If you follow Creative Commons’ various social media outlets, you’ve probably heard us talking about GNU MediaGoblin’s crowdfunding campaign. Today is the last day to support the campaign, so we wanted to give it one last shout-out.
CC alumnus Chris Webber is MediaGoblin’s lead developer. It’s an open-source media-hosting platform. It’s already CC-enabled, but Chris and his team have some exciting plans for its future, so they’re running a funding campaign with the help of our friends at the Free Software Foundation. Watch the video to see what’s on the horizon:
If you’d like to help spread the word, then click Retweet below:
— creativecommons (@creativecommons) November 9, 2012
P2PU is giving a webinar next week to help new and seasoned community members kickstart their courses, especially those just beginning to flesh out their ideas for a School of Open course! P2PU Learning Lead, Vanessa Gennarelli, will give an overview of the P2PU course design, and then dive into the step-by-step process of creating a course on the P2PU platform. I will also go over some tips and guidelines specific to creating a course as part of the School of Open, a community initiative that will offer courses on the meaning and application of “open” on the web and offline environments.
What: Course Creation 101 with P2PU (a webinar)
When: Wednesday, November 14 at 11am US pacific / 2pm US eastern
Where: Collaborate room, no registration or log-in required; simply click the following link: https://sas.elluminate.com/m.jnlp?password=M.201F591479750E670246FFFB9315F5&sid=2008170. We recommend joining 5-10 minutes early to make sure you have the necessary system requirements.
If you can’t make this webinar, don’t worry; it will be recorded for posterity and linked from the P2PU website. You can also learn how to Make a P2PU course in 1/2 hour on your own while referencing these School of Open guidelines. P2PU has a help desk for platform issues you might encounter, and School of Open has a discussion list for iterative feedback.Comments Off
In August we wrote about the European Commission’s request for information on the topic Opening Up Education. The point of the consultation is to gauge the need for EU action to promote the adoption and use of Open Educational Resources (OER) and Information Communication Technologies (ICT) in education. Several Creative Commons affiliates in Europe have submitted a joint response to the survey. The jurisdictions signing onto the response include Luxembourg, Denmark, Greece, Germany, Belgium, United Kingdom, Sweden, Czech Republic, France, Portugal, Serbia, Poland, Netherlands, Finland, Bulgaria, and Ireland.
The joint response urges the Commission to support the recommendations in the 2012 Paris OER Declaration, which was unanimously supported by UNESCO member nations at the World Open Educational Resources Congress on 20-22 June 2012. As described in the consultation document (PDF), “the EU will use the tools at its disposal (policy guidance, EU regulation whenever relevant, funding mechanisms, exchange of good practices and innovative pilots).” By leveraging these various tools in alignment with the suggestions laid out in the Paris Declaration, the Commission can be very effective in promoting the development and use of OER. Those recommendations urge UNESCO member nations to:
- Foster awareness and use of OER.
- Facilitate enabling environments for use of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT).
- Reinforce the development of strategies and policies on OER.
- Promote the understanding and use of open licensing frameworks.
- Support capacity building for the sustainable development of quality learning materials.
- Foster strategic alliances for OER.
- Encourage the development and adaptation of OER in a variety of languages and cultural contexts.
- Encourage research on OER.
- Facilitate finding, retrieving and sharing of OER.
- Encourage the open licensing of educational materials produced with public funds.
The European Commission is in a position to help coordinate, promote, and support most — if not all — of these recommendations. In addition, these recommendations align with the Europe 2020 priorities, especially in increasing effective investments in education by encouraging free open access to publicly funded educational content.
The Paris Declaration reaffirms OER as “teaching, learning and research materials in any medium, digital or otherwise, that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions.” The EC should support this definition of OER so that users of OER know the rights available to them and so that producers of OER get the credit they deserve. Since a clear legal framework is crucial to the success of OER, we strongly suggest that the EC consider promoting the use of Creative Commons licenses and public domain tools like the CC0 Public Domain Dedication. CC licenses are globally applicable and are seen as the gold standard for open content licensing. It would be beneficial for the EC to adopt CC licenses because they are already established and understood, instead of creating customized licenses that may not interoperate with existing solutions.
