Open Education Resources (OER) come in many forms. Some are complex and fullblown activities or even courses to use. Others are less ambitious.

Clipart might be one of the less ambitious offerings. is a source of clipart produced by almost 4000 different creative people. The clipart is designed using Inkscape, the Free Software vector art tool and is submitted to the site with a public domain dedication to remove any sort of restriction for reuse or remixing. There is no requirement to cite the original author, but it is gratifying and just plain nice to see the work reused.

I recently submitted a graphic of a truck carrying “loads of love” which I had initially created to add as a closing to emails to family.

loads of love

Today, I stumbled across a remix at done by another user: netalloy.

I  Like OCAL

Thanks to all who use a clipart. That’s what it is there for. Have fun. Share your work, too.

Is the shift from textbooks to Open Educational Resources anything more than a shift from one publisher to another?

Are schools simply shifting students from one resource to another?

I read articles like this one at Edutopia about how schools are substituting OER for textbooks.  Great, but really?

Are educators and their students really shifting the perspective from consuming information created by others?

Where are the schools which are asking students and their teachers to actually produce OER components, building upon and expanding and personalizing the knowledge?

Is yours such a school?
Are you such a teacher?
Let us know about it.

Copyright and plagiarism and the effective use of Internet resources are vital elements of creative assignments in schools. Access to digital versions of books, magazines, audio and video resources have changed the nature of what a student can do when constructing a school assignment.

It has been common practice to ask students to write about a famous person, for example. The writing part may actually be the focus of the assignment. The person being used isn’t the real focus. Typically students get to choose from a batch of people and then gather resources to learn what they need in order to begin writing the essay.

A teacher’s common practice has been the recommendation of resources, sending children to the school or town library to access encyclopedias, books, newspapers, etc. A rough draft frequently follows so the teacher can comment on style, grammar, spelling and such along with proper use of quotations with adequate citations. The final draft gets a grade.

The Internet has given teachers the task of adding online resources to the mix. That means each teacher must add some online/digital expectations to the assignment and rough draft evaluation. Teachers need to incorporate an honest discussion of fair use, copyright, remixing. The vetting of resources which was once passed off to librarians now must become part of a teacher’s routine. Teachers need to make very few assumptions. Some students will have their own computer/tablet/smartphone and good support at home. Some students will be better than others at search strategies. The assignment needs to become more broad so it can include a student sharing of those skills. Each school year, as student move ahead, the discussion needs to become more rich and nuanced like any other phase of helping studnts learn.

With that in mind, a discussion about and use of Open Educational Resources is important. Teachers need to have a good personal understanding of the digital issues involved. Plagiarism has long been part of the discussion. Now, when we talk about copyright compliance, it is not only valuable, but vital to highlight the distinction between restricted and open usage of all the easily accessible materials a student may want to incorporate in an assignment.

I would recommend you read and refer others to the article, “Teach kids about copyright: a list of resources from Creative Commons” by Jane Park. Develop your own skills to become as strong in resource selection as possible. Understand the alternatives yourself. That way you can be the best guide you can be for this year’s students and keep exploring to prepare for the next year and the next. In fact, you will be modelling the process for your students. Revealing your process may actually help them understand how you see that fabled goal, “life long learning.”

Visiting Amsterdam would be fun. Waiting in front of the Rijksmuseum for the doors to be unlocked would be a moment of great anticipation for any student of art.


Unfortunately, most of us won’t get that opportunity, but the museum has done something that may turn out to be more exciting for art students and their teachers. The museum has made high quality digital images ( currently 110,000 ) of the museum’s artworks available in the public domain. You’ll be able to get a closer look at the work of the masters, and be able to look without waiting for the museum doors to open.

The release is part of the process being encouraged worldwide by the Open GLAM group. GLAM stands for Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums, and Open GLAM is working to get these kinds of storehouses of human history to open up digitally in addition to unlocking their doors in the morning to the eager people waiting outside.

Further reading:

and thanks for the heads-up from @glynmoody on Twitter.

As part of my PLN (Personal/Professional Learning Network), I follow several people on Twitter. Sometimes they provide direct insight. Sometimes, too, they provide links. I am grateful for both.

Today Ana Cristina Pratas (@AnaChristinaPrts) gave a link to ClipArt ETC which the tweet identified as “Free Educational Illustrations for Classroom Use”. Her link is to her own ScoopIt account and from there it is a click on the popup title to the original site.

On the ClipArt ETC site, The University of South Florida is offering clipart for “free” educational use. They have terms that limit a person from using the clipart commercially without paying them. They also limit a single student/teacher project from incorporating more than 50 clipart items under their free use terms. That sounds pretty liberal until you examine some of the clipart they are offering.

I’m a former science teacher with an affection for plants/botany, so I picked a random image from their category:
ClipArt ETC – Plants – Cellular Botany – Epidermis

Epidermis - ClipArt ETC

Epidermis – ClipArt ETC

This image is like many I’ve seen. It is a good illustration of a leaf sliced through, as viewed through a microscope. It would make a great handout or presentation slide, maybe talking about chlorophyll and photosynthesis.

You can download in several sizes. Wonderful. Botany unit booklet, here we come.

Back to the licensing. They ask that any use of the image be credited back to them as the source. No problem there. But, I examined the illustration’s meta data that they provide. It turns out that this image is from a botany book published in 1914: Nature and development of plants, by Carlton C. Curtis. That would put the book and its illustrations into the public domain, as far as I can tell.

Now, I don’t have any problem citing the ClipArt ETC site and The University of South Florida. Making sources easier to find by others who read through my classroom projects is a great thing to do.

