Commons News

3rd Free Culture Research Conference: Call for Abstracts

Michelle Thorne, May 27th, 2010

There are just 10 days left to submit your extended abstract for the 2010 Free Culture Research Conference (FCRC), which will take place October 8-9, in Berlin. The event follows last year’s one-day workshop at Harvard University and aims to further the exciting, interdisciplinary discourse on Free Culture. We hope you’ll consider applying.

From the conference’s Call for Abstracts:

The 3rd Free Culture Research Conference: Free Culture between Commons and Markets: Approaching the Hybrid Economy?

The Free Culture Research Conference presents a unique opportunity for scholars whose work contributes to the promotion, study or criticism of a Free Culture, to engage with a multidisciplinary group of academic peers and practitioners, identify the most important research opportunities and challenges, and attempt to chart the future of Free Culture.

This event builds upon the successful workshop held in 2009 at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, organized and attended by renowned scholars and research institutions from the US, Europe and Asia. The first event was held in Sapporo, Japan, in 2008, in conjunction with the 4th iCommons Summit. This year’s event is larger in ambition and scope, to provide more time for interaction in joint as well as break-out sessions. It is hosted jointly by the Free University of Berlin and the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies and will take place at October 8-9, 2010 at the Free University Campus in Berlin, in collaboration with COMMUNIA, the European Network on the digital public domain. Funding and support is also provided by the Heinrich Böll Foundation.

Given this year’s theme and the generous support of the Free University’s School of Business and Economics, we encourage submissions at the interface of Free Culture and business, although we welcome submissions from any relevant discipline, will be inclusive and will maintain the interdisciplinary nature of the event, as in previous years. Enabled by new Internet technologies and innovative legal solutions, Free Culture prospers in the form of new business models and via commons-based peer production, thereby both challenging and complementing classic market institutions. Alongside business perspectives, we expect that perspectives from law, IT, the social sciences and humanities will help us develop a better understanding of the challenges at hand, for individuals, business, law, the economy, and society at large.

Deadline for extended abstracts is June 7.

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Choosing An Open License – the P2PU Experience

Jane Park, May 25th, 2010

There are a lot of things to consider when it comes to choosing a CC license. The factors are different for everyone, whether you’re an individual creator or an institution. Usually, the decision is made and the process by which it was made fades into memory or only remains via word of mouth or blog posts. The Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU) didn’t want this to happen so they decided to document their process when the community held its first workshop in Berlin. A Guide to CHOOSING AN OPEN LICENCE: The Peer 2 Peer University Experience is the result of their efforts. From the announcement:

P2PU has always been committed to openness in everything we do, from the way we run our activities, to how we licence the materials we produce. However, as many people who have worked in the Open Educational space will attest, choosing the right kind of licence, one that provides both the protections and the freedoms that a project like P2PU may require, can be a tricky process…

As we went through the process, we also realised that our experiences may be useful for other people who are undergoing a similar exercises. So we decided to document what we did, and why, and how it turned out. And today, we are proud to announce the publication of our Guide to Choosing an Open Licence (with a CC licence, of course!) In this document, you’ll find details of every step we took to choose our licence, and a range of opinions from several open educators, lawyers and practitioners which we found invaluable.

The P2PU experience is only one of many, and it is not necessarily the process or the license that everyone should choose. It is simply one example of a process that worked for a diverse community of people with various viewpoints. In the end, they chose CC BY-SA (with the allowance of CC BY for when content is entirely funded by a third party). The document is thorough, objective, helpful, and not very long–so make sure to check it out, especially if you’re wondering how to go about choosing a CC license for your own project. (The document itself is available via CC BY-SA).

