Creative Commons in education

I recently completed a 3 month Educator’s certificate program with Creative Commons. My motivation to undertake a formal course with the Commons was triggered by two main factors:

  1. Even though I had used CC licenses at various stages of my professional and personal work I didn’t really feel like I understood if I was using all aspects of them.
  2. I knew the Commons did a lot more than just hand out licenses on their website. So I wanted to learn and go deeper into the world of copyright law, intellectual property rights, public domain etc.

Now, 3 months later, I can safely say that what I learnt and worked upon in the course went beyond the two rudimentary outlines I had set for myself starting out. Hence I am documenting this post to better capture the learning while they are still fresh and to create a listing of useful resources I found during the course

About the course

First a little bit about the course itself. The course began in January (first week) and ended a couple of days ago. Set up in 5 different modules the Educator course captures the following elements:

  1. What is Creative Commons?
  2. Copyright Law
  3. Anatomy of a CC License
  4. Using CC-License and CC-Licensed Works
  5. CC for Educators (there is another branch of this for Librarians too).

Each module has activities within it (delivered via Canvas LMS) including quizzes and discussions. The module ends with an assignment (an artifact created that captures some non-negotiables (rubric is provided) from the module’s topics) which is graded by the instructor with comments. The final assignment is perhaps its biggest piece. It has lot of options in two major categories to choose from. Depending on how comfortable one feels about what they have learnt, one can choose the appropriate final assignment.

In addition to discussions via Canvas, the participants are also given access to an exclusive Slack channel. This is where one can really get exposed to lots of current research, releases and updates regarding international copyright law.

CC for teachers and students

Given my educational setting, everything I read and analyzed in the course was done using a K-12 context. Be it copyright laws, license usage, fair usage or public domain – I was trying to reflect the whole time on what the content I was being presented with would look like in a teacher’s and student’s context. Some big takeaways for me in that area of thought were follows:
It all starts with teachers modeling ethical copyright usage in every classroom and every lesson. Copyright fair usage and general intellectual property conversations should be part of every day lingo. In a rapidly vibrant social media and gaming culture, the concept of what can/cannot be copied for personal/commercial/distributed work needs to be clarified from the get go. This includes discussing the CC licenses – their meaning and appropriate usage in and outside the classroom – and where to look for content to use in their work that doesn’t result in copyright violation. Some sites (and there are many more) that cater to this are: Project Gutenberg, Public Domain Review,  Digital Public Library of America, Wikimedia Commons, Internet Archive, Library of Congress, Flickr, and the Rijksmuseum.

Another useful search engine/tool for all kinds of media is CC’s own search – along with the which can be exclusively used to browse and use educational material for a wide range of subject areas and grade levels.

For those more familiar with using Google and YouTube there are special filters within their search options that allow you to look for and use Creative Commons compliant content. Screenshot below on where to find them on these platforms.

Google Advanced Search
YouTube Search Filter

CC for middle leaders and administrators

Another layer to the copyright conversation is the involvement of middle leaders and school administrators. I felt the middle leaders have a bigger role to play in this since they are the critical bridges between classrooms and leadership. The conversations they have with the teaching and learning community about the Commons and copyright regulation in general could have an impact in the direction school leadership wants to take with it. This happens with both awareness and inclusion.

A school wide policy needs to be in place that has been vetted by the teachers. management and administration. The policy essentially addresses any issues regarding how best the school can protect copyright laws within their setting w.r.t content creation, sharing and where do local copyright laws fit in. Some guiding questions that I came up with for such a policy to become a reality:

  1. Does our school have a copyright protection policy? If not, then why not? And if we do, what does it look like?
  2. What are the country’s copyright laws with regards to original content creation and sharing in an academic setting? Is that in agreement with or against the school’s intended goals?
  3. What are the school’s beliefs and values regarding encouraging the creation of and protection of Open Educational Resources (OERs) etc.

Answers to these questions need not be a hierarchical approach since it impacts everyone at the school. One approach I suggested in the course was to get the Tech, Teaching/Learning and Library departments involved in preliminary presentations/workshops that discuss the Commons and copyright laws. This then could get an crowd sourced treatment with teachers and middle leaders from different school levels (if that be the setting) getting together to unpack the material. The policy should be guided by both what is legally correct and what makes the most sense for the local context. This is then communicated to the rest of the community via various channels as needed.

Some points to ponder…

My unique role as both a teacher and a tech administrator helped me contextualize lot of the course’s content for both inside and outside the classroom scenarios. Some of the topics covered in the course were directly connected to it. I have listed them, in no particular order, below.

  1. What does Open Education pedagogy look like? How does/should it work so that student learning and engagement is impacted positively?
  2. If a school decides to support Open Education content creation and sharing, then what steps should it take? Where does the Commons feature in this?
  3. How does one (teacher/student/admin) evaluate Open content found for both quality and relevance?
  4. What messages regarding licensing are most vital for students when they create/adapt/modify and distribute their works within/outside the school community?
  5. How does the school/classes use content from the Public Domain? How do students and staff/faculty credit content usage?
  6. When/how/in what context is copyright and fair usage discussed/reflected upon withing the learning communities? How are students included in that conversation?

Interesting articles for further reading

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.