The full response is available here.Comments Off
It is an exciting time for the global open educational resources (OER) movement. In the past few months, several governments and institutions have shown their support for OER:
- California Passes Groundbreaking Open Textbook Legislation
- National ‘Digital School’ Program in Poland
- British Columbia Government Lends Support to Open Textbooks
- US Department of Labor Invests in Open Educational Resources
- UNESCO 2012 Paris OER Declaration
Creative Commons believes that there is a clear role for government support of OER. When governments require open licenses on publicly funded resources, they ensure those resources benefit the most people possible. Publicly funded resources should be openly licensed resources. The public should have access to what it paid for.
Advocating for government OER policies is not always easy or straightforward. Earlier this year, CC announced that we would coordinate and steward a collection of OER open policies. Since then, many members of the global OER community have been working together to compile a database of OER policies as well as toolkits, presentations, and other supporting materials. We call it the OER Policy Registry.
The policies in the OER Policy Registry are specific to OER, but may include general open access, ICT, or online learning policies that directly enable OER. There are currently over 60 policies, but we need your help to improve the registry.
First, please add new or edit existing OER open policies. We’ve put together some instructions for navigating, editing, and adding to the policy registry. If you have any questions, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Second, please help us spread the word! We need you and your networks to help the OER Policy Registry grow and flourish. Click Retweet below to share with your followers:
— creativecommons (@creativecommons) November 5, 2012
Sharing our collective knowledge of existing OER open policies, in the same way we share open educational resources, will help OER advocates and policymakers learn about, craft and adopt their own OER open policies. Thank you for your help! If you have any suggestions or feedback please let us know.Comments Off
MOOCs — or Massive Open Online Courses — have been getting a lot of attention lately. Just in the last year or so, there’s been immense interest in the potential for large scale online learning, with significant investments being made in companies (Coursera, Udacity, Udemy), similar non-profit initiatives (edX) and learning management systems (Canvas, Blackboard). The renewed interest in MOOCs was ignited after last year’s Introduction to Artificial Intelligence course offered via Stanford University, when over 160,000 people signed up to take the free online course. The idea of large-scale, free online education has been around for quite some time. Some examples include David Wiley’s 2007 Introduction to Open Education; Connectivism and Connective Knowledge, led by George Siemens and Stephen Downes in 2008; Open Content Licensing for Educators; and many others.
A central component to these earlier iterations of the MOOC was the dual meaning of “open.” Justin Reich writes in EdWeek,
The original MOOCs…were “open” in two respects. First, they were open enrollment to students outside the hosting university. That is open as in “open registration.” Second, the materials of the course were licensed using Creative Commons licenses so their materials could be remixed and reused by others. That is open as in “open license.”
These dual characteristics of “open” are also core to Open Educational Resources (OER). Hewlett’s updated OER definition begins: “OER are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others.” That is, for an educational resource to be “open” it must be both gratis (available at no-cost) and libre (everyone has the legal rights to repurpose the resource). An OER cannot be freely available or openly licensed – it must be both freely available and openly licensed (or in the public domain) to be an OER.
The new cohort of MOOCs are distinct from the original MOOCs in that they are “open,” thus far, in only one respect: they are open enrollment. The new MOOCs have not yet openly licensed their courses. As MOOCs continue to develop course content and experiment with various business models, we think it’s crucial that they consider adopting open licenses as a default on their digital education offerings. In general, the value proposition can be enhanced for the new MOOCs and their users if the MOOCs openly license their courses. A few ideas about why this is important:
One goal of MOOCs is to serve tens / hundreds of thousands more people with high-quality educational content. By adopting Creative Commons (CC) licenses, MOOCs:
- can increase the reach of their materials by making the rights to use and adapt them crystal clear from the start;
- will be able to serve even more learners because they’ll be granting legal permissions to use their course content in other educational settings; and
- do not have to respond to individual permissions requests from users and can instead focus on delivering quality educational content to the largest number of students.
- Commercially-focused MOOCs can adopt CC licenses to make their MOOCs truly “open” (free of cost and free of most copyright restrictions) and still leverage the scale of these courses (with potentially tens of thousands of students) and the MOOC platform to charge for value-added services, such as the coordination of study groups, course certification, secure assessments, employee recruiting, and print-on-demand textbooks.
- MOOCs can provide features their users want by incorporating open licensing options. Recently, the education technology company Blackboard has permitted users to upload educational content under the Creative Commons Attribution license. Since many MOOCs want to support individuals who want to share their creations as well as open collaboration between course participants, it may be worthwhile for the MOOCs to support users with this easy-to-implement feature.
- By supporting open licensing, MOOCs will be positively contributing to the Open Educational Resources movement, reaffirmed in the 2012 Paris OER Declaration. MOOCs can be leaders and innovators for OER, increase their enrollment numbers, and receive the goodwill that comes along with being an active participant in this global open education movement.
- Online education knows no language barriers, and a large percentage of MOOC participants are logging on from outside of North America (where most of the new initiatives are based). For example, in a recent MIT MOOC course with 155,000 registrations, students came from 160 countries (PDF). If MOOCs want to continue to attract and serve an international audience, they might focus on multilingual course delivery. It should be noted that MOOCs that release course content under Creative Commons licenses (at least the licenses that do not contain the “NoDerivatives” condition) automatically grant permission for users to make translations of the materials. MIT Open CourseWare courses have been translated into at least 10 languages, including Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Thai, French, German, Vietnamese, and Ukrainian. Coursera and Udacity have already partnered with the crowdsourced captioning service Amara.
- Openly licensed MOOC resources can give rise to interesting new courses and educational products and services. For instance, materials released under a license like CC BY can be repurposed and reused on sites like Wikipedia and hundreds of Open CourseWare projects. Adopting CC licensing can support the conditions necessary for innovation that is difficult to predict (or plan for). In the long run, supporting the open ecosystem is beneficial both for commercial and non-profit MOOC initiatives. In addition, many educators and learners want to be able to use the resources outside of the MOOC environment, and open licensing grants this permission in advance. CC licensing opens up a much broader range of pedagogical approaches that enable all MOOC participants, instructors and students alike the ability to generate, use, and share content with each other.
- Many MOOCs are concerned that their content will be “stolen” by competitors. However, this fear is speculative. There are features of the CC licenses that can help assuage the fears of MOOCs. For example, all the CC licenses provide for attribution to the original author, preservation of any copyright notice, and the URL to the original work. When MOOC material are licensed under a CC license permitting the creation of adaptations, the adapted resources must be clearly marked to indicate that changes have been made, and a credit — reasonable to the means and medium being used — that the MOOC material has been used in the adaptation. Also, CC licenses do not grant permission to use anyone’s trademarks or official insignia, nor do the licenses affect other laws that may be used to protect one’s reputation or other rights — those rights are all reserved and may be enforced separately by the MOOC. Finally, it should be noted that the original educational materials remain intact and preserved, exactly as released (most typically) on the MOOC website. So, there will be a record of the original publishing of the content. But beyond these features of the CC license, community and business norms make it very unlikely that competitor MOOCs will “swoop in” and republish full courses simply because the open license technically makes this a possibility. Norms of academic practice typically carry more weight than any legal restriction made possible through use of an open license.
MOOCs should address copyright and licensing early on so they are clear to users how they can utilize and reuse educational materials offered on the site. MOOCs should choose to adopt an open license that meets their goals, but at minimum it is recommended that they choose a public, standardized license that grants to its users the “4Rs” of open content: the ability to Reuse, Revise, Remix, and Redistribute the resources. The more permissions MOOCs can offer on their content, the better. Online peer learning community P2PU has provided some useful documentation about how to choose a license. And CC maintains easy-to-understand information about how to properly implement the CC license on websites and platforms. Of course, it is important for MOOCs and users of MOOCs to understand some of the copyright and intellectual property considerations that they should know about before they adopt an open license for educational content.
MOOCs have captured the public mindshare as an interesting way to deliver high quality education to huge numbers of online learners. In order to maximize the educational benefits that MOOCs promise to provide, they must be “open” in both enrollment and licensing. MOOCs should seriously consider applying CC licenses to content they build, asking contributing Universities to openly licnese their courses, and making CC licensing part of their MOOC platforms. By doing so, they’ll be best positioned to serve a diverse set of users and support the flourishing open education movement.
For more information, see this Association of Research Libraries issue brief on MOOCs (CC BY) by Brandon Butler.6 Comments »
Last Friday, Open.Michigan helped a group of students get Creative Commons savvy in an offline version of the School of Open’s “Get CC Savvy” challenge, a course originally designed for independent online learners. For those yet unaware, the School of Open is a growing community initiative that will provide educational resources and professional development courses on the meaning and impact of “openness” in the digital age and its benefit to creative endeavors, education, research, and more. Though offline School of Open workshops and activities have been held (see previous School of Open updates), they have primarily focused on creating new courses for the School; Open.Michigan’s Fun Friday session was the first time actual course material was taught in a real world group setting.
Victoria Lungu, student at the University of Michigan’s School of Information, who co-organized and led the session with her Open.Michigan colleagues, writes about how the event went below.
Last Friday I ran a workshop at the University of Michigan where a group of eight worked through the P2PU School of Open challenge “Get CC Savvy.” A year ago or even a few months ago, I would have never imagined taking part in such an exciting opportunity.
So what got me here? Well, to put it simply, a class with Kristin Fontichiaro at the School of Information and her choice to pair me with mentor Emily Puckett Rodgers at Open.Michigan. The class and mentorship were structured to give me the chance to explore my personal interest in open education and informal learning opportunities with a focus on information literacy and teaching.
After a few conversations and brainstorming sessions, Emily and I aimed to try and get the educational potential of the School of Open offline and into a group setting. It was an experiment to see how well an online and physical learning environment could work together.
We had some questions.
- Were the School of Open challenges able to support this kind of learning?
- What benefits would there be to learning something like Creative Commons in this sort of setting?
- How do we record the evidence and learning that is taking place?
We couldn’t answer these questions, or any of the other many questions we had. But we were ready to learn something from this event.
The session drew in participants of all different backgrounds from experts in CC/open licensing at Open.Michigan to students interested in librarianship, information policy, and even a student Wikipedian at the University of Michigan. The informal setting allowed for flexibility and creativity on how the session would evolve. I wanted participants to pick how they wanted to learn as long as they followed two measures of engagement:
- That they created an account with P2PU if they didn’t have one, and
- To comment and engage with the actual challenge and its tasks in the discussion areas.
I asked for participants to abide by these measures to encourage them to preserve evidence of the types of learning and questions that were inspired by the session and to encourage them to (hopefully) explore P2PU and the School of Open more at a later date.
As seen above, and as evidenced in the “Get CC Savvy” challenge discussion fields, eight of us worked together to explore the content, ask questions, post comments, and discuss personal perspectives and experiences relating to Creative Commons. We were even lucky enough to have an audio clip captured (it can be found and listened to in the discussion section of Task 3 in Get CC Savvy) and a fairly immediate response from Jane Park, CC Project Manager and P2PU founding volunteer, to one of the participants questions. The multimedia evidence and outside engagement really enhanced the experience and created a rich environment for learning.
While the hour and a half session allowed for this in-depth exploration of Creative Commons, it also taught us about how group dynamics and other factors impact the takeaways and experience.
- This experience was unique in that it actually had experts in the room, including Open Education Specialist Piet Kleymeer who helped build the challenge. While this won’t always be the case for others who choose to develop workshops like this, it definitely allowed for a more dynamic conversation and avenues of exploration than if there had not been someone to field questions. Even though we were fortunate in this aspect, it makes me question how deeply one might explore content like Creative Commons in an online module without that facilitation.
- Sometimes things built for individual work and short answer don’t always help facilitate a group effort to work through the material. Some of the exercise answers and singular tasks required more front-end effort to structure it into conversations to draw out the participatory aspect of the workshop. While P2PU and School of Open are not necessarily built to support live group workshops as a main source of learning, is there a better way to facilitate this method of learning the challenge content on P2PU?
