This course will become read-only in the near future. Tell us at if that is a problem.

Wk 1-Benefits of OER + remixing

OERs are materials, tools, and media used for teaching and learning that are free from copyright restrictions or are publicly licensed for anyone to use, adapt, and redistribute. In this course, we'll be looking specifically at open content resources, such as text passages, images, videos, sound recordings, interactives, simulations, textbooks, online courses, and more that can be used to engage students and improve learning.

The benefits of OER are:

  • abilty to remix to help differentiate instruction and customize materials to each learners' needs
  • cost savings
  • guarantee to be free over time
  • legal compliance
  • common public good (wise use of public funds)
  • leveraging of teacher professionalism 


[embed:Invalid Url]

Although it's a new term, remixing is something teachers have been doing forever -- Remixing is just reformatting content to make it more usable. It might be putting a photo or video into a presentation, adding explanatory text or graphics to a reading, or recording the reading of a book.

Before open resources, the copyright legality of remixing was questionable. (If used only in the classroom and under a series of guidelines related to the extent and nature of the work, it might be considered fair use [From U.S. Coypright Office, public domain]. If the resulting work goes on the Internet or is substantial, it is likely copyright infringement. And there is a lot of gray area in between.)

Now, with open content though, remixing is OK!

Remixing is especially important in differentiating instruction and having students do authentic projects.

In order to differentiate effectively, you need a huge variety of content resources -- more than most schools can afford to buy. You also need to be able to customize them to your students unique needs, perhaps by digitizing them, adding visuals, adding audio support, rewriting text at different language levels, etc.

Students creating projects often need "building block" content (clip art, photos, videos, etc.) to create them. Then when their projects are done, they are often published to the Internet so that the work can be shared with an authentic audience and even collaborated upon further. 

Open-licensed cotent makes this all possible, legally and affordably.

Write about a time you or your students have "remixed" content in your classroom. Did you think about the copyright implications of it?

Do you teach your students about copyright or encourage them to use open content? Most teachers don't, but isn't this an important "real world" 21st century skill? How might you incorporate this into your classroom to benefit your students?

(Here's a lesson plan on copyright and open content for students. And yes, these materials are all open licensed.:)

Task Discussion

  • Matt   Oct. 16, 2011, 8:45 a.m.

    We haven't done much in this arena but I think there is great potential.  Good up front work by instructors to identify a variety of open resources, an overview of copyright and a meaningful project can have an impact across subject areas.  

    I like that this approach supports a constructivist learning environment, which can often provide a richer experience for students.  We currently provide tools for students, but don't give them guidance on proper content/materials for use.  I'll definitely be bookmarking many of the sites contributed for future use!

  • Pam   Oct. 12, 2011, 7:15 p.m.

    Copyright is hard for adults to understand.  And yet, I try to teach the concept to 4th and 5th grade students every year. 

    Kids see their older siblings and parents downloading music and video from YouTube.  They watch TV on Hulu.  They create and share song "mashups".  How do we teach them the dry and confusing language of copyright law?  I struggle with it every year.  And it generally comes down to appealing to their sense of fairness (which is developing nicely at 10-11 years old).  The scenario is that they have created something that is so extremely cool that everyone in school wants to see it/hear it/read it/own it.  We move from there to the usual discussions about file-sharing, giving appropriate credit, how to use quotes in writing, etc. But I have never enforced the "asking permission before you use something"  rule and have allowed teachers to get away with not enforcing the "at least tell us where you found the darn thing" rule.  And honestly, Creative Commons is another layer of complexity that seems daunting.

    So I think I will try some of the pieces of the lesson that Karen posted here on copyright (Thanks!) and mix them together with some of the other online resources I've used before.  And what do you think about generating a webpage or document of some sort that the kids would use as a springboard to easily accessing those sites with open licensed images and sounds?  Would anyone else find that useful?  Karen, can we share documents here or just through Google Docs?

  • Matt   Oct. 12, 2011, 8:40 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Pam   Oct. 12, 2011, 7:15 p.m.

    I think this would be very valuable and useful to students and teachers!

