Commons News

License or public domain for public sector information?

Mike Linksvayer, June 20th, 2011

Mike Masnick at Techdirt asks Does It Make Sense For Governments To Make Their Content Creative Commons… Or Fully Public Domain?

Ideally all Public Sector Information (PSI; government content and data) would be in the public domain — not restricted by copyright or any related rights. Masnick points to the U.S. federal government’s good policy:

nearly all works produced by the [U.S.] federal government automatically go into the public domain, and don’t receive any form of copyright

Unfortunately it is not quite that good: works produced for the U.S. federal government, but not directly by federal government employees or officers are covered by copyright — including works acquired, produced by contractors, and funded by grants. Furthermore, works produced by U.S. federal government employees are only unambiguously free of copyright in the U.S., thus cannot be considered in the public domain worldwide. This is not to say that the U.S. federal government policy is not stellar — relative to policies of other levels of government within the U.S., and those of other governments worldwide, it truly is, to the particular and tremendous benefit of the U.S. people and economy. But we live in a globalized and highly interconnected world now, and even that stellar policy could be improved.

This brings us to another question: how to improve policy around PSI? The status of U.S. federal government works is specified in the U.S. Copyright Act. Crown Copyright is specified in the copyright acts of various commonwealth jurisdictions. Similarly many other jurisdictions’ copyright acts specify the status of and any special limitations and exceptions to copyright for government works. Clearly changing a jurisdiction’s copyright act or otherwise changing its default status for PSI (preferably to public domain) would be most powerful. But they aren’t changes anyone can effect relatively quickly and deterministically (historically opening up a copyright act has led to more restrictive copyright).

In the meantime (presumably many years) there’s a tremendous desire to make government more accessible and unlock the value of content and data that is funded, held, and produced by governments — and existing public sector copyright defaults are recognized as a barrier to achieving these benefits. Especially in the last few years, governments have been implementing their own directives aimed to modernize PSI while some government agencies and politicians look to move more quickly within their remits, and activist citizens push to clear barriers to the potential of “open government” or “government 2.0″ with utmost urgency. This is where government use of a standard public license, usually one of the Creative Commons licenses, makes lots of sense. An agency, province, city or other body that holds copyright or funds the creation of copyrighted works can choose to open its or funded content by releasing under one of the Creative Commons licenses, or if they are really progressive, under the CC0 Public Domain Dedication.

Many governments are using CC tools in just these ways, and we expect that many more will in the coming years. That said, if any do manage to change policy defaults for PSI such that more government content and data is automatically in the public domain — we will be cheering all the way. In fact, we already have a tool for marking and tagging works that are in the public domain worldwide. The CC Public Domain Mark is currently applicable to really old works, but it would be lovely if a government were to decide to by law make all of its content unambiguously public domain, worldwide, thus making the CC Public Domain Mark applicable (of course there is no requirement to use the mark; it is just there for people and institutions that wish to use it to signal to humans and machines the public domain status of a work).

A couple caveats. First, whether they ought to or not, many governments like using copyright to control PSI. Sometimes the desire comes from a good place, e.g, to have the information be used in a way so as to not mislead the public, imply endorsement of the government, or imply that other regulations, e.g., privacy, do not apply. CC licenses have mechanisms to address these concerns where relevant (e.g., attribution to original URL, noting adaptation, non-endorsement) and government licensing frameworks (or non-binding guidelines in the case of the public domain) that explain orthogonal rights and responsibilities (e.g., privacy) but do not create incompatible licenses are key to addressing these concerns.

Second, although as noted above, usually use of any CC license would give the public more rights to PSI than they have now. But, licenses with a NonCommercial or NoDerivatives restriction set the bar too low. Clearly to maximize the value of public sector information, business needs to have access, and to maximize the ability of citizens to do interesting things with content, adaptation needs to be permitted. We strongly prefer governments use fully free/open CC tools — the CC0 Public Domain Dedication and CC Attribution (BY) and Attribution-ShareAlike (BY-SA) licenses. The Definition of Free Cultural Works and Open Knowledge Definition spell out why those tools are preferred in general. We look forward to working with the Open Knowledge Foundation and others to flesh out the specific and even more compelling case for fully free/open PSI.

