This week I’ve been trying to dip my toes into the great big sea of openness that is the internet. Its been a funny experiment, and its not necessarily something that has been generating instant results. Obviously the more connected one is, the easier this type of experiment would be, and I know that if I am to have more success, I need to start to make more connections, and actively seek out those that are influential in the twitterverse and beyond.
So I started by posting a request on reddit asking for some help in adding colour to a couple old photos of my grandparents. Reddit is a site where all of its content is submitted and voted on by its users. The most “upvoted” submissions rise to the top, which leads to a bulletin board style page, where the content is constantly changing. Aaron Swartz had a helping hand in developing this site. Within Reddit there are a number of “subreddits” that focus on a specific topics of interest. The subreddit that I posted in was r/picrequests. Within one day I had two different people help to clean up the pictures using some photo editing software and repost them to my reddit thread. Not bad!
Feeling good about my first experiment, I decided to give something back, and record a little radio spot for my favourite podcast, Radiolab. Radiolab is a science podcast that is almost always actively seeking contributions from its listeners for story ideas, input on topics they are currently researching, or just for a new voice to read their production credits or ad spots. They have a specific section on their app in which you are able to record yourself reading certain scripts, which then are uploaded to their soundcloud page. These user submissions have the potential to be used in future programs. I read their credits in my best radio voice, but it has yet to show up on their soundcloud page. One recent podcast I listened to concerning tic tac toe, had the hosts issue a challenge to their listeners to go out with their recording devices and interview people as to whether they had ever heard of this game before. They received submissions from New Zealand, South Korea, Iran, Croatia, Poland, Costa Rica, Japan, Ireland, Dubai, Turkey, Phillipines, Netherlands and Nambia! A very successful experiment!
Just for fun (And a chance to get to know imovie a bit better) I decided to create my own dancing robot side by side comparison as a response to Andrew’s blog post, and then played around with the X-Ray goggles program to hack a web page. At this point I was running a little low on ideas. I had come across some great resources such as the freesound page, which is a database of user submitted, creative commons licensed sounds, but didn’t really know what to do with it. I was not too sure where to turn, so I turned to twitter. I tweeted, and I waited. I really only have 26 followers, and have not yet received a reply. Thankfully Alec retweeted my request, and I am still awaiting a response. I need more followers, and I need more connections, which I think I am going to spend the rest of the week pursuing. Just for fun I typed in, most influential people on twitter, and one of the first results included someone who I am already following, Stephen Fry. With a network that large, it becomes much easier to solicit advice, and collaborate with the many experts in a variety of fields that are included in your circle of followers. Stephen says as much at the end of this video, in which he relates how he turned to twitter when he found a bat in his house:
This week I decided to have a look through some of the OER’s that Alec posted and decide which one’s would be most useful in an elementary school setting.
Connexions – I had a hard time navigating this site. There is certainly a lot of material here, but I found it hard to narrow down my search terms enough to find it. It would make life much easier to navigate if they had designated categories that one could place their content into. As it stands, I need to search “grade five”, “grade 5”, “5th grade” etc. trying to find the resources. Certainly lots of potential, but not sure if I would come back to it.
OER Commons – MUCH BETTER! You can customize your search not only by grade level, but also on the type of media, conditions of use, and material. Very easy to use, and offers options to rate and save content within your OER profile. I can see myself using this in the future.
Archive.org – A real modgepodge of content. In my grade 5 math resources search I turned up this amazing punk rock song “System of Inequalities”, which was neat, but not necessarily that useful. I honestly can’t see myself using this as it requires too much time to sift through the disorientingly high range and quality of content that each search result produces.
Jorum – Hard to navigate the search function, and the three categories of “Further Education”, “Higher Education”, and “Resource” do not leave me hopeful in finding anything that may be useful in an elementary classroom. The only thing I could find was an interactive addition worksheet created in Microsoft Word. Not very encouraging.
Top Online Courses – Looks interesting for university courses, but not meeting the goals of this investigation.