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Open Video Conference Call for Proposals

Jane Park, May 24th, 2010

The Open Video Conference, “a multi-day summit of thought leaders in business, academia, art, and activism [exploring] the future of online video,” is taking place this fall from October 1-2 in NYC and includes a keynote from Michael Wesch, the cultural anthropologist responsible for the YouTube phenomenon, The Machine is Us/ing Us. Last year, OVC “was host to over 800 guests, including 150 workshop leaders, panelists and speakers. Over 8,000 viewers tuned in from home to watch the live broadcast. The event earned coverage in WIRED, NewTeeVee, BBC News, Filmmaker Magazine, and The New Yorker.”

You can apply to host or be part of a panel, presentation, workshop, or demo session at http://openvideoconference.org/proposals/. The deadline to apply is June 7. For more about OVC, visit http://www.openvideoconference.org/about/.

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Welcome 2010 Interns and Google Policy Fellow!

Jennifer Yip, May 18th, 2010

Creative Commons is once again preparing to welcome a new batch of summer interns and another Google Policy Fellow. This year, three students will be working alongside the staff in the San Francisco office for ten weeks. Reginald Leones and Alessandra Garbagnati were chosen for the legal internship positions. Tal Niv was selected for the Google Policy Fellowship.

Reg lives in Sydney where he is completing his combined BSc and LLB degree at the University of New South Wales. On the completion of his degree, he will commence as a graduate clerk at the Sydney law firm, Freehills, where he has been working as a paralegal in their IP division.

Alessandra is a second year law student at UC Hastings College of the Law. She is currently completing the Intellectual Property concentration and will be the editor-in-chief of Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal this coming year.

Tal is a PhD student at UC Berkeley law school’s Jurisprudence and Social Policy program. Her research and interest revolves around copyright and collaborative works of authorship, cyber-policy and innovation.

We are looking forward to kicking off another productive with the addition of these great minds in a few short weeks!

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CC Talks With: Virginia Department of Education: Open Education and Policy

Timothy Vollmer, May 18th, 2010

One venue for the advancement of Open Educational Resources (OER) is through policy change at the local, state, federal, and international levels. In addition to an Education landing page and OER portal that explains Creative Commons’ role as the legal and technical infrastructure behind OER, CC has been conducting a series of interviews on open education and policy to help clarify some of the challenges and opportunities of OER in today’s education landscape.

In this installment, we spoke with Linda Wallinger, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction, and Lan Neugent, Assistant Superintendent for Technology, Career & Adult Education–both from the Virginia Department of Education. The Department has been exploring open education initiatives, including their work on the open textbook The 21st Century Physics Flexbook: A Compilation of Contemporary and Emerging Technologies. In general, Virginia has been supportive of openness, and passed legislation that indicates a preference for state-funded materials to be released with a CC (or equivalent open) license. Linda and Lan shared benefits and drawbacks to the Flexbook, challenges to teachers utilizing OER, and the potential for OER to dovetail with new student assessment tools.

Q: Virginia is well known for developing the Physics Flexbook, in collaboration with publisher CK-12. The FlexBook is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license (CC–BY–SA) and thus can be used as is, used in part, or enhanced by teachers based on their curriculum and classroom needs. What is the status of the Flexbook project and to what extent is the Flexbook used in class instruction? What are the reactions from teachers and students?

Lan: Because Physics is not a verified credit course in Virginia, we had a little more latitude with that particular subject. We’ve been hearing a lot from the business community and some educators about how long it takes to go through the review cycle. It’s a 7-year process. Obviously, a lot of content can change within that time period. Science changes all the time and there are topics that teachers would want to add to their teaching plans. For example, nanotechnology is not something we were concerned about seven or eight years ago. Now, it turns up in all sorts of areas like cosmetics and clothing and might be something teachers want to put into their curriculum. As we speak, there are additional Physics content areas being added to the Flexbook. The Physics Flexbook ended up being an ancillary document. Scientists, high school teachers, and college professors were recruited and each selected an area of expertise to write on. The Flexbooks are in use right now, but we don’t collect data on how much they are being used. My expectation is that teachers who want to go beyond the curriculum and have the time to do that are likely using the Flexbook as a resource repository for their teaching.