  • Jessie Chuang   Oct. 13, 2011, 10:13 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Pam   Oct. 12, 2011, 7:15 p.m.


    We just aggregated some resources about teaching this topic, including Karen's works as one of the sources.(thanks) More free resources can be found through these sharings. There is even a website created by 8th graders on anti-piracy. Also you can find sources to search copyright-free images and sounds, for example, cc search, and more(depending on the coverage you want). Better suggestions are welcome.

  • karen   Oct. 13, 2011, 1:08 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Pam   Oct. 12, 2011, 7:15 p.m.

    Pam, I think that's a great idea. We can either do it as a task here that we all can edit and upload to or as a Google Doc. Doing it as a task would be nice because then future folks who take this course could see it.

    Are you thinking of this more for teaching resources or open content? Did you see the Livebinder for open content sites?

    On the topic of appealing to students' sense of fairness and right and wrong, I've found that even high school kids really get this. Teachers, not so much. Why is that?

    At its simplest, I explain Creative Commons as "permission to share legally."  Then you can get into the subtleties, but at its core, that's what it is.

  • azmina   Oct. 14, 2011, 4:06 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Pam   Oct. 12, 2011, 7:15 p.m.

    Its very gid idea pam. I will surely share material & resources which i have.. 

  • azmina   Oct. 15, 2011, 9:02 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Pam   Oct. 12, 2011, 7:15 p.m.

    These are some websites.. it can be use ful for you there are bunch of activites.

  • karen   Oct. 15, 2011, 11:33 a.m.
    In Reply To:   azmina   Oct. 15, 2011, 9:02 a.m.

    These are all great web sites. Thanks for sharing.

    Just to be clear for everyone though, these aren't "open" in the sense of open educational resources.

    The difference between things that are just "free" and things that are "open" is that open resources are licensed to allow sharing. That means you can remix them, put their content on your web site or devices, redistribute them, etc.

    Also, things that are open can be preserved that way in perpetuity. While things that are free, but proprietary can be taken away or charged for at any point. (We've seen a lot of that in the world of Web 2.0.)

  • karen   Oct. 15, 2011, 11:56 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Pam   Oct. 12, 2011, 7:15 p.m.

    In addition to the LiveBinder (which you can also make a copy of and edit for your own purposes), I've added a task here that we can all edit and add to called "Great OER Sites We've Found."

    Let's all build this out!

  • karen   Oct. 8, 2011, 2:23 p.m.

    I have worked with students "remixing" content in a variety of different circumstances -- from wild "copy-and-pasting" with no regard to copyright to times when we have really focused on copyright, open content, and citing sources.

    I find that, in general, students are very engaged (more than teachers in fact) in conversations about copyright. I think this is because they see themselves as content producers and copyright owners, which is exciting.

    As I see young people coming into the workplace without a lot of knowledge of copyright and appropriate use, it strikes me that this is a real 21st century skill that should be taught in schools.

    How many teachers or students in your school know about copyright and what is legal in this regard?

  • azmina   Oct. 9, 2011, 12:48 a.m.
    In Reply To:   karen   Oct. 8, 2011, 2:23 p.m.

    I have worked with my students on remixing content. Our head teacher is encouraged us to teach using different type of tips and tricks. Student enjoyed that alot because they want to teach in digital classes mostly. Even in our school we celebrate "International Teacher's day ". We take some reflections and asked questions to the student what type of teaching they want. They replied that we want digital classes its mean students are advanced now they dont want to hear lecture. They want to learn through diffrent type of materials, movies and practical examples.

  • algotruneman   Oct. 15, 2011, 2:44 p.m.
    In Reply To:   karen   Oct. 8, 2011, 2:23 p.m.

    I'm put in mind of some products which are available. Corporations buy stock policy manuals and adapt them for their businesses. I'm not sure whether they consistently give credit for the source. I suspect not. I remember seeing offers of CDs with stock business letters for all sorts of occasions. I'm sure the idea of using them did NOT include putting a copyright notice at the bottom of each letter sent, pointing the recipient (of a dunning letter, say) to the company which produced the CD.

