back to school week

Back to School in Spanish

Jane Park, September 9th, 2009

As students around the world return to school, ccLearn blogs about the evolving education landscape, ongoing projects to improve educational resources, education technology, and the future of education. Browse the “Back to School” tag for more posts in this series.

As a follow-up to Back to School week, Carolina Botero, ccLearn’s regional liason at CC Colombia, has summarized her own take in Spanish on two issues we posted on last week: Legal Challenges for Teachers (Understanding Copyright Exceptions) and Open Courseware as a transition to college. The translations are below, and also at the individual blog posts.

ccLearn está de regreso al colegio

En Estados Unidos están de regreso al colegio este mes y con este contexto en ccLearn, Lila Bailey ha venido publicando una serie de entradas que creo justifica comentar y traducir al menos en parte:

De regreso al colegio: Retos legales para los docentes (entendiendo las excepciones legales) http://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/17240.

Aunque el contexto legal de los régimenes de Copyright (en USA) y Derechos de Autor (en España, en Colombia y en casi toda América Latina) no es igual, de hecho una de las diferencias es la forma como se maneja este tema, me sorprendíó lo “internacional” de este texto, les traduzco apartes:

“De la fotocopiadora al vídeo en la Web, la tecnología ha hecho más y más fácil hacer a muy bajo costo o incluso completamente gratis copias de contenidos educativos para el beneficio de los estudiantes. Sin embargo, los docentes pueden no ser conscientes de ello, o pueden temer las consecuencias jurídicas de realizar tales copias, de adaptárlas a sus propias circunstancias, o de usarlas para la enseñanza. Por su parte nadie quiere criminalizar a los profesores (o los estudiantes), sin embargo, en estos días el mensaje que los docentes y administradores del sistema educativo están recibiendo de los titulares de los derechos de autor es que las tecnologías digitales producen justamente eso.

La confusión (y el riesgo legal asociado) que viene junto con el uso de contenido con “todos los derechos reservados” se hace mayor cuando los materiales se colocan en la Internet en el contexto de los recursos educativos que tienen licencia para un amplio intercambio y la reutilización. Además, la utilización transfronteriza de recursos con licencias abiertas que contienen materiales con “todos los derechos reservados” crea problemas para la idea de apertura general de los recursos, porque las excepciones al derecho de autor en todo el mundo no son equivalentes o compatibles. Como resultado, el costo para los usuarios potenciales de determinar si ese material puede ser utilizado en su propia jurisdicción supone una barrera para el uso de los REA.”

Precisamente Lila Bailey ha venido trabajando el tema buscando entender la forma como las excepciones legales funcionan globalmente y cómo interactúan con otras licencias de contenido abierto, sus ideas se han condensado en la ponencia que presentó durante la conferencia Oponed “Otherwise Open: Managing Incompatible Content in OER”. Un texto que debemos empezar a revisar y ubicar desde nuestros propios contextos.

De regreso al colegio: Open Courseware como una transición a la educación superior. http://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/17411

En esta entrada Park indica como en este momento los Open Courseware (repositorios de cursos virtuales que se publican para acceso abierto en Internet, como el famoso MIT OCW http://ocw.mit.edu/) han provocado un interesante efecto de publicidad para las universidades americanas que hoy reconocen como cada vez más de los nuevos estudiantes consideran que conocer el material docente de la universidad en la que esperan estudiar ha influido en su toma de decisión y cómo este efecto ha hecho que las universidades americanas estén creando un puente entre la educación superior y media a través de los cursos en estos repositorios abiertos.

Park señala que los cursos se han convertido en material para los docentes de educación media que les permiten más y mejores recursos para preparar los estudiantes para su experiencia universitaria. Sin embargo, Park hace un llamado a la necesidad de llamar la atención y preparar a los docentes para ir más allá de la simple reutilización pasiva de materiales de los cursos y pasen a ser actores de la recreación de estos materiales localizándolos y ajustándolos a sus circunstancias particulares.

Park espera que donaciones como la de la Fundación Boston a la Universidad de Massachussets, que tiene como finalidad preparar a los graduados de la escuela para enfrentar los cursos de educación superior, sirvan de promotor para contextualizar a los docentes y estudiantes en las nuevas comunidades abiertas a ellos a través de herramientas tan sencillas como la licencia que se asocia con un recurso, de modo que puedan ver estos cursos como iniciativas de comunidades abiertas globales más allá de la institución que los hospeda.

La ruta que presenta Park puede servir de inspiración para nuestros países y sus iniciativas nacionales como inspiración para los actores del sector.

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Back to School Conclusion: The Open Trajectory of Learning

Alex Kozak, September 4th, 2009

As students around the world return to school, ccLearn blogs about the evolving education landscape, ongoing projects to improve educational resources, education technology, and the future of education. Browse the “Back to School” tag for more posts in this series.