Merlot – I found this site very frustrating to use. Did not like the layout and the content is mostly geared towards upper level courses.
Open CourseWare Consortium – Higher Education institutions. Seems like a well laid out site, and I like the fact that you can search by languages as well.
CK12 Foundation – After a couple higher level sites, its nice to be back on one that features primary resources again. It does not break content down into grade level, but rather organizers everything around bite sized concepts. They do a great job of organizing content so that each module builds off of the preceding one, and each module contains a number of study aids, assessments, linked resources, assessments and reading materials. I was very impressed with this site.
Curriki – Found this site very useful. Multiple ways to rate content. Resources are searchable by grade, type, language and media. I spent quite a bit of time browsing through the topped linked materials, and they were all very useful. I can see myself using this site a lot in the future.
Khan Academy – I like how the site is laid out, and I like how each concept is its own discreet video. I can’t see myself using this much in a face to face classroom environment, but it would be very useful in a home setting to either reinforce or enrich concepts taught in the classroom. I find he speaks too quickly for me, but I guess one has the luxury of pausing and rewinding with this form of content delivery. I also really like that you can ask questions if you are unsure of a concept underneath each video.
Lab Space – Higher education resources, not useful for my purposes. Found the layout somewhat confusing.
Open Learn – Higher education. Preferred the layout, and some interesting videos. May not use it in my current practice, but would like to spend some more time exploring.
Ted Ed – Really cool site. I can see myself using this to spark in class discussions and offer introductions to new units with my classes. My favourite area is the “Flip” section in which educators take videos and design lessons around them, including multiple choice and discussion questions, as well as links to further resources.
Wiki Educator – some interesting resources here, some areas are quite detailed, while others are almost non existent. As with all wikis, depends on the activeness of the community. Lots of potential, hopefully the primary section gets filled out a bit more in the future.
All in all, I found OER Commons, CK12 Foundation, and Curriki to be the most useful in finding and designing content for my lessons. Khan Academy and Ted Ed are both great resources for scaffolding student’s learning, and I can also see myself using both in the future. During this review I was amazed at how much content is currently available to us online. I know that I will be going back to these sites soon to take a longer look around and look into the finer details of what they are offering both teachers and students.
I’ve began this blog post a couple times now, and I keep talking myself in circles, or miss the point of what I was trying to say. Currently, I’m 5 videos into this YouTube remix series based around Girl Talk’s latest album, and I’ve decided I’m going to try a different approach. First of all, this video is amazing! It is pretty much an unbeatable way to procrastinate when you are supposed to be doing OLTD homework. I have it on in the background right now while I type this. It is the exact opposite of my current state: hunched over my computer and searching for inspiration.
Girl Talk, aka Greg Gillis, was the inspiration for Rip: A Remixer’s Manifesto, and also this series of videos. His album “All Day” features over 370 samples rearranged and remixed into this incredibly infectious, sugarcoated blast of pop music. “Rip” makes a case for Greg being not only a great arranger, but also an artist in his own right, and a musician whose instrument just happens to be a computer. What he does is currently illegal, yet as of typing this he spends his time not in a jail cell, but playing to hoards of adoring fans all over the world. It is clear that public attitude’s towards remixing and repurposing media is at odds with those who stand to make a profit from it. What I’m really interested in is how public attitude has been shaped by the restrictive laws that surround most copyrighted material, and what steps are being taken to change this.
For the longest time there has been no middle ground in how we interact with copyrighted material. I think that in the early days of Napster the lawsuits launched by the RIAA did very little to scare the population into following the existing copyright laws, and instead encouraged a culture of distrust toward many big name artists and record labels. I think that many people’s attitudes towards the use of copyrighted materials can be seen as a reactionary measure against these restrictive laws. We live at a time when we can use these works to spark a dialogue, where in the past they have been used as a one-way lecture.
