MIT

Meet our board members: Hal Abelson

Lisa Katayama, November 3rd, 2010

Founding board member Hal Abelson was an advocate of Creative Commons from before the organization even existed. He was a grad student in the 60s when people starting buzzing about computers. “They cost several million dollars at the time,” he says. “My first thought was, this computer thing is great, you can turn kids loose on it.” Now a Class of 1922 Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at MIT, Abelson has always advocated widely and deeply for sharing on the Web. In the early 80s, he published a book about the Logo programing language after spearheading its first implementation for Apple. He created free software before the Free Software Movement even existed. And in 2002, he started MIT’s OpenCourseWare program, which offers teaching materials from MIT classes for free. It was the first large corpus published under a CC license.

Abelson’s latest venture is Google’s App Inventor for Android, an interface that lets anyone visually design games, educational apps, text tools, and other fun products easily. “It should be natural that you can take your cell phone and build a mobile app for your friends on it.” He notes that people tend to experience technology as consumers rather than creators; this, he believes, has the potential to shift.

One of the greatest challenges facing CC, Abelson points out, is parsing the complex, non-intuitive legal language of copyright into something that everyone can use and relate to. “When we started CC there was the Internet, but people could not use it according to the law. Now we’ve built this enormous, wonderful technical infrastructure of communication sharing and reuse, but our institutions are still in gridlock. There’s a tremendous discrepancy between the law and people’s behavior. In order to make it really okay for people to reuse and remix material from another web page, using CC licenses has to be easy. The legal concepts in copyright just aren’t intuitive—they don’t align with the reality of the things people think about.”

Nonetheless, Abelson is optimistic and excited about the future of sharing. “Creative Commons is the foundation of open sharing on the web. Almost everybody uses CC every day. They may not think about it, but they do. We’re able to come together in a way that was never ever possible. To me, that’s what changes humanity.”

Join Hal Abelson in showing that you care about Creative Commons by donating to CC today.

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Scratch.mit.edu now at 400,000+ projects

Jane Park, May 7th, 2009

A couple years ago, the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at MIT Media Lab developed a Web 2.0 programming platform for kids called Scratch. Scratch allows kids, and virtually anyone else, to create and remix rich media of all kinds—video, video games, even simple photo animations. The programming behind Scratch focuses on building blocks, like Legos, to get kids not only friendly, but adept at the technology that dominates our world. Each user can create a project, whether it be a video or a video game, and upload it to share on the Scratch website. Scratch currently exceeds more than 400,000 projects, all licensed CC BY-SA, allowing any youth to flex her creative muscles and enhance a peer’s project by remixing it with her own.

The School Library Journal wrote up an excellent article about them last week, emphasizing that “Literacy in the 21st century encompasses the full range of skills needed to engage in our global society—computer, information technology, media, and information literacy skills.” The SLJ reports that Scratch is now being tested in libraries in the Minneapolis area, “to determine if the workshops and classes for young people are replicable and sustainable for a range of libraries.” Unsurprisingly, library staff are finding that kids quickly learn the program on their own, and are guided more by their own intuitions than an “expert’s” instruction.

I decided to try out Scratch myself, and found some cool projects along the way. One project by “cougars” is a photo animation of a human skateboard. Another is a video game simulation of the Buggers war from Ender’s Game by PetertheGeek. (How cool is that?)

What’s more, the Scratch program is global, available in more than 40 languages, and the code itself is free for anyone to copy, publish, or distribute.

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CC Technology Summit Video Available

Nathan Yergler, January 16th, 2009

As noted on the CC Labs blog, video and audio from the December CC Technology Summit is now available:

In December we held our second CC Technology Summit at MIT in Cambridge, MA. I think the day provided a great perspective on what we’re doing at CC and how others are building a real community around it. If you weren’t able to attend, we now have audio and video available. And if you missed the first one, the video for that is available as well.

We’re currently thinking about plans for the next event; if you have feedback or suggestions, email them to techsummit@creativecommons.org.

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CC Technology Summit Tomorrow

Nathan Yergler, December 11th, 2008

We’re holding the second Creative Commons Technology Summit tomorrow in Cambridge, MA.  The program is online and I’m quite excited about the lineup.  We still have some space available so if you’re in the area and would like to attend, drop by the Stata Center at MIT tomorrow morning and register on site. The cost is $75 ($50 for CC Network members) or $40 for students ($20 for CC Network members).

If you can’t make the event, fear not; Frank will be pseudo-live-blogging the event over on the CC Labs blog and we’ll have video available afterwards.

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CC + MIT + Berkman Center for Internet & Society

Melissa Reeder, November 24th, 2008

On Dec. 12th, 2008, CC will be pairing up with two of the most influential and innovative institutions in the “open” movement: MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

For those of you interested in the tech side of Creative Commons, MIT’s CSAIL is hosting CC’s second Tech Summit from 9-4:30. The first Tech Summit, held at Google this past summer, was a complete success; those archived presentations are here.