Today’s predictions about the future of learning might eventually seem as preposterous as early 20th century predictions of flying cars and robot butlers. But what we sometimes forget is that our vision for the future today will ultimately shape the outcomes of tomorrow–not in a causal, deterministic way, but in an enabling way. By sharing our hopes and dreams for an open future for learning, we foster an environment in which it can happen.

At ccLearn, we strongly believe that the future for education and learning is one that includes technical, legal, and social openness.

The spaces in which teaching and learning occur are increasingly moving towards technical openness by running open source software, integrating machine readable metadata, and adopting open formats. Schools, colleges, and universities involved in open courseware, wikis, and other organizations engaged in online knowledge delivery are beginning to embrace RDFa and metadata standards like ccREL, open video codecs, open document formats, and open software solutions. More open technology continues to be developed, and there is no indication that this will stop or slow down.

Members of the global education community have been moving towards legal openness by converging on Creative Commons licenses that allow sustainable redistribution and remixing as the de facto licensing standard. This phenomenon is international- Creative Commons has been ported to 51 countries (7 in progress), with CC licensed educational resources being used all over the world. Although ccLearn found in our recent report “What status for ‘open’?” that some institutions have some homework to do on what it means to be open, we are well on the road towards a robust and scalable legal standard for open educational resources.

Perhaps most powerfully, we are beginning to see a move towards social openness in educational institutions in the prototyping of new models for learning involvement, organization, and assessment that maximizes the availability of learning to all people, everywhere. By leveraging the power of online organization and open content, often times coupled with a willingness to re-conceptualize what it means to be an educator, new possibilities for learning will emerge, leading to a more educated world.

We can’t fully predict today what kinds of practices, pedagogies, and technologies open education will enable tomorrow. But we are in a position to claim that our goal for an open future enables the creation of these new and better practices, technologies, and social structures.

ccLearn would like to thank The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation for their continued support of open education, the Creative Commons staff who make our work possible, and all of you for your continued support of a truly global commons. We hope that you all continue to contribute to open source learning software, embrace open formats, license your educational works with Creative Commons licenses, and get engaged in the world movement towards an open future for learning.


En Estados Unidos están de regreso al colegio este mes y con este contexto en ccLearn, han venido publicando una serie de entradas algunas de ellas ya quedaron comentadas en español, creo que justifica comentar y traducir lo pertinente:

De regreso al colegio, conclusiones: El camino abierto para el aprendizaje

La entrada de cierre para el ciclo de ccLearn sobre el regreso al colegio esta nuevamente a cargo de Alex Kozak quien indica como desde ccLearn, se cree firmemente en un futuro del proceso de educación y aprendizaje atravesado por la idea de apertura en lo técnico, lo legal y lo social.

Los espacios en los que la docencia y el aprendizaje se dan para Kozak están migrando a estándares abiertos en con el uso de software open source, integrando metadatos que pueden ser leídos por las máquinas y adoptando formatos abiertos. Escuelas, Universidades y en general instituciones de educación superior que desarrollan courseware abiertos, wikis y otras organizaciones involucradas en los procesos de disponer del conocimiento a través de la red están empezando a adoptar RDFa y estandares de metadatos como ccREL, codecs para video abierto, formatos abiertos de editores de textos, y soluciones de software abierto o libre.

De otro lado la comunidad global del sector educativo se esta moviendo hacia la apertura legal, sus decisiones de adopción de licencias Creative Commons como un estándar converge para permitir la redistribución y mezcla de los recursos . Este es un fenómeno internacional- Creative Commons se ha adaptado al sistema legal de 51 países (7 mas lo están haciendo), los recursos educativos licenciados con CC se usan por todo el mundo. En todo caso se debe considerar que ccLearn encontró en su informe “What status for ‘open’?” que algunas instituciones todavía tienen que revisar lo que significa abierto, pero que el camino hacia estándares de apertura en los recursos educativos esta en marcha.

Para Kozak incluso lo llamativo es que se esta empezando a ver una mayor apertura en lo social en relación con los pilotos educativos en los nuevos modelos que las instituciones ensayan. A la hora de abordar el proceso de aprendizaje, la organizacion, y valoracion de estos pilotos están maximizando la idea de hacerlo accesible a cualquiera en cualquier lugar. Kozak cree que apalancando la capacidad de las organizaciones en linea y del contenido abierto, junto con el cada vez mas frecuente deseo de re-conceptualizar lo que significa ser docente, nuevas posibilidades para el aprendizaje surgirán para llevarnos a un mundo mas educado.

Para Kozak aunque no podamos predecir las practicas, pedagogías y tecnologías que favorecerá una educación abierta mañana si podemos decir que la meta de un futuro abierto permitirá la creación de esas nuevas practicas, tecnologías y estructuras sociales.

