Last Friday, Governor Schwarzenegger announced the results from Phase 2 of the California Free Digital Textbook Initiative. A total of 17 textbooks, including updated versions from Phase 1, were submitted, and 15 have so far been reviewed against California’s academic content standards. Of those fifteen, ten carry a CC license (CC BY-SA or CC BY), two carry a GNU FDL license, and one is in the public domain. All but two of the CC licensed textbooks met 100% of California’s state standards. Major contributors included a number of individuals, in addition to the CK-12 Foundation and Connexions, two OER organizations that have a default CC license (CC BY-SA and CC BY, respectively) on their educational resources.
According to the press release, “Students and teachers have the flexibility to use these resources in a number of ways. They are downloadable and can be projected on a screen or viewed on a computer or hand-held device. They can also be printed chapter by chapter and bound for use in the classroom and be taken home by students.”
This is true for the CC BY and CC BY-SA licensed textbooks, as these licenses allow not only reuse and reproduction, but adaptation, which allows one to edit, improve, remix, or translate the resource.
For the complete results of Phase 2 and the draft report, visit the California Learning Resource Network (CLRN) website.1 Comment »
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 »
In As Colleges Make Courses Available Free Online, Others Cash In the New York Times writes about how universities are funding OpenCourseWare programs as well as how businesses have sprung up around CC licensed Open Educational Resources (OER) from such programs. Regarding the latter, our CEO is quoted:
On a philosophical level, the idea of making money from something available free might seem questionable. But Joi Ito, chief executive of Creative Commons, which issues the licenses defining user rights to most OpenCourseWare materials, supports the mixing of free and for-profit: “I think there’s a great deal of commercial infrastructure that needs to be created in order for this to be successful,” Mr. Ito said: “It can’t all just be free.”
As readers steeped in knowledge of free culture/open content (and before it free and open source software) will recognize, this means three things.
First, sharing does not preclude making money. To the contrary, artists have long been making CC licensing part of their business strategies, and recently some OER creators and companies are following suit. Examples include WikiPremed, Flat World Knowledge, and Bloomsbury Academic. See Eric Frank explain how Flat World Knowledge gives away CC licensed open textbooks and profits from print materials and services rendered around the content in a video just uploaded from CC Salon NYC.
Second, there needs to be an ecosystem built around open materials, and businesses are an important part of that ecosystem. In the OER space the article mentions Academic Earth. Consider the many businesses providing services around CC licensed materials more broadly (e.g., Flickr, and Fotopedia, which leverages CC licensed works from both Flickr and Wikipedia) and the legion of businesses build around free software (e.g., Red Hat). Consider how huge education is. The opportunity and need for businesses that provide distribution, curation, and a plethora of other services around OER are huge.
Third, free can refer to price and freedom. Businesses, universities, and others can charge a price for access or services around OER. The ecosystem works due to the freedoms that have been granted to use and build upon OER.
The article also mentions the values of OER, one of which is to “[create] an incentive for universities to improve themselves.” It quotes Cathy Casserly, who recently joined the Creative Commons board of directors:
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“I think that by putting some of the spectacular professors, and putting their approaches and pedagogical instructional strategies that they use with their students in front of the world, it sets a new benchmark for all of us to learn from,” she said. “And I think that’s actually one of the incredible powers of this open educational resource.”
The event I blogged about in December, TEDxNYED, is happening this Saturday, March 6, in New York City. TEDxNYED is “an all-day conference dedicated to examining the intersection of education, new media, and technology.” For those of you who can’t attend, the conference will be livestreamed from 10am EST to 6pm EST at http://tedxnyed.com.
The speaker line-up includes our own Larry Lessig (founder and board member of CC), Michael Wesch (a cultural anthropologist who created those awesome YouTube videos like “Web 2.0 … The Machine is Us/ing Us”), Neeru Khosla (Co-founder of the CK12 Foundation that submitted seven open textbooks to California’s Free Digital Textbook Initiative), and David Wiley (big thinker in open education and associate professor of Instructional Psychology and Technology at BYU).No Comments »
Flat World Knowledge, a commercial textbook publisher who uses CC licenses, aims to transform the way professors and college campuses think about textbooks through a new internship program for students. They asked for applicants last year, and launched the program last week with 19 students from colleges like New York University, Ohio State University, Auburn University, Indiana University, University of Denver, University of Florida and the College of Charleston. From eSchool News,
“The internships, introduced this year by open textbook provider Flat World Knowledge, let sophomore and junior business students earn college credit and a little spending cash if their sales pitch convinces a professor to use web-based texts that can be reorganized and modified by chapter, sentence, or word…
The company has grown in the past year as the open-content movement has gained traction in higher education, buttressed by the Creative Commons license [CC BY-NC-SA]—which doesn’t require permission from authors to change parts of a book—and the rising cost of textbooks.”
The press release states FWK’s intent to change “the college textbook market” by “taking a counter approach to the usual adversarial relationship between textbook publishers and college students.” By using CC licenses, Flat World Knowledge is exploring a business model that builds on open content by offering free digital textbooks via CC BY-NC-SA, but charging for the prints and supplementary materials. Their textbooks have been used at over 400 colleges, and they received $8 million in investments last year.