    Some web sites clearly use materials they have purchased, as the content of sites that they put under their own business logo and it is frequently obvious that the "news" in the fancy HTML email newsletter isn't from local material. (I got such a newsletter from my veterinary today.)

    Celebrities and others use uncredited ghost writers for their books.

    These and other inaccurate attributions are "works for hire" and that allows ownership to accrue to the person who pays the bill. Actors and directors, too, may get paid well along with their names at the end of the last reel, but it is Columbia Pictures which owns the movie.

    Copyright and plagiarism are clearly not very solid ground or clear concepts to teach and learn. Most of us would prefer to hire a lawyer to write or evaluate a contract for us to sign, but even then people wind up in court over the exact wording.

    As educators, we are bound to help students learn the differences among copyright, plagiarism, fair use, public domain, OER, etc. It still may not result in adults who were formerly our students, successfully applying our teachings. Just look at the sad faces of English teachers who must listen to poor grammar from parents who were their own students a generation earlier.

  • karen   Oct. 19, 2011, 1:13 p.m.
    In Reply To:   algotruneman   Oct. 15, 2011, 2:44 p.m.

    Algot, thanks for sharing these interesting and nuanced examples.

    I have to say, though, that I don't think copyright is a complex as it is sometimes made to seem. Here are the basics as I see it (and what we should be telling students and teachers alike):

    • When someone creates something, they automatically own copyright in it (even if they don't write copyright or ©).
      • Copyright can be transferred (sold, inherited, etc.) just like physical property like a car.
    • Standard "all rights reserved" copyright requires that other people ask the owner's permission before using content.

      • Linking or embedding does not require this. Republishing (including copying and pasting) requires permission.
    • Using an open license, like Creative Commons, is a way for copyright owners to preserve their copyright and tell people it's ok for them to use their content without asking them first.


    Pretty straightforward. Does that match others' understanding?

    (One nuance that this doesn't cover is fair use. We can talk about that separately if anyone likes, but I'll just say that  fair use isn't as broad as many people think it is.)

  • algotruneman   Oct. 19, 2011, 2:22 p.m.
    In Reply To:   karen   Oct. 19, 2011, 1:13 p.m.

    Karen, I believe that the fundamentals are simple, as you say.

    Working only with materials which are licensed clearly in an OER-friendly way is the best way to start. Steering clear of the messy "free" but restricted materials is best at the start of developing OER.

    I have encountered some issues with this (highlighted):

    Linking or embedding does not require [asking for permission]. Republishing (including copying and pasting) requires permission.

    There are some occasions when a person (like us in this class) wants to link to a single resource element within a Web page (an image, for example), but the owner of both the page and the image want people to enter only through the "front door." Google has encountered this problem with links to newspaper sites and been taken to court, for example. I'm not sure how the case(s) have come out.

    The issue is considered worse if content is "framed" in a page. In those cases, the linked data appears to be part of the page of the borrower/linker, making the source seem to be local rather than from a remote site. I don't think participants in this course will plan that kind of thing. We are, after all, attempting to learn and apply the highest standards of OER, so we can be proud of our understandings taken from the course.

    Stanford University has published the following explanation:

    Speaking of images, while it is not nearly extensive enough, I've used this site to help locate/evaluate OER-safe images. The service appears to be designed to let copyright holders look for infringements.

    Looking at this statement brings up another issue. It is true that copyright can be assigned, and transferred. The connection with "physical property" isn't so clear.

    Copyright can be transferred (sold, inherited, etc.) just like physical property like a car.

    There is significant discussion of this concept. Terms like "piracy" and "theft" are routinely applied to copyright issues. The controversy is with theft meaning "depriving someone of their property" like stealing a hardcover book from the teacher's desk. Copyright can be "infringed" but the illegal use isn't "theft" like that of physical property. Copyright is a time-limited monopoly for the creator of the original material. The copyright "owner" has control over the duplication and distribution of the creation. At the end of the legislated term of copyright, the material becomes part of the public domain. The monopoly ends. Unless copyright is retroactively extended (as has happened recently), once a work is in the public domain it is okay to use, though "standing on the shoulders of giants" ought to expect us to acknowledge our debt to others for their original work.