And for those of you interested in CC generally, CC and Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society have joined forces to bring you the panel discussion: “The Commons: Celebrating accomplishments, discerning futures.” Panelists include James Boyle, The Public Domain; Lawrence Lessig, Remix; Joi Ito, Free Souls; and Molly S. Van Houweling, Creative Commons’ first Executive Director. Jonathan Zittrain, of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, will moderate. A reception will follow at 7:30 pm. Details are here.

We hope you will join us in celebrating Creative Commons’ sixth successful year and the culmination of our 2008 Annual Fundraising Campaign, “Build the Commons.” This event is open to the public, but because we’re closing in on the end of our campaign, we encourage you to bring your check books (or cash rather) and help sustain CC by donating at the door!

Space is limited. Please RSVP by December 1st to Melissa Reeder, Development Manager, at melissa@creativecommons.org.

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CC Technology Summit Program and Registration available

Nathan Yergler, November 4th, 2008

Two months ago we announced the second CC Technology Summit, taking place December 12, 2008 in Cambridge, MA at MIT. The response to the call for presentations was good, and the initial program is now available. I’m excited about the mix of topics we have on the program. The day will include reports from our community, including a presentation on copyright registry interoperability by Safe Creative and Registered Commons and a report from the Queensland Treasury on their use of licensing and metadata. We’ll also have presentations from within CC — a report on open source knowledge management from Science Commons and an update on what’s next for RDFa.

Registration is also now open for the event. While the first Technology Summit was free thanks to Google’s generous support, we do have costs associated with the December Technology Summit. To offset those costs, there is a registration fee: $50 for CC Network members or $75 for non-members. If you’d like to sign up for CC Network membership at the same time as you register, we’ve enabled that as well (no discount, though; $100 total).

It’s been a busy year at CC and I’m looking forward to the Technology Summit as an opportunity to review what we’ve done and look ahead to 2009.

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Two MIT OCW Courses Reach Million Visit Milestone

Jane Park, October 10th, 2008

A long-standing provider of open courseware, MITOpenCourseWare reached a million visit milestone yesterday for two of their online courses: 8.01 Physics I: Classical Mechanics and 18.06 Linear Algebra. The courses are two of MIT’s most popular to date, taught by renowned professors Walter Lewin and Gilbert Strang. From MIT’s media coverage on Lewin:

Professor Lewin is an international webstar. He is well-known at MIT and beyond for his dynamic, inspiring and engaging lecture style. His courses are also among the most downloaded at iTunes U. 8.01 Physics I: Classical Mechanics explains the basic concepts of Newtonian mechanics, fluid mechanics, and kinetic gas theory, and a variety of interesting topics such as binary stars, neutron stars, and black holes.

On Strang:

Strang is a 50-year mathematics veteran whose teaching style is recognized internationally. Linear Algebra introduces mathematical concepts that include matrix theory, systems of equations, vector spaces, and positive definite matrices. “Everyone has the capacity to learn mathematics,” says Strang. “If you can offer a little guidance, and some examples, viewers discover that a whole world is open.

8.01 Physics I: Classical Mechanics offers lecture notes, exams with solutions, complete videotaped lectures and their accompanying transcripts under CC BY-NC-SA. 18.06 Linear Algebra offers (interactive) Java applets with sound in addition to video lectures and translations into Chinese, Portuguese, and Spanish, also under CC BY-NC-SA. CC BY-NC-SA allows for these kinds of adaptations and derivations of material—and translation is a crucial step in broadening access to a global audience. 

There are other and more interesting ways to adapt material, however, and we are curious to know how the visitors constituting the 1,000,000+ hits of these two courses (and others) have actually used the materials. Since educational needs vary contextually, it would be beneficial to know what types of adaptations are being made beyond translation. Of the 600 visits per day that these courses average, how many of them result in derivations? These, and other questions (such as visitor demographic, global reach, etc.) are things to consider as the OCW project continues to expand and evolve. The future impact of OER lie in the ways information is conceptualized, organized, and related; simply offering up free content on the web is no longer enough—remember David Wiley’s quote from OpenEd 08: “If my students can Google it, I don’t have to teach it.” As progressive models of OER develop and evolve, it will be interesting to see how OCW’s scope and impact also grows.

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“Opening Up Education”

Jane Park, September 18th, 2008

is the new publication by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and MIT Press exploring “the potential of open education to transform the economics and ecology of education.” Opening Up Education: The Collective Advancement of Education through Open Technology, Open Content, and Open Knowledge is a collection of thirty essays written by leaders in the open education movement. From the press release:

[They] reflect on current and past open education initiatives, offer critical analyses, share the strategic underpinnings of their own work, and delve into open education’s implications in three areas: technology, content, and knowledge. Together, they address the central question of how open education can improve the quality of education.

Co-editor M. S. Vijay Kumar is also quoted:

A look at the landscape tells us that efforts with open education so far have been largely confined to attempts at improving what we already do. While this is certainly valid, we encourage consideration of approaches that transcend traditional practices, organizations, disciplines and audiences.” 

John Seely Brown agrees in his Foreword, “We need to reconceptualize twentieth-century education models, and at the same time reinforce learning outside of formal schooling. This book provides real leverage for open education, and is a major step toward creating a culture of learning for this century.”

The book is also edited by Toru Iiyoshi and is available for download at MIT Press under CC BY-NC-ND.

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