Archive for the ‘copyleft’ Category

Kids, copyright, and open content

Friday, May 16th, 2008

(This seems like a long post, but it is about one of the most important experiences I’ve had in a classroom in a long while.)

As a part of a project in which students are writing poems to be included in a collected ebook, I had the opportunity this week to teach several groups of middle school students about copyright and open content. (I am often frustrated by teachers telling kids to “just get any image from Google to include in your Powerpoint/Word doc.”)

Facilitating this discussion with kids was tremendously enjoyable and thought-provoking. I am sure that I learned as much as they did (and I think they learned a lot).

Here are a few of my big take-aways:

1. Relevance leads to critical thinking and engaged learning. Copyright is a topic that is immediately relevant to kids — as a result, they were highly interested and had a ton of questions, comments, and thoughts. While they were engaged, I was able to insert other topics from math, writing, and reading. I think this is a key to improving learning (and it doesn’t flow naturally from a textbook or a pacing guide).

2. In general, kids want to be legal. They are, however, seriously uninformed. (When asked about what they knew about copyright, many confused it with plagiarism. They think this is a what-I-can-do-in-school issue rather than a legal issue.) They had many questions about what they needed to do to be legal.

3. The filesharing tools these kids use (almost universally) are Lime Wire and Photobucket. For those not in the know, Lime Wire is P2P file sharing software, apparently used by kids for exchanging music illegally (being used as the new Napster or Grokster). I believed most of the kids when they told me that they didn’t understand the legal issues involved with this. Their big concern with the service: viruses.

4. Most kids were not aware of the fundamental premise of Wikipedia: that anyone can edit it. This was shocking to me. When they understood this, they found it very empowering. (Together, we edited an article about their school district — something that you’d never find on Encarta or EB.) This led to a very sophisticated discussion about the pros and cons of an encyclopedia that anyone can edit. These kids got it a lot faster than most adults. We also talked about vandalism, wikispam, and version control.

5. Once the students understood the basics of copyright and open content, they quickly began discussing some pretty high level concepts about intellectual property. Unprovoked by me, they asked about financial issues, transference of copyright, IP address tracking, use of personal images (image release issues), paparazzi photos, parodies (as they relate to fair use), and lots more. It was phenomenal.

6. Kids are all over Firefox and view it as a better browser.

7. They were not familiar with the term “open source.” :( On the other hand, they expressed a universal contempt for Microsoft (to an extent that I found a little scary, but what a force for the OER community to harness).

8. Only one kid out of about 150 had ever heard of Creative Commons. How had he heard of it? YouTube.

9. They enjoyed finding open content that is legal to use in their projects. They were surprisingly adept at finding and understanding the licenses (CC, GFDL, public domain) and at including appropriate credits for the pieces used in their own work.

10. Kids who often appear bored and lacking in critical thinking and articulate communication skills suddenly seem like geniuses when they are discussing something that matters to them.
What fun! My mind is still reeling at all the epiphanies I had during these few days.

[For a lesson plan and accompanying resources for this, visit]

Free Kids Dictionary Project

Friday, October 12th, 2007

For a long while, many of us have seen the need for a free kids dictionary that could be used on mobile devices. Since none seem to exist that are at a kids’ level and are “kid appropriate,” I’ve always had an idea to make my own, but haven’t done much about it.

Now that’s about to change! With my recent growing interest in the Open Education movement and mass collaboration, I’m going to start a collaborative project to create such a dictionary. Most likely, this will be on a wiki platform, like Wikibooks.

The focus will be on having simple kid-appropriate definitions targeted at a grade 5-8 level. Everyone will be able to contribute, and we’ll be looking for lots of help!

Then after we have a critical mass of words, we’ll download the content and convert it to a variety of platforms, including Mobipocket for handheld use and probably some kind of offline desktop format. We might even do a skinny version for mobile phones.

If you are interested in working on this project, stay tuned for more details. We’ll be getting a prototype and perhaps a mailing list together for this soon. And whatever we come up with will freely usable by anyone.