- Capturing the learning that happens in a group can be hard (especially when working through an online module). Early on, we were so involved in the conversation that we had hardly realized no one had captured the ideas we had discussed. Sometimes a discussion board might capture central ideas or themes but it cannot capture the dialogue and discussion that leads to ideas or encourage further exploration that happens in groups. Some of the best learning occurs in collaborative spaces and it is something that should be preserved and shared when possible.
With all this in mind, would I do it again? Definitely. It is inspiring to participate in a conversation with minds that strive to understand, explore, and challenge ideas, new or mastered. The opportunity to see the group engagement play out before my eyes shows me the meaningfulness of the material and the ability of collaborative thought to spark interest beyond the framework of a challenge– where informal learning really starts to take shape.
Kudos to Victoria and Open.Michigan for piloting this School of Open class! If you’d also like to contribute to building this initiative:
- Visit http://schoolofopen.org. Register for a P2PU account and take or help improve one of the courses listed in various stages of development.
- Join the discussion and introduce yourself and your field of “open” interest: https://groups.google.com/group/school-of-open.
- Create a course. You can create directly on the P2PU platform or use http://pad.p2pu.org for collaborative editing. Just make sure to email the list or the Project Manager (that’s me) with a link to the working draft so we can help.
Earlier this year, Creative Commons issued a statement in support of Bassel Khartabil, a longtime CC volunteer who has been detained by Syrian authorities since March 15. Amnesty International recently released a document with information suggesting that Bassel has been ill-treated and even tortured. This morning, we sent a letter to President Bashar al-Assad, Minister of Foreign Affairs Walid al-Mu’allim, and Minister of Defense ‘Imad al-Fraij; urging that Bassel be released unless he is promptly charged with an internationally recognized criminal offense. We urge Syrian authorities to grant Bassel immediate access to his family, a lawyer of his choice, and all necessary medical treatment.
Bassel has played a crucial role in the open technology and culture communities, both in Syria and around the world. Through his service as Creative Commons’ project lead in Syria and his numerous contributions to the advancement of open source and related technologies, Bassel has spent his career working toward a more free Internet. Many of us at Creative Commons have become friends of Bassel’s over the years. All of us have benefited from his leadership and expertise.2 Comments »
Creative Commons Europe Regional Meeting in Helsinki / Kristina Alexanderson / CC BY
In September, a number of CC’s European affiliates congregated at the Open Knowledge Festival taking place in Helsinki, Finland, for a regional meeting. Held as a side event over one day of the festival, the meeting was attended by representatives of our affiliates in 17 different European countries.
Each meeting between our affiliates is an excellent opportunity to network and bridge the geographic, as well as cultural, distance between the various jurisdictions they represent. As such, it’s not surprising that one of the more significant outcomes from the meeting was a series of discussions starting between the affiliates after the actual meeting.
During the meeting itself, the affiliates got to hear about Creative Commons global strategy work from Jessica Coates, our Global Network Manager, and about policy work from Timothy Vollmer, our Manager of Policy and Data. Looking towards December, we also discussed Creative Commons’ upcoming 10th birthday and the activities and events taking place around it. One of the outcomes of the meeting was the idea to create a Creative Commons mixtape with Creative Commons licensed music from around Europe, covering the last 10 years, to be released around the 10th birthday.
In the weeks following the regional meetings, on the initiative of Alek Tarkowski (our lead for Creative Commons in Poland), the affiliates and regional coordinator put together a proposal to the European Union Education, Audiovisual & Culture Executive Agency’s (EACEA) call for proposals on support for organisations active at the European level in the field of culture. The activities of the proposal that we sent aim to encourage and support cultural institutions in their work to maximize public access to their cultural data and content. Through a series of workshops including experts of the network and participation from European museums, the European affiliates will develop guidelines and instructions on how to increase circulation of cultural data and content in the digital environment at the legal, technical, and organizational levels.
