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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Does your sharing scale?

Mike Linksvayer, September 2nd, 2009

Techdirt’s Mike Masnick is perhaps the most prolific blogger on the ill impact of overly restrictive legal regimes, including of course copyright and patents, but also trademark and even employment law (see Noncompete Agreements Are The DRM Of Human Capital) and often on people delivering real value to customers (sad that these are considered “alternative” business models) instead of replying on protectionist legal measures — as blogged here, Masnick’s case study on NIN is an absolute must read/watch — and he hosts awesome guest authors.

So it’s a little disappointing to read Masnick write:

I don’t use any of their licenses, because I don’t necessarily see the point. We’ve declared in the past that the content here is free for anyone to do what they want with it, and thus I feel no need for a Creative Commons license.

The need arises from the reality that sharing without standardized legal tools doesn’t scale. It doesn’t scale socially — if I wasn’t a regular Techdirt reader I wouldn’t know that Masnick had declared Techdirt content is free for anyone and for any purpose (and even now I could only find one such declaration because I remembered that Masnick had written about it in a post that mentioned CC!), nor depending on wording would I know what that meant. It doesn’t scale technically — there’s no way for software such as search engines to recognize ad hoc declarations. It doesn’t scale legally — any community or institution that requires legal certainty (eg due to risk that the community’s work will be suppressed or that the institution will be financially liable) will avoid ad hoc declarations.

It’s no surprise that in the more developed field of free and open source software (which has a 10+ year head start on free culture/open content) anyone who claims that making an ad hoc declaration is good enough and did not release their code under an established license would be laughed at and their code not allowed in other projects, distributions, and repositories, not to mention getting no attention from IBM, Google, Red Hat and thousands of other corporate contributors to and adopters of open source software.

Communities and institutions outside software also require works under established licenses (ie those provided by CC) to scale, e.g., Wikipedia, OpenCourseWare, the Public Library of Science and many, many others. What about individuals and small group efforts? Of course they don’t have to use real legal tools for their content any more than an individual programmer has to share code under an established open source license — that is if they don’t actually want others to “do what they want” with their content or code — because no license means no-understand, no-find, and no-go.

One of Masnick’s best turns is his stylized formula Connect With Fans (CwF) + Reason To Buy (RtB) = The Business Model ($$$$). As he explains, each part of the formula has many facets — reasonable copyright terms are just one — and as he points out, in a sense copyright is irrelevant, as CwF+RtB would work in the complete absence of copyright. However, as Techdirt points out every day, copyright is in more than full effect, producing all kinds of anti-creative and anti-innovation effects, from labels suing fans, bloggers, startups and anyone else available to heirs suppressing the use of work by long-dead authors. In this environment it seems rather necessary to offer fans the legal certainty of an established public license that grants at least the right to non-commercially share. Anything less seems to betray a lack of respect for fans or, if done unknowingly, is an instance of failed sharing.

Of course one might want to go beyond offering a relatively restrictive license and not rely on copyright at all, giving fans complete freedom with respect to one’s works. As Masnick has noted, CC has developed a legally rigorous tool to do just that, worldwide — CC0 — we hope that he is still considering it.☺

The Techdirt post quoted above is primarily a solid response to another blogger’s post on whether CC is good or bad for copyright policy — a very worthy question. Masnick’s conclusion is good:

Many of the people behind it went through (and are still going through) numerous battles to push back on the excesses of copyright. Creative Commons wasn’t the solution — it was a helpful (and hopefully temporary) oasis in a bleak desert, following numerous well-reasoned, but ultimately futile attempts to push back corporate expansion of copyright. And while I agree that there are problems with shifting the issue to a contractual agreement (and the post highlights some of the many legal problems CC licenses may cause), I think that CC, as a whole, did turn a lot more people onto the some of the problems with copyright law as it stands today. In many ways, CC is an easy way for people to first start to understand the problems of copyright law, in understanding why CC is needed.

From there, many who do understand this have started questioning the larger issues around copyright — and many of those involved with CC have continued to fight that good fight, rather than just assuming that CC is “the answer.” So, in the end, I agree that we should be clear to recognize that Creative Commons and efforts to really rethink copyright are two separate things, but that doesn’t mean that Creative Commons is necessarily bad for copyright policy issues. It has been, and hopefully will continue to be, a real stepping stone to getting more people to recognize these bigger issues. In fact, I’d argue that many of the folks now leading the debate for more reasoned copyright policy in Canada first came to understand these issues via their exposure to Creative Commons’ licenses.

