Indaba Music Continues To Grow

Cameron Parkins, September 14th, 2009

indabaIndaba Music has had a busy summer.

July saw the launch of Session Console 2.0, an upgrade of Indaba’s digital music workstation that allows musicians to collaboratively record, edit, and mix tracks online. An improved engine built on Sun Microsystems’ JavaFX platform makes the tool more robust and streamlined. The relaunch was paired with a new library of CC-licensed audio loops and sounds that Indaba solicited from its community.

Not only has Indaba worked to improve the ease and power of its tools, but the company has also been hard at work producing compelling programs for its community to engage in. The previously mentioned remix contest with twin sister pop-rock act Carmen and Camille saw audio stems from the duo’s song “Shine 4U” available under a Creative Commons Attribution license. Similar remix contests from Rivers Cuomo of Weezer and The Crystal Method gave community members the ability to win some amazing musical gear, while a collaboration with Intrahealth OPEN found artists submitting music in an effort to help fund health care services for the developing world.

This is all while maintaining and supporting an active community of artists that are creating and collaborating on new music everyday. Check out our March 2008 interview conducted with Indaba co-founders Matthew Siegel and Daniel Zaccagnino for more information.

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Defining Noncommercial report published

Mike Linksvayer, September 14th, 2009



Almost one year ago we launched a study of how people understand “noncommercial use.” The study, generously supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, included in-depth interviews and two waves of in-person and online focus groups and online questionnaires. The last included a random sample of U.S. (geographic restriction mandated by resource constraints) internet users and in an extended form, open questionnaires promoted via this blog (called “CC Friends & Family” in the report).

Today, we’re publishing the Defining Noncommercial study report and raw data, released under a CC Attribution license and CC0 public domain waiver respectively — yes, this report on “noncommercial” may unambiguously be used for commercial purposes. Also see today’s press release.

The study was conducted by Netpop Research under advisement from academics and a working group consisting of several CC jurisdiction project members as well as CC staff and board members.

Study findings

Creative Commons noncommercial licenses include a definition of commercial use, which precludes use of rights granted for commercial purposes:

… in any manner that is primarily intended for or directed toward commercial advantage or private monetary compensation.

The majority of respondents (87% of creators, 85% of users) replied that the definition was “essentially the same as” (43% of creators, 42% of users) or “different from but still compatible with” (44% of creators, 43% of users) theirs. Only 7% of creators and 11% of users replied that the term was “different from and incompatible with” their definition; 6% or creators and 4% of users replied “don’t know/not sure.” 74% and 77% of creators and users respectively think others share their definition and only 13% of creators and 11% of users wanted to change their definition after completing the questionnaire.

On a scale of 1-100 where 1 is “definitely noncommercial” and 100 is “definitely commercial” creators and users (84.6 and 82.6, respectively) both rate uses in connection with online advertising generally as “commercial.” However, more specific use cases revealed that many interpretations are fact-specific. For example, creators and users gave the specific use case “not-for-profit organization uses work on its site, organization makes enough money from ads to cover hosting costs” ratings of 59.2 and 71.7, respectively.

On the same scale, creators and users (89.4 and 91.7, respectively) both rate uses in which money is made as being commercial, yet again those ratings are lower in use cases specifying cost recovery or use by not-for-profits. Finally, both groups rate “personal or private” use as noncommercial, though creators did so less strongly than users (24.3 and 16.0, respectively, on the same scale).

In open access polls, CC’s global network of “friends and family” rate some uses differently from the U.S. online population—although direct empirical comparisons may not be drawn from these data. For example, creators and users in these polls rate uses by not-for-profit organizations with advertisements as a means of cost recovery at 35.7 and 40.3, respectively — somewhat more noncommercial. They also rate “personal or private” use as strongly noncommercial—8.2 and 7.8, respectively — again on a scale of 1-100 where 1 is “definitely noncommercial” and 100 is “definitely commercial.”

See much more in the study report and draw your own conclusions from the data.

The below is drawn from the Section 4 of the report, titled “Next” — we urge you to read that section for more, including ideas for future research.

Import for Creative Commons noncommercial licenses

In the next years, possibly as soon as 2010, we expect to formally kick off a multi-year, international process for producing the next version (4.0) of the six main Creative Commons licenses.