Developing the Flexbook helped us to see some of the benefits to and limitations of this model. One of the limitations of the Flexbook structure is that you could clearly tell who authored the content by the style of writing–a scientist writes differently than a businessperson, who writes differently than a teacher. How to address quality control standards have been somewhat problematic with the Flexbook. In traditional printed textbooks, you don’t notice these different voices because it’s edited as a whole to maintain a consistent tone. Another limitation is, of course, copyright issues. Most of the graphics and photos used came from the Library of Congress because they are free. It’s not to discredit these materials; we just thought it was interesting. One of the reasons why we are a state partner with some of the major publishers is that they have solved some of the copyright issues in their development and publishing process.

Linda: The Flexbook was a good way to get some experience in an OER endeavor, but from an expectation of instructional materials I would have hoped that it would have been more interactive. In many ways it was like a paper book that was displayed on the Internet. While that certainly makes it more accessible to individuals and opens the content, I’m still not sure it’s where I hoped it would be to engage teachers with best practices for teaching. By providing textbook resources through technological methods, it might prevent schools from having to buy textbooks. But, students often don’t have access to computers and the Internet at home, or at least it’s not guaranteed that they have it. So, schools have to turn around and print out the resources anyway. It’s not actually as much of a cost savings as it’s made out to be.

Lan: After we were working on the Physics Flexbook for awhile and started to realize some of its limitations, we thought it would be good to conduct pilots with companies that publish textbooks. We put out a call for groups to come in to talk to us, and 40 people came, representing all the major textbook publishers, and some smaller ones too. The publishers have seen what’s been happening with all the changes and consolidation within the music and newspaper industries. We said to them, “you spend a lot of money in binding and printing and physical production…how’d you like to talk about the core stuff you do?” They seemed amenable to discussing this. We’ve met with companies that are demonstrating incredible uses of technology. Some are creating a whole new digital experience. We’ve talked to them about teaching and learning through apps too. We’re very excited about new technologies like the iPad–not that we’re not excited about other technologies–but we thought the iPad would provide a good way to test the technology. Technologies like the iPad overcome the limitation in interactivity that we mentioned before, because it allows users to interact with content beyond traditional text. A year from now other computer companies will have similar products.

Q: Many of us in the OER world talk about the need for teachers to be able to take educational content and manipulate it, repurpose it, remix it, share it. How do teachers want to use content?

Lan: Traditional textbooks have served us well, especially for me as a beginning teacher, because the textbook was the curriculum. The concept of looking at different ways to deliver textbooks could be as simple as putting it online or making it able to be viewed on an iPad or similar device. It could be more complex by including lots of multimedia and other interactive resources. But fundamentally, even experienced teachers are looking to textbooks for guidance on what to teach, what the content should be, and what the process should be. In developing electronic textbooks, you have to hold onto those concepts. The textbook is a teacher’s guideline and roadmap. Any of the multimedia and enhanced materials that you can include to enliven instruction would attest to that.

Linda: Teachers don’t work in isolation when they’re teaching. They are bound to a curriculum that’s been designed by their school division in Virginia and the curriculum is aligned to the standards of learning set by the state. Teachers want the flexibility to mix and match lessons, but they first need a structure whereby they have an idea of the order in which materials should be presented. This is important because many school divisions have a pacing guide that determines at what point in the year teachers should be on a particular chapter of a book or specific topic within a lesson. While creative flexibility is important, it’s important to have structure too. Most teachers don’t teach just one lesson plan. Elementary teachers teach all the content areas. Teachers don’t have the time to develop materials to support their curriculum and their lessons. Over a period of years teaching I’ve developed a sort of library of materials. I’m envisioning that this could be one way a teacher might use the internet-based materials or resources available under Creative Commons licenses.

Lan: Virginia is well positioned to do OER. We deliver just under 2 million online tests per year. Our general assembly and governor’s office have been very helpful in proving the connectivity and devices in order to do online testing. Fairfax School District in Virginia is working on a project called eCart, which is a bucket of OER and other electronic resources that are accessible and shareable by teachers. The Fairfax system ties together the resources and data on student achievement. The system helps teachers analyze whether their students are learning what they should.

Linda: One of the pieces required for states’ Race To the Top applications was addressing an instructional improvement system that was technology-based. It sparked a lot of conversation. I envision a dashboard that allows access to electronic tools used by the school division, like a grade book, but also something like an electronic filing cabinet where teachers can import other electronic resources. We also realized that there should be a common format for all of these electronic resources, along the lines of the Schools Interoperability Framework (SIF) so that all of these resources can truly be shared by many, as opposed to materials being developed just for the iPad, etc.

Q: The Common Core Standards are a shared set of core state standards in English-language arts and mathematics for grades K-12. How can the Common Core standards intersect with OER?

Linda: Certainly when you have Common Core standards in place across multiple states, any kind of technology that helps communications among these states is going to be invaluable. Most states have expended tremendous resources in developing content standards either before or as a result of No Child Left Behind. Virginia has spent a lot of money in providing resources and materials to support teachers and students, not to mention the assessments that are aligned with these standards. The sheer act of creating common standards is not anywhere near the end of the journey. Having looked at the Common Core, they’re not really written at a classroom level yet. Instead, they are broad statements describing what a student should know. In many cases, states may have to recreate educational resources they already have because the new standards are in a different order or are somewhat different than the standards their boards have adopted. As this work proceeds in reading and math across 13 grades, it’d be wonderful to have the opportunity for teachers to collaborate on developing these resources, or to have one state work on one grade and another state to work on a different grade. That way, there doesn’t have to be duplicative effort.

Q: One piece of legislation in Virginia in support of OER creates an Open Education Curriculum Board. How can it help with the adoption and exploration of OER in Virginia education?

Lan: Virginia had HB 724, which would establish an Open Educational Curriculum Board. The law was sent back to committee, but was not acted upon. We certainly expect it to move in 2011. The board will include governor appointees and general assembly appointees. They will be charged with taking a look at OER that will hopefully be utilized by Virginia schools. The board will be establishing criteria to do their review. We’ll serve as staff to the board.

Q: How do you see the role of Creative Commons within the OER environment? How can CC help in terms of educating policymakers and Virginia teachers?

Lan: We need to look at a state like Virginia, look at all their existing policies and procedures, look at the types of things impacted by OER, and make recommendations as to how states might reconcile those policies that don’t fit well in the new learning environment. We need to disseminate best practices around using technology, as well as the SREB guidelines. Right now, there’s a bit of chaos in the OER arena around copyright issues. Teachers know they can make a single copy of things to use. We need more guidance on these legal issues. With respect to the eCart program I mentioned earlier, OER needs to be tied to student learning outcomes. It’s too easy to take OER and shotgun them all over the place and be done with it.

Linda: When you convene groups working on OER, you need to include end users. Many of the people currently talking about OER are not the people that need to implement them in a school-based setting. Visionaries are important, but sometimes they get their feelings hurt when the educators don’t embrace everything they suggest. It’d be valuable to have people at the table such as principals, classroom teachers, school board members, and maybe state department staff form the instruction and technology side.

Q: Wrapping up, what does a successful teaching and learning environment implementing the power of OER “look like”? Do you have any lingering thoughts—worries, hopes, and predictions?

Linda: Lan mentioned that one of the biggest hurdles around adopting and implementing OER is that the policies in place now were mostly created for brick and mortar schools. Sometimes educators give off signals that they are intimidated by or not supportive of OER. But really, I think one problem is that the teachers are not able to visualize how OER can be introduced into existing teaching structures. This is complicated by the fact that board and state policies are not easy to change on a dime. Talking about OER, we get questions about things like assessment. The assessment process is high stakes–it determines whether a student graduates or whether a school is accredited. Clearly, there needs to be some policy changes or changes in the assessment process. Other questions revolve around the amount of time students should spend in school, as well as addressing appropriateness of some educational content and parent complaints.