Further reading:

7 Comments »

4 Stars for Metadata: an Open Ranking System for Library, Archive, and Museum Collection Metadata

MacKenzie Smith, June 17th, 2011

This post was written by participants of the LOD-LAM Summit which was held on June 2nd/3rd in San Francisco and is crossposted on the Open Knowledge Foundation blog and the Open bibliography and Open Bibliographic Data blog. For author information see the list at the end of this post.

The library, archives and museums (i.e. LAM) community is increasingly interested in the potential of Linked Open Data to enable new ways of leveraging and improving our digital collections, as recently illustrated by the first international Linked Open Data in Libraries Museums and Archives Summit (LOD-LAM) Summit in San Francisco. The Linked Open Data approach combines knowledge and information in new ways by linking data about cultural heritage and other materials coming from different Museums, Archives and Libraries. This not only allows for the enrichment of metadata describing individual cultural objects, but also makes our collections more accessible to users by supporting new forms of online discovery and data-driven research.

But as cultural institutions start to embrace the Linked Open Data practices, the intellectual property rights associated with their digital collections become a more pressing concern. Cultural institutions often struggle with rights issues related to the content in their collections, primarily due to the fact that these institutions often do not hold the (copy)rights to the works in their collections. Instead, copyrights often rest with the authors or creators of the works, or intermediaries who have obtained these rights from the authors, so that cultural institutions must get permission before they can make their digital collections available online.

However, the situation with regard to the metadata — individual metadata records and collections of records — to describe these cultural collections is generally less complex. Factual data are not protected by copyright, and where descriptive metadata records or record collections are covered by rights (either because they are not strictly factual, or because they are vested with other rights such as the European Union’s sui generis database right) it is generally the cultural institutions themselves who are the rights holders. This means that in most cases cultural institutions can independently decide how to publish their descriptive metadata records — individually and collectively — allowing them to embrace the Linked Open Data approach if they so choose.

As the word “open” implies, the Linked Open Data approach requires that data be published under a license or other legal tool that allows everyone to freely use and reuse the data. This requirement is one of most basic elements of the LOD architecture. And, according to Tim Berners-Lee’s 5 star scheme, the most basic way of making available data online is to make it ‘available on the web (whatever format), but with an open licence’. However, there still is considerable confusion in the field as to what exactly qualifies as “open” and “open licenses”.

While there are a number of definitions available such as the Open Knowledge Definition and the Definition of Free Cultural Works, these don’t easily translate into a licensing recommendation for cultural institutions that want to make their descriptive metadata available as Linked Open Data. To address this, participants of the LOD-LAM summit drafted ‘a 4-star classification-scheme for linked open cultural metadata’. The proposed scheme (obviously inspired by Tim Berners-Lee’s Linked Open Data star scheme) ranks the different options for metadata publishing — legal waivers and licenses — by their usefulness in the LOD context.

In line with the Open Knowledge Definition and the Definition of Free Cultural Works, licenses that either impose restrictions on the ways the metadata may be used (such as ‘non-commercial only’ or ‘no derivatives’) are not considered truly “open” licenses in this context. This means that metatdata made available under a more restrictive license than those proposed in the 4-star system above should not be considered Linked Open Data.

According to the classification there are 4 publishing options suitable for descriptive metadata as Linked Open Data, and libraries, archives and museums trying to maximize the benefits and interoperability of their metadata collections should aim for the approach with the highest number of stars that they’re comfortable with. Ideally the LAM community will come to agreement about the best approach to sharing metadata so that we all do it in a consistent way that makes our ambitions for new research and discovery services achievable.

Finally, it should be noted that the ranking system only addresses metadata licensing (individual records and collections of records) and does not specify how that metadata is made available, e.g., via APIs or downloadable files.

The proposed classification system is described in detail on the International LOD-LAM Summit blog but to give you a sneak preview, here are the rankings:

★★★★ Public Domain (CC0 / ODC PDDL / Public Domain Mark)
★★★ Attribution License (CC-BY / ODC-BY) where the licensor considers linkbacks to meet the attribution requirement
★★ Attribution License (CC-BY / ODC-BY) with another form of attribution defined by the licensor
★ Attribution Share-Alike License (CC-BY-SA/ODC-ODbL)

We encourage discussion of this proposal as we work towards a final draft this summer, so please take a look and tell us what you think!

