Towards a more open curriculum

I’ve been busy working on a small project for the last several weeks. Initially it started as a way to easily share the resources I’ve been using in my class with other teachers in my building. It quickly morphed into something more. As long as I was organizing things in this manner, why not just publish it all online?

I believe education related materials should open and available to use by anybody who has a use for them. Materials that are locked behind stringent copyright regulations or locked up on a teacher’s hard drive aren’t always able to be used by students, educators, parents, or others in ways that they may like.  If someone finds what I’ve created useful I want them to be able to use it in whatever manner they find it the most useful. Alec Couros has done a lot of thinking about what open teaching is all about, and I’ve come to take many of his ideas a challenge to think about how I choose to control the materials that I create (see his recent posts: Visualizing Open/Networked Teaching and it Revisited). The way I control media- and mentor that to my students- should reflect the values that I hold.

A timid step

Towards becoming an “open/networked teacher,” I’ve decided to release my curriculum resources to the internets. Curriculum Science is a wiki I’ve set up where I’ll be posting all my handouts, presentations, and projects under a GNU Free Documentation License (hat tip to Dan Meyer who planted seeds he posted his full geometry curriculum). Though it won’t matter to many people, I’ve also aligned them with the Connecticut standards for 9th grade Integrated Science. It’s a work in progress that will be updated as I make my way through this semester’s curriculum. Not all the material I would categorize as “my best stuff,” but it is “my real stuff.”

A little help

I don’t have this whole teaching/technology thing figured out. I’ve spent a lot of time considering how to be the most effective teacher possible, but that requires constantly revisiting what it is that I’m doing and how it is that I’m doing it. A few things I’d enjoy hearing my readers thoughts on:

  • Is the GNU Free Documentation License the way to go for this? Would a Creative Commons license be a better match? I’m a little fuzzy on the specific definitions of the various licenses.
  • If you have ideas for how to get at the content in a more effective manner than I’ve done in my curriculum please let me know. Lately I’ve been feeling that my ideas for new materials have been stale and not as effective as I’d like.
  • If you use or remix anything I’ve created it’d make me happy to hear back on what you thought of it or how you changed it.

The Resources

Curriculum Science

6 thoughts on “Towards a more open curriculum

  1. I’m not entirely clear on the dif b/w GNU and CC either, but in my limited experience, I’ve only heard of GNU in terms of software, and CC on many forms of media. I don’t know if that’s accurate or not, though, but it’s a thought.

    And dammit, Ben, this is such a good idea. I have folders upon folders worth of handouts, lessons, materials, etc. that I think I’m going to put up on the web myself. It’ll also be a good excuse to teach myself how to install and maintain a wiki on my web hosting account.

    It doesn’t have to be your best stuff, especially if you want people to share and re-mix. Teachers will tweak stuff to fit their students, curriculum, local school culture, etc., and it’s not a reflection on the original work; in fact, I’d rather have my stuff tweaked than used as-is – it means the teacher is putting careful thought into the implementation rather than just grabbing something that looks useful without any regard for goodness of fit.

  2. I think Damian is correct, so I’d probably use a CC license versus the GPL, as the latter is usually for software.

    It looks like you want at least two requirements: attribution and share-alike. And, if you don’t want anyone to make money off your stuff, you could include non-commercial. So maybe this is what you are looking for?

    Thanks for the pingback, I really am glad that I’ve influenced your choice in some way. I really do believe these are important choices around content, and I’m so glad to hear you are moving this direction.

    All the best.

  3. I went with the GNU license primarily because of the description wikispaces gave it: “The GNU Free Documentation License is a form of copyleft intended for use on a manual, textbook or other document to assure everyone the effective freedom to copy and redistribute it, with or without modifications, either commercially or noncommercially.” That’s basically what I wanted, so I went GNU even though I’m much more familiar with the Creative Commons licenses.

    I’m somewhat surprised this type of thing hasn’t become more mainstream. It’s really pretty easy- not to mention that since my current school doesn’t have remote access this provides a way to access my school files even from home. The question is if I’ll decide to make the time to throw up all my resources from classes I’ve taught in the past. Maybe. No promises.

    As for the remixing- I would much rather have my work tweaked than just used verbatim. For me, it’s mainly about seeing how other people would get at the same ideas. Hopefully it would open up new perspectives and new ideas for myself as well.

  4. @Alec Couros: Thanks for the advice. My struggle with the copyright issue has more to do with dealing with how they might be perceived.

    I wouldn’t be a fan of anyone taking my exact work and making money off of it, but I also wouldn’t want someone to not use my work because they were unsure of what is considered “commercial.” I’d be fine with paid tutors using my work to help students learn even though technically that might fall under the commercial category.

    Attribution seems a little narcissistic to me. However, I feel it’s important to always reference where I get my ideas and inspirations so I generally go with it.

  5. Stupid spambot ate my last comment, so here’s the abridged version:

    What file format will you be posting your stuff in? Most of my text documents are in .odt, the OpenOffice format, but I imagine most teachers use Word. Last time I tried, Word couldn’t open .odt files (that may be different in newer versions; anyone know?). I hesitate to save 1-2 gigs worth of text documents in .doc format because it would require me to do so one by one, but I’m afraid that if I don’t post .doc files, it won’t be of use to anyone.


  6. I’m posting my stuff in .doc/.ppt and .pdf formats. I commend you for using OpenOffice. I’ve often thought of making the switch but thought it might be a pain to share the documents with others.

    Since I’m doing this as I go it’s not too big of a deal to save it twice (once as a .doc; the second as a .pdf), but wouldn’t want to go through the laborious and tedious task of re-saving hundreds of old files. Perhaps you could throw up the .odt files and then re-save the .doc files as you have time.

    I believe Office 2007 isn’t automatically able to read .odt files, however there is a plug-in you can download that allows you to read OpenOffice formats (maybe even save in that format?). I don’t get why Microsoft doesn’t simply include that plug-in (and the .pdf plug-in) as a part of the original program. They’re the ones providing the add-on plug-in later.