Such a cooperative approach to putting together a compelling proposal in such a short amount of time could not have happened without the ability to meet in person from time to time. While not a direct outcome of the meeting, it exemplifies the relevance of the regional and global meetings of Creative Commons, and the European group is already looking forward for when we next meet, at latest in about a year’s time for the next global summit.Comments Off
British Columbia has just announced a groundbreaking open textbook policy, providing for open textbooks for 40 popular college courses.
It’s open access week! Join Creative Commons and dozens of other organizations as we celebrate the OA movement.
On October 5, Creative Commons and P2PU convened community advocates and policy leaders to lay the curriculum framework for the School of Open.
On Ada Lovelace Day, CC CEO Cathy Casserly reflects on the importance of women in science and technology.
In other news:
- Cost of reusing educational materials developed by grantees? $0. The US Departments of Labor and Education make a big investment in open educational resources.
- Geoscience Australia recently announced that it will license all images from the Landsat 8 satellite under CC BY. Australia’s partnership with the United States in the Landsat program is a perfect example of why it’s important to use a license that’s open and internationally applicable.
- Our friends at the Free Music Archive are holding a video remix contest. Get your entry in by November 4! And stay tuned: next month, we’ll be announcing a special music contest in celebration of CC’s tenth anniversary.
- It’s official: Wikimedia’s Wiki Loves Monuments is the world’s largest photo competition.
- CC’s Tim Vollmer writes about HowOpenIsIt?, a new reference guide for understanding open access standards.
- Not only is this Open Access Week; it’s also Pro Bono Week. CC’s legal team takes a moment to say thanks.
One Thursday a few weeks ago, just as most of us at Creative Commons were on our way home for the evening, we saw this startling tweet:
@creativecommons You need to know: ~30 maths enthusiasts begin a CC-BY course book hackathon in five hours in Helsinki, Finland.
— Joonas Mäkinen (@JoonasD6) September 28, 2012
Of course we had to learn more. I contacted Joonas Mäkinen to get more information, and he explained to me that he’d helped organize a team to write a secondary school mathematics textbook over a weekend, in an event called Oppikirjamaraton (“textbook marathon”). The book was to be licensed CC BY, so that anyone could reuse or remix it in Finland or around the world.
The text — now in version .91 in GitHub — is called Vapaa Matikka. The title translates as “Free Math,” but since matikka can also mean “burbot,” the book’s title also reads as “free fish” and its slogan — Matikka verkosta vapauteen — could be either a rallying cry to keep educational resources free and open or an instruction to free a fish from a net.
But I was interested in more than math puns. I wanted to find out how the book sprint had gone, what the team was planning to do with the textbook, and what advice he had for others organizing similar events. This interview was conducted by email between October 2 and 5.
What range of math concepts does the book cover?
It is a text book for the first advanced level mathematics course in Finnish upper secondary (high) schools. Although people who just start the course have usually just finished their mandatory primary school studies, we decided to take quite a “for dummies” approach and try to minimize all the prerequisites.
We introduce rational numbers, go through the arithmetic of them and real numbers in general. Power rules and roots follow and lead to the very basics of equation solving and the concept of a function. The most important applications of all this are proportionality and percentage calculations. Even with the freedom of writing we had we were tied to the current curriculum.
Tell me more about the curriculum requirements. Are they the same throughout Finland?
There is one national curriculum and everyone follows it. The only standardized tests you get are your finals, or matriculation examinations as they are known here, so some book series approach topics in a slightly different order than others. There is some flexibility and writing a course book based on the curriculum was easy.
Doesn’t change the fact that the curriculum sucks, though. The first reaction from a lot of participants was: “Can we write a new curriculum first?” And I understand them. We don’t have wars over content as I’ve understood you have in the USA, though. It’s more about how certain topics are grouped together in courses.
In the case of advanced level mathematics, there are 10 national, mandatory courses that consist of approximately 18 75-minute lessons. Plus a few optional courses, plus a lot more if you’re in a science- or math-focused school. An example of a highly non-mathematical, non-systematic grouping would be for example a course which is supposed to cover sequences and trigonometric functions. These two have nothing in common at this level. They could if series expansions and complex numbers were taught earlier, but nooooo…
What was the breakdown of participants? Was everyone involved an educator? Did participants have prior experience writing or editing textbooks?