Paul Keller, Creative Commons and Knowledgeland (Netherlands)
Adrian Pohl, Open Knowledge Foundation and hbz (Germany)
MacKenzie Smith, MIT Libraries (USA)
John Wilbanks, Creative Commons (USA)

3 Comments »

Seeking Rockstar Operations and HR Support!

Jennifer Yip, June 16th, 2011

We are currently recruiting for a full-time Office Manager/HR Assistant at Creative Commons. We’ve been settling into our new space in downtown Mountain View, and need expertise in office management. If you have additional experience in human resources administration, then please send us your application via email to “jobs@creativecommons.org.” The ideal candidate will possess creative problem-solving skills, a fun sense of humor, and proficiency with using cutting edge technology. As a CC staff member, you will enjoy a rich benefits package, generous vacation/sick leave, a respectful work environment, and access to opportunities to learn more about the field.

New CC Office
New CC Office by Creative Commons / CC BY

No Comments »

Brazil introduces OER into federal legislation and adopts local government policy

Timothy Vollmer, June 15th, 2011

IMG_0309
OER seminar at the Sao Paulo Legislative Assembly by reanetbr / CC BY

There’s been some exciting announcements in support of open educational resources (OER) in Brazil over the last few weeks.

First, legislation was introduced into Brazil’s House of Representatives. The bill deals with three main issues: It 1) requires government funded educational resources to be made widely available to the public under an open license, 2) clarifies that resources produced by public servants under his/her official capacities should be open educational resources (or otherwise released under an open access framework), and 3) urges the government to support open federated systems for the distribution and archiving of OER. Last week in São Paulo, a group of educators, journalists, policymakers, activists, and OER experts held an event at the Legislative Assembly to discuss open education projects and promote OER policies. In addition to this federal legislation, a similar bill will be introduced at the São Paulo state level.

Second, the municipality of São Paulo Department of Education has now mandated that all its educational and pedagogical content will be made available under the Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial Share-Alike (BY-NC-SA) license. From the translated announcement:

“We didn’t have an appropriate way to license our content”, says Alexandre Schneider, Secretary of Education. “We hold the rights to our content because we created it, and we realized it would be right to release it under a license that allows everyone to use and adapt what was created with public money.”

Congratulations to the REA-Brasil (OER-Brazil) team on these recent successes and ongoing commitment to supporting open education in Brazil.

 

No Comments »

Commonwealth of Learning adopts CC BY-SA as part of new OER policy

Jane Park, June 14th, 2011

The Commonwealth of Learning (COL), an intergovernmental organization that “helps governments and institutions to expand the scope, scale and quality of learning,” has defined a new policy on open educational resources (OER). In addition to recognizing the importance of OER for teaching, learning, and collaboration among institutions and governments, the Commonwealth of Learning states that it will “encourage and support governments and institutions to establish supportive policy frameworks to introduce practices relating to OER.”

The new policy specifies that COL will “release its own materials under the most feasible open licenses including the Creative Commons CC-BY-SA license.” The CC BY-SA license is currently used for more than 17 million Wikipedia articles in 270 languages, not to mention a plethora of other Wikimedia Foundation projects. Furthermore the CC BY license is compatible with CC BY-SA, and CC BY is used by OER platforms like Connexions and Curriki.org.

We are thrilled at this new development by COL, one of the leading intergovernmental organizations in education! Read the full policy here, and learn more about how IGOs benefit by adopting Creative Commons licenses for their own works.

No Comments »

Albanian translation of CC license suite ready for review

Jane Park, June 10th, 2011

Volunteers from the Albanian community have translated the Creative Commons license suite into Albanian, and would like your help to review the translated text! To leave feedback on the translations, you will need a CC wiki account; once you are logged in, you can comment on the Discussion pages.

Anyone can help translate CC licenses and legal tools via our License and Legal Tools Translation Project. Though translations of the international licenses (formerly known as the “unported” licenses) cannot be used to license works, the translation process can be useful for helping your community learn how our licenses operate, and gives others the opportunity to read the licenses in their native language. Translating the international licenses may be useful for jurisdictions without ported licenses, particularly now that CC has suspended new 3.0 porting projects while we prepare for version 4.0.

Learn more about the translation process and how to get involved at the wiki page.

