creative commons

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In general, teachers love freebies and actively seek them out. These free things range from blogs to web apps to lesson plans. I’d like to challenge teachers to go beyond just consuming freebies to producing them as well. Teachers create great resources all the time in the course of their practice. We could go a step further by turning some of our creations into freely accessible open educational resources (OER).

The Wikipedia defines Open educational resources as “learning materials that are freely available for use, remixing, and redistribution” In other terms these resources are made available to the world at large so that they can be used, altered or combined with other materials. In addition, it may be distributed to others in the original or remixed state. OER has been compared to open source software in the computer world. Contributing OERs extends the benefit of your work beyond the classroom and benefits both teachers and learners though out the world.


Many OERs are licensed through Creative Commons. Creative Commons licenses are explicit statements of how you allow others to use your work. This licensing make it easier for others to know your intentions and facilitate the reuse of anything you plan to share. I have discussed Creative Commons and considerations for choosing a license other blog posts. If you want to designate a creation as an OER, Creative Commons is a good path.

Another licensing consideration is that anything you contribute should be your own creation or derived from materials that you have a license to use and redistribute. One must be careful because there are many resources you may have the license to use in the classroom that you cannot distribute. For example, I may be allowed to use video clips from a subscription service in classroom presentations, but I couldn’t redistribute that presentation with the embedded content. A good source of such materials would be other OERs.

Potential contributions

There are many things that can be shared as OERs. Chances are that you have already developed things that could become resources. You can also pitch by working on existing OERs. Here are some ways you could contribute:

  • Lesson plans
  • Presentations—instructional or profesional development
  • Photographs
  • Illustrations and diagrams
  • Videos
  • Screencasts
  • Improve a Wikipedia page
  • Add material to Wikibooks
  • Write a definition in the Kids’Open Dictionary
  • Multimedia Interactives
  • Games
  • Worksheets, puzzles, quizzes, etc.

Making it available

The next step is making a resource available over the Internet. If you have a website, you may be able to upload the file to a server. There are also public folders on free and pay online storage sites such as Flickr and Dropbox. Another option is to upload your resource to a repository. This has several advantages. Not only is this free and easy, it makes the material readily accessible.

Curriki is a simple to use repository that allows OER uploads one you are registered (an automatic process). Curriki carries a CC Attributions license. Once registered click on Publish Content –> Add a Resource. This brings you into a wizard that guides you through the process of uploading and creating an OER:

Curriki is by no means the only option. The Internet Archive also allows registered users to upload and share files, although it not specifically educationally oriented.

Those with Flickr account, free or otherwise, have the option of designating uploaded images as CC licensed and has a CC specific search. Slideshare lets you permit downloads and designate specific CC licenses. Again, there are many options beyond these.

The challenge: Publish one OER per week

Everyone benefits from open educational resources. Summer is a time where most educators have the opportunity to shift gears. Take a little time from Twitter or any other diversion and make a real difference. Contribute one open educational resource per week for the rest of the summer. It won’t take much effort. If everyone shares a little, we will all reap great rewards! What goes around comes around.

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Working with open educational resources (OER) and sharing, I constantly grapple with copyright. I have come to a greater appreciation of explicitly stated licensing. As a consumer of such resources, I often must search, parse, and decipher to determine whether they are OER. This has caused me to reconsider my practices as a content creator.

As I have mentioned in the past, I regard Creatives Commons licensing as an invitation to use and share materials rather than legal protection. It makes my intentions clear so that others need not guess.

This site has had a clear Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license as I mentioned in a post of over a year ago. I have licensed some of my online interactives as CC Attribution Non Commercial Share-Alike. Now I plan to share instructional presentations and need to decide how license them. This has led me again to explore Creative Commons Licenses and their implications.

While I occasionally have used the Non Commercial designation, I will no longer do so. Commercial use is too nebulous. Would use by a private school be commercial? How about the use in a presentation for which the presenter is being paid? Besides, as Karen Fasimpaur tweeted: “do you really think someone’s going to make a ton of $ selling your stuff?” There is a good discussion of the Non-commercial designation in Neal Butcher’s article Open Educational Resources and Higher Education (It also had a great overview of higher education OER sites).

I now realize the Share-Alike endorsement can also pose problems. Share Alike allows individuals to use and remix content with the provision that they license the resultant material with the same terms. This could prevent an individual combining Share-Alike content with material with different licensing from distributing their remix. Again, this is not desirable in my view.

In light of the unexpected consequences with my past licensing choices, I considered Public Domain or Creative Commons No Copyright (CC 1.0 Universal). This would make it as easy as possible for others to use my work. Unfortunately, a lack of attribution lends to a lack of credibility.

In the end, I have chosen the CC-BY license and its simple attribution license  for the bulk of what I do. This site has already been changed to attribution only. I decided to keep it simple so that potential users no longer have to parse out details.


The NYSED Technology Plan’s first goal addresses digital content:

Standards-based, accessible digital content supports all curricula for all learners.

Accessible is defined as: content available anywhere, easy to retrieve using multiple technology devices, and content is universally designed. Aligning digital content to the New York State learning standards is how we will ensure quality and relevance in the PreK-12 environment.

Learners and practitioners both need access to rich digital media. Alignment with standards help make appropriate content more easily accessed by all.

New York has moved in this direction already through the auspices of state public broadcasting stations. EDVideoOnline is a portal to PowerMediaPlus which provides teachers with access to downloadable video, audio, and images for use with their students. They also include worksheets and quizzes.

Unfortunately, this is a subset of what was available in the past. When I started using this program, it included full access to the Discovery Education library. Public stations scaled back the program to the current offerings. They said too few were using it to justify the expense. I didn’t see a lot of teachers using it either, but those who did were excited about it.

Beyond PowerMediaPlus and Discovery Education, New York needs go further in digitizing and providing access to its own holdings. New York museums and libraries hold a treasure trove of material. Some institutions have done a great job digitizing materials and providing access, while others have done little.

I hope this means access to more content in the future. Access to a broader audience is also essential. While everyone can access some of the material, students are shut out of PowerMediaPlus. This repository could provided a wealth of content for independent study, exploration, and working on assignments.

Access to digital content also encompasses licensing. Let me relate my own experience. I have spent countless hours creating media rich presentations for delivering engaging social studies lessons for my class. They include historical documents, images, maps, and embedded digital video. Under fair use, there is no question that I was legally using these materials for my own classroom.

I thought it would be great to share these materials with other practitioners throughout the state (and ideally beyond), so I contacted PowerMediaPlus about doing such. In essence, they replied that there was no way I could do such legally.

We need to be able share what we create with this digital media with other learners and practitioners. They need to be able to reuse and remix that work to adapt it to their individual needs. NYSED should explore Creative Commons Licensing for content that is state owned and that of state funded institutions. They need to negotiate for means to more broadly share the content they pay for through entities such as PowerMediaPlus. Further, it needs to create a platform to facilitate such sharing.

In conclusion, there is more to digital content than availability. There needs to be access and the ability to remix it and share with others.

I will continue a discussion of New York State’s Educational Technology Plan in future posts, including a discussion of each of the six broad goals. I look forward to hearing your comments.

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You may have noticed the new symbols on my sidebar. That’s because I finally woke up and decided to start thinking about copyright issues for my blog and other content that I put on the Internet. I was moved by the NYSCATE conference to consider Creative Commons Licensing.

Creative Commons licenses allows creators  to share content that they have created, while retaining some rights to the material. Steve Hargadon posted this great YouTube video on his K12opensource site by JustinG4000 which provides a great overview.

Having heard about it at the conference and seeing this video moved me to visit the Creative Commons site. The site makes it very easy to create a license for your content. Just click on the License Your Work on the upper right hand side of the homepage.


The up comes a page with a few questions and buttons to help you customize the license.


You can also fill out optional fields, making attribution to your site a function of copying and pasting as snippet of code. You can fill in whatever is relevant.


Click Select a license and you are delivered to page that allows you to select the appearance of the Creative Commons icon/link and gives you a snippet of code to past into the appropriate place on your site.


As you can see, the Creative Commons site makes it quick and easy to license your work.

Licensure choices

Creative Commons licenses starts with the premise that you allow others to copy your work as long as they attribute it to you (You can choose their Public Domain license if you do not care about attribution). The first choice presented is whether or not you allow commercial use of your work. I was almost certainly selecting No until Jim Klein responded to my Tweet asking about CC licensing. He cautioned that not allowing commercial use may prevent paid presenters from using your ideas (of course they could always ask permission). For my blog, I decided that I would allow commercial use on the remote chance that somebody would actually use my ideas. For my test prep materials, on the other hand, I barred commercial use.

The next choice is to decide whether or not you will allow others to modify your work. As outlined in the video above, you have three choices:

  • Yes–allow others to change as they please.
  • Yes–”Share alike” as long as they grant the same license to those who might use the derivation of your work.
  • No–modifications are not allowed

I chose “Share Alike.” I feel that if anybody want to use my material and modify it, they should allow others to do the same.

Copyright, creative commons, and pedagogy

Now that students are becoming content creators on the Internet whether or not in association with schools, they need to consider copyright and its implications. The options  presented with the Creative Commons license variations provides a great venue for discussing the implications of copyright in general.

Furthermore, considering the copyright of their own materials will make discussion of intellectual ownership in general more relevant to students than the standard plagiarism lectures. It becomes a real issue and will almost certainly give students a new perspective on the issues involved.

Creative Commons licensing makes sense, particularly for content creators on the Internet. Web 2.0 makes the issue of copyright very important to a widening number of people. Creative Commons also highlights issues in the realm of copyright that make it a great vehicle for discussion of intellectual property in schools.

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