For several years I was involved in a research project at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, researching authors, their books and places connected to them. We produced a number of author profiles and literary trails over the years (in collaboration with a number of co-researchers), which we published online. Working with UKZN Press, we have taken that research and compiled a literary guide, which was recently published.
Book details KwaZulu-Natal is culturally rich, offering a wide range of writers – writing mainly in English and Zulu – who are linked through their lives and their writing to this province of South Africa. The writers include, to name just a few, Alan Paton, Roy Campbell, Lewis Nkosi, Ronnie Govender, Wilbur Smith, Daphne Rooke, Credo Mutwa and Gcina Mhlophe. And how better to understand a writer than to know about the places they are linked to? For example, who, after reading the lyrical opening sentences of Paton’s famous book Cry, the Beloved Country (1948) has not wanted to see this scene in reality?
There is a lovely road that runs from Ixopo into the hills. These hills are grass-covered and rolling, and they are lovely beyond any singing of it.
A Literary Guide to KwaZulu-Natal introduces you to the regions and writers through word and image, leading you imaginatively through this beautiful province.
This could include following the route a fictional character charts in a novel, visiting particular settings from a story or tracking down the places linked to a writer, whether a birthplace, home, burial site or significant setting. Literary tourists are interested in how places have influenced writing and at the same time how writing has created place.
A Literary Guide to KwaZulu-Natal by Niall McNulty, Lindy Stiebel
ISBN: 978 1 86914 357 2
If you’re an educator, the need to create educational content can sometimes take away time from other educational and organisational roles. Curating content, rather than creating it, has become a viable way to produce engaging, stimulating educational materials that present learners with clear information pathways. What exactly do we mean, however, when we talk about ‘curating’ educational content?
Curating is selecting and arranging to add value
In Michael Bhaskar’s Curation: The Book, the author talks about ‘the power of selection in a world of excess.’ In a world where there is so much high-value content freely available online (content that is available for re-licensing), creating new material isn’t always necessary. Digital technology has resulted in information overload, too. There is so much content available that it is harder than ever to digest all the information available for a given topic.
Curation, as Bhaskar points out, has always been a facet of intellectual work, from newspaper publishing to museum and gallery curation. If you think of how displays are curated in a museum, insightful items are arranged to convey a thought-provoking broader understanding of a topic (human history, for example). In a similar way, curating educational content gives you the power to arrange individual, high-quality items into an edifying whole; a whole that gives higher value as the sum of its parts.
Why curate educational content?
Besides giving you the power to arrange existing items of content to form a broader selection that adds value, curating content has additional pros. You can take content that is high in informational value but weak in structure and create better clarity and cohesion, for one.
Curating content also makes readily available educational materials more discoverable. Through content curation, you can introduce learners to valuable educational resources they might never otherwise discover.
Another perk is simply the time factor: When you curate content instead of creating it, you have more time for other vital pursuits such as lesson planning.
Can I just re-use quality content I find in my own educational materials?
Whether or not you can use content in your curation process depends on what kind of license it is shared under. More and more content is shared under creative commons licenses that allow liberal re-use and even reworking. Open education hubs such as Edutopia provide lists of open source educational resources where you can find everything from free lesson plans and activities to additional web resources that provide teaching supplements.
Curating educational content – what about quality standards?
One concern for some educators is the issue of quality control in curation. When you create content yourself, it’s true that you have a high degree of control over content. If you vet every resource you curate thoroughly to ensure it meets acceptable standards, this shouldn’t be an issue.
As a rule, .edu and .org resources tend to be the most factually reliable and tend to have a more rigorous editorial process than .com resources.
Given the sheer abundance of educational material available online, creating your content from scratch is optional. Curating educational content gives you the added advantages of being able to hand-pick the very best resources and arrange them into a whole that adds value and gives learners an engaging, stimulating experience from start to finish.
By way of some background, I am currently the digital publishing manager at the African branch of Cambridge University Press (CUP), the publishing business of the University of Cambridge. Prior to joining CUP, I worked as a consultant conceptualising and implementing innovative digital solutions for academic and local government initiatives in South Africa. During this period I launched The Ulwazi Programme with colleagues from the eThekwini Municipality. This collaborative digital library project collated user-generated, local-language, indigenous knowledge content and published it openly under a Creative Commons license. Based on this experience, as well as my desire to explore how a traditional publishing business could engage with with the open movement and the plethora of freely-available content online, I applied to attend the Institute of Open Leadership (IOL) workshops. The week-long sessions were intense; a bootcamp in open licensing and open education. More importantly, the workshop brought together some of the top minds currently working on open ideas. In formal and informal discussions, these mentors shared their thinking with me on open business models, providing examples of successful and sustainable open initiatives.
Mabusi Kgwete from the Ulwazi Programme training volunteer fieldworkers on how to use the MediaWiki platform. Photo by Niall McNulty, CC-BY
Understanding rights, and why they matter now more than ever
Everyone who spends time online is now a producer of content. It’s how the digital world works. And this content is multifaceted too. It could be the blog posts you write, photographs you take and share, research articles you publish, videos you upload — the list goes on and on. Fortunately, as the producer of the content, you get to decide how to license it. You can retain copyright (current standard and in most cases automatically assigned); you can decide to use a Creative Commons license and retain some rights; or you can release the content into the public domain, relinquishing all rights.
So what exactly are your rights as a content-creator? That all comes down to copyright. Simply put, this refers to the legal concept that gives the creators of intellectual property ownership over the things that they create, and the right to say how others may use their creations — for example, to receive compensation for their use. As defined by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the works covered include anything from “books, music, paintings, sculpture and films, to computer programs, databases, advertisements, maps and technical drawings.” Copyright basically applies to any “creative” work and prevents other people taking an individual’s Intellectual Property (IP) and using it without their permission. Additionally, this is the case whether the intention is to make money from it the use or not. It is important to understand, as WIPO further explains inUnderstanding Copyright and Related Rights, that copyright is generally accepted as “declaratory” — that is to say that a work is considered protected as soon as it comes into existence. Once in place, copyright is generally understood as preventing the reproduction, distribution, copying and public performance works, and also includes the translation and adaptation without consent. Copyright is enforceable by law.
One of the direct outcomes of attending the IOL workshops was to critically examine my personal content output, and how I had licensed it. I have a Flickr account, where I have uploaded several hundred photographs, as well as a personal blog where I write about education and technology. Both were licensed using Creative Commons, but with noncommