For democracy to flourish, citizens need free and open access to ideas. In today’s digital age, this means access to information and ideas online.” (Source: The Information Commons: A Public Policy Report)

Source: 9 Minute Open Access Video, Wikipedia

How we learn to write and share in school needs to focus on providing free and open access to ideas. Papers that are written for one person–the teacher or a small group (the captive audience of a classroom)–fundamentally fail.

People learn to keep their ideas to themselves, to not share ideas essential to our democracy. Worse, people who don’t learn to write in a public forum and share their ideas may think their writing sub-standard, their ideas not quite as good as that of others…and so, they must “borrow” them from others. In short, they don’t learn open access principles that take advantage of the Internet as a global, digital “printing press” at little or no cost.

But anyone who writes for a global audience (I do, don’t you?) quickly realizes that sharing his/her ideas online ensures they may be remixed, but not necessarily stolen. Better yet, we have the opportunity to create together, collaborating on refining ideas, a back-n-forth dialogue that spans time and space.

Opportunities to create and collaborate together, to provide access to resources that are mixable, reusable, and free from DRM…isn’t that the promise of Open Educational Resources (OER)?

Open Education “…is the simple and powerful idea that the world’s knowledge is a public good and that technology in general and the Worldwide Web in particular provide an extraordinary opportunity for everyone to share, use, and reuse knowledge.”
—The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
“Open educational resources (OERs) are free and openly licensed educational materials that can be used for teaching, learning, research, and other purposes.” (Wikipedia article)

It’s been awhile since I’ve looked at OER, but I suspect that it’s alive and well. In this 2012 blog entry, The Power of #OER, consider the OER Research web site introduction:

The body of work collected here represents the combined efforts of organizations worldwide. During the last ten years, as the Open Educational Resources movement has grown, so has the body of research being produced on the topic. We invite you to engage with the new discoveries and analyses that this collection has to offer.

As I look at the site, the latest resource is 2009. That’s a long time ago, isn’t it? The reason I share this again is that I wonder if schools are still struggling to create their own resources to share with each other. We’ve seen an explosion of remixable content, creative commons sharealike-attribution copyrighted materials that people enables people to remix content others have created. But has this caught on with our students? For those of us familiar with App-Smashing, it’s a fun concept–grab content that others have made, remix it into something you’ve made, and then make it available for others.

Imagine a school where students don’t learn programming. Imagine a school where no desktop publishing occurs.Imagine a school where advanced image editing is not taught. Imagine a school where video editing, manipulation, remixing has no place. Read More

Of course, I suspect that remixing in this way–which falls, by the way, into the SAMR Model’s Redefinition–still hasn’t quite caught on in schools. Many of us probably have figured out that remixing isn’t the same thing as plagiarizing. In remixing, you give credit to the original creator, then you make an effort to enhance the work, or change it.

A remix is a piece of media which has been altered from its original state by adding, removing, and/or changing pieces of the item. Source: Wikipedia

If you haven’t remixed something online, then you probably aren’t creating much. Remixing lies at the heart of creativity. Consider again this video:
Hip Hop Genius: Remixing High School Education from sam seidel on Vimeo.

But remixing maybe isn’t happening in your school. Or, worse, the focus is on stopping plagiarism among students, using something like TurnItIn.

Let’s quickly revisit plagiarism and why it is different from remixing:

to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own: use (another’s production) without crediting the source
to commit literary theft: present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source. Source: The Book Designer

Remixing and plagiarism are manifestly different. I see OER as intentionally creating and sharing content so that it can be remixed by others…and the fact that content is shared widely makes plagiarism difficult to hide.

When I was 10-11 years old, my teachers would give me assignments that could be easily satisfied by going to the encyclopedia, reading what was there, copying it down with slight revisions, and turning it in. Since I had little access to research (encyclopedias), I would work like crazy to copy all the information down so that I could later consider it and work it into my report. After many such assignments, I refined the art of restating what I read in the encyclopedia to give it my own twist and emphasis; it is a skill that served me well through K-16.

It wasn’t until much later that I realized that cookie-cutter assignments teachers give are well…a waste of time. Do I even remember the content of any one of those research papers? No. What was my level of engagement with the research? Zero. I was just doing what I needed to do to survive in school (I made “A” in Reading/Language Arts, but Math was–and continues to be–my weak spot with a “B”). Is it any surprise that children see school as something to be endured, survived, so that they can get to the next thing, whatever that is? Is there any wonder that children are increasingly dis-satisfied with school because it is irrelevant to their lives?

 …as teachers we need to challenge ourselves to devise more authentic assessments, many of which may be performance based, which cannot be faked.Source: Wes Fryer, SpeedofCreativity 

Several years ago, when I saw my daughter–who is now an editor, writer of original content–stuck with doing the same type of assignments–read, regurgitate…or as Bernie Dodge characterized it, “input, output, no transformation”–I have to question the value of assignments. Innovation in these assignments is a matter of how creative one can be to rewrite and revise rather than reconceptualize, collaborate and communicate.

One of the best ways to suppress plagiarism is to come up with creative assignments that are literally one-of-a-kind. Source: David Harrington

Today, we have instant access to information. Turnitin, as well as WriteCheck, are parasites that feed off the old education model of Read/Regurgitate approach to writing research. If you don’t know it already, our children need to be creative, artistic, and that just doesn’t happen with assignments that involve copying out of an encyclopedia, whether paper-bound or electronic. You can be practical and use TurnItIn, but as an administrator, I would look to schools using such tools as an indicator of failure, rather than innovation.

What do you think of this topic?

In the meantime, here’s my list of journals I periodically revisit (pun intended):

Image Source: Wikipedia, Open Access

You can find a list online, and as well as in the Directory of OpenAccess Journals. A few that I visit often include the following:

  1. JOLT – Journal of Online Learning and Teaching
  2. EPAA – Education Policy Analysis Archives

And, realizing that’s entirely too few, here are some more…

Update: Feedback from +Laura Gibbs :

Miguel, what a fantastic post! Sadly, it applies to higher ed just as much as K-12. Although instead of massaging an encyclopedia article (just enough to fool TurnItIn), students are massaging research articles. Regurgitated research: blech! We need remixes, remakes, revisions! My students all do retellings of old stories for their weekly writing and their semester projects… and it never gets boring: new stories for new times! 🙂

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure