The Moore Foundation has called for community feedback on where to invest in the area of data-intensive science. We’ve submitted our own idea — data governance — and would love your feedback and support for the idea. We have been exploring data governance issues, including data licensing, since 2004 in our science work, and we’re planning to make data governance a priority across the Creative Commons organization going forward.
Data governance is more than just licensing. It’s the system of decision rights and accountabilities for data-related processes that describe who can take what actions with what information, and when, under what circumstances and using what methods. Our work on the Neurocommons project — using web standards to mark up copyright licenses and developing technological infrastructure to make the commons searchable and usable — all inform our ideas on data governance.
We are actively planning for a major project in data in 2012, and look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please register and vote, and not just on our idea — participation in processes like this is a great way to increase their usage by foundations in making funding choices that can benefit the commons.No Comments »
Along with over 50 organizations, I attended a recent European Commission public hearing on access to and preservation of scientific information. Among those present were representatives from national and regional ministries, higher education institutions, libraries, data repositories, public and private funders, scientific societies, supranational research centres, journal publishers and advocacy groups. A majority of those at the hearing were strong proponents of open access (OA).
Because science and digital technology are evolving so rapidly, the hearing was held to collect information in order to re-assess the European Commission’s 2007 Communication on scientific information in the digital age: access, dissemination and preservation. European Commission communications are used to make policy, propose legislation, fund research, and raise awareness. European Commission communications also have a substantial impact on member state national activity.
Supporters of open access asked for continued European Commission financial and political support. The following specific observations and recommendations were made.
- Open access accelerates the speed of science. Time is wasted in serial submissions as researchers first seek the prestigious journals. Publication is not simply a method for communication among peers; it also has practical impacts (social, economic, consumer) that should also be taken into consideration when evaluating impact. A shift is needed away from evaluation of research based at the journal level to one that is based at the article level which can include a wider and more sophisticated variety of post-publication impact metrics beyond mere citations in other journals.
- The European Commission should encourage rewarding the release of data as well as of text articles. Support curation and preservation of data (in digital and non-digital forms such as images, artifacts, and tissues) as well as access. These fields require research themselves to produce globally useful, efficient, transparent and realistic data management plans with sound policy guidelines, longevity and consistent terminology.
- Careful investigation and planning will be required in order to build a strong and useful information architecture for a global research system. The architecture could do many things (link related information such as data sets and software to text articles, collect usage metrics, integrate user-friendly attribution and citation tools, develop unique identifiers for both research output and individual researchers, and develop methods of expressing linked data, structuring metadata, and for publishing data schema and code books that allow machines to give context); however choices should be made based on thorough study.
- Research and dissemination belong together as do access and re-use. The European Commission should recognize OA as a main strategy and support an open access ethic among researchers to encourage them to understand and value non-traditional assessment tools—as well as the value of sharing data—and to willingly contribute useful metrics to the open access publication. Dedicated funding and training should be provided for OA publication and compliance should be monitored.
- Scientific publication needs its own rules because it is profoundly different from revenue-generating work. Scholarship exists only as it is shared and circulated and should be treated as “give-away literature.” Intellectual property rights and even tax laws also need to be harmonized to enable, rather than inhibit, data use and mining and copying for preservation. An author’s right to self-publish in his own institutional repository should be ensured; a fair-dealing exemption should be established for text and data mining—including format shifting for technical purposes—for research purposes; and permissions should be extended for use of orphan and out-of-print works. Contract law should not be allowed to override such protections.
- Government agencies should publish their data management plans and budget for compulsory data preservation. Open formats should also be used in preservation to ensure consistency and compatibility. Clinical trial data should be publicly available to ensure integrity.
- OA needs to be approached globally. The European Commission should set standards for harvesting, curating, trusted processing and presentation of results.
Speakers from the funding, publishing and research communities also urged the adoption of Creative Commons licenses because of their widespread use.
Some publishers expressed caution lest the strengths and values inherent in traditional publication be lost. One approach may not suit all disciplines. Slow science is good for some and enhances the longevity of articles. Careful review procedures produce works with the level of integrity and permanence that deserve high prestige. These include taking time and resources for refereed interaction, keeping review independent from research funding, removing barriers for unfunded/underfunded authors, and ensuring long-term preservation of authoritative copies. And, lastly, open access needs to be sustainable.