There were over 20 people who partook in writing that weekend. We had regular upper secondary teachers, university students (mathematics and computer science), a teacher of automotive electronics, my own private students, and even a couple of university professors working both locally and remotely. We had our own inner circle of enthusiastic grammar nazis, too, to help us actually write grammatically and typographically better materials than you see in some books by big publishers. The diversity of people involved turned out to be a great resource for producing a variety of problems and perspectives.
A few people had experience writing and publishing a “normal,” old-fashioned commercial book, but that experience didn’t seem to divide people into groups at all when we actually started working.
How did you organize yourselves? Were people’s roles in the project determined before the weekend began?
Vesa Linja-aho, who got the idea of this booksprint/hackathon in the first place, was our de facto PR and bureaucracy guy. Lauri Hellsten promised to take the main role in creating much-needed graphics at the set. Other than them, no writer was predestined any specific work. Surely quite a few people had their own topics they really, really wanted to write about, but all in all the whole writing process was very spontaneous and dynamic.
— Joonas Mäkinen (@JoonasD6) September 30, 2012
How much preparation happened ahead of time? Did you enter the weekend with an outline of the book? Schedules?
After realizing that this could be a big thing we just sort of waited for our friends and friends’ friends to fill out a Doodle poll about which weekend we should pick. I planned a table of contents beforehand to have something as a starting point, but it was modified very heavily during Friday and Saturday. Juhapekka Tolvanen made us some LaTeX layout templates beforehand, and we also had one planning meeting but that was not really about content but more about technology: which version management systems we should use, etc. Most of the planning in general was just about getting potential sponsors, writing a press release, checking where we can actually do the writing work, did we have enough laptops, and so on.
One funny copyright anecdote: we had gathered up pretty much all available, related text books. You know, to check how others have explained this and that. Another reason was that in mathematics education (and obviously in other subjects too) there are usually many “pathological” examples and exercises that it’s good for everyone to go though, so you keep running into and using the same tasks again and again. Vesa Linja-aho had received a written decision earlier from the local copyright council that exercises do not constitute works and thus are not copyrightable. Nevertheless, a teacher who had written one of the books we had with us commented and reminded us on our Facebook page that it’s not right to copy others’ work. We got some good laughs out of that.
What did you learn from the experience? What was more difficult than you expected? What advice would you give others planning a similar sprint?
Get the tech side done before you start, and that will save everybody’s nerves and time for the actual writing! We used LaTeX to write and typeset the whole book and Github to handle versions, but hassling with both caused a lot of delays during the first two days. Most people were not familiar with Git and version conflicts and other funnies took maybe a half of our time. Just think what we could have achieved if everyone had had their laptops completely ready…
Some guys were still debating if we should add this and that during Saturday and Sunday, and that was something people should try to avoid. In sprints like this, it’s always the best to just keep writing more content – it’s always easier to comment out or edit something later on. Some arguments got pretty heated a couple of times, but that might also be the lack of sleep talking. Keep it cool and remember to have fun!
What’s next? Is there a revision or review period planned? Are there educators planning to teach from it?
The immediate physiological response after finishing the marathon on Sunday was euphoria. Everyone agreed immediately to organize another sprint. The technical delays and lack of graphics artists made sure that our book didn’t reach the level of ready that we’d just send it to printing immediately, but it’s alive now: people keep sending “bug reports” over Github and all participants have continued to make improvements: fixing typos, adding exercises, fixing inconsistencies…
Our book is now version 0.9, and we’ll wait a couple of weeks till we say it’s appropriately ready for translations and focused printing. Though, we’ve already been hearing that the book has been used as a handbook by a couple of teachers, some have been giving their students exercises from the book and so forth. And of course I and other writers have used it as a resource, too, when teaching our own students. After some polishing we’re pretty sure it’ll be used in plenty of places. Another kick in popularity will come when we continue with the rest of the courses (since schools don’t like to switch book series between courses).
The project was so fun and well-received that we’ll have our next sprint on the second course soon!1 Comment »