Lan: One of the things interesting in K-12 is that when the classroom door shuts, all the policies, procedures and best practices really boil down to simply how the teacher teaches. If you take away the primary element of how teaching has been conducted–through direct instruction–many teachers are lost. I’m interested in looking at different methods of teaching. In college, you’re taught 20-30 different methods of teaching, but most aren’t used. In the virtual teaching environment, we’re prompted to look at those other methods beyond lecturing. We can energize students with technology, and there’s a lot of gold to be panned in exploring many new teaching methods. OER would allow many opportunities and latitude to have really good and engaging instruction. The sharing of resources and best practices would help teachers do other things to enhance the learning of not only mainstream kids, but gifted students too. Struggling students can use these resources to review content in other formats or at different paces. We’ve distributed iPod touches within our agency, because when people have the technology in their hands, they begin to see the new possibilities. In the teaching profession, teachers are enthusiastic their first year, they really learn how to teach in the second, third, fourth and fifth years, and by the sixth year they ask, “why am I teaching this in the same way forever?” Technology and open source can energize teachers and keep teaching fresh. We need to work through the nitty gritty of the policies, like copyright and restructuring books.

Linda: One of the big challenges will be to introduce the concept of OER as a methodology into our teacher preparation programs. Most teachers get their ideas of how to teach either from how they themselves were instructed or from the lessons learned in their teacher preparation programs. If they’re not made aware of the opportunities within OER, they’ll be slow to introduce them. I think the good news is that most teachers coming into these programs today are already familiar with many of these tools. Classrooms won’t immediately rely solely on OER, but will adopt a hybrid model. There will still be publishers and vendors that provide content in a structured manner that teachers can follow and school divisions can have confidence in. It’d be great if these vendors or publishers could then link into their own materials ways to import changing OER and apps.

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Australian Government Commits to Open Access

Jane Park, May 17th, 2010

Earlier this month, the Australian federal government issued an official response to the Government 2.0 Taskforce report which recommended, among other things, that Australian Public Sector Information (PSI) should be released under CC BY as default. The response (licensed CC BY) included a commitment to the development of a comprehensive set of IP guidelines which would, in principle, follow the Gov 2.0 Taskforce recommendations. Via CC Australia:

Regarding the Gov 2.0 Recommendations 6.3-6.6, which state that Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) should be the default licence for PSI, the report provides “agreement in principle,” undertaking that the IP Guidelines will not “impede the default open licensing position proposed in recommendation 6.3.”

Since then, Australia has released three major government publications under Creative Commons licenses, the latest being their national budget under CC BY.

In fact, the last week has seen the release of three major Federal Government reports – the Budget, the Gov 2.0 response and the NBN Implementation Study – all under CC licences. This seems to be a great indicator that the government really means what it says – open access is going to be the default position for the Australian Federal Government from now on.

This marks an exciting time for the Australian government, as they move towards fulfilling their commitment to openness. For more information, see CC Australia’s post on the matter.

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RE/Mixed Media Festival 2010

Jane Park, May 17th, 2010


For those of you in the New York area (or looking to tune in from afar), an awesome event is taking place at the end of the month in Brooklyn’s Galapagos Art Space. The RE/Mixed Media Festival is a celebration of remix and collaborative creation, especially the kind that is enabled by Creative Commons licenses. From the announcement,