My personal observations:
The majority of the attendees were text publishers, so discussion around data was limited with even less said about tissue samples or patent concerns. There are many technical, legal and social hurdles ahead and serious questions about how to best use OA for certain research disciplines. This observer wonders whether the European Commission will be able to coordinate the development of data architectures, standards and guidelines in time to avoid a plethora of incompatible market-generated systems and, even if so, how the European efforts will be coordinated on a global basis.2 Comments »
The Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) has adopted a university-wide open educational resources (OER) policy with CC Attribution as the default license for university material. KNUST’s “Policy for Development and Use of Open Educational Resources (OER)” (pdf) outlines the purpose, role, and process of OER production at the university, and specifically states that,
“Materials produced which do not indicate any specific conditions for sharing will automatically be considered to have been shared under a Creative Commons Attribution license.”
KNUST is a partner institution in the African Health OER Network and works closely with the University of Michigan Medical School and Dental School to develop and distribute health OER. KNUST OER is hosted at http://web.knust.edu.gh/oer but is also duplicated for use at the Open.Michigan and OER Africa sites.
You can help us improve the case study on KNUST here.1 Comment »
“I’m in a race; a race to outrun a rare and deadly form of bone cancer called chordoma, with an average survival of 7 years. To find a cure, there is a lot that needs to happen sequentially, so to win the race, I need science to move quickly. Fortunately, uncanny new technologies in genomics, computing, synthetic biology, etc. have put cures for virtually any disease within the realm of possibility. Unfortunately, the way we practice science is not designed to move on the timescale of an individual’s disease.
Despite all of the technological advances that have been made in recent years, it still takes on average 1-3 years for results to be transmitted from one lab to the next; it still takes months or years for materials and data to be transferred between institutions; and untold masses of observations and creations never get shared at all. It’s no wonder, then, why it takes decades for discoveries to be translated into new treatments, and why the hurdles are often just too large to overcome for small-market diseases like chordoma.
For anyone affected, or whose loved one is affected, by a life threatening disease, this is simply intolerable. Think about it: in the very recent past, humankind has developed the tools and know-how to cure disease, yet we are stifled from maximizing the potential benefit of these new tools by social and legal systems that evolved in a bygone era. This has to change.
But let’s be realistic. Despite the fact that our scientific enterprise is not optimized for speed, it does have many virtues. And traditions such as academic tenure, peer review, intellectual property, and shareholder return are not going away any time soon – nor should they, necessarily. If we can sequence a genome in the course of a week, surely we can find sensible solutions to enable the data to be shared.
Creative Commons is leading the charge to find these solutions. By helping researchers make data open and available, by streamlining the material transfer process, and by uncovering and integrating data from various stakeholders, Creative Commons is grease to the wheels of science. It is a source of hope to me in the race to outrun my disease. It is a means to maximize our collective investment in research. That’s why I support Creative Commons, and why if there’s a disease you’d like to see cured, I urge you to give whole-heartedly to Creative Commons as well.”
Josh Sommer is the executive director of the Chordoma Foundation, which he co-founded with his mother, Dr. Simone Sommer, after he was diagnosed with a clival chordoma in 2006. He believes that patients should play an active role in bringing about treatments for their own conditions, and that patients represent a largely untapped source of funding, energy, and know-how in the treatment development process. Follow Josh on Twitter.No Comments »
Science@creativecommons by Creative Commons / CC BY
November has been an exciting month for science at Creative Commons. Earlier this month we hosted a Creative Commons Salon in San Francisco on the promises and pitfalls of personalized medicine, which you can now watch online. We met a matching giving challenge by Hindawi, the open access scholarly journal publisher (disciplines from neuroscience to pharmacology), who doubled $3000 in donations to our annual fundraising campaign. We also saw BioMed Central, the world’s largest OA publisher, provide in-kind support for our fundraising campaign.
The icing on the cake is the most recent addition to our CC Store: this super-cool science-themed CC shirt, for which the world-famous XKCD was gracious enough to let us re-use a variation on a classic cartoon. Many of you may already read and enjoy the delightful webcomic of “romance, sarcasm, math, and language” which is under a CC BY-NC license. Now you can show your love for Creative Commons and science at the same time by buying one of these t-shirts, available for $20 over at the CC store.