Photo model releases

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

There has been a lot of discussion in the blogosphere this week about the use of a Flickr image posted under a Creative Commons license in a Virgin Australia advertisement. (The parents of the child in the photo, who had not given permission for its use, are suing Virgin, the photographer, and Creative Commons.)

The salient point in this case is that the photographer and Virgin did not have a model release. Anyone who has worked in commercial publishing for more than a week should know that you must have a model release for images with people in them.

There are certainly other issues that this case begs, related to non-commercial use, the millions of Flickr photos with people in them, etc. (see Larry Lessig’s thoughts on this, though he can’t comment on the legal case for obvious reasons), but the main point of this case has nothing to do with Creative Commons or the digital world. If the photographer had taken this photo with a non-digital camera (remember film?), copyrighted it, and sold it to Virgin, the same problem of the lack of a model release would exist.

[Image credit: public domain courtesy of Kimmo Palosaari, from…. interesting sidenote that you won’t find open-licensed photos with people in them on this site]

New OER search tool

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

ccLearn is working with the Hewlett Foundation and Google to create a new “open education web-scale search.”

The ccLearn group is devoted to the support of open educational resources. These are educational resources that are licensed in a way that they can be freely shared and used by others.

This new tool should offer much wider access to all the great open resources already out there. Hopefully, it will also increase awareness so that more people consider open licenses for materials they write and publish.

Open video

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

Here’s another good site for “copyleft” video: The Open Video Project.

Some of the video is from NASA and other government sources, but the site is much better organized and easier to search than most government sites.

Animal Alphabet

Friday, July 6th, 2007

As a part of the fun I’m having contributing to Wikijunior (part of Wikibooks, offering free, open content textbooks), I’ve taken an animal alphabet book there and made video and ebook versions of it.

They’re available for viewing and download here.

There are versions for the desktop, various handhelds, iPods, and even a Mobipocket ebook version. (One of the not-fun things about creating video is all the format issues. I think we’ve put about everything up here, but let me know if anything’s been missed.)

If you haven’t ventured into the world of contributing to wikis, Wikijunior is a great place to start. (Try the Human Body book or Ancient Civilizations.) The more people who contribute to these free “copyleft” resources, the better they will be. If you’re not sure how to start, try something small like fixing an error or just adding a couple sentences. It’s a lot of fun!

Free "copyleft" visual resources

Friday, June 29th, 2007

Every day, I am becoming a bigger advocate for copyleft licensing options for content. Copyleft licenses lets the creator maintain ownership (and copyright), while allowing others to share the content under terms specified by the creator.

If you are looking for images to use in presentations, copyleft content offers you a legal option for free content. If you are creating content, consider sharing it with others under a copyleft agreement.

My newest podcast features a sampling of great copyleft visual resources, like clip art, photos, and video. (If you missed it, the last show was on audio resources.) Both of these shows were really fun to produce (and a lot of work to edit, but that’s part of the fun).

Here is a list of copyleft sources to look at:

* Open Clip Art Library [Note: This site is in transition, but this art is also downloadable from other sites.]
* Wikimedia Commons

* Wikimedia Commons
* The Open Photo Project
* morgueFile
* Stock.XCHNG
* Flickr
* Library of Congress

Video and animation
* Wikimedia Commons
* NASA’s Earth Observatory [lets you build your own custom animations]
* Internet Archive

* ccMixter
* Wikimedia Commons music
* Internet Archive (wide variety of stuff here, not all copyleft)
* Partners in Rhyme
* MusOpen

Spoken word
* Spoken Wikipedia
* Library of Congress
* Voice of America
* Internet Archive (wide variety of stuff here, not all copyleft)

Sound Effects
* The Freesound Project
* Partners in Rhyme
* US Fish and Wildlife Service (animal sounds)

Search engines for other copyleft content
* Creative Commons
* Wikimedia Commons
* Common Content
* ibiblio

At some point in the future, I’ll do another podcast on copyleft-licensed educational resources. Hope you enjoy!