OpenFiction [Blog]

The workshop that wasn’t

Posted in Uncategorized by scarsonmsm on November 9, 2005

So I’m officially not blogging about a workshop that I attended yesterday regarding the state of education and copyright law. It’s the first event I’ve participated in that was officially declared off-blog, which marks a milestone in my experience with the development of the blogosphere. The point really was not to quote people, so they’d feel comfortable speaking off the record. A really amazing conversation between a very diverse group including representatives from government, NGOs, university IT programs, flunkies from open sharing initiatives, librarians, lawyers, and even a few real live educators.

I have to admit I was looking forward to the conversation after dealing with the IIEP-OER forum. OpenCourseWare has always been in my mind an experiment in changing intellectual property practice that is enabled by the internet, rather than an educational technology or distance learning initiative. In OER circles, the persistent criticism arises that OCW is somehow insufficient, that it doesn’t provide a comprehensive learning experience, which is a criticism borne of seeing the project as an attempt at distance education. I think everyone agrees that we’d like to see OCW resources be as comprehensive as possible (with the caveat that the more “comprehensive” some resources are, the more embedded cultural, academic and technological biases can become–a problem if you see yourself as designing for the benefit of the world rather than a particular group of students). But I digress.

While the mood was light and the conversation lively at the education and copyright workshop, the ultimate conclusions were more pessimistic than I’d expected. I think there is a certain amount of freedom from the more onerous educational copyright issues in OER that come from working outside the constraints of the TEACH Act. In OER, it’s either open, or it’s not included. But I do see rocks ahead, of various sizes. We are creating silos of content by using different open licenses, and it’s an issue that I’d like to be out ahead of. I’m not sure how much can be done, but at least within the OCW community, we can work toward some awareness of the implications of choosing particular licenses, so projects don’t end up with buyer’s remorse.

The other emerging issue I see is that of reliance on fair use. The TEACH Act is no help to an OCW, but there’s a considerable amount that might be done with the provisions in fair use for criticism. I met a few people from organizations that rely on this pretty strongly, and can see ways opencoursewares might do the same. The problem is, what happens when you apply fair use in the context of Creative Commons licenses? Can the materials appropriated under fair use then be considered to be under the license? I’m skeptical. And even it it’s fair use in the context of the opencourseware use, that doesn’t ensure that downstream uses will be. Again, I don’t think it’s an insurmountable problem, but it’s one we need to be out ahead of.


‘Cause I’m not writing enough about fiction here

Posted in Uncategorized by scarsonmsm on November 9, 2005

This is why I like Culture Cat, in addition to the feminism, pop culture and recipes. She reminds me I’m not doing near enough thinking about writing, or writing about writing, or writing for that matter. Here’s a great post on narrative as a form of persuasion. I’ve always considered it such.

The horror

Posted in Uncategorized by scarsonmsm on November 7, 2005

I’ve been working on an on-demand print version of tOFP, to be made available through Lulu Press and in the process became aware of something like 45 spelling errors in tOFP content. This won’t come as a shock to those who know me, but it highlights the danger of editing content in BBedit without the benefit of a spell check. Also the danger of creating course materials late at night. I’ve fixed them and reposted the content with a new zip. Apologies to anyone who downloaded prior versions.

Oh well. If you spot any others, do tell.

More from the IIEP-OER forum

Posted in Uncategorized by scarsonmsm on November 7, 2005

The IIEP-OER forum has wrapped up its second week, and while it’s been a really fascinating conversation thus far, I’m finding it a little frustrating. The concept of OCW is taking its hits for the usual–no interaction, the materials aren’t complete, the materials aren’t formatted for rip-mix-burn. So far as the criticisms go, I’m comfortable waiting for time to tell how successful the model is (and however successful the model turns out to be, I don’t see it as precluding the success of other models). I suppose what frustrates me most is that all of these criticisms are based on assumptions rather than facts, and I’m hoping to get to the point soon where the discussion becomes about what we know rather than what we think we know (which I’m sure applies to me as much as anyone).

Anyway, here’s a question I sent to David* during his turn to talk about COSL’s work:

In all of the projects discussed so far, there seems to be a tension between the desire to provide rich digital learning materials–which usually demand more complex technologies–and the desire to make learning materials as widely available as possible–which often demands much simpler technologies. The projects presented thus far each address both concerns, but with different levels of emphasis on each. Since your group has been involved in a number of projects, I’m wondering if you might share your experiences with these trade-offs (or if you see this as being a trade-off at all).

Now I’m admittedly of the simpler-is-better camp; I think the high-tech online learning projects are great, but they’re really more about developing techniques to support online learning–and I think it’s worth discussing how much OER use happens online–than about openness, and I feel openness is the more pressing concern.

My biggest concern in all of this is not that the OCW concept will suffer from the criticism. My biggest concern is that if we set too high a bar in terms of either format or completeness, instructors in disadvantaged contexts will be discouraged from sharing their own materials. All the lip service in the world about ensuring that developing regions share their content as well as take advantage of the OERs produced elsewhere is just that–lip service–if there is not room in the OER community for the really profound power of sharing ideas across the internet in plain text and simple formats, complete or not.

* David, by the way, got shafted by technology. He was the fourth of four experts and was slated to go on Thursday, but the UNESCO e-mail manager went down on Wednesday, and so David’s turn got pushed back to Friday–which meant Saturday in many other time zones, putting a damper on discussion.

Back from the digitally dead

Posted in Uncategorized by scarsonmsm on November 5, 2005

The details aren’t important, but I’m re-emerging from a of week not having my primary computer available. A week of oh-the-part-should-be-in-tomorrow that demonstrates how even in one of the most technologically saturated places in the world, technology can let you down. When I used to teach distance learning courses, my working assumption was that the technology would fail, so I was sure to have an alternate plan. Glad I wasn’t teaching in the middle of this one.