Huge thanks to XKCD for being such a wonderful and creative member of the CC community, and for freely sharing that creativity with the world.
At Creative Commons, we see a lot of potential for bringing open access to the world of science, whether it pertains to genomics research, scholarly journal publishing, or unraveling the mysteries of the universe.
If you love science as much as we do, then hurry over to the CC Store and get your limited edition shirt today!No Comments »
Sharing becomes a slippery slope when it comes to genomics: we need massive amounts of data in order to understand the human genome, but issues of privacy, abuse, and the distrust of institutions stand in the way. So how do we resolve this?
We talked to Robert Cook-Deegan, the director of the Center for Genomics, Ethics, Law & Policy at Duke University, about how the field of genomics is poised for takeoff, the challenges it faces as it scales, and how CC can step in as a neutral institution that will save the day.
What is the link between GELP and CC?
Genomics is completely dependent on a healthy mutualism between discovery science and practical application, yet the field is rife with conflict and deeply held ideologies and is rarely fertilized with empirical facts. Creative Commons is all about finding solutions that reduce friction in the intellectual property (IP) system and facilitate sharing of data and materials. So our roles are complementary and mutually dependent.
GELP is a corporate sponsor of Creative Commons–why do you think CC is important?
There are many academic centers with talent–we publish our own research at Duke, but we’re just not that good at putting things into action–but Creative Commons is the only place that is actually trying to get things done as a trusted nonprofit intermediary and catalyst.
I’m reminded of the epitaph on Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s grave: “She Saved the World. A Lot.” That’s what CC has begun to do in the world of art and writing; it’s helping save our culture from some of its own worst pathologies. It has the potential to do the same in science.
The field of genomics is poised for takeoff. This is not pure hype. In 1999, there was no published human genome; by 2003 we had a reference human genome; by 2007 Craig Venter and Jim Watson’s genomes were on the Internet. Nature estimates that today, several thousand people have been fully sequenced.
But that information is useless if it is not compared to sequences of other people and organisms. What matters is genetic variation and how that maps to phenotype–whether a person is likely to get a disease or is prone to certain risks. If there was ever a field that depended on network dynamics, this is it. I can’t predict who will make the most valuable contributions to understanding my genome, but I sure want them to do a good job. And they can only do a good job if they have access to lots of other peoples’ genomes. This is hard because many people have the same concerns for privacy, fears of abuse, and distrust of institutions that I do.
How in the world are we going to solve this problem? I don’t know. But I do know that most research institutions and private firms are more concerned with mining what’s under their control already, rather than sharing and creating value collectively. The real value of genomic data is going to require information vastly beyond the control of any single institution.
We need Creative Commons because it is a trusted intermediary non-profit institution that will enable the dangerous dark innovation jungle to thrive despite the entrenched ideologies and conflicting interests of all the critters that live in it. We’re depending on you. May the force be with you.
Join Robert and GELP in supporting Creative Commons and help ensure a bright future for sharing in the field of genomics by donating to CC today!No Comments »
At the beginning of this year we announced a revised approach to our education plans, focusing our activities to support of the Open Educational Resources (OER) movement. In order to do so we have worked hard to increase the amount of information available on our own site – in addition to a new Education landing page and our OER portal explaining Creative Commons’ role as legal and technical infrastructure supporting OER, we have been conducting a series of interviews to help clarify some of the challenges and opportunities of OER in today’s education landscape.
One major venue for the advancement of OER is through policy change at the local, state, federal, and international levels. We recently had the chance to talk to Christine Mytko, who is advancing OER at the local levels through her work as a K-12 educator and the lead science reviewer at Curriki. As a teacher, Christine brings a unique perspective to the conversation around open education and policy, and gives us important insight into how teachers on the ground are thinking about copyright and using Creative Commons and OER.
You are a teacher and the lead science reviewer at Curriki, which is known as the “next generation wiki” for K-12 education. Can you briefly describe who you are, your current roles, and what led to them? What would you say is Curriki’s mission, and how is it helping teachers like yourself?
For most of my teaching career, I have been a middle school science teacher in public schools. When I moved to the Bay Area three years ago, I was fortunate to find a job that combines both of my passions – science and technology. I currently serve as the K – 5 science specialist and middle school technology teacher at a small independent school in Berkeley, CA.
