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EdTech Update





Understanding Creative Commons Pt 1

This post and the next is a draft of an article I've been asked to write for a school library magazine on Creative Commons. I'm sharing the draft here hoping readers will add suggestions for clarification, additions, or other sorts of improvements.

If you can't take advantage of your readers, just who can you take advantage of? I look forward to your comments. Thanks - Doug

Creative Commons and why it should be more common (Part One)


You’ve heard yourself on countless occasions tell students, “Assume everything on the Internet is copyrighted!”

Sorry. That’s not exactly good advice anymore. Authors, videographers, musicians, photographers, well, almost anyone who creates materials and makes them publically available has an alternative to standard copyright licensing: Creative Commons. As library media specialists, we need to understand this relatively recent invention and its implication for our staff and students.

Why Creative Commons?

The Creative Commons website explains its mission as:

Creative Commons provides free tools that let authors, scientists, artists, and educators easily mark their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry. You can use CC to change your copyright terms from "All Rights Reserved" to "Some Rights Reserved."

In other words, Creative Commons (CC) is an alternative to traditional copyright. The creator can assign a variety of rights for others to use his work – rights that are usually more permissive than copyright, but more restrictive than placing material in the public domain. CC makes sharing, re-using, re-mixing and building on the creative works of others understandable and legal.

Inspired by the Free Software Foundation’s GNU General Public License, the non-profit Creative Commons organization was founded in 2001 by Stanford Law professor Lawrence Lessig. As a part of the “copyleft” movement, Lessig and others believe traditional copyright restrictions inhibit cultural and economic growth. A growing number of content producers want to allow others to use and remix their materials – and in turn be able to use and remix the content of others. CC licenses make this legal.

While Creative Commons was started in the United States, about 50 other countries (as of late 2008) have “ported” the licenses to work with their copyright laws. More countries continue to be added. The “International” tab on the CC homepage lists the cooperating jurisdictions.

Understanding Creative Commons Licenses
While initially this looks complex, a basic understanding of the types of licenses and how they can be combined is relatively simple. There are only four “conditions” of a CC licenses:

These four conditions can be combined to form six different licenses that specifically describe the conditions they wish to apply to their work. These are, from least to most restrictive, as described on the CC website <>:

Attribution Share Alike
This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial reasons, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. This license is often compared to open source software licenses. All new works based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also allow commercial use.

Attribution No Derivatives
This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to you.

Attribution Non-Commercial
This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.

Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike
This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. Others can download and redistribute your work just like the by-nc-nd license, but they can also translate, make remixes, and produce new stories based on your work. All new work based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also be non-commercial in nature.

Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives
This license is the most restrictive of our six main licenses, allowing redistribution. This license is often called the “free advertising” license because it allows others to download your works and share them with others as long as they mention you and link back to you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.

How to use CC for one’s own work
Determining which license one wishes to use has been made simple by Creative Commons. By answering just two questions at

  • Allow commercial uses of your work?
  • Allow modifications of your work?

the appropriate license will be generated for your work, either as embeddable code for a webpage or as text:

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.

Continued in next post...


Top 10 Manly Contemporary Authors


Not every story has explosions and car chases. That's why they have nudity and espionage.
- Barnes and Ambaum, Unshelved, 09-14-08

Fists and Brains: My Top Ten Manly Authors and Their Protagonists That I Read or Re-Read in 2008*

I've mentioned before that my favorite guilty pleasure is reading mystery and adventure novels in which the protagonist is a manly kind of man. Each of the characters listed below can be a violent fellow when the situation calls for violence and usually takes some degree of abuse himself. He is smart and follows an internal moral code. He is our Walter Mitty-ish alter-ego.

Oh, and his author tells a damn fine story.

I've chose only characters who appear in series. The title listed is a book in the series I felt good enough to re-read, but it's not always the first or most recent book . So, in no particular order...

