Open Education, Intellectual Property, and Fair Use

The topic of Open Education is definitely on the burner in recent months. I’m a believer that education is a right for everyone – and everyone should have access to education. Open education resources such as iTunes U, Khan Academy, and MIT OpenCourseWare definitely allow increased access to higher education. However, as increasingly more information are being posted on the Internet, the inevitable discussion of intellectual property and fair use must come into play.

As an educator, I hope that this increased access to education will result in innovation.  But how do we foster innovation while suppressing plagiarism? This is where Creative Commons come into play. As more information is free and open for users to remix and recreate, we will be able to foster more innovation while still crediting the original sources.

I realize that many textbook publishers are struggling to find a balance in this digital age where users don’t want to pay a dime for content. I believe that publishers should charge a license fee for the school for the use of eBooks, but should not restrict how students use the content. Students should be free to create their own mashups and post it online – this is a way for students to show that they’ve internalized their learning and made it their own. However, if a student starts to distribute the said content for monetary gain, that would be wrong. It’s also our job as teachers to ensure that students are aware of the ethics and etiquettes involved when posting their own work online.

Last semester, one of my students did an amazing job re-mixing a very famous pop song into an asthma public service announcement. My student re-wrote the lyrics so that the song would educate the public about asthma, how it manifests itself, and how it can be treated. She sang the newly written song herself to the tunes of this very famous song. It was one of the most touching and well-crafted project I’ve seen as a teacher. She also cited the sources for pictures and song credits. I have since passed on the video to my friend, a pediatric pulmonologist, to help educate her newly diagnosed asthma patients. This is an example of of a stellar student using her talents and gifts. I want to foster this energy in my classroom. Without open and free resources, this creative energy will be snuffed and where will our future be?

6 thoughts on “Open Education, Intellectual Property, and Fair Use

  1. Hey Nan,
    Yes, as an educator, it seems that there are many teachable moments with students on how to use those open resources and how to cite those sources. It is only fair since they are the creators of those images, songs, and documents. I find it amazing, yet disappointing that too many teachers feel it is okay to just use whole songs and images directly from the Internet because we are an educational institution and nobody will sue us. It is wrong and I am trying to correct them one teacher at a time.
    As for your student project on Asthma…Wow! Awesome that your student was so creative and talented. Yes, if it were not for the the open and free resources, do you think she would still be able to create that same project? A side note…would you be willing to share that video with me and my health teachers? I would like to show them how students can be creative when given a few ideas. Could you share what you asked the students to do?

    • Thanks, Tim, for your comments. In the past I had my students use whatever graphics/audio/videos for their projects since we just shared them with the past. As you mentioned, I now realized after the discussions in ETEC 647e that I should be having my students use the open resources.

      As for the project. This is for my online Medical Problem Solving class last semester. Students research about a disorder, interview a person afflicted with that disorder, then do a service project to help the person. I had one student interview a Internal Medical doctor who treats hypertension, but he himself was at risk for hypertension due to family history. The student then created a weekly meal plan tailored for hypertension for the doctor and his patients. That was how I found out about SnapGuide, through Hannah and her hypertension project.

      In this case, Tae interview a close friend who has had asthma since he was very young. He’s been able to keep it under control, so there wasn’t much Tae could do as service project to help her friend feel better about asthma. She decided she would do a PSA instead so that more people would understand what asthma is and how it affects the respiratory system. Here’s the link to the video Tae made.

      Let me know if you’d like more information about this project. I do a similar one for my Anatomy class I teach at Punahou. It’s been great to see students make connections about what they’ve learned about the human body and the personal effect of a disorder on their loved ones. More importantly, it has taught my students about empathy and how they can help someone in need.


  2. Hello Nan,
    what you wrote there really reflects on me because I’m a student. As you said using content can help us students to be more innovative.

    Currently, I’m interested into writing blogs but one of the major problems is I’m struggling with the “content” and “images”. I always ask myself “What is allowed to post and what is not allowed?!”

    I been surfing through the blogs and I see some bloggers put copyrighted content which surprised me.

    I would be happy if you can tell me what can I write or post and what can’t I. It would make me be able to write and post images more freely which will improve my writing 🙂

  3. Hi Nan,
    Your example of the student that did a remix clearly demonstrates the importance of being able to use past work to create new work for educational purposes. I too strongly believe that we need to emphasis copyright etiquette (rules) to our students. Finding the balance between compensating the creator/publisher and providing free/cheap access is not easy, and I don’t know if it can be resolved. Great job on your post.

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