Breve comentario desde mi propia óptica

Aunque en regiones como América Latina nos hacen falta datos para asumir como ciertas muchas de las afirmaciones de Kozak para el mundo anglosajón lo cierto es que la sensación que hay en el ambiente es que muchas de sus conclusiones pueden ser extensibles a nuestra realidad,

De hecho algunos otras de las entradas de este ciclo de regreso al colegio que hizo ccLearn se referían a proyectos concretos que mostraban proyectos y practicas abiertas (Vital signs y el caso de los libros de texto). Creo que deberíamos visibilizar algunas de las muchas iniciativas que están ocurriendo en nuestra región para conocerlas y aprender de ellas… espero poder hacerlo muy pronto! (si tienen ideas dejen su comentario y hagamos seguimiento de ellas juntos)

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CC Talks With: Back to School: What’s new at Vital Signs?

Jane Park, September 4th, 2009

As students around the world return to school, ccLearn blogs about the evolving education landscape, ongoing projects to improve educational resources, education technology, and the future of education. Browse the “Back to School” tag for more posts in this series.

Last year, Sarah Kirn, the Manager of the Vital Signs project at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, popped into the CC San Francisco office and gave me a wonderful introduction into everything they were doing. This year, we’re closer in proximity, as Sarah is still in Maine while I am stationed in New York. As a preview of things to come, we connected over email about the progress VS has made since we last met.

To rewind and clarify, Vital Signs is a “field-based science education program” that “links 7th and 8th grade students and scientists in the rigorous collection and analysis of essential environmental data across freshwater and coastal ecosystems. Innovative technology, relevant content, and critical partnerships create an authentic science learning experience for students, a distributed data gathering network for scientists, and a statewide community of teachers, students, and scientists collaborating to learn about and steward the Gulf of Maine watershed.”

What’s new at Vital Signs?

We now have 47 teachers trained in how to use Vital Signs in their science teaching. These teachers hail from all across the state, from Aroostook County to York County. Teachers have already begun making and sharing observations themselves as a way to prepare for using Vital Signs in their classrooms.

To support this program growth we have hired Alexa Dayton to serve as our new Vital Signs Community Specialist. This new position will focus on bringing the citizen science and scientific communities into Vital Signs – as users of the data, as participants in the online community (discussing findings, commenting on data records, confirming or questioning identifications, contributing their own observations to the database), and as on-the-ground supporters of teacher and student field work. Alexa has experience in field biology, science outreach to rural Maine schools, web development and management, marketing, and computer science. We are excited to have her diverse skills brought to bear on supporting and growing our Vital Signs community!

We also have a new scientist partner, Dr. Les Mehrhoff, Director of the Invasive Plant Atlas of New England who is committed to serving as a Species Expert in our online community. He’s recruiting graduate students and others to join him in serving the Vital Signs community in this capacity.

In October a Maine Conservation Corps Environmental Educator will join us for a 10-month position to work with teachers in classrooms and after school clubs to support their use of Vital Signs.

We are collaborating with the MLTI professional development staff to plan Vital Signs-related science and social studies modules that MLTI will deliver this year to complement the summer teacher institutes and provide training for teachers not yet exposed to Vital Signs.

How does CC play a role in these new projects?

We’re spreading CC licenses around – to other education programs. GMRI’s VitalVenture project, a collaborative curriculum development project, has just provisionally agreed to use CC BY licenses, pending agreement by collaborating teacher. Les Mehrhoff, one of our Vital Signs scientist partners is going to use CC BY with his species photos.

And, of course, prior to our launch in November we will be finalizing the CC licensing for student-contributed creative works, teacher-contributed creative work, and citizen scientist-contributed creative work.

How are you leveraging OER in the classroom/with teachers?

All of our curriculum resources are open, so teachers will learn how to use OER through the course of using Vital Signs. As they become familiar with how OER works and become interested in other resources for teaching, we will point them in the direction of other OER.

The most exciting “open” aspect of Vital Signs, I think, is that the learning and work that happens within the system is open to the scientific community. Folks like Les, a well-known and well-respected expert on invasive plants in our region, will be regularly interacting with students on the subject of their contributions to the Vital Signs database. By design, every observation contributed to the Vital Signs site will confirmed or questioned by another member of the community. In this way, Vital Signs opens up students’ experience of learning science.

Tell us what you are most excited about!

Most excited about? It’s a tie between the enthusiastic response we are getting from teachers and students and the near completion of our program infrastructure. I can’t wait for the day (in November 2009!) when we make the www.vitalsignsme.org site live!

This project has been a long time in the development stages. It’s absolutely thrilling to have students contributing field notes like the following from a student in Old Orchard Beach:

“I am happy because I’m helping collect data for science, and was helping find if there are any invasive plants in Milliken Mills.”

“I saw brownish water, lots of leaves in the water, trees, plants, birds, bugs, grass, dead trees and plants, frogs.”

“I smell fresh water.”

“I hear birds, the wind, and water splashing.”

“I am suprized by what I found or didn’t find because even though it was an invasive species I thought I would find it.”

Likewise, it’s thrilling to read the words of a participating teacher from Kennebunk who says “In a nutshell, the Vital Signs program has made the science I teach richer, more real and more meaningful for both my students and myself.”

For more on Vital Signs, see our detailed Inside OER feature on Sarah from last year.

