What do you think when you see a tweet like this one?

If you regularly read this blog or are a fan of the Free Software Foundation, you probably see where I’m heading.

To most people, perhaps even the author of the tweet, “free” means without cost. Now don’t get me wrong. I am all for providing educational resources that students and teachers can access without paying money. School budgets are stretched to the limit as it is.

However, the cost is less important than the freedom to actually use the resource. If my school doesn’t have good Internet access, can I download the resource to make it available on the computer(s) in my classroom?

If the material is good, but it doesn’t quite fit the students’ needs, can I modify it to improve its value?

If my students want to create projects that grab elements from the resource, can they know that they are not breaking any copyright laws, and can I lead them through that creative effort in good conscience?

Education depends on students being creative while working to incorporate new ideas with their current understanding. Students need to be able to mash together bits from all over their experience. The mashup is critical. This tweet gets the essence.

(L_Hilt informs me to credit @jackiegerstein for the quote. Don’t you just love social networking and being a connected educator?)

Students need to make and remake and blend and mashup. Resources that are free of limiting restrictions are more valuable than those which are merely free of cost.

Teachers need to guide students through the process of gaining knowledge and skills while attributing (citing) sources. Fair use rules overcome some of the limitations of copyright, but not enough.

Teachers, students, parents and administrators need to understand the benefits of the cultural commons. Everyone in education benefits when “free” resources are also Free Culture friendly.

Learn more about free culture, start here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_culture_movement