In 2007, I interviewed for part-time work at Curriki. Like many teachers, I was looking to supplement my income. What I found was a community of educators committed to creating, collaborating on, and sharing open-source materials. As part of the Curriki Review Team, I am responsible for reviewing submitted science materials and providing a public score and feedback for the contributor. I also help out with other projects as needed. Currently, I am working with another Bay Area Chemistry teacher to revise and submit an open source Chemistry digital textbook as part of the California Learning Resource Network’s Free Digital Textbook Initiative.
As stated on its main page, Curriki’s mission is to “provide free, high-quality curricula and education resources to teachers, students and parents around the world.” Its name, somewhat recognizably, is a play on the words “curriculum” and “wiki.” The Curriki repository does have many curriculum options, from lesson plans to full courses, available in various subject areas, educational levels, and languages. Curriki offers other resources, too, including textbooks, multimedia, and opportunities for community and collaborative groups.
All Curriki content is shared under the Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY), planting it firmly in the OER space. Do you know why Curriki chose CC BY for all of its materials? If not, what do you see CC BY enabling that other licenses or “all-rights-reserved” content might not?
Contributors of Curriki content do have the option to select either public domain or a variety of CC licensing, but the default License Deed is CC-BY. I honestly don’t know specifically why Curriki chose this, but I must say it as an excellent decision. CC-BY gives educators the power to remix, share and distribute materials as needed to be timely and maximally relevant to their own curriculum.
The flexibility afforded by a CC-BY license allows for materials to be adapted quickly. I hear that a typical textbook revision works on a 7-year cycle. Curriki materials can be updated and “published” in a matter of seconds and the community can correct any content errors just as quickly. Many topics, especially in science and technology, are changing so quickly that education can no longer afford to wait for proprietary materials to go through their lengthy cycles of publication.
Currently, California and Texas are the biggest purchasers of traditional “all-rights reserved” textbooks, and publishers strive to meet these states’ requirements. Educators in other states (and countries) are forced to work within these proprietary constraints. However, OER [initiatives] such as Curriki allow teachers to freely adapt materials to best fit their pedagogical and cultural needs. Furthermore, by creating or uploading such materials onto a public repository, teachers will no longer need to work in isolation, continuously “re-inventing the wheel.” As relevant materials are freely shared among communities of educators, individual time spent on adapting proprietary materials will decrease, allowing educators to spend more of their precious time on other important areas of teaching.
Describe a class- or school-wide project where you have integrated CC licensing and/or OER. What challenges have you or your students come across while searching for or using resources on the web? How would you translate this experience for teachers looking to mark up their own resources correctly for OER search and discovery? What do teachers need to know?
In my technology classes, I now require all incorporated media to be Creative Commons, Public Domain or No Copyright. At first, after having free rein in Google Images for years, my students felt very limited in their choices. But after discussing the reasons behind copyright and copyright alternatives, many students understood the importance of respecting rights reserved.
There are so many excellent resources to help teachers and students use Creative Commons in their classrooms. The Creative Commons search page, Wikimedia Commons, Flickr CC group, and Google Advanced Search all are wonderful tools for finding alternatively copyrighted images. Websites such as Jamendo are great for finding CC music.
The language was a challenge at first for my middle school students. Although there are only six main CC licenses, my students got bogged down with terms such as “Attribution” and “No Derivatives.” It didn’t help that Google uses slightly different terminology (“reuse” and “reuse with modification”) in their license search filter. But the kids quickly became comfortable with the terms and procedures and, within a few class periods, they easily accessed and properly used “some rights reserved” media. Of course, I have the kids assign rights to their own work, which reinforces the licenses, and gives students the opportunity to think carefully about which rights are important to them.
As far as marking up my own resources for OER search and discovery, I am still learning about the process myself. In fact, prior to my work with Curriki, I was hesitant to “release” my work as open source. I had put so much time and effort into certain materials, I didn’t see the point of just giving them away on the Internet. However, the last few years, I have come to recognize the benefits of open source materials and have begun to post some of my formally guarded resources on Curriki as CC-BY; and I now freely share my new material. Now that I am more comfortable using and creating open source materials on my own and with my students, I hope to move on to work with other teachers.