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Back to School: Legal Challenges for Teachers (Sharing Patient Health Data)

Lila Bailey, September 3rd, 2009

As students around the world return to school, ccLearn blogs about the evolving education landscape, ongoing projects to improve educational resources, education technology, and the future of education. Browse the “Back to School” tag for more posts in this series.

For this post in my Legal Challenges for Teachers series, I will focus on challenges for medical education. Although copyright issues are a problem for medical education as in any other educational area, those who educate and train doctors face many additional hurdles.

According to Open University,

Ethiopia has a population of 84 million people served by fewer than 1800 doctors, most of these in private practice. People are suffering and dying because they cannot get access to a doctor when they need one.

To combat this problem, the Ethiopian government is planning to create 11 new medical schools and 8000 new places for medical students to obtain training. Open University is working with the Ministry of Health in Ethiopia to pilot open and distance learning medical training with students at the recently opened St Paul’s Millennium Medical School in Addis Ababa.

Given the desperate need for new doctors in Africa and around the world, and the distinct lack of trained doctors to teach them, many medical education programs are turning to digital technologies and distance learning for innovative means of educating new doctors. One interesting model being used is the Virtual Patient (VP). VPs are interactive computer simulations of real-life clinical scenarios, and may consist of many learning objects (e.g., text, images, animations, and videos). VPs are becoming recognized as highly effective training tools.

Yet while the use of distance education, such as via Open University, and digital technologies, such as VPs, have the potential to vastly expand the number of doctors with access to quality clinical training resources, it is not without its own challenges. Access to information about real life patients is necessary to develop VPs and other effective clinical training resources. VPs are very time-consuming and expensive to develop, so it is necessary to be able to share existing VPs in a manner that is adaptable to different cultural, linguistic and educational scenarios. Therefore, a prerequisite to the success of these projects is the ability to actually share and reuse the relevant digital content (i.e., the patient information). However, sharing data about patients is subject to numerous laws and regulations, including considerations of confidentiality, patient privacy and protection and control over patient data. This makes sharing data between institutions quite difficult, and even more so when the institutions are located in different countries having different legal requirements.

The Electronic Virtual Patient, or eViPs, program is a collaboration between nine universities across Northern Europe and MedBiquitious, which helped to develop the technical standards used in e-based healthcare education. eViPs has managed to compile a repository of 320 VPs which will soon be made available under a Creative Commons license. In order to share the health data that was used in the development of the VPs contained in the repository, full consent of the participating patients had to be obtained, as detailed in this report. It is wonderful to see collaborations such as this one that have been able to meet the challenges particular to sharing patient health data.

Unfortunately, the ability to share patient health data is still limited to specific projects and institutions. I wonder whether it is possible to develop even more robust legal tools that will allow medical educators to share patient data across projects and across borders, while still maintaining appropriate patient confidentiality. Many lives depend on our ability to do so.

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Back to School: It’s Raining Textbooks

Jane Park, September 3rd, 2009

As students around the world return to school, ccLearn blogs about the evolving education landscape, ongoing projects to improve educational resources, education technology, and the future of education. Browse the “Back to School” tag for more posts in this series.

All that matters in the news these days is health care, that is, health care and textbooks. The terms “education” and “textbook” go hand in hand, and nobody, at least at the state levels, is keen on separating the two. With California’s Free Digital Textbook Initiative recently announcing the approval of some 20 digital textbooks, a futuristic vision of Kindle kids scrolling with razor-like focus floats like bubbles before our eyes.

However, last month, the New York Times reported, “In a Digital Future, Textbooks Are History,” that textbooks may be “supplanted altogether by lessons assembled from the wealth of free courseware, educational games, videos and projects on the Web.” The article pointed to Beyond Textbooks, an initiative that “encourages teachers to create — and share — lessons that incorporate their own PowerPoint presentations, along with videos and research materials they find by sifting through reliable Internet sites.” Beyond Textbooks disassociates itself from “canned curriculum”, or “vanilla curriculum,” reproaching the linear nature of textbooks– “No longer is instruction limited by the resources in one building, or even one district. Beyond Textbooks gives you the whole world!”

My own post on OnOpen.net follows a similar train of thought, and is aptly named, “Beyond the Textbook: I. The Illusion of Quality in K-12 Education“. In it, I challenge the public perception that educational quality will suffer without textbooks, and talk about whether textbooks really need saving.

Other news sources are also skeptical. The Scientific American prefaces its article, “Open-Source Textbooks a Mixed Bag in California,” with the caveat, “Downloadable and free, maybe–but the schoolhouse Wiki revolution will have to wait.” Granted, SA seems to be conflating “open-source” and “digital” here (open-source is generally associated with openly licensed textbooks, otherwise known as open textbooks, while digital is, well, digital like everything else we come across in today’s world) and it is unclear if they are skeptical of simply digitizing the “Bulky, hefty and downright expensive, conventional school textbooks” that have been persisting for years, or if they are averse to the digital revolution in education generally.