    I think, in this course, we are being encouraged to properly attribute all our mashup uses.

    Creative Commons has provided us (learners of the OER way) a licensing path which allows us to willingly assign some rights for our creations to others, and to allow those others to relax and share, safely, legally.

  • Matt   Oct. 23, 2011, 5:14 p.m.
    In Reply To:   algotruneman   Oct. 19, 2011, 2:22 p.m.

    Just want to throw my support out there for Tineye!  We've used it extensively in course development, but for the opposite reason you mentioned.  For images we want to use and cite appropriately, it's great to help determine the owner of the asset.  It came in very handy for an AP Art course we developed recently, specifically for the 20th century works we wanted to include and reference.

  • karen   Oct. 29, 2011, 7:16 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Matt   Oct. 23, 2011, 5:14 p.m.

    Did you use the upload image feature or the URL ? I've tried a few things and it hasn't found anything I've tried. Maybe it's just me...

  • algotruneman   Oct. 30, 2011, 9:48 a.m.
    In Reply To:   karen   Oct. 29, 2011, 7:16 p.m.

    I've done both.

    I don't get as many hits as I would like, but sort of use that as an indicator that the photo is, at least, not in common circulation. If the photo is perfect, I'll then try to contact the site owner to ask about the photo details. Generally, I'll explain my purpose in a boiler plate sort of way and alert them to the benefits of open licenses, etc. I don't always get answers back, of course.


    For a good result, try this image URL.

    This is a photo which got me 10 hits and I found shared on Diaspora, the open source social network.

  • karen   Oct. 30, 2011, 1:05 p.m.
    In Reply To:   algotruneman   Oct. 30, 2011, 9:48 a.m.

    Thanks for the info. I guess I mostly get content from the "source" site so the ownership and licnese are already clear. I did try uploading some images (even ones from pretty big original source sites with no change to the file name) and never got any hits. I'll keep playing with it over time though.

    If people use original source sites and make sure to record the credit and license when they download, it certainly is helpful. One thing I've done to make this easier is to either record the credit in the file name (e.g. "dog-Brad Emerson-CC BY") or in the properties of the file. That way the info sticks with the imate.

  • algotruneman   Oct. 30, 2011, 2:36 p.m.
    In Reply To:   karen   Oct. 30, 2011, 1:05 p.m.

    Using the file name is a good technique; thanks.

    I'm interested about how you use the properties of the file to include information.

    Do you do it as a comment, a tag, or do you use a tool to modify the embedded exif, in case of a jpeg. file? If so, what tools do you use?

    As a test, I added a comment to this png image. Please tell me what you see when you look at the properties. I'd like to see if using a comment sticks between my adding it and your looking at it.

    If you see what I entered in the comment, it would make an excellent way to document the source of graphics embedded into a remix or original OER. The attribution should also be put somewhere in human readable format within the OER document, but if a person got lax after the fact, a portable, but durable method for including the attribution/license information would be great.


  • karen   Oct. 30, 2011, 3:13 p.m.
    In Reply To:   algotruneman   Oct. 30, 2011, 2:36 p.m.

    I've put it in the image properties. (I've tried to figure out some of the metadata standards for embedded data but it seems overly complex and/or not  really ready yet. Also, I don't think the teachers I work with could ever "decipher" the info they need this way.)

    See Instructions for putting credits in each file: section of this page.

    By the way, if anyone is interested in some ready-made, open-licensed media sets designed around standards-based lessons, here are quite a few.

  • Matt   Nov. 1, 2011, 8:39 p.m.
    In Reply To:   algotruneman   Oct. 30, 2011, 9:48 a.m.

    I've also done both with varying success.  Primarily the upload image method is the most helpful.  Ultimately, though, we found that educating our SMEs on how to search and use vetted sites became the most efficient option.  Much easier than going on a wild goose chase to see if an image was legal to use.