No Comments »

European Commission hearing on access to and preservation of scientific information

Diane Cabell, June 8th, 2011

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 »

Creative Commons & the Association of Educational Publishers to establish a common learning resources framework

Jane Park, June 7th, 2011

Today Creative Commons and the Association of Educational Publishers (AEP) announce the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative, a project aimed at improving education search and discovery via a common framework for tagging and organizing learning resources on the web. The learning resources framework will be designed to work with schema.org, the web metadata framework recently launched by Google, Bing, and Yahoo!, as well as to work with other metadata technologies and to enable other rich applications.

Some of the details on my Moleskine
Some of the details on my Moleskine by Kim Joar / CC BY

The great promise of Open Educational Resources (OER) to provide access to high quality learning materials is limited by the discoverability of those resources and the difficulty of targeting them to the needs of specific learners. Creating a common metadata schema will accelerate movement toward personalized learning by publishers, content providers and learners, and help to unleash the tremendous potential of OER and online learning.

From AEP’s press release:

“This is a watershed project for our industry. It benefits both users and content providers because improved discoverability expands the market,” said Charlene Gaynor, CEO of AEP. “Being part of the process allows publishers to address issues such as quality and suitability as dimensions of educational content.”

CC is co-leading the LRMI with the Association of Educational Publishers, which includes publishers such as Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McGraw-Hill Education, Scholastic, Inc. and Pearson. Open education organizations in addition to CC also support the project, including the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISMKE), Curriki.org, BetterLesson.org, and the Monterey Institute for Technology (MITE).

To learn more about the timeliness and impact of the LRMI, CC’s role in the project, and what this means for OER and online education publishers, grantees of the U.S. Department of Labor’s $2 billion TAACCCT program, other CC-using publishers and platforms, and technologists, please see our LRMI FAQ.

You can keep up to date and contribute to the broader conversation by following http://creativecommons.org/tag/lrmi and using the tag #lrmi on social media. If you want to get involved, join the LRMI list at http://groups.google.com/group/lrmi and introduce yourself. We look forward to your contributions!

No Comments »

CC News: YouTube Launches Creative Commons Support

Jane Park, June 7th, 2011

Stay up to date with CC news by subscribing to our weblog and following us on Twitter.

What better gift for your dad on Father's Day but a remix of his favorite videos?

YouTube launches support for CC BY and a CC library featuring 10,000 videos

You heard the great news last week—YouTube added the Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY) as a licensing option for users! Now when users upload video, they can choose to license it under CC BY or to remain with the default “Standard YouTube License.” Users may also change the license on existing videos by editing each video individually.

In conjunction with the implementation, YouTube also launched a Creative Commons video library containing 10,000 initial videos under CC BY from organizations such as C-SPAN, PublicResource.org, Voice of America, and Al Jazeera. The library serves as a base catalog of videos for users to access, edit, and incorporate into their own video projects. The YouTube Video Editor now contains a CC tab that allows users to search the Creative Commons video library and select videos to edit and remix. Users may remix videos directly on the editor platform, and any video that is created using CC BY-licensed content will automatically display the linked titles of the source videos underneath the player. Since CC BY is enabled as a licensing option, the library will grow as more users choose to license their work under CC BY. Already, in less than a week, the number of CC BY-licensed videos on YouTube has grown to more than 60,000. Read more about the development on our blog.

In other news:

  • Creative Commons Qatar launched last week at a reception at the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha that featured the work of more than 20 local artists.
  • We improved the CC legal interface on our license deeds. Check out the changes and give us feedback!
  • We talked with Pete Forsyth and the Wikimedia Public Policy Initiative about open education and policy. Pete will also be on the panel for CC Salon SF next week (see below).
  • After 1,200 screenings of his CC-licensed documentary, "An Island," director Vincent Moon launched his new label, petites planètes, under CC BY-NC.
  • The Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) adopted a university-wide open educational resources (OER) policy with CC BY as the default license for university material.
  • Speaking of OER, come to our next salon on June 13! CC Salon SF will feature a panel discussion exploring the ways we can facilitate the desire to improve learning. Including CC CEO Cathy Casserly, the panel will consist of members from the Wikimedia Foundation's Public Policy Initiative, Libresoft, Wiki Strategies, and the Urban School. For those who can’t make it, the event will be livestreamed.
1 Comment »

CC Talks With: Pete Forsyth and the Wikimedia Public Policy Initiative: Open Education and Policy

Timothy Vollmer, June 6th, 2011

Pete Forsyth lives and breathes wikis. He is owner and lead consultant at Wiki Strategies, and has extensive experience in working within online peer production communities, specifically the production of open educational resources (OER) using wiki-based web sites like Wikipedia. Forsyth was the Wikimedia Foundation’s first Public Outreach Officer and key architect of the Wikipedia Public Policy Initiative, an innovative pilot project to support university faculty and students in the use of Wikipedia as a teaching and learning tool. With more than 17 million articles in over 270 languages, Wikipedia is the Wikimedia Foundation’s largest and most visible project.

