Barriers to teachers sharing resources – copyright

This is a post for #addcym discussion tonight. Follow the #addcym hashtag on Twitter for more info.

For me, one of the main barriers to teachers sharing on a public forum is fear of breaching copyright. This has been regularly brought home to us in a county where a school was successfully sued by a photographer for illegal use of his image on their website. The thing that gives this story an extra sting is that they had sought permission from the person who had on their site. it just turns out that they were using it illegally too!

There is a lot of misunderstanding about copyright, but for many teachers the easiest solution is to only share within their school, and behind a password (usually these days via some kind of VLE). Sharing does take place (both and the Rhannu part of the NgfL website prove that), but even there, many people only share a small porportion of what they create.

The reality is that in the production of the vast majority of the resources we create we are ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’, taking bits from other textbooks, ppts etc and mashing them up into something that work for us, in that school, with that particular group of students. The issue is that at the same time we make those resources unshareable.

That said, if everyone in Wales shared 1% of what they produced there’d be a massive bank of ideas for others to call on, develop and improve. [1. Of course, then there’s the issue of how we organise these, but that’s for another day] There are a few simple ways that we can easily make the resources we create suitable for sharing.

1. Share the activity, not the text.

If you’ve created an activity that was based on a preexisting resource, share the context and let people sub in their own text. For example, to introdce the Merthyr Rising to my sixth formers, we set the question ‘Should Dic Penderyn Die?’. Half the class researched the evidence in favour of his execution, the other half tried to find the evidence to support the view that he shouldn’t hang. The text itself came from a textbook, but that could easily be replaced with information from the internet or another book. The idea itself though can be shared.

2. Use Creative Commons.
Creative Commons is an alternative licencing arrangement to copyright, where the holders of the rights agree to allow others to use them within certain limits, providing credit is given. A growing number of image sites give the option of searching for creative Commons content through the advanced search option, Flickr has a growing number of historical images being shared via the site and wikipedia’s image library wikimedia commons has a growing number of CC images. You can also find creative commons music online.

3. Ask.
If you’re planning on investing some time and effort into sharing resources and there’s a particular image, source or video you really want to use, try firing off a quick email to the copyright holders. If you explain that you’re a teacher and the finished product won’t be sold for profit, many people are happy to grant free use.

Let me know in the comments what I’ve missed. Then all we need to do is persuade teachers that what they’re producing really is worth sharing…

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