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Open_Ed assignments for week 7: Licensing Open Educational Resources

12 Ottobre 2007


The reading of this week has been very interesting and a novelty for me, as I have to confess I did not know very much about how to license creative/cultural works, but now that I should know a bit more than the past I am so confused about the answer that I’ll start with referring to my personal experience.

As a lifelong learner in the so called knowledge society, my training is made up of three different threads: a formal kind of education, a non-formal one and an informal one, and with the advent of the Internet, if the medium has changed, the substance of these different kinds of education still remains the same as it was 30 years ago.

First I have to undergo some kind of formal learning: the ministry of education is training me to improve my professional skills, not with a traditional presence course but with a blended course and the massive use of an institutionalised LMS that reproduces the exact situation of the classroom. (I do not understand why LMSs have been so criticised for that, there are some circumstances when it is better to control people’s learning, not just to "lock down desktops" (WikiEducator, page 10) but to check a student’s development. Here I can find the materials the institution expects me to learn and that also help scholars who have produced these learning materials to earn their living by their research work.

Second, there is the non-formal education as it is represented by my working experience, my personal readings about education, by this course. Here I realize the potential that non-formal education can have to empower one’s own culture by the possibility to remix, make improvements on and redistribute the resources particularly for developing countries.

Then, there is the informal type of education, made up of  everyday cooperation with other people at home, with the teacher in the next classroom, with Wikipedia or the colleagues attending this Open Ed course who have decided to share worries, problems, concerns but also achievements in the LTEver community and to peer-scaffold one another.

I do not think that I could give up only one of these different kinds of learning, but I think they should be treated differently from the licensing viewpoint, even if the emphasis should be always be on the learner as I read in a beautiful post by Teemu on July 24th, 2007. If we agree on avoiding the two different extremes of the scale, copyright on the one hand as it is regulated by the law now and copyleft on the other because paradoxically it can constitute a barrier to the development of free content production as it has been shown in Möller’s paper, there is a wide range of licensing a work that is as open as possible without restricting commercial use and the rights of people (both authors and learners). Commercial uses do not restrict the development of learning, as we see in the harsh competition between propriety and open source software, on the contrary it can improve quality. My idea is that a drastic reduction of copyright terms should be adopted for formal education content but the idea of granting some rights to authors should not be questioned in the name of freedom, while a Creative Commons license with Share Alike and Non Commercial restrictions could be ideal for non-formal Open Education Resources (OERs) that have often adopted non free-content licenses (I agree it is a contradiction in terms) for the preservation of educational values. As for the informal learning such as we find in the Web 2.0, a GFDL license such as the GNU Free Documentation License that works according to the copyleft principle ("You can make derivative works, but they have to be licensed under the same terms" – Reasons not to use a Creative Commons – NC License, page 2) is a good alternative,  because I do not think that all types of informal learning as I consider Wikipedia, blogs, file-sharing websites etc. should be exploited commercially even by their creators because they are the product of a common social effort, not of an individual creativity.

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