On Sunday May 30th at 2PM, Galapagos Art Space in Brooklyn will play host to over 60 artists in a day-long celebration of remix and collaborative creation. Produced by The League of Independents (LOFI), the RE/Mixed Media Festival is a means of contributing to the ongoing conversation about remixing, mashups, creative appropriation, copyright law, fair use, and the freedom of artists to access their culture in order to add to and build upon it… Galapagos [will be transformed] into a multimedia art space for a full day/evening of remixed film, video, music, performance, sound, painting, photography and fashion. Panel discussions will include artists talking about the pros and cons of appropriation and collaborative art, moderated by social media activist and author, Deanna Zandt; a talk about DMCA takedowns with Elizabeth Stark and Kenyatta Cheese; and a panel on ‘Extending Game Culture’ featuring Jesper Juul, Paul Jannicola, and Kerria Seabrooke, and moderated by Josephine Dorado. The event is free and will also be streamed live on the festival’s website at www.remixedmedia.org.

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CC launches Catalyst Grants program!

Melissa Reeder, May 14th, 2010

We’re thrilled to announce our new Catalyst Grants program! We are investing up to $100,000 (via grants ranging from $1,000-$10,000) to provide seed funding to projects around the world devoted to increasing access and openness.

Our goal is to empower CC affiliates and other groups working to make knowledge easily, freely, and legally available to everyone, and we are especially interested in proposals that will help such projects scale their efforts and become more self-sustainable. The application deadline is June 30th. You will find more information and the application here.

From June 1-30, we’ll be raising $100,000 to seed the Catalyst Grants program. Your support will greatly enhance CC’s reach and impact. Please take this opportunity to be one of the first to support this important initiative, all you need to do is put Catalyst Campaign in the comment box when you donate. Thanks in advance for your support!

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Cory Doctorow’s “For The Win”

Jane Park, May 11th, 2010


Longtime supporter of CC and NYTimes best selling author Cory Doctorow has released his latest work of fiction, For The Win, under a CC BY-NC-SA license. For The Win is about a virtual future of gamers, Big Sister, and shadow economies. Cory encourages you to remix the work and also to convert it to your favorite format. You can download the book for free, donate, or buy the book at his site.

His last book, Little Brother, was available for download under the same license and spent four weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. For more on why Cory uses CC for his works, see his posts for Locus Magazine on Creative Commons and Why I Copyfight.

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Welcoming Annette Thomas and Melanie Cornwell to CC

Jane Park, May 10th, 2010

We are thrilled to announce today that Annette Thomas, CEO of Macmillan Publishers Ltd, has joined the Creative Commons Board of Directors, and that Melanie Cornwell, former Editorial Projects Director of Wired magazine, has joined CC staff as Vice President of Strategy.

Annette comes to the Creative Commons Board with many years of experience in publishing. She is the CEO of Macmillan Publishers, which deals with a wide range of science, education, and consumer fiction and nonfiction publishing. Prior to becoming CEO, Annette was the Managing Director of the Nature Publishing Group’s Nature Reviews series, which she helped establish as a major scholarly publisher. Annette is a member of the Verlagsgruppe von Holtzbrinck board of directors and a Governor of the Stephen Perse Foundation (Perse School for Girls) in Cambridge, UK. Annette received a B.S. in Biochemicaland Biophysical Sciences from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in Cell Biology from Yale University.

Melanie brings over 15 years of management, production and strategy experience to Creative Commons. While Editorial Projects Director at Wired magazine, she was the Executive Producer of Wired Science, a primetime PBS science series; daily Wired news reports on CBS Radio; and three documentaries about “WIRED NextFest” for the Discovery Channel. She produced the CC-licensed music video Keep on Dancing to Spoon’s “Don’t You Evah” and The WIRED CD: Rip. Sample. Mash. Share., a landmark 2004 CC CD featuring 16 artists such as the Beastie Boys, David Byrne, Gilberto Gil, My Morning Jacket and Danger Mouse. She also produced live events related to open issues, including “Who Owns Culture” with Jeff Tweedy and Lawrence Lessig and “The Battle Over Books: Authors and Publishers Take On Google Book Search.”

Creative Commons is very excited to work with Annette and Melanie on making knowledge easily, freely, and legally available to everyone.

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