Still, the ReadWriteWeb is more optimistic, pointing out initiatives like Flat World Knowledge which focus on gaining revenue through the sale of supplementary materials surrounding their textbooks, which are themselves openly available via CC BY-NC-SA, and are therefore not only freely accessible, but adaptable, derivable, and even republishable, though for noncommercial purposes and under the same license. Co-founder Eric Frank distinguishes between traditional textbooks and open textbooks, emphasizing that open textbooks creates more options: “Traditional textbooks have clearly failed students and instructors. Similarly, digital textbook trials that force a single format, device, or price point will also fail. No single e-reading format or device will ever satisfy all students. Our commercial open-source textbook approach puts control and the power of choice in the hands of students and instructors.”

However, you can’t help but wonder if all this hooplah around textbooks is “[falling] flat.” Is the power of choice really in the hands of teachers and students? If traditional textbooks “have clearly failed” them, but that traditional textbook adoption process is not about to budge, are we simply arguing about which direction to steer the Titanic after we have already hit the iceberg?

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Back to School: DiscoverEd

Alex Kozak, September 2nd, 2009

As students around the world return to school, ccLearn blogs about the evolving education landscape, ongoing projects to improve educational resources, education technology, and the future of education. Browse the “Back to School” tag for more posts in this series.

Years from now, what will it mean for teachers to prep for a new school-year? Will they be reviewing digital textbooks? Collaborating online with colleagues in revising and adapting digital lesson plans? Upgrading operating systems and software on classroom laptops? Scouring the net for those perfect open educational materials to print or distribute to students?

Everyone might have their own image of how preparation for a new school year will look, but the current excitement about open and digital educational resources indicates that teachers are ready for a new model.

As textbooks and learning materials move online, the copyright status of those resources becomes more important to teachers. At ccLearn, the education program at Creative Commons, we strongly believe that developing a global education commons of openly licensed educational resources is the best solution to the legal and technical challenges that teachers face when trying to share and adapt educational resources. But how exactly will teachers be able to find and share open educational resources? After all, a resource simply being accessible online isn’t itself enough for it to be easily discoverable.

ccLearn has developed a prototype search engine, DiscoverEd, that provides one solution to this challenge.

DiscoverEd provides scalable search and discovery for educational resources on the web. Results come from institutional and third-party repositories who have expended time and resources curating metadata about resources. These curators either create or aggregate educational resources and maintain information about them. Metadata, including the license and subject information available, are exposed in the result set.

We are particularly interested in open educational resources (OER) and are collaborating with other OER projects to improve search and discovery capabilities for OER, using DiscoverEd and other available tools.

Our search engine is a prototype and shouldn’t been seen as the only solution to OER search and discovery. But assuming that categorization and assessment of OER are embedded at the point of publication as open metadata, the DiscoverEd model is a powerful and scalable method for discovering and utilizing those data.

To learn more about DiscoverEd, you can explore the DiscoverEd site, FAQ, or read our report entitled “Enhanced Search for Educational Resources: A Perspective and a Prototype from ccLearn“.

You can also test out our DiscoverEd widget below:


En Estados Unidos están de regreso al colegio este mes y con este contexto en ccLearn, han venido publicando una serie de entradas algunas de ellas ya quedaron comentadas en español, creo que justifica comentar y traducir lo pertinente:

De Regreso al colegio, DiscoverEd

En esta entrada Alex Kozak aborda la solución que ofrece ccLearn, el programa educativo de Creative Commnons, para apoyar los problemas legales y técnicos que enfrentan los profesores cuando buscan recursos digitales y abiertos en el universo de Internet donde encontrar no es tan sencillo. Se trata del buscador piloto DiscoverEd que busca enfrentar este reto.

DiscoverEd es un buscador para recursos educativos en la red. El buscador revisa repositorios de terceros que han dedicado tiempo y esfuerzo a curar los metadatos de los recursos. Estos curadores crean o cosechan los recursos y conservan la información sobre ellos en metadatos, incluyendo la información sobre la licencia y el tema que es presentada como resultado en el proceso de búsqueda.

DiscoverEd se ocupa esencialmente de proyectos abiertos, de Recursos Educativos Abiertos (REA o OER por sus siglas en ingles) y colabora con otros proyectos de este tipo para mejorar los resultados en la búsqueda y descubrimiento de estos recursos..

Kosak finaliza indicando que este es un piloto que no debe ser visto como la única solución para la búsqueda y descubrimiento de REA pero, considerando que la categorización y valoración de los recursos se hace en el punto de publicación a través de metadatos abiertos, cree que DiscoverEd sera un modelo poderoso y escalable para encontrar y usar los datos.

La información sobre el proyecto esta por ahora en ingles, puede revisarse en DiscoverEd site, FAQ, o en el informe “Enhanced Search for Educational Resources: A Perspective and a Prototype from ccLearn”

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Back to School: Legal Challenges for Teachers (Breaking Down OER Silos)

Lila Bailey, September 2nd, 2009

As students around the world return to school, ccLearn blogs about the evolving education landscape, ongoing projects to improve educational resources, education technology, and the future of education. Browse the “Back to School” tag for more posts in this series.