For more on Flat World Knowledge, swing by CC Salon NYC on March 3 where Eric Frank, the company’s founder and Chief Marketing Officer, will be talking in depth about what they do. If you’re not in the area, stay tuned for some Flip camera action, which I’ll link to here after the event.1 Comment »
Chuck Severance, clinical professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Information, recently published a new textbook in 11 days because he was able to remix an existing textbook. The book, Python for Informatics: Exploring Information, is currently being used in his winter semester Networked Computing course. The textbook is based on the openly licensed book Think Python: How to Think like a Computer Scientist by Allen B. Downey. Students are able to take advantage of the University Library’s Espresso Book Machine to print on-demand copies for approximately $10. Python for Informatics is available under a CC BY-SA license.
Severance explains, “the book is a cool example of a situation where I’ve finally got to the ‘remixing’ bit of the Open promise.” The first 10 chapters are done and eight more are planned for completion by April 2010. Read more of Chuck’s thoughts about remixing an open book.
Creating this open textbook was a part of a larger effort by Chuck to support his course with openly licensed content, and current versions of lecture slides and videos are published via the PythonLearn website. In a past iteration of the course, Chuck went through the dScribe process developed by Open.Michigan to create an OER version of SI 502, available under a CC BY license.1 Comment »
The Creative Commons Salon NYC is back in action on March 3rd at the Open Planning Project‘s uber cool penthouse space from October. The theme for this salon is “Opening Education”, and if you don’t really know what that means, think CC licenses as applied to various learning contexts and you’re off to a good start. To learn more, come by for a good time and free (as in beer) beer. The basic line-up is as follows:
- Eric Frank, founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Flat World Knowledge, a commercial textbook publishing company that is leveraging CC licenses as part of their business model—basically offering free digital textbooks via CC BY-NC-SA, but charging for the prints and supplementary materials. (Is this business model working? Come and find out!) Eric was previously “Director of Marketing for Prentice Hall Business Publishing, a division with annual sales in the hundreds of millions.”
- Neeru Paharia, co-founder of the Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU), a grassroots education project that moves learning outside of institutional walls (for free) by leveraging the internet, social software, and CC licensed content. Neeru is formerly the Executive Director of Creative Commons and is finishing up her doctorate at the Harvard Business School in Behavioral Economics.
- A panel of K-12 technologists/educators on the cutting edge of their fields who incorporate CC licenses and social media into their classrooms. They will give a run-down on what they do, how they do it, and answer questions about the challenges they face from curious folk like you. The panel consists of: Dave Bill, Technology Integrator at the Dwight School and TEDxNYED organizer; arvind s grover, co-host of 21st Century Learning (a podcast about… 21st century learning) and Director of Technology at the Hewitt School (also a TEDxNYED organizer); and Kerri Richardson Redding, Director of Academic Technology at the Brooklyn Friends School.
I’ll also be available as the Communications Coordinator for Creative Commons to give updates on CC in education and answer your general questions. John Britton (Lead Developer at Flat World Knowledge) will also be available to talk about his experience organizing the Mozilla Drumbeat/P2PU course, “Mashing Up the Open Web.”
Wednesday, March 3rd, from 7-10pm
The Open Planning Project
148 Lafayette St
Between Grand & Howard
New York, NY
Beer is courtesy of Flat World Knowledge and we are generously being hosted by Gotham Schools, “an independent news source about the New York City Public Schools” that is “an initiative of The Open Planning Project, a Manhattan-based nonprofit dedicated to empowering civil society through technology.” If you’ve didn’t make it to any past CC Salons, don’t miss this one, and if you did, you’ll know to come early as space is limited.
RSVP to the event via Facebook or by e-mailing me: janepark [at] creativecommons.org.No Comments »
Free Culture X, a conference of Students for Free Culture, will be held February 13th at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Keynote addresses will be given by Harvard Berkman Center co-founder Jonathan Zittrain, the co-founder of the public interest group Public Knowledge, Gigi Sohn, and the director of American University’s Center for Social Media, Pat Aufderheide.
The conference is focused on developing greater openness among institutions of higher education by specifically investigating:
- The politics of open networks,
- Global access to knowledge, and
- Open education.
Attendees have the option to pay-what-you-want with prizes (such as signed copies of books by Lawrence Lessig and Henry Jenkins or custom voicemail recordings by Jonathan Zittrain) awarded for sizable donations. You can register at http://conference.freeculture.org/register/. CC will be in attendance in addition to many past and current CC supporters.
All contents of the Free Culture X site are dedicated to the public domain with CC0.No Comments »
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 »
As an early xmas present, Talis Education has extended the deadline for the Talis angel fund to January 31, 2010, one full month later than the original deadline to give you a chance to hone your proposals (or begin writing them after the holidays). If you don’t remember, I blogged about the Talis angel fund for open education in August when it launched:
“Talis Education launched an angel fund for open education, called the Talis Incubator for Open Education. Talis Education is providing funds up to “£15,000 to help individuals or small groups who have big ideas about furthering the cause of Open Education. All Talis asks in return is that the project deliverables are ‘open sourced’ and the intellectual property returned back to the community, allowing it to be used freely. Talis won’t, and never will, exert any rights to the intellectual property or ideas that are funded.”No Comments »