This process will include examination of whether the NC term should be usefully modified as a part of that effort, or if the better approach might be to adopt a “best practices” approach of articulating the commercial/noncommercial distinction for certain creator or user communities apart from the licenses themselves. Whichever the result, this study has highlighted that in order to meet the expectations of licensors using CC NC licenses it will be important to avoid any modification of the term, however manifested, that makes a use widely agreed to be commercial — or only agreed to be noncommercial with low consensus — explicitly noncommercial. There is an analogue in our statement of intent for CC Attribution-ShareAlike, which provides assurances that we will not break the expectations of licensors whose intent is to release works under copyleft terms.

While the costs of license proliferation are already widely appreciated and resisted by many, the study weighs against any lingering temptation to offer multiple flavors of NC licenses due to strong agreement on the commerciality of certain use cases that, in the past, may have been considered by some to be good candidates for splitting off into specialized versions of the NC term, such as online advertising. For even in those cases where strong agreement may appear to exist upon initial inquiry, such as with online advertising, nuances and sometimes strong differences of opinion are immediately revealed when more specific use cases are tested and facts presented — such as those involving cost recovery or support of nonprofit organizations.

The study results also advise against any concerted effort by CC to attempt appeasing all license users, all the time — study participants are divided over the value of more or fewer specific “use cases” to delineate the commercial/noncommercial divide, some see the lack of specific uses as a strength and others as a weakness, and many others still disagree with the notion that a single definition of noncommercial use could be workable. Thus is the challenge, and opportunity, of public license stewards.

Aside from decisions about the NC licenses themselves, we will be looking back to the study as we update explanations of noncommercial licensing on our license deeds, license chooser, and other materials. Your ideas and feedback are most welcome (see below).

Creative Commons recommendations on using noncommercial licenses

Overall, our NC licenses appear to be working rather well — they are our most popular licenses and we are not aware of a large number of disputes between licensors and licensees over the meaning of the term. The study hints at some of the potential reasons for this state of affairs, including that users are in some cases more conservative in their interpretation of what is noncommercial than are creators and that in some cases creators who earn more money from their work (i.e., have more reason to dispute questionable uses) are more liberal in their interpretation of what is noncommercial than are those who earn less.

While it would take a more focused and exhaustive study to conclude that these seemingly fortunate attitudinal differences are correct, strong, and global, they do hint at rules of thumb for licensors releasing works under NC licenses and licensees using works released under NC licenses — licensors should expect some uses of their works that would not meet the most stringently conservative definition of noncommercial, and licensees who are uncertain of whether their use is noncommercial should find a work to use that does unambiguously allow commercial use (e.g., licensed under CC BY, CC BY-SA, or in the public domain) or ask the licensor for specific permission (interestingly about half of respondents to the “CC Friends & Family” questionnaire who had released works under a NC license indicated that they had been contacted for specific permission). Note that this rule of thumb has an analogue in network protocol design and implementation known as the robustness principle or Postel’s Law: “Be conservative in what you do; be liberal in what you accept from others.”

One way to think about Creative Commons generally is of providing tools to prevent the failed sharing that results from relying on copyrights’ defaulting to “all rights reserved” — uses that you would allow but that will not occur because you haven’t authorized them (maybe haven’t even thought of them) and the costs of finding you and getting authorization are too high for the intended use (or maybe you’re dead and even scholarly use of your works is suppressed by your estate). This sounds dry, but think about the anti-network effects of failed sharing at the level of a society, and the costs are large indeed. Some have realized that too much use of NC licensing suppresses uses that a licensor who wants to share may wish to allow, at a cost to NC licensors and licensees and a greater cost to communities and the broader free culture movement — failed sharing, though at a much smaller scale than the failed sharing engendered by default copyright. The Definition of Free Cultural Works website includes an article summarizing reasons to avoid NC licenses (and use a free license such as CC BY or CC BY-SA). If you’re concerned about the costs of NC licensing to yourself, the free culture movement, or society at large, review the arguments and consider “dropping -NC” from your license.

The potential negative impact and corresponding lack of use of noncommercial licensing differs across fields. For example, noncommercial licenses do not exist at all in the free and open source software world (note that CC recommends using a free and open source software license for software). Science and education are two large fields in which we believe that liberal licensing or the public domain are most appropriate. Unsurprisingly Wikipedia, with strong relationships with the free software, open access (scientific publishing), and open education movements, mandates liberal licensing, and many other massively collaborative projects are following.

However, compelling use cases for NC licensing remain — most obviously when an existing significant revenue stream from a work would be compromised by release under liberal terms. Giving your audience legal certainty that they won’t be prosecuted for doing what comes naturally from using digital networks — copying and remixing for no commercial gain or monetary exchange — while exploring the sharing economy and still protecting existing business — these are great reasons to start or continue releasing works under a NC license. It is little surprise that major music and book publishers’ use of CC licensing thus far has almost exclusively been of the NC variety.