What are the most common confusions or concerns of teachers when it comes to sharing their teaching materials? Do you think the average K-12 teacher is aware of open licensing alternatives, like Creative Commons? What are the various school or institutional policies for teachers sharing their materials?
I am certain that the average teacher is NOT aware of open licensing alternatives. In fact, many teachers I know still operate on the guiding principle of CASE – Copy And Steal Everything. I don’t believe teachers are lazy or purposely deceitful for using materials in this way; anyone who has taught in a classroom knows how much there is to do in an incredibly short amount of time. Sometimes, copying an (often copyrighted) activity and tossing it in your colleague’s box is merely survival. Even those teachers who are aware of copyright will often claim “fair use.” The problem is that teachers often overestimate their protections and privileges under fair use. And there is little training in copyright and fair use, let alone Creative Commons and OER. Not only is an average K – 12 teacher unaware of his or her responsibilities, he or she often does not know the rights and options available to him or her in sharing his or her own work.
There are a variety of roadblocks preventing teachers from sharing their own work. First of all, since creating curriculum takes so much time, many teachers are unwilling to share lessons because they feel the product belongs to them. Other teachers may feel that their work isn’t good enough to share. And even if teachers overcome these psychological blocks, there are still the technical issues revolving around how will they share their work as open source. None of the schools I have worked with had any sort of policies on, or time set aside for, sharing materials. In talking with my colleagues, they found a similar lack of school policy. Even in the rare case in which there was some sort of policy, teachers often selectively ignored it. Currently, most teachers do not have the access, training, and support necessary to confidently participate in the OER movement.
Curriki has been doing some work to tie their resources to state education standards (http://www.curriki.org/xwiki/bin/view/Main/BrowseStandards). Can you describe a little of that process to us? What are some of the benefits and challenges to including this information? How useful is it?
This work is not part of my professional duties at Curriki, however, I can speak to the process on a personal note as a teacher and Curriki member. Right now, when you visit a resource, you will see four tabs – Content, Information, Standards, and Comments. Choosing the Standards tab allows a user to view currently aligned standards, as well as gives the option to “Align to [additional] Standards.” The process itself is very intuitive; the user clicks through a series of menus and applies standards as he or she deems appropriate.
The biggest benefit will certainly be the convenience of browsing for resources by standard through the aforementioned jump page. The biggest challenge is to align all of the existing and future resources in the repository. Curriki is depending largely on the community to gather momentum for this process. Right now, in its infancy, only about half of the states have standards-aligned resources to browse, and even those collections are far from complete across subject areas and educational levels. Of course, members of Curriki are always welcome to browse unaligned resources by subject, educational level, or other criteria by using Curriki’s Advanced Search.
There has been a lot of OER talk at the state and federal policy levels, especially surrounding open textbooks. What do you think is the future of the textbook for the K-12 classroom? How would you like to see this reflected in policy?
I, like many educators, feel that the reign of the textbook is coming to an end. As a science teacher, I have rarely depended on a textbook for curriculum, and rely more heavily on both online materials and self-created materials. OER allow me to take better advantage of creating and sharing work within a collaborative community. While science and technology lend themselves to early adoption of the open source philosophy, I believe other subjects will soon follow.
Textbooks will not be able to maintain their current stronghold in K–12 schools. A recent New York Times article points out that “[e]ven the traditional textbook publishers agree that the days of tweaking a few pages in a book just to sell a new edition are coming to an end.” Textbooks are expensive and quickly become outdated. Printed errors are not correctable until the next edition comes out. In contrast, OER are inexpensive or free, constantly updated, and easily correctable. I would love to see the money saved by choosing inexpensive OER over pricey textbooks used for supplementary materials and teacher training. Or even better, districts can use that money to set aside release time and pay teachers to meet, collaborate and create OER content.
Lastly, what does a successful teaching and learning environment implementing the power of OER “look like”? Do you have any lingering thoughts—worries, hopes, predictions?
A successful learning environment is relevant, engaging, challenging, and flexible. OER material is current, as well as easily, and legally, adaptable to meet the needs of various learners. An OER community can provide a teacher with materials and support in meeting the needs of his or her particular student population. Resources that are freely shared end up saving others countless hours of redundant individual work and frees teachers from stagnating in a proprietary curriculum.
