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[Re-]Introducing Greg Grossmeier, Education Technology & Policy Coordinator

Mike Linksvayer, July 21st, 2011

Greg Grossmeier was a CC intern, community assistant, and for the last year and a half, a volunteer fellow. He is rejoining CC staff as Education Technology and Policy Coordinator, initially focused on the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative.


How did you get involved in CC initially?

It all started back when I was a student at the University of Michigan School of Information working with the fledgling Open.Michigan initiative (of which current CC staff member Tim Vollmer was one of the founders). Open.Michigan is the initiative at the University of Michigan that helps faculty, students, and staff share their educational material with the world as OER (Open Educational Resources). I was drawn to this project primarily because it aligned with my background as a member of the Free/Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) community. As I saw in the FLOSS world, our ability as creators of useful objects such as software and educational material to share these objects with each other in a way that allows them to not only read them, but also build upon them, is changing the way we interact with the world. One part of this ability is the legal assurance that you will not be sued for building upon someone else's work. This is where my interest, and involvement, with Creative Commons got its start.

I was an intern under the amazing Jon Phillips (rejon) during the summer of 2008 then stayed on as a Community Assistant for the next year. I continued my outreach as an unpaid fellow traveling to conferences until coming back to Creative Commons full-time.

Education Technology & Policy Coordinator, that's a mouthful. What does that mean? How does it relate to the work of other CC staff?

It is a mouthful! It means that I am the person you should talk to if you are working in the world of education, specifically Open Education, and have questions regarding integrating or consuming metadata, license choice and its ramifications, or any other legal, technical, or policy issue. This work dovetails nicely with the work being spearheaded by Tim Vollmer, Policy Coordinator, as I am focusing my time mostly in the education and technology realm while Tim also works on issues such as government data sharing and funder policy. I will be sort of a bridge between the CC technology team (note we’re hiring a CTO) and the policy and legal people, and a liaison for technology/policy discussions externally. My new boss is Cable Green, Director of Global Learning, who holds the big picture of how to scale OER.

I’m also looking forward to seeing how my new role can support and be informed by the work of the many OER leaders in the worldwide CC affiliate network.

You've been a copyright specialist at MLibrary for two years. There's a ton of cool stuff coming out of MLibrary. Tell us about that.

At MLibrary I worked for the Copyright Office which, contrary to what Melissa Levine’s (our fearless leader’s) title of "Copyright Officer" may imply, is not the copyright cop of the university. Instead, much of what I did was outreach and education on how faculty, students, and staff can share their scholarly works more broadly. This included issues of data sharing, open education, and open access publishing.

Specific to the library, the Copyright Office spearheaded the change of default CC license on the MLibrary website from CC Attribution-NonCommercial to CC Attribution. I hope that our reasoning for making the switch, which I outlined in a blog post, will help other galleries, libraries, archives, or museums (GLAM-institutions) adopt a similar license choice.

It is also about time for this year's Copyright Camp which is put on by MPublishing (the division within MLibrary that the Copyright Office resides). Copyright Camp is an unconference on all things copyright; from libraries to musicians, policy to practice, even education to robots!

Along with our outreach efforts, the Copyright Office also manages important projects at MLibrary including a new one concerning "orphan works."

So your most recent project is this orphan works thing, say more…

"Orphan works" are works (nominally books in our case) that are still under copyright but the copyright holder is not findable and/or contactable. These works are thus still unable to be legally reused without permission but there is no one to ask permission to reuse them.

With the leadership of Melissa and the help of my coworker Bobby Glushko, I built the process that powers the Orphan Works Project. The goal of the MLibrary Orphan Works Project is to either find the work's copyright holder OR determine that they are truly an orphan and make them available to users of MLibrary. (If you are a copyright holder of any works in the MLibrary collection, please fill out the form available on the project website.)

One could characterize part of the orphan works problem as one of a lack of metadata, or works with inadequate provenance. In a way, CC is mitigating future orphan works issues by making it easy for metadata to travel with works on the web.

You mentioned metadata and provenance, what excites you about the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative?

LRMI excites me because it will finally allow all of the hard work being done by the various online education projects (open or not) to correctly tag their works with important information (such as license, audience, subject, learning outcomes, etc) to be indexed and exposed by popular search engines. Currently we have a smorgasbord of education-specific search engines that attempt to give learners access to the world's knowledge but they routinely fall short due to technical limitations. If the metadata applied to these resources is consumed and used by popular search engines, learning management software, and even the student's own computer then, I hope, big advances in education can be made more easily.

How can people get involved in LRMI?

There is a Call for Participation (CfP) and more information on the LRMI project wiki page that has all of the details.

You're also a technologist, not just a metadata technologist — no disrespect to the meta! What do you do with the Ubuntu community?

The Ubuntu community was the first FLOSS community I felt at home in. When I moved to Michigan for graduate school there was no local community team (aka "LoCo" in Ubuntu parlance) so I took it upon myself to create one. Little did I know that there was a wonderful group of individuals waiting for something like this and the team took off. The Michigan LoCo Team has since been your go-to group for Ubuntu (and FLOSS) related activities including release parties and bug and packaging jams. During graduate school when I should have been studying for exams or writing papers I spent a lot of my Ubuntu/FLOSS time reporting and triaging bugs.

Do you see underplayed opportunities for CC and OER communities to leverage Ubuntu and other FLOSS communities and vice versa? Or instances that we just know more about?

Everywhere. The FLOSS community is first and foremost a sharing or gift economy. This aligns well with the OER community (as I said before). There are many FLOSS projects that are primarily developed to be used in OER (such as the OERbit publishing platform and OERca content management system from Open.Michigan) that could have far greater impact when applied to non-institution specific endeavors.

I also firmly believe that some of the sticking points holding wide spread adoption of OER back can be addressed using software, and specifically FLOSS. Examples of this are the Open Attribute browser plugin that makes attributing CC-licensed works dead simple, the Open Badges platform being created by Mozilla that will help online learners record and display their efforts, and AcaWiki which aims to make high-quality scholarly article summaries available in every discipline. These are all great projects to get involved with from both the education side and the software side, if you are looking for something to contribute to in your free time!


In addition to following Greg’s work on the Creative Commons blog, you can follow Greg on identi.ca and twitter.

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