photos I did with them for their third album, Alligator. Then I was like, wow OK maybe this is something to do around music. They asked me if I wanted to do a little guest music video for them. It was all pretty lo-fi and it was still what people would call a “music video” – putting images on pre-recorded music. After a few of these, which we did without any money, I realized this wasn’t what I wanted. It wasn’t a very interesting relationship with the people I was working with. They just send me a song and ask me to do something with it.
Around that time I was always going to see live music – I spent around 6 years in Paris every night going out to see live shows – and I realized I wanted to do something with live music. When I met Chryde, who runs La Blogotheque, he wanted to do something we called at the time a video podcast – I haven’t seen that word in a long time – but he wanted to do something and I wanted to film music differently so that is how we started the “Take Away Shows” project just over four years ago.
Do you consider yourself a documentarian? Where do you see yourself in the general cinematic landscape?
It’s definitely documentary, but I’ve been thinking and talking about it more and [documentary] doesn’t mean much anymore. Now creation is made in a way that putting names on such creation doesn’t really mean anything. Lots of people from our generation, we are inspired and influenced by so many different fields because we have access to so [much] more than before. It’s impossible to just be inspired by cinema – you listen to music all the time and you read stuff and you have access to all those amazing things and so I guess now we are seeing more hybrid creations and they don’t belong to any genre. So I don’t see myself as owed to cinematography – I don’t even call myself a director or anything. I call myself a “filmer” – I don’t know if that would be a word in English – but in a way I’m not really a filmmaker I’m just a “filmer.” I’m just a guy using a tool and that tool is a camera but it could be something else.
My point is not to make movies but to make relationships – basically, to meet people, and I found a good pretext to do that. I pretend I am a filmmaker sometimes but it is really a pretext to travel and meet people and talk with them. It is very interesting to talk with people without using words – some people use instruments to carry their message and I use a camera. I think it is an important point and something I’ve been really interested in more recently, especially talking to some journalists. Most journalists want to put you in a little box, because of course it is easier – it’s easier to put a word on what you do. But it doesn’t mean anything really.
I’m just a guy using a tool today and traveling just doing my little things – I call them “little things” more and more because I feel that I make most of my movies as gifts. I make them for the people I love I don’t really make money on them.
How did you become interested in Creative Commons and the free culture movement in general?
I don’t really remember what the first thing that got me interested was, I just remember I started reading some books by Lawrence Lessig. I was really interested in reading a lot about all the copyfree things. It’s more recent probably than you would expect. After a while [of] doing these videos for [La Blogotheque] we really became a part of the “blog revolution” and I started to understand that there was such a strong link between Creative Commons and my way of working – it seemed so obvious to me.
What grabbed you about CC? What was the resonance between what you were doing for La Blogtheque and Lessig’s Free Culture?
My way of doing things is that I don’t really respect many of the things you should respect when you work with labels. With the blog in a way we never signed anything with all the labels and that is how we’ve been able to do our project, do all the Take Away shows. And because we didn’t really deal with any labels or manager, we’re always talking directly straight to the artists. My way of doing things is that I don’t care much about the intermediaries, those people between the two extreme points you know, maybe even two creators talking together or creators talking to an audience. My way of doing things has been always to avoid the steps in the middle and talk straight to the people. And that is how I felt the obvious link with Creative Commons. Now each time I get an email from a manager to work with an artist, I tell them to put me in touch with them and we will talk together. It’s more of a direct relationship.
How are you using CC licenses on your projects?
As soon as I started to do things on my blog I started using CC. Now though I put all my original work under a CC Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike license – all of it. This is a really important thing to me and I want to be clear with the people I work with that I’m not going to work with a label that doesn’t allow me to use CC on a video with an artist. That’s it.
That is basically the only way I can move things and convince people from the inside. With lots of labels, their attitude to all this has been really complicated and it’s getting really impossible to work with them. I’m in a lucky position in that I can convince people to move towards Creative Commons and this sort of view on how people create and share.