How to participate in the discussion

There are a variety of ways you can participate in discussion of this study, the future of CC NC licenses and accompanying material, and future research on this and other topics related to voluntary sharing:

Thanks to everyone who has contributed in any way to this work!

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CC Network: Now with Promo Codes!

Fred Benenson, September 11th, 2009

CC Network LogoOne thing Nathan and John have been working on under the hood of the Creative Commons Network over the last couple of months is a promotional code system which gives us (and you) more flexibility when purchasing account subscriptions.

Starting today, when you donate $50 or more to Creative Commons ($25 for students), you’ll be sent an e-mail with a link will let you either renew your current CC Network account, or sign up with a new one.

This promo code can be used by you, or if you want, you can gift it to a friend by just forwarding them the email with the link.

Just remember, individual promo codes can only be used once so use them wisely!

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Winning Open Design for Classroom of the Future

Jane Park, September 10th, 2009

On Monday, the 2009 Open Architecture Challenge announced the winning design for a sustainable classroom of the future, concluding a competition with over 1,000 registrants from 65 countries around the world. Of the 400 designs entered, the winning design was developed by Teton Valley Community School and Section Eight Design. They were awarded $50,000 to translate their design into action, with a $5,000 grant for Section Eight to help them.

The winning design is not the only outcome of this challenge, however, as all other designs are openly available online via various Creative Commons Licenses (the winning design is CC BY-NC-ND) for others to improve, adapt, and implement themselves, which calls for additional support in much-needed areas. The massive response by schools and design companies around the world also signifies how learning has evolved, and how the old brick and mortar classroom is no longer considered sustainable. By redesigning our learning spaces, we are making concrete the new technologies and pedagogies of the 21st century.

I would especially check out some of the other winners in categories such as Urban Classroom Upgrade open via CC BY (by Rumi School of Excellence in India and IDEO, SF) and Rural Classroom Addition open via CC BY-NC-SA (by Building Tomorrow Academy in Uganda and Gifford, LLP).

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Food Safety Knowledge Network calls for OER

Jane Park, September 10th, 2009

The Food Safety Knowledge network is seeking CC licensed open educational resources in the area of food safety. From their announcement:

“With the increasing demand for safe food and the growing globalization of food production and manufacturing, there is a great need for no-cost, accessible training and educational resources for food safety professionals, especially those working in developing countries where such access is not readily available. Michigan State University and the Global Food Safety Initiative have partnered together to create the Food Safety Knowledge Network (FSKN), a directory of open educational resources in the area of food safety, which will make quality content easily and efficiently findable.

FSKN will use ccLearn’s DiscoverEd search tool to draw resources from reliable sources. These materials will be curated by experts in the field as well as aligned to a set of core competencies for food safety managers so that the users can identify the specific area the resource covers as well as trust the quality of the content. This fall, the Food Safety Knowledge Network will be pilot tested to support implementation of supplier training at the pre-certification level in developing countries including India and China.

If you have or know of food safety resources to share, please contact Sunnie Kim at kiml@msu.edu.”

All resources that the FSKN integrates into DiscoverEd will have a CC license, with all FSKN site content available via CC BY.

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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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New Zealand Government Promoting Open Data

Michelle Thorne, September 8th, 2009

“There’s a trend going around the world for open data,” says Mark Harris, former manager of web standards at the New Zealand State Services Commission and co-organizer of Wellington’s recent Open Govt Data Barcamp and Hackfest.

He’s right, and New Zealand is certainly trailblazing. Last week, Creative Commons New Zealand reported that their national government released an open access and licensing framework draft (NZGOAL) for public feedback:

The framework will enable greater access to many public sector works by encouraging the New Zealand State Services agencies to license material for reuse on liberal terms, and recommends Creative Commons as an important tool in this process.

The release of NZGOAL is part of the Open Government Information and Data Re-use Project led by the State Services Commission. To get involved, join the official discussion page, contact CC New Zealand, or catch up with the Open Government Ninjas.

In other cool open gov news, New Zealand start-up Koordinates has become the online publication point for the Ministry for the Environment‘s Land Cover Database and the Land Environments New Zealand classification, released under CC BY.

Want to learn more?

Creative Commons curates a wiki listing of governmental license usage worldwide, plus a table on the public sector information laws in various jurisdictions and case studies from key government adopters. If you know of other examples, please help us document them by using the resources above or leaving a comment. Thank you!

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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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