Schools are beginning to recognize the cost savings of abandoning the current textbook model, and I predict that publishers will adapt as the market demands of them. I hope that schools begin to recognize that teachers are a valuable resource and skilled professionals, and deserve to be compensated for their time spent developing curriculum. I hope districts begin to create policies and provide support to encourage teachers to share the materials they create.
Ideally, the classroom should be a place where students are not merely passive consumers of resources and media, but rather active collaborators, synthesizers and publishers of their own work. I hope that, from a young age, students will be held accountable for using others’ work in an appropriate way, and encouraged to share their own work as open source with some rights reserved, rather than falling back on the default of full copyright, or worse, not sharing at all. I want my students and colleagues to understand that, by sharing materials, they are contributing to a collection of materials that will benefit learners far beyond the walls of their own classroom. This is a significant shift in current educational philosophy, but sites like Curriki are a great step in facilitating a move in the right direction.3 Comments »
Many of you have heard about California’s Free Digital Textbook Initiative that launched last spring, which called for submissions of free digital textbooks in math and science for use by the state’s schools. Of the 16 textbooks submitted last year, 15 are openly licensed under one of the Creative Commons licenses—and all 10 that passed 90% of CA’s state standards are CC licensed.
In addition to individuals, the CK-12 Foundation, Curriki, and Connexions submitted open textbooks on subjects like Algebra, Calculus, Biology, Chemistry, Geometry, Trigonometry, and various other -ometries. You can check out the full textbook list and standards reviews at the California Learning Resource Network (CLRN).
Now, the Governor and his constituents are launching Phase 2 of the Initiative, calling this time for “content developers to submit high school history-social science and higher-level math course textbooks for review against California’s academic content standards.” From the press release,
“Resources like digital textbooks play a critical role in our 21st century educational landscape, and expanding my first-in-the-nation initiative will provide local school districts additional high-quality free resources to help prepare California’s students to compete in the global marketplace,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “I urge content developers to jump on board this second phase and submit social science and advanced math material to help ensure California’s shift to a more advanced and cost-effective education system continues.”
Phase 2 is accepting submissions on a rolling basis, so if you (or your project) have an open textbook completed or in the works, make sure the CC license info is marked up correctly and submit it to the CLRN website. For more on licensing, visit creativecommons.org/about/licenses.1 Comment »
Photo by Vital Signs CC BY
Yesterday, Vital Signs kicked off their new site with more than 300 supporters, including Maine’s former Governor Angus King, who spearheaded the initiative that resulted in a laptop for every 7th and 8th grader in the state. Vital Signs, a field-based science education program at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, started 10 years ago just before the turn of the century. Since then it has evolved to “[leverage] Maine’s laptop program to enable students to participate in a statewide effort to find invasive species, and to document the native species and habitats most vulnerable to future invasions.” The new site “provides a digital platform, including social networking tools, to facilitate a fluid exchange of knowledge between students and experts. It changes each student’s relationship with science from distant spectator to thoughtful participant.” You might remember our Back to School feature on them, or even my Inside OER interview with Sarah Kirn, the Manager of the project, from the spring of 2008.
Back then, CC Learn and VS tossed around a lot of ideas on how to get them to move towards openness, and now more than a year a later those ideas have come to fruition. Their new site leverages the research and data of more than 50 middle school classrooms who are paired with real scientists, researchers, and conscientious citizens to explore and address the issue of invasive species.
“Stewarding 32,000 miles of rivers and streams, 6,000 lakes and ponds, 5,000 miles of coastline and 17 million acres of forest is a job for every Maine citizen, young and old,” said Andrew Fisk, director, Bureau of Land and Water Quality, Department of Environmental Protection. “Engaging seventh and eighth grade students in the issue of invasive species promises to build a heightened level of public awareness and a meaningful body of scientific knowledge. You never know who will save the next lake from a milfoil infestation. The kids are a resource of significant magnitude for us.”
Now Vital Signs work can be leveraged by other states and around the world. The new site’s default licensing policy is CC BY, which means that anyone is free to copy, distribute, adapt, or remix VS work as long as they attribute Vital Signs. The issue of invasive species is not unique to Maine, and now Vital Signs can lead in opening up the work that will enable future solutions.No Comments »
As students around the world return to school, ccLearn blogs about the evolving education landscape, ongoing projects to improve educational resources, education technology, and the future of education. Browse the “Back to School” tag for more posts in this series.