Beyond just believing in CC theoretically in a broader cultural sense, what do you see as the main purpose for using CC licenses on your work? Is it to allow people to share them? To give them a sense of ownership?
I don’t think people are going to use CC with my work in a way that is useful to remix, I just want people to think about my work more and share my work as they want. Creative Commons is a way for creators to share their work just because they want to create, not because they want to make money – I’m not getting a lot of money for what I’m doing, I just want to be able to continue doing this. I really try basically to make movies for no money and I don’t want to have money involved – I tend to refuse working with someone when they come in with a large budget. I like to keep it on that simple level. I don’t want people to make money off these projects as no one is paid. It’s all for free so I like to keep it that way.
Now all my work is under a Creative Commons license, not because I think it will particularly help but because it is a way of thinking, it is a way of life, and it is something to fight for. I work with lots of musicians – I use CC to push the people I am working with to be involved in that movement. It is about how people create – I’m just amazed by how little time we spend thinking about how people create compared to how people make money from creations. It’s crazy, it’s scary.
Talk a little bit about projects you are working on right now. I know you are working on the Temporary Areas project right now and that you recently won the Sound and Vision Award for Faute des Fleurs at the CPH DOX Film Festival.
I have tons of different projects that are mostly based around music – I’m going to make a movie about the Primavera Sound Festival, a festival in Barcelona, and continue to do long portraits that are dedicated to rare musicians. My life is on the road, and I don’t have a home anymore – I’m sort of experimenting with my own life and how you are able to live as a nomad. To use your camera as a tool to interact and meet people.
I organize events more and more, I see myself as an organizer more than a filmmaker. I did this thing in Copenhagen last May where I gathered nine bands in one space and we did what I called Temporary Copenhagen. It is a long piece where I pushed these bands to play their music differently. It’s not always about bands playing their music acoustically, the idea is – how can you push a band in another situation and see what happens? I think that can bring them something and of course that brings me a lot because I’m putting myself in a situation where I don’t know what will happen.
We don’t plan anything anymore. When I was in Copenhagen there was a very strong reaction between all the different musicians – there was something in the air. Thirty minutes, one take, and just one try – you can’t miss it. There was this tension and I just realized that it is exactly what I want to do more of – to gather different groups and live something very strong with them, even for like an hour. I did the same thing in Athens, Greece in October – 15 bands in one space. It is just a way to discover the world, and create some little experiments in everyday life.
Now I am finishing a project in Cambodia, a web-film project about a urban displaced community, where I am trying a new technique that we could call ‘hyper-image’ – I can’t say much about it now, but it’s a special way to document and use interactive tools while including these people in a very specific, collaborative process. It’s somewhere between a rip off of Jia Zhang-Ke films and an integration of new technologies in images. There’s so much to explore!
Basically the big question for me in the 21st century, where you have access to all this information everywhere, where you have access to all these technological tools, is – how do you continue to explore the world? How do you put yourself in a position where you still have things to explore? What is your own way to learn? The link to CC here is obvious to me – its all part of the same movement and desire to experience and access information.No Comments »
CC BY-SA by Film Annex
Since then, the number of CC-licensed films on the site has grown, with each license having its own Web TV channel (CC BY and CC BY-NC for example). They even have a channel dedicated to the public domain. All of these “Web TV” channels are available under the terms of said license for you to share or remix.
Creative Commons has its own channel where we’ve uploaded some of our videos. We wanted to learn more about how Film Annex helps filmmakers make money on their CC licensed content, so we caught up with Eren and Francesco, pictured above, to pick their brains.
How is Film Annex different from other online film distribution platforms?