10. Lee Child’s Jack Reacher (One Shot)

9. Stephen Hunter's Earl and Bob Lee Swagger (Pale Horse Coming)

8. James Lee Burke's Dave Robicheaux (Tin Roof Blowdown)

7. Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch (Trunk Music)

6. Daniel Silva's Gabriel Allon (The Confessor)

5. Clive Cussler's Dirk Pitt (Inca Gold)

4. Randy Wayne White's Doc Ford (Twelve Mile Limit)

3. John Burdett's Sonchai Jitpleecheep (Bangkok 8)

2. Matin Cruz Smith's Arkady Renko (Havana Bay)

1. John D. McDonald's Travis McGee (The Green Ripper)

And I am always looking for recommendations.


* Paul C at Quoteflections "respectfully" began this meme: Life is One Big Top Ten (2008). He writes:

It's an outgrowth of Time's ultimate Top Ten Everything of 2008. I appeal to my readers and anyone else so inclined to write their own Top Ten list for 2008 on a topic of their choice. You are invited to link to my site , use the title Life is One Big Top Ten (2008) to help with a web search, and tag several people to carry the meme forward. This topic has the potential to be interesting and fun as we close out the year.

I purposely chose this topic hoping to tweak Paul's literary sensitivities. He's somewhat more high brow than I am. But then we are probably both guys who'd you'd rather have at your side in a spelling bee than a gun fight. But then I've never met Paul. Could be he is a hit man who only uses his teaching career as a cover.

I'd enjoy reading a Top Ten list from these interesting bloggers who don't live in the U.S. ...

Lee Cofino, Artichoke, Gladys Baya, Ann Krembs, anyone from the NESA Librarians' Group, Susan Funk..

Of course everyone is welcome to play the Top Ten meme.


Progressives and public mistrust


One of my educational favs, Alfie Kohn, offers a "progressive" alternative to the names most often mentioned for Obama's Secretary of Education in his forthcoming Nation article, Beware School "Reformers". (Thanks to Scott McLeod and Gary Stager for pointing this article out and for many far more politically astute bloggers for their analyses.)

Kohn suggests that those currently being regarded as "reformers" support:

  • a heavy reliance on fill-in-the-bubble standardized tests to evaluate students and schools, generally in place of more authentic forms of assessment;
  • the imposition of prescriptive, top-down teaching standards and curriculum mandates;
  • a disproportionate emphasis on rote learning—memorizing facts and practicing skills—particularly for poor kids;
  • a behaviorist model of motivation in which rewards (notably money) and punishments are used on teachers and students to compel compliance or raise test scores;
  • a corporate sensibility and an economic rationale for schooling, the point being to prepare children to “compete” as future employees; and
  • charter schools, many of which are run by for-profit companies.

and observes

Notice that these features are already pervasive, which means “reform” actually signals more of the same—or, perhaps, intensification of the status quo with variations like one-size-fits-all national curriculum standards or longer school days (or years). Almost never questioned, meanwhile, are the core elements of traditional schooling, such as lectures, worksheets, quizzes, grades, homework, punitive discipline, and competition. That would require real reform, which of course is off the table.

On Minnesota Public Radion the other day, an interesting comment was made by a caller. He wondered why, if a plane in flight got in trouble, the passengers would not say, "Professional pilots got us in this mess; we need someone who is not a pilot to get us out." But society seems to often say, "Professional educators have messed up our schools; let's get someone from outside the profession to straighten them out." How is it that everyone seems to love individual teachers, but hate the profession?

How has the educational profession lost the public trust? Why do we as a nation love our own neighborhood schools, but remain convinced that public education as a whole stinks? Why are political pundits (many who simply want to bust union and increase public financing of private schools rather than improve education) honored and professional educators ignored?

Distrust of professional educators is the only reasons I can think of why we continue to use bubbled, normed tests in this country instead of formative, criterion-based assessment. More importantly, how does the profession gain public confidence in public schools? Or is it possible?

Regardless of whom Obama choses to lead the Department of Education, most of us will soldier on doing what's right by kids -  just adjusting our level of subversiveness to fit the educational climate.