Wikimedia Foundation Pete Forsyth
By Lane Hartwell CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Wiki as a Vehicle for Self-learning

Forsyth became interested in wikis in Oregon, where he was an editor and community organizer for Wikipedia. While he had long been interested in Open Source Software, he didn’t know how to code. “Wikipedia was a natural entry point for me,” he says, “because you don’t have to be a computer programmer to contribute.”

Forsyth spent five years creating and revising Oregon-related content on Wikipedia, and during this time a group of similarly-minded people came together to form a wiki project in the Portland area. “Portland is home of the wiki,” notes Forsyth, referring to its invention in 1994 by Ward Cunningham.

The participants in the Oregon wiki project helped each other navigate their way around Wikipedia, mastered the art of good reference, and pieced together a better sense of the history of the state. Being in that group allowed Forsyth to explore intellectual pursuits he might not have explored if Wikipedia wasn’t there as a vehicle to nurture them. “The process was in its own way every bit as educational as the college degree I earned,” he said.

The Public Policy Initiative: Open Content, Open Practices

The Public Policy Initiative (PPI) is designed to engage professors in public policy programs at universities across the U.S. to work with their students and the Wikimedia community to improve articles on the English-language Wikipedia as part of their course curriculum. Forsyth notes that the PPI aligns with a set of Wikimedia’s long term goals: it cultivates more Wikipedians, champions subject matter experts, and works toward improving the diversity of its contributor base. He says that the public policy arena has been an exemplary pilot initiative because it is such an interdisciplinary field. “Public policy cuts across so many areas, such as law, economics, and philosophy,” says Forsyth, “and keeping this project open to people with different kinds of backgrounds was an important design consideration.”

The characterization of Wikipedia as an open educational resource platform is at once completely obvious and also a departure from many of the traditional OER delivery mechanisms. While Forsyth agrees that Wikipedia is as valuable an open educational resource as any encyclopedia, he thinks that open educational practices (OEP) is where the value of the Public Policy Initiative really shines. He believes that the really transformative outcome enabled by the technical and legal innovation of wikis and open licensing is the process of being able to collaborate with a broad group of people quickly and seamlessly. “By participating in that kind of community,” says Forsyth, “the student is learning skills from the process itself, rather than extracting information from a particular resource.”

Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia sites represent the largest collection of CC licensed works on the web. Forsyth believes that a project like the PPI–and Wikipedia itself–couldn’t exist without easy-to-understand open licensing. “Users clarifying their intent to work openly is the most important thing,” he says. “The existence of Creative Commons opens up a new avenue for individuals and organizations to do things in the public interest.”

Forsyth thinks that Creative Commons should attempt to provide more clarity about the consequences to using different CC licenses. “I’m not excited about the noncommercial condition,” he admits. “It all boils down to clarity, and attaching a noncommercial condition onto content immediately creates exceptions to that clarity.” He notes that many people new to open licensing are initially drawn to the more restrictive licenses, but don’t realize until later that the content they are licensing is incompatible with Wikipedia or other projects they’d like to engage with.

Public Policy Initiative Ambassadors

In addition to partnering with interested faculty, the Public Policy Initiative involves members of both the university (via campus ambassadors) and the Wikimedia community (via online ambassadors) to provide assistance and guidance. Bonnie Mccallum volunteers as a campus ambassador for a participating class at Montana State University, where she is a web services technician at the University Library. Mccallum, who had no previous experience in creating or editing Wikipedia articles, teamed up with Mike Cline, a seasoned Wikipedian, to assist Professor Kristin Ruppel in her course on Federal Indian Law and Policy. While Mccallum and Cline worked as on-site campus ambassadors, various distributed online ambassadors helped mentor students on the ins and outs of editing Wikipedia.