So what has been done to change this relationship between and creators and their potential customers? I think one of the biggest changes has been in the realization of the Internet as a way for creators to market, distribute and advertise their products without a big name backing them. I also think that crowd funding initiatives such as kickstarter, indiegogo and quirky and have proven to be instrumental in allowing people to gain financial support on their own terms. Websites such as bandcamp and vimeo allow you to host, sell, and distribute your work, while controlling the copyright and terms of its use. Suddenly there are many avenues available to create and share content with the world.
I think that in a lot of cases people have pirated music in the past because of convenience. Sites like Netflix are a great example of this. For the price of about one movie ticket a month users are given access to a years worth of content. As Netflix’s Chief Content Officer has said: “I think people do want a great experience and they want access – people are mostly honest. The best way to combat piracy isn’t legislatively or criminally but by giving good options”. I completely agree. As this article by Paul Tassi states, Piracy is a service problem. If distribution models changed, Piracy would drop substantially. If the large movie studios and record companies can create a model in which it is easier to legally obtain their products, many people will make the switch. It seems as though things are already changing, as the music industry has reported that music sales are up this year, and piracy is declining. The reason given in the article? Convenience, with streaming sites such as Spotify and Pandora (which seems to be currently restricted in Canada) being seen as an easier alternative to illegal downloading. Major media companies are still pursuing punitive action against the worst offenders, but this too has shifted from million dollar lawsuits to restrictions enforced by Internet service providers.
As more services are available to pay a fair price for artists work, we will continue to see a decline in piracy, and more support for creators who should be compensated for the work that they do. If current models do not adapt with the times, they will be replaced with models that are more dynamic and fair to both artists and consumers.
When I look at a video such as this one featured in Larry Lessig’s TED talk, I find it very tempting to view it as a joke, and move on. For a long time I would come across these collaged videos in my internet travels, have a laugh, and forget about it, never really thinking about exactly what was being created. But there is a lot more happening in creating these videos, and I think that the process can actually speak louder than the finished product. As Lessig relates, what we are witnessing with these mashups is the start of a new digital literacy. Students are finding a new way to express themselves, using tools that are only now widely available and affordable. It is not only the tools that are making this happen, but the emergence of communities ready to host, discuss, and support new content as it is created, and released into the world.
I like the distinction that Lessig makes between mixtapes and remixes. In the past we merely had the power to reorder the media that we consumed. Today we have the tools to reshape and repurpose that media, and redistribute our creations to the masses, which can edit them in turn. There is an endless cycle that is being played out in which media has become malleable, and one person’s finished product is another’s blank canvas. It goes without saying that attitudes towards copyright have changed a lot in the last ten years, and they will continue to change as a new generation matures having never known the days when media was merely a physical product.
Before this course, I viewed this tipping point originating with the arrival of Napster. After doing some research it is clear that, while this event may have been the straw that broke the Camel’s back, it was by no means the only instance of information being created and freely available through connected networks. The more I read, the more it seemed that Lessig’s distinction between “Free Hot Dogs” and “Free speech” could be analagous to the difference between a service such as Napster, which gives away music, to movements such as Open Access and Free Culture which advocate for access to information. A free hot dog progresses no further than a temporarily full belly. Free Speech creates an environment in which people may utilize their skills to the fullest potential.
The open access movement aims to have scholarly articles and books available to the public free of charge. Wikipedia describes the two ways this can happen:
Authors publish in an open access journal that provides immediate Open Access to all of its articles on the publisher’s website.
As the internet became available to the public in the 90s, the sharing of this information became much easier. As of 2010, it is estimated that 20% of all peer-reviewed articles are available through self archiving or open access publishing.
The Free Culture movement has been instrumental in developing licenses that allow creators to retain varying levels of ownership over their work, while still allowing them to be accessed, and in some cases modified by other individuals. Its aim is to create an environment that encourages individual creativity, while enabling creators to dictate the terms in which they share their work, and how it can be used by others.
As an educator, I am excited by the prospect of my students having access to a wealth of peer reviewed information, as well as many different tools to help them understand and synthesize this data. I am hopeful that Open Access and Free Culture movements will continue to break new ground, and influence more creators and copyright holders to rethink what restrictions they place on their works being accessed and shared.