In Part 2 of my Legal Challenges for Teachers series, I will address a problem we call “OER silos.” OER silos are what results from legal and/or technical incompatibilities in OER. Instead of becoming part of an ever-growing pool of resources that can be legally shared and adapted locally by anyone around the world, these OER become trapped in silos, and can only be used by a limited group of people or combined with a limited set of resources. This means that when teachers go looking for high-quality, open digital resources, some of the most relevant and valuable resources may not be available to them, or may be unusable.

OER silos are a problem at the institutional and state levels as well. States have invested millions of dollars in the development of high-quality digital learning resources. While the digital resources they create can typically be shared technically, in practice, restrictive or conflicting usage policies often dramatically limit sharing across institutions and state borders. This is because it is often unclear who may use the resources developed using state funding, how they may be used, whether they can be shared with others, or even who owns them. With continuing financial constraints on education, these resources should be shared to reduce duplication and increase available materials. However, without clear policies addressing intellectual property and licensing agreements, these valuable assets often simply cannot be shared.

One group that is working to solve this problem is the Southern Regional Education Board “a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that helps government and education leaders in its 16 member states work together to advance education and improve the social and economic life of the region.” Since its inception in 1948, the sharing of ideas, programs, and effective practices has made SREB states respected national leaders in education innovation. In 2004, the SREB initiated the Sharable Content Object Repositories for Education (SCORE) project to support interstate cooperation among statewide learning object repositories to enable sharing and use of digital educational resources within and among participating states. In its effort to help member states share digital resources, the SREB has developed a series of technical and legal policy guidelines for use by member states.

Last spring, I consulted with the SCORE Steering Committee as they developed intellectual property policy guidelines related to increasing the sharability of digital learning objects among member states. Ultimately, the Committee decided to recommend the promotion and adoption of Creative Commons licensing for learning objects within the repositories. The guidelines will be published this fall, and we hope that others working with digital repositories for learning will follow the SREB’s lead in providing helpful guidelines for institutions wishing to share resources.

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Back to School: Open Courseware as a transition to college

Jane Park, September 2nd, 2009

As students around the world return to school, ccLearn blogs about the evolving education landscape, ongoing projects to improve educational resources, education technology, and the future of education. Browse the “Back to School” tag for more posts in this series.

One aspect of open courseware* is its draw for potential students who are deciding where to spend their parents’ or their own hard-earned dollars in obtaining a higher education. The fact is unsurprising, as we saw in 2007, with MIT OCW reporting that “One in four current MIT students who knew of OCW prior to choosing MIT [indicated] the site was a significant influence on their school choice.”

However, beyond free advertising for its school, certain open courseware programs have begun to evolve past the open licensing status of their courses. As the global learning commons of OCW is growing, so are the local learning contexts of open courseware, as more colleges realize the benefit of working with high schools in their areas to prepare, and perhaps to propel, their youth into higher education.

Last month, the University of Massachusetts Boston was awarded a $60,000 grant by the Boston Foundation, with the specific aim of better preparing Boston public high school students for college level courses. The grant will fund workshops for teachers, training them on how to use open courseware to educate their students at gradually accelerated levels. Similar to MIT OCW’s Highlights for High School initiative, these workshops promote high school teacher and student use of open educational resources.

However, I imagine it also going one step further. In providing training for teachers on the use of open educational resources (OER), teachers will not be simply accessing OCW resources on the web. They will learn how to use OER according to its license status, and realize that the commons of open educational resources is vast and global, open to be adapted, derived, and remixed with other OER on the Internet. The Boston grant would enable teachers to see open courseware as part of a larger world of open materials and communities, rather than as simply an institution.

We hope that many other universities and colleges offering OCW will follow this same trend, localizing their university’s offerings at the same time that they are globalizing them via CC licenses. Especially, initiatives like Academic Earth, a site that pools a number of OCW in high definition video, could really run with this idea of contextualization for teachers and students, educating them on the new communities that are opened to them via something as simple as the licensing status of a resource.

*Traditionally, open courseware are university or college courses that are freely accessible online, usually via an open license (the most commonly used license for OCW is CC BY-NC-SA), consisting of lectures and other multimedia, core content, supplemental materials, or tools to aid learning. Nowadays, open courseware sans an open license that allows derivatives, though free, are not considered open, as the ability to adapt the work to global and local contexts via translations and cultural references has become integral to the spirit of OCW.


A summary in Spanish:

De regreso al colegio: Open Courseware como una transición a la educación superior. http://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/17411

En esta entrada Park indica como en este momento los Open Courseware (repositorios de cursos virtuales que se publican para acceso abierto en Internet, como el famoso MIT OCW http://ocw.mit.edu/) han provocado un interesante efecto de publicidad para las universidades americanas que hoy reconocen como cada vez más de los nuevos estudiantes consideran que conocer el material docente de la universidad en la que esperan estudiar ha influido en su toma de decisión y cómo este efecto ha hecho que las universidades americanas estén creando un puente entre la educación superior y media a través de los cursos en estos repositorios abiertos.

