Any grassroots movement will soon run into opposition. And Open Education is no different. Still, I was shocked when I read about a new proposal from the Prince George’s County (Maryland) Board of Education to copyright the intellectual property of its teachers and students.
As reported by the Washington Post on Feb. 2, 2013, an Apple presentation about empowering teachers to create their own materials with iPad technology threatened the Maryland-area School Board’s sense of curricular control and triggered the draconian proposal:
Board Chair Verjeana M. Jacobs (District 5) said she and Vice Chair Carolyn M. Boston (District 6) attended an Apple presentation and learned how teachers can use apps to create new curricula. The proposal was designed to make it clear who owns teacher-developed curricula created while using apps on iPads that are school property, Jacobs said.
The Washington Post article noted that it is not unusual for a company or a college to hold some of the rights to an employee’s work. But this proposal is different.
…the Prince George’s policy goes a step further by saying that work created for the school by employees during their own time and using their own materials is the school system’s property.
Not surprisingly, the legal status of the proposal has been challenged. Somebody needs to tell the Prince George’s County School Board about Creative Commons open licenses, a new form of copyright that permits the sharing of content while protecting the rights of all stakeholders: the school system, the teachers and the students.
Whatever the outcome, the proposal is clearly an affront to the educational value of openness. And that’s a shame, because the open sharing of ideas is pretty much the essence of education.
As the OER movement continues to grow, there will be more efforts to oppose openness. I’m interested to hear your thoughts on this development.
Carl Blyth is Director of COERLL and Associate Professor of French, UT Austin. His research includes CMC, cross-cultural and intercultural pragmatics, interactional sociolinguistics, and pedagogical grammar. He is project director of eComma, an open-source annotation application to facilitate more “social” forms of reading.
To read more about the Open Education approach, check out Making Collaboration Easier also by Carl Blyth.