While CC and other voluntary efforts (such as free software and open access) aren’t the solution (if there is such a thing), their contribution goes well beyond serving as stepping stones for thinking about how messed up the copyright environment is. They are simultaneously tools for enabling billions of dollars of collaboration across organization boundaries and unlocking untold social value now and in proving out models that don’t rely on excessive enforcement, changing the facts on the ground in a systemic way that arguably should increase the probability of good outcomes relative to those likely to result from a single-track strategy of merely complaining about the current regime as it worsens.

Copycense, the blogger that Techdirt responds to above, has unrealistic assessments of CC’s ability to “muzzle” the conversation about copyright reform and of the ability of such a conversation to obtain the “best case scenario, with a balanced and effective law that serves citizens and corporate owners equally well”. Copycense is enamored with the current Canadian copyright consultation — it’s worth noting that CC Canada has been around since 2004, that Michael Geist, the most prominent voice for positive reform, is a long time CC user and advocate — one can hardly say CC has muzzled the conversation — and furthermore it isn’t clear the consultation will lead to any good progress. Hopefully good reform will result, and many involved in CC in Canada and elsewhere are also involved in reform efforts (if you read French see the consultation of Olivier Charbonneau, one of the project leads of CC Canada) — but to denigrate voluntary efforts, at least while some rather intractable problems with the ability of concentrated interests to hijack politics remain, is a gigantic missed opportunity at best, and possibly flirting with very bad outcomes.

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Join Creative Commons for Mozilla Service Week September 14-21

Nathan Yergler, September 2nd, 2009

Mozilla Service Week is happening September 14-21, 2009, and during that week Mozilla is trying to bring people together to help teach one another about the web. Creative Commons is answering Mozilla’s call for participation by hosting an online help desk via our IRC channel. Our IRC channel (#cc on the Freenode network) is typically a place where our developers and people interested in the technology of CC hang out. During Service Week we’re inviting everyone to join us there for a virtual CC help desk.

The CC help desk is a place for experienced CC-ers (staff, Jurisdiction partners, and community members), to come together to share their collective expertise with those that are new to CC and need a little, or a lot, of guidance.

The CC community will be providing help with the following topics:

  • General CC help
  • CC technology (ccREL and software projects)
  • Where and how to publish CC works
  • Where and how to find CC works
  • CC in education and science

If you’d like to help out, add your name to our Mozilla Service Week wiki page and pledge your hours at mozillaservice.org. If you have questions, join the channel during Service Week and ask a volunteer.

More information can be found on the wiki page,

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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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ccNewsletter #14: Update from Joi Ito, CEO

Allison Domicone, September 2nd, 2009

Check out the latest ccNewsletter, available to download in PDF format for your reading pleasure as you catch up on the latest CC news. It opens with a special update from CEO Joi Ito, and includes CC’s most exciting recent developments in arts & culture, science, education, and internationally. From groundbreaking CC integrations with Google and Wikipedia, to the launch of new open educational resources, to a CC-licensed web series by director Ridley Scott, you can see for yourself how far CC has come just this year.

Many thanks to Tomas Ashe, our 2009 summer Design Intern, for his beautiful design of this month’s newsletter. You can also check out past issues of the newsletter.

Stay in touch with us! Sign up to receive the newsletter via email and subscribe to our events list.

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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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OneWebDay 2009 is September 22nd

Fred Benenson, September 1st, 2009

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It is September again, and that means OneWebDay is just around the corner on September 22nd. One Web Day is a once-a-year celebration of all that is good about the Web, and was launched in 2006 by Susan Crawford. You might recognize Susan’s name as President Obama’s Special Assistant for Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy. While Susan is now at the White House, dozens of teams around the world are preparing ready for the festivities, so check out OneWebdDay’s map or sign up to start your own team here.

One Web. For All.

This year’s One Web Day theme is “One Web. For All.” And while that might seem like an obvious theme for a day celebrating the Web, it’s an unfortunate reality that the Web isn’t yet available to everyone everywhere. Though this fact is changing as more of the world gets online, we’ve still got a ways to go. Making sure the web is for everyone is also a goal shared by Creative Commons. We’ve designed our tools and licenses to work internationally, regardless of jurisdiction or language. But it also means we’ve translated our licenses into the languages of dozens of different jurisdictions. For more information on our international efforts, check out our international page.

Making sure the web is for everyone is also about making sure everyone can participate. And that means open standards, low transaction costs, and transparent policies. Efforts like the push for network neutrality amongst ISPs are crucial components to maintaining that the web remains open for all.

So on September 22nd, celebrate OneWebDay by taking some time to think about how important it is that we can all participate in the web and how that fact has fundamentally changed our society.

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