In terms of profitability – Unlike most film distribution platforms that host videos on their main platforms only, Film Annex creates free Web TVs for filmmakers who want to present their work under specific domain names. This way, Film Annex creates a brand out of the filmmaker’s name, company, or project and reduces the implementation of the forward-slash (/) mentality as seen on Vimeo, YouTube, and other similar platforms. For example, for the acclaimed director Abel Ferrara, Film Annex created www.AbelFerraraTV.com. There is a monthly 50/50 revenue share on every Web TV so the filmmakers can maintain a regular income through showing their films on their Film Annex Web TVs. Statistics show that Film Annex shares 6 to 9 times more revenues with its content providers compared to YouTube.
Copyright and related rights waived via CC0
Late last year, I caught wind of an initiative that was being funded by the Gates Foundation—it had to do with redesigning the top 80 courses of Washington State’s community college system and releasing them all under CC BY (Attribution Only). The initiative was called the Washington State Student Completion Initiative and the specific project that was dealing with redesign and CC licensing was the Open Course Library Project. I decided to find out more, so I set up a Skype date with Cable Green, the head of the project. Below is the transcribed interview, edited for clarity and cut as much as possible for 21st century attention spans.
Tell me a little bit about who you are, where you come from, and what your role is in open education.
Sure, my name is Cable Green. I’m the eLearning Director for the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges. Our system consists of 34 community and technical colleges and those colleges teach roughly 470,000 students each year. Our enrollments are growing fast in this recessionary period as people are looking to enhance their work skills and go back to college to get degrees and certificates.
Regarding openness and sharing, the Brooklyn Museum is an exemplary institution. They are major contributors to The Commons on Flickr, license their online image collection under a CC Attribution-NonCommerical license license, provide API access to this collection, and recently ran a CC-licensed remix contest with Blondie‘s Chris Stein. Needless to say, we were eager to catch up with Shelley Bernstein, Brooklyn Museum’s Chief of Technology, and learn more about how they are using our licenses to open up their catalog of amazing work, shaping the role museums play in a digital age in the process.
Can you give our readers some background on your role at the Brooklyn Museum? BM’s Twitter page describes you as the “Museum’s Chief Geek” – what does that entail?
Officially, I’m the Brooklyn Museum’s Chief of Technology, which means I work with a team of folks here to manage the Brooklyn Museum’s web presence, our gallery technology, and our computer network.
BM’s digital stamp is impressive – an active blog, social network presence, and the 1stfans program in particular all point to an organization that uses technology to better engage its community. What is the benefit, from your end, to this sort of interaction?
A big part of the Brooklyn Museum’s mission is about growing community and visitor experience, so much of what we do online closely ties into that. The blog, the social networking and 1stfans all help put a personal face on the institution and, we hope, allow visitors a chance to see what goes on here direct from staff and interact with us on a very personal level. This kind of engagement grows a more natural relationship with our constituents and one that we hope makes the institution very accessible.
BM licenses all of its images under a CC Attribution-NonCommerical license. Why did you choose this license and what has the experience been like? Have there been any interesting cases of re-use?
CC Talks With: The Shuttleworth Foundation on CC BY as default and commercial enterprises in education
Photo by Mark Surman CC BY-NC-SA
For those of you who don’t know Karien Bezuidenhout, she is the Chief Operating Officer at the Shuttleworth Foundation, one of the few foundations that fund open education projects and who have an open licensing policy for their grantees. A couple months ago, I had the chance to meet Karien despite a six hour time difference—she was in Capetown, South Africa—I was in Brooklyn, New York. Via Skype, I asked her about Shuttleworth’s evolving default license (CC BY-SA to CC BY), her personal stake in OER, and how she envisions us (CC Learn and Shuttleworth) working together. She also gave me some insights into three innovative open education projects they have a hand in: Siyavula, M4Lit, and Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU).
The conversation below is more or less transcribed and edited for clarity. It makes for great holiday or airplane reading, and if you’re pressed for time, you can skip to the topics or projects that interest you. This is CC Learn’s last Inside OER feature of 2009—so enjoy, and happy whatever-it-is-that-you-are-doing-in-your-part-of-the-world!3 Comments »