WikiP-MSU-Boz-1-v2
By McMormor (Own work) CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL, via Wikimedia Commons

“There was relatively little available on Wikipedia about the content taught in the course,” said Mccallum. Professor Ruppel had the graduate students create a new article around the general topic of the course, stepping through the process of publishing and defending their articles on Wikipedia. The undergraduate students were responsible for editing articles that were already on Wikipedia. One example of an article worked on by the students is the Native American Languages Act of 1990.

Mccallum notes that Professor Ruppel believes participation in the PPI is a more worthwhile writing exercise for her students than cranking out a term paper. Ruppel feels that her students had to learn how to collaborate and communicate in a neutral voice, and learn how to monitor issues and discuss changes with other editors. Mccallum said she’ll be continuing work with the PPI next year, and was excited that there were so many women participating in the project. There are a few things that she’d like to change for next year. She notes that some of the students got hung up on the technical issues around editing wikis, so they’ll be structuring that course module differently next time around.

Mccallum proudly recounts a story passed on by one of the older students in the course, who has a child in middle school. The child’s teacher discouraged her students from using Wikipedia at all. However, after the boy had gone back to the teacher and showed her how his mom was using and contributing to Wikipedia in her graduate school course at MSU, the teacher softened her position. According to Mccallum, those ‘it might not be so bad after all’ moments seem to become more common as teachers learn about the varied uses for teaching via Wikipedia.

Public Policy Initiative as a Bridge

Sometimes open source projects find it difficult to break into the mainstream, especially within the traditional higher education space. Forsyth says that one reason why the PPI has been initially successful in getting buy-in from faculty is because they tailored the project to the existing goals of the educators. He says that working with existing incentive systems as much as possible and providing support to faculty is an important baseline to making the project successful. Also bubbling around recently is the idea that a condition of tenure might be participating in an online community or contributing to a collaborative project like Wikipedia, in addition to the traditional publishing venues. “It will be a gradual shift,” says Forsyth, “but the reality today is that both teachers and students need to possess the cultural fluency and information literacy skills to engage online.” He thinks that these traits will come to represent a set of important skills that students will need to master in any field. “I believe that in time, tenure processes will come to reflect that.”

The Future

Forsyth thinks the Public Policy Initiative is well on its way. “Professors are the experts in educating their students, and with a little nudge and some support, they can do great things with a tool like Wikipedia,” he says. So far, the PPI has turned out to be an enlightening exercise and productive process. As it’s seed funding winds down this September, the Public Policy Initiative will continue to transition from a staff-led to a volunteer-led project. The PPI aims to expand its reach of the Ambassador program to work with faculty and students in other countries, languages, and topic areas.

Forsyth is continuing his involvement in leveraging wikis within the education space, working to start the Center for Open Learning and Teaching (COLT), to be hosted at the University of Mississippi. The center will support the study and implementation of effective and open Internet-based learning practices in formal education. “As institutions of learning are engaging with concept of OER and online learning communities, they’re going to want to figure out how to update their practices, reap the efficiency benefits of ‘open,’ and stay relevant as education evolves,” says Forsyth. He notes that the goals of COLT include 1) setting up a cohort-based research network investigating open, online collaboration in education; and 2) establishing a teaching and learning center that would partially fund faculty salaries to explore OER and open collaborative practices in their classrooms and share what they’ve learned.

Forsyth believes that teaching and learning has very suddenly changed in only a few years. “The education system used to exist in a world in which information was scarce and access to information was hard to come by,” he says. “Now, learning something about any topic is easy, and universities no longer have a monopoly on how we educate ourselves.” Forsyth thinks that libraries, museums, governments, and news outlets still provide great value, but they’re gradually waking up to the idea that they now have to compete. He thinks that these changes should be viewed as an exciting opportunity, not something to be disregarded because they challenge the status quo. “We need universities to embrace the changing landscape, not erect walls trying to protect the role they’re used to playing.”

5 Comments »


Page 48 of 387« First...1020...464748495051...6070...Last »

Subscribe to RSS

Archives

  • collapse2014
  • expand2013
  • expand2012
  • expand2011
  • expand2010
  • expand2009
  • expand2008
  • expand2007
  • expand2006
  • expand2005
  • expand2004
  • expand2003
  • expand2002