Many of you will be familiar with the Moodle Tool Guide for Teachers which has been doing the rounds in the Moodle community since 2010. It’s been tremendously exciting for me to see the guide I released under a Creative Commons license, being used, re-used and re-developed by so many people for so many different purposes.
Why should you share an Open Educational Resource?
Besides being a staff development tool for me, the Moodle Tool Guide has taught me so much about what it means to be an open resource contributor. Until the MTG went viral(ish), as an ed tech I would often encourage teachers to share their resources openly. It was always a logical, practical argument around the benefit for the community. I don’t think I articulated the personal rationale for providing an open educational resource with passion. Now I can speak from experience, when I say that sharing your teaching resources openly can:
- bring satisfaction of ‘a job well done’ when other practitioners in your field take your idea/resource and run with it,
- help someone else in your field, a colleague you may or may not know,
- bring you peer recognition within your country, internationally and sometimes even inside your institution (often a tougher nut to crack),
- provide you with external support for your ideas, processes or approaches (which may be controversial inside your institution),
- provide you with peer support, as you connect with other practitioners in your field. This is beneficial particularly if you work in isolation or are a niche expert in your institution,
- help you improve your resource, through peer review and comments,
- establish new connections with other practitioners and experts in your field,
- create new opportunities. I’ve had the privilege of being invited to a number of MoodleMoots and other conferences. that I couldn’t have attended otherwise,
- help you discover new resources and collections. You’ll be surprised at the many places your resource gets re-posted, re-tweeted and re-published,
- provide career opportunities. I’m sure I wouldn’t have been offered my current position at a large Australian university if it hadn’t been for the MTG.
Two new lessons learned
And then this week, the Moodle Tool Guide for Teachers taught me two more new things. Here they are:
1. You may not have a leg to stand on…
In the first week of January my Tweetdeck column for “Moodle Tool Guide” started filling up with people mentioning it. I have this set up so I can see how the guide is being used and tweaked by the Moodle Community. I’ll usually get in touch with whoever’s been working on it. However upon following up, I noticed that in this case, it wasn’t our Moodle Tool Guide that was at the center of attention, instead it was a resource by a web conferencing company called WizIQ.
Moodle tool guide for teachers: How to interact with students online using Moodle fb.me/1r3qHFksv
— WizIQ Official (@WizIQ) January 4, 2012
Now I should be clear, WizIQ’s guide was very different. Other than the name, it was not similar to the original nor did it reuse parts of the original.
Whereas the Moodle Tool Guide is a poster-sized matrix tool assessing Moodle tool effectiveness for pedagogical aims, WizIQ’s resource was a How-to instruction manual for several Moodle tools with screenshots. But I was a little disappointed, thinking that having two documents out there with the same name, would detract from the now community-owned original Moodle Tool Guide.
The original MTG was released under a Creative Commons license, non-commercial with attribution and share-alike criteria. This protects it from someone using it for profit, or pretending authorship or ownership, but it doesn’t protect its name. Also, despite a Belgian judge ruling for Creative Commons to be legally binding in Belgium in November 2010, I’m not sure how much other legal precedent there is. So other than being a little sad at the guide losing its identity, there wasn’t a lot I could do. Or so I thought.
2. …But the crowd has your back.
And then I received this tweet from Nathan Cobb.
— Nathan Cobb (@nathancobb) January 5, 2012
And he had. Someone in the Moodle crowd has stood up and said “Oi!”. Nathan had felt strongly enough to email WizIQ and ask if they were aware of the existence of the original. You can read Nathan’s blog post on his actions and reasons and WizIQ’s response on his blog. This is even more special if you know that I don’t know Nathan other than from Twitter. I’m not sure we’ve even ever tweeted each other directly. So I had to say thanks…
— Joyce Seitzinger (@catspyjamasnz) January 5, 2012
I have to say WizIQ handled the incident well and swiftly. They stated that they were unaware of the original but quickly renamed and republished their guide – you can download it as 12 Moodle tools to interact with your students online. They even changed their publishing practices to include a search for a title: “the “quick google” is now part of our publishing SOP.”
This was my first personal experience with crowd intervention, although I did follow the much more serious story of the intentional breach of Creative Commons in 2010 of Tom Barrett’s Interesting Ways series. An Australian company used his CC-licensed Interesting Ways to Use iPads in the Classroom as a handout at a sales event. Read more in Violating a Creative Commons License. The Interesting Ways series has a community that consists not only of users, but of contributors. Each presentation is crowd-sourced by teachers, education technologists and other professionals sharing their tips openly and freely. This community is so widespread, that someone who knew about the Interesting Ways was bound to run into the evidence of the breach of Creative Commons.
I wonder if what we are seeing is evidence of companies with pre-21st century business practices. They don’t involve themselves in their field enough, to have an awareness of the existing community and its artifacts, yet blatantly try to interact with that community. Social media should make that easier, but unfortunately many companies and organisations still seem to be in broadcast mode.
What if you don’t have a crowd?
It did leave me wondering, what happens to your open resource when you don’t have a crowd supporting it? At Online Educa 2011, John Bohannon in his keynote Without Wikipedia and Google, I’m Stupid, mentioned that only Wikipedia articles with great interest benefit from constant improvement through crowd editing. When there is no community around a page, fallacies or disproportionate importance to one aspect of an article, can exist for a long time. I suppose the same thing applies to OER’s. If a crowd doesn’t care for them, and they don’t have widespread recognition, they could easily be subverted for profit, or put to non-crowd use. And no one would ever know. Or act.
It’s been an interesting episode, providing me with more insights for when I talk to teachers about sharing their resources openly.
If you would like to learn more about Creative Commons, I’d recommend this resource: Creative Commons, What Every Educator Needs To Know