Last year, Sarah Kirn, the Manager of the Vital Signs project at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, popped into the CC San Francisco office and gave me a wonderful introduction into everything they were doing. This year, we’re closer in proximity, as Sarah is still in Maine while I am stationed in New York. As a preview of things to come, we connected over email about the progress VS has made since we last met.
To rewind and clarify, Vital Signs is a “field-based science education program” that “links 7th and 8th grade students and scientists in the rigorous collection and analysis of essential environmental data across freshwater and coastal ecosystems. Innovative technology, relevant content, and critical partnerships create an authentic science learning experience for students, a distributed data gathering network for scientists, and a statewide community of teachers, students, and scientists collaborating to learn about and steward the Gulf of Maine watershed.”
What’s new at Vital Signs?
We now have 47 teachers trained in how to use Vital Signs in their science teaching. These teachers hail from all across the state, from Aroostook County to York County. Teachers have already begun making and sharing observations themselves as a way to prepare for using Vital Signs in their classrooms.
To support this program growth we have hired Alexa Dayton to serve as our new Vital Signs Community Specialist. This new position will focus on bringing the citizen science and scientific communities into Vital Signs – as users of the data, as participants in the online community (discussing findings, commenting on data records, confirming or questioning identifications, contributing their own observations to the database), and as on-the-ground supporters of teacher and student field work. Alexa has experience in field biology, science outreach to rural Maine schools, web development and management, marketing, and computer science. We are excited to have her diverse skills brought to bear on supporting and growing our Vital Signs community!
We also have a new scientist partner, Dr. Les Mehrhoff, Director of the Invasive Plant Atlas of New England who is committed to serving as a Species Expert in our online community. He’s recruiting graduate students and others to join him in serving the Vital Signs community in this capacity.
In October a Maine Conservation Corps Environmental Educator will join us for a 10-month position to work with teachers in classrooms and after school clubs to support their use of Vital Signs.
We are collaborating with the MLTI professional development staff to plan Vital Signs-related science and social studies modules that MLTI will deliver this year to complement the summer teacher institutes and provide training for teachers not yet exposed to Vital Signs.
How does CC play a role in these new projects?
We’re spreading CC licenses around – to other education programs. GMRI’s VitalVenture project, a collaborative curriculum development project, has just provisionally agreed to use CC BY licenses, pending agreement by collaborating teacher. Les Mehrhoff, one of our Vital Signs scientist partners is going to use CC BY with his species photos.
And, of course, prior to our launch in November we will be finalizing the CC licensing for student-contributed creative works, teacher-contributed creative work, and citizen scientist-contributed creative work.
How are you leveraging OER in the classroom/with teachers?
All of our curriculum resources are open, so teachers will learn how to use OER through the course of using Vital Signs. As they become familiar with how OER works and become interested in other resources for teaching, we will point them in the direction of other OER.
The most exciting “open” aspect of Vital Signs, I think, is that the learning and work that happens within the system is open to the scientific community. Folks like Les, a well-known and well-respected expert on invasive plants in our region, will be regularly interacting with students on the subject of their contributions to the Vital Signs database. By design, every observation contributed to the Vital Signs site will confirmed or questioned by another member of the community. In this way, Vital Signs opens up students’ experience of learning science.
Tell us what you are most excited about!
Most excited about? It’s a tie between the enthusiastic response we are getting from teachers and students and the near completion of our program infrastructure. I can’t wait for the day (in November 2009!) when we make the www.vitalsignsme.org site live!
This project has been a long time in the development stages. It’s absolutely thrilling to have students contributing field notes like the following from a student in Old Orchard Beach:
“I am happy because I’m helping collect data for science, and was helping find if there are any invasive plants in Milliken Mills.”
“I saw brownish water, lots of leaves in the water, trees, plants, birds, bugs, grass, dead trees and plants, frogs.”
“I smell fresh water.”
“I hear birds, the wind, and water splashing.”
“I am suprized by what I found or didn’t find because even though it was an invasive species I thought I would find it.”
Likewise, it’s thrilling to read the words of a participating teacher from Kennebunk who says “In a nutshell, the Vital Signs program has made the science I teach richer, more real and more meaningful for both my students and myself.”
For more on Vital Signs, see our detailed Inside OER feature on Sarah from last year.No Comments »