creative commons

Access Is Not The Same As Ownership: Retaining the Fifth R

Darren Draper has a post summarizing some thoughts on David Wiley's proposal for a fifth "R". Both David's and Darren's posts provide context around what I'm writing here.

Evaluating Privacy Policies, and Helping Others Do It Well

In December, 2013, the Fordham Center on Law and Information Policy released a study on privacy and cloud computing in public schools within the US.

The study is a worthwhile read - I'm cleaning up my notes from several passes through it and will be putting them out in the form of a (long, messy) blog post later this week, but I wanted to highlight a "Document Coding Checklist" the authors created for the study, and included as Appendix B.

Project-Based, Across Disciplines, Ancient Civilizations. What's Not To Love?

This Saturday, I will be facilitating a conversation at Educon focused on building the structure to support an openly licensed Ancient Civilizations course.

A Better BetterLesson

At the outset of this post, I want to make my biases clear: I am an open content advocate. There are many reasons why I am an open content advocate; foremost among them is the belief that unfettered access - including the ability to freely access, modify, and redistribute material used while learning - helps eliminate barriers to learning. Additionally, the ability to freely access, modify, and redistribute material puts both teachers and learners at the center of the process. It shifts how we look at both texts and learning.

Improving Educational Opportunity And Rethinking Ownership

If I buy and read a copy of Gatsby, is the value of my "ownership" of the text diminished if someone else buys an identical copy of the book?

How about if someone checks the book out from the library?

How about if I buy a copy of Gatsby and don't read it? While I own the physical text, do I actually own the novel?

If I check out a copy of Gatsby from the library, read the text, and return the copy to the library, does my "ownership" of the text end when I return the book to the library?

How Open Licensing Can Improve Teacher Professional Development And Textbook Quality

As reported in EdWeek, 68% of school districts in the United States are planning on buying new Common Core aligned textbooks.

Corporate Welfare, New York State, and Misusing Open Licenses

In an earlier post, I noted that there is a licensing discrepancy between the Common Core aligned curriculum on the EngageNY site and the same curriculum sold by the contractor hired by NY State to create the curriculum. The curriculum available on the EngageNY site is released under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial Share-Alike license, where the curriculum sold by the contractor has all rights reserved.

Is NY State or Common Core Inc Violating Creative Commons Licensing?

Update: I asked if anyone from Creative Commons could weigh in here. If I learn anything new, I'll update this post, and/or follow up with a new post containing the additional information. End update

I Have Some Word Docs...

A question we are asked on a fairly regular basis is:

I have a bunch of resources saved in Word docs. How can I release these as open content?

It's a pretty straightforward question, and one version of an answer is:

  1. Specify a license; and
  2. Publish your content online in something like Google Drive or Dropbox.

However, there are details and decisions buried in the steps outlined above that make this seemingly straightforward answer remarkably serpentine. This blog post is an effort to collect up some of the the various possible answers to that question in a single place.

Specify A License

First, the easy part: if you are the primary author of the work, and/or your work uses/remixes openly licensed content, all you need to do to make your content open content is choose a license, and specify how you want to be attributed. Then, include the license and your attribution information with your work, and voila! Done.

For example, this blog post (and all blog posts on is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license. On my personal work, I ask that people link back to the FunnyMonkey home page.

So, my attribution text would look like:

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license. If you reuse this work, please attribute authorship to Bill Fitzgerald at

This formula will work as a start: This work is licensed under LICENSE. If you reuse this work, please attribute authorship to AUTHOR NAME at SOME LOCATION.

For people who want to learn more about the process and see more options, Creative Commons offers a form that will help with selecting a license and generate this text for you.

Publishing the Content

Once you have a license and attribution text for your work, the only piece that's left is publishing your work. As mentioned above, putting docs into something like Google Drive and DropBox is a viable option. People can access the work, and they can grab a copy of it themselves. Regardless of what you use, however, you want to make sure that it does not convert your content into a format that is more difficult to reuse than what you are starting with.

The choice of where you publish your content online has implications for two facets that are important when working with open content:

  • Ease of discovery - or, how easily can someone find your content via search; and
  • Ease of reuse - or, how easily someone can use or remix some of your content into a new work.

There are a couple nice things about throwing your content online in something like Google Drive or Dropbox. First, it's fast, and this implies a level of convenience. Second, it's easy, and many people know how to copy something from Google Drive or download something from Dropbox.

However, neither Google Drive or Dropbox is that good when it comes to ease of discovery. Additionally, using a proprietary service means that your content lives at someone else's place, rather than at a space you control.

An option that both increases the discoverability of your content and allows you greater control over where your content resides is to set up a blog using something like Wordpress. If you start with their service, you can choose to migrate to your own hardware at a later date. But, the most important element of using something like Wordpress is that you can publish summaries of your content as blog posts (which will make your content easy to find) and then upload the individual word doc containing the lesson.

Then, when you have all of your content uploaded with explanatory summaries, you can create a meta-post that links all the pages of your content. This combination takes more time, but it increases the likelhood of someone finding and understanding your work. An additional advantage of using blog software to share your content is that it provides a means for people interested in collaborating on the work an easy means to contact you.

It's also worth noting that uploading word docs should be viewed as a transitional step, and that the eventual goal should be text and supporting media that can be browsed online. However, the conversion from a doc stored in Google Docs, Word, or Libre Office takes time, and for many people that time can make the difference between sharing and not sharing.

An additional step to help other people find your work includes adding an entry in OER Commons. OER Commons acts as a clearinghouse for all types of OER, so being listed here will help more people find your work. Listing your work on OER Commons is a viable option whether your work is stored in Google Docs, Dropbox, Wordpress, or some other site.

Closing Thoughts

In closing, if you have directories full of work that you have created and want to share as open content, the shortest, fastest path to doing so is to put the work online in something like Google Drive or Dropbox. While these services are fast and convenient, they are also less than ideal when it comes to supporting community around open content, and reuse of open content.

Using blogging software to share content makes it easier for other people to find content, and starts to incorporate the possibility of collaborating with other people on maintaining the content.

For those looking to get started sharing open content, though, the only way to get it wrong is to not share. Choose a license, and get it on the web. The only way to ensure that your content has a limited impact is to not share in the first place.


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