Park señala que los cursos se han convertido en material para los docentes de educación media que les permiten más y mejores recursos para preparar los estudiantes para su experiencia universitaria. Sin embargo, Park hace un llamado a la necesidad de llamar la atención y preparar a los docentes para ir más allá de la simple reutilización pasiva de materiales de los cursos y pasen a ser actores de la recreación de estos materiales localizándolos y ajustándolos a sus circunstancias particulares.

Park espera que donaciones como la de la Fundación Boston a la Universidad de Massachussets, que tiene como finalidad preparar a los graduados de la escuela para enfrentar los cursos de educación superior, sirvan de promotor para contextualizar a los docentes y estudiantes en las nuevas comunidades abiertas a ellos a través de herramientas tan sencillas como la licencia que se asocia con un recurso, de modo que puedan ver estos cursos como iniciativas de comunidades abiertas globales más allá de la institución que los hospeda.

La ruta que presenta Park puede servir de inspiración para nuestros países y sus iniciativas nacionales como inspiración para los actores del sector.

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Back to School: Legal Challenges for Teachers (Understanding Copyright Exceptions)

Lila Bailey, September 1st, 2009

As students around the world return to school, ccLearn blogs about the evolving education landscape, ongoing projects to improve educational resources, education technology, and the future of education. Browse the “Back to School” tag for more posts in this series.

As part of our ongoing blogging for “Back to School” week here in the United States, I will be blogging about legal challenges facing teachers who wish to harness powerful new digital technologies to enhance students’ learning experiences through OER. In this series, I will explore these challenges in the context of a few specific efforts to reduce the legal barriers to engaging in open education.

Two weeks ago, I attended the international Open Education Conference for the first time. For four days, Vancouver was abuzz with excitement over the latest and greatest in “open.” What was striking to me as a lawyer was the confusion, and in some cases even fear, expressed during conversations about certain open educational activities–especially about the legalities involved.

The first issue I will address in this series is one that has plagued teachers even before the digital era–the inclusion of all-rights-reserved content in teaching materials under an exception to copyright law, such as fair use or fair dealing. From the photocopier to the VCR to the Web, technology has made it easier and easier to make very low-cost or even completely free copies of educational content for the benefit of students. However, teachers may not be aware of, or may fear, the legal implications of making those copies, adapting them to their own circumstances, and using them for teaching. No one wants to turn teachers (or students) into criminals, yet these days the message educators and administrators are getting from rights holders is that digital technologies are doing just that.

The confusion (and the associated legal risk) that comes along with using all-rights-reserved content becomes greater when those materials are placed on the Internet in the context of educational resources that are licensed for widespread sharing and reuse. Further, the cross border use of openly licensed resources that contain all-rights-reserved material creates problems for the overall openness of the resource, because copyright exceptions around the globe are not equivalent or even compatible. As a result, the cost to potential users of determining whether such material may be used in their own jurisdiction presents a barrier to the use of OER.

Gaining a deeper understanding of the ways in which copyright exceptions function globally and how these exceptions interact with open licensing is an important move for the OER community, and one ccLearn hopes to lead the way on. At the OpenEd conference, I presented a paper, titled “Otherwise Open: Managing Incompatible Content in OER,” which outlines this problem in detail. The final published version of that paper is now available here. I encourage you all to take a look at the paper and provide feedback about the paper or your own experiences with this issue.

And, as we blogged a few weeks ago, ccLearn has been working with Open.Michigan on an OER Copyright Survey to gather information about how copyright law may act as a barrier to the creation and dissemination of OER. The initial “test phase” of data gathering is now over, and we are happy to report that we have received many more responses than we anticipated. Keep an eye out for our forthcoming report on the results of this initial survey, and for news on our efforts to internationalize the study.


A summary in Spanish:

ccLearn está de regreso al colegio

En Estados Unidos están de regreso al colegio este mes y con este contexto en ccLearn, Lila Bailey ha venido publicando una serie de entradas que creo justifica comentar y traducir al menos en parte:

De regreso al colegio: Retos legales para los docentes (entendiendo las excepciones legales) http://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/17240.

Aunque el contexto legal de los régimenes de Copyright (en USA) y Derechos de Autor (en España, en Colombia y en casi toda América Latina) no es igual, de hecho una de las diferencias es la forma como se maneja este tema, me sorprendíó lo “internacional” de este texto, les traduzco apartes:

“De la fotocopiadora al vídeo en la Web, la tecnología ha hecho más y más fácil hacer a muy bajo costo o incluso completamente gratis copias de contenidos educativos para el beneficio de los estudiantes. Sin embargo, los docentes pueden no ser conscientes de ello, o pueden temer las consecuencias jurídicas de realizar tales copias, de adaptárlas a sus propias circunstancias, o de usarlas para la enseñanza. Por su parte nadie quiere criminalizar a los profesores (o los estudiantes), sin embargo, en estos días el mensaje que los docentes y administradores del sistema educativo están recibiendo de los titulares de los derechos de autor es que las tecnologías digitales producen justamente eso.

La confusión (y el riesgo legal asociado) que viene junto con el uso de contenido con “todos los derechos reservados” se hace mayor cuando los materiales se colocan en la Internet en el contexto de los recursos educativos que tienen licencia para un amplio intercambio y la reutilización. Además, la utilización transfronteriza de recursos con licencias abiertas que contienen materiales con “todos los derechos reservados” crea problemas para la idea de apertura general de los recursos, porque las excepciones al derecho de autor en todo el mundo no son equivalentes o compatibles. Como resultado, el costo para los usuarios potenciales de determinar si ese material puede ser utilizado en su propia jurisdicción supone una barrera para el uso de los REA.”

Precisamente Lila Bailey ha venido trabajando el tema buscando entender la forma como las excepciones legales funcionan globalmente y cómo interactúan con otras licencias de contenido abierto, sus ideas se han condensado en la ponencia que presentó durante la conferencia Oponed “Otherwise Open: Managing Incompatible Content in OER”. Un texto que debemos empezar a revisar y ubicar desde nuestros propios contextos.

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Back to School: Open Educational Resources in Africa

Aurelia J. Schultz, September 1st, 2009

As students around the world return to school, ccLearn blogs about the evolving education landscape, ongoing projects to improve educational resources, education technology, and the future of education. Browse the “Back to School” tag for more posts in this series.

In the United States, the turn from August into September means new pencils, books and backpacks as the nation’s students start a new school year. In other parts of the world, students are returning from semester breaks or going on with classes as usual. And in some cases, with almost no books, let alone new ones.

This is far too often the case in many African schools. Teachers face not only a lack of student materials, but also a lack of access to teaching resources. For years generous donors have attempted to address this problem by supplying schools copies of textbooks, desks and other equipment. Helpful in many ways, but merely giving supplies doesn’t alleviate some of the biggest problems. Take the text books for example.

In many countries, the required text books are outdated. Governments cannot afford newer books, so without a market, new books don’t get written. Sometimes newer books might exist, but only in one language. For a country attempting to teach primary school in several native languages, this presents a huge problem, especially when considering the copyright restrictions on translating a work. The same situations exist for teaching materials as well as text books.

Enter open educational resources, or OER.

OER are materials, tools, and media used for teaching and learning that are free from copyright restrictions or publicly licensed for anyone to use, adapt, and redistribute. And several organizations around the continent are using OER to address the specific challenges surrounding access to teaching materials:

Siyavula LogoIn South Africa, a new project of the Shuttleworth Foundation is helping South African primary and secondary school teachers share their resources. The aim of Siyavula (pronounced see-ah-hoo-la) is to ensure that South Africa has a complete OER curriculum for all primary and secondary grades. The project was designed with the new South African school curriculum in mind, which requires teachers to develop more of their own content. Some teachers formed small groups to adapt to the new South African curriculum requirements, sharing their developments with their groups and offering each other support. Siyavula is building upon this model, helping new groups to form and offering workshops on developing, finding and sharing resources.

The Siyavula system includes a large repository of curriculum, currently complete from grades R (like the US’s kindergarten) through 9 in both English and Afrikaans. One great part of the Siyavula system is that as teachers develop and adapt materials, they submit them back into the Siyavula system where the materials are reviewed by curriculum advisers. This ensures the OER materials always meet the country’s education standards. Because OER are, well, open, there are no restrictions on translating works like there are on materials under full copyright. This has allowed Siyavula users to translate much of the material into Xhosa. Ideally other languages will follow.

oer africa logoWhile Siyavula is tackling primary and secondary education, another organization is focusing on higher education across Africa. OER Africa is currently active in several countries across the continent. Through partnerships with various universities in Africa and elsewhere, OER Africa helps facilitate the sharing of resources between universities and training schools. This program is particularly exciting because it has African universities sharing with each other, instead of just receiving materials from the United States or Europe. Additionally, in the instances where African universities and outside universities are partnered together, the relationship really is mutually beneficial.

One example of the mutual beneficial relationships in OER Africa was explained by Project Director Catherine Ngugi during the Open Education 2009 conference keynote address. Collaboration between the University of Michigan and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in the Health OER program has given students at KNUST access to materials that help them study common medical issues and has given students at Michigan resources about infectious diseases to which they otherwise would not have had access. (As someone who has had to worry about doctors in the US not knowing enough about tropical medicine, this exchange makes me really happy.) KNUST and Michigan also share and receive information with schools in Ghana and South Africa.

OER does more than just supply teachers with educational materials. It helps them customize their curriculum to their own needs, their own locations and their own students. Organizations like Siyavula and ORE Africa are helping to change the face of education on the continent, for the better. Creative Commons is proud that its licenses help make that possible.

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