The problem I have is that OER (Open Educational Resources) have a tough enough time being put together. If I were to put a botany unit together, I might actually wind up using more than 50 of the good illustrations I found at ClipArt ETC. Botany is a pretty broad topic. It bothers me that I’d be in technical violation of the site’s term, in spite of the fact that many clipart documents  found there are in surely in the public domain and are legally not subject to terms like the ones on the site. If they have copyright clearance for much of their collection to offer rights-restricted works by their terms, great. That would help teachers and students with their projects. If The University of South Florida is ADDING limitations, then not so good, not good at all.

In your attempts to develop your own OER projects, keep things as truly free as you can. Cite your sources. Give the requested credits, but demand more openness from sources than they currently want to give. Be persistent. The cultural commons doesn’t belong just to someone else. It is also yours.

You might also want to check out The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind by James Boyle. It is available at the linked site as a pdf download in addition to being able to purchase a hard copy.

What do you think?

K-12 isn’t the hotbed of Open Education (yet), but you still will probably find this “year in review” article at interesting.


Carry on…satisfied with the status quo?

Title in OpenDyslexic font

The title of this post uses a weighted font called OpenDyslexic.

Dyslexia is a condition suffered by many people. Those who have dyslexia have trouble reading, in part because their minds flip the letters over. The whole dyslexic problem isn’t that simple, but research has shown that one factor which causes the flip is the style of text. Research has also shown that some of the effects can be minimized when the text is visually weighted, making the letters appear “heavier” at the bottom. Dyslexic readers can use the weighted letters to help them keep themselves from flipping.

The OpenDyslexic font is the creation of Abelardo Gonzales. The font has been released using a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license.

The beauty of that license is that it allows very broad ability to use the font as long as you give Mr. Gonzales the credit for creating the font. It is also appropriate to link to the OpenDyslexic Web site.

Combining this font with Open Educational Resources (OER) might help many students to minimize their reading difficulties. If educators who are using and creating OER materials also provide a version printed with OpenDyslexic, they’ll potentially better engage the dyslexic students in their classes. That’s a real plus.

Please try it out. Let me know. Leave a comment of your students’ experiences.

Here’s a story A Dream of Armageddon by H.G. Wells that is done using OpenDyslexic.

Update: Good reference with usage links

Update: Read the reaction to the the font by a person with dyslexia.

“As a dyslexic, I find this font very easy to read and reduces the effects of visual stress that I experience,” said Arran Smith of the British Dyslexia Association (via BBC)

For the fun of it, take a look at this post done with a Web font implementation of the OpenDyslexic font. Ask your dyslexic students to give it a try as a quick test to see if the font is suitable for your classroom.

Update: A Special Education teacher who teaches half his classes in Spanish asked whether the font had accents for characters like the enyay ( ñ ). The good news is, it does.

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:

Photo Pin searches for Creative Commons images on Flickr. Flickr has an advanced search option for exactly that, but Photo Pin simplifies the download and attribution process.

This is a K.I.S.S.* product, reducing the effort needed to find and credit photos. The primary purpose is described as giving access to photos for blog posts. Unless you take your own photos, you should always use photos that use a liberal license such as the ones available through Photo Pin. Photo Pin connects to Flickr, where thousands of people have posted photos, but only searches for photos that have a Creative Commons liberal license.

The following screen capture documents a search for “books” and the particular image shown has one of the Creative Commons licenses that is pretty restrictive. “Attribution, Non-commercial, No-derivatives.” That means I cannot use the photo for advertizing a product, or sell my blog post with the photo in it, or make changes to the original. I also need to display credit for the photo. Fortunately, that’s one of the things that Photo Pin makes very easy.

Screen capture of Photo Pin "books" search

In the left column, you see the license limitations clearly identified.

At the bottom, you’ll find a complete credit, set in html code that is typically easy to add to a blog post or other web page. Past the code below the image or at the end of the post, whichever is appropriate for your situation. Just be sure you do the attribution. That’s the basis of the Creative Commons licenses, no matter what other restrictions are applied.

You do still need to verify that your use is valid. There are several licenses under the Creative Commons umbrella. They range from allowing almost any use to very limited use. They do stop short of full equivalence with standard “all rights reserved” copyright. Read the terms and know your use fits before you use a photo.

Always comply with the attribution requirements, too. You are being a good digital citizen, encouraging others to share with you.

While Photo Pin specifically targets educational bloggers, the tool is also valuable to anybody who wants to legally add photos to their digital works.

Give back. That’s next, of course. Share your own photos on Flickr. Use a Creative Commons license when you do. Please consider using the least restrictive license you can. Your work will go further and do more good if you do.


*K.I.S.S – “Keep it Simple, Stupid” which in the case of Web design is a very good thing.

It is Monday of Open Education Week.

In this blog, open education has been the dominant theme. Using open (free as in freedom) software is one element, for sure.

Open Educational Resources (OER) are also central to making education work in the information age. Education has always been about helping kids to interact with a steadily broadening stream of knowledge. Knowledge isn’t owned by anybody, though some will temporarily capture it with copyright and patents.

Sponsored by the Open Courseware Consortium the week is an opportunity to assess where the opening of education is. Many universities have developed courses that they have also presented for free (a few with certificates), accessible worldwide.

The P2PU inaugurated a “School of Education” this year. You can get in touch with great course organizers and engage with peers to deepen your administrator or teacher skills.

You can also directly participate in efforts to make more open materials suitable for schools, teachers and students to use.

One such effort it the Kids Open Dictionary which already has over 9000 words defined by people like you and me. The definitions are specifically identified as public domain. Doesn’t it strike you as odd that the definitions in Websters or another commercial dictionary are under copyright? Here’s your chance to make a difference.

You can see that there are a lot more words that can still be defined from the available list. Go to the dictionary builder page and sign up. Even if you only add a single definition, you can pat yourself on the back that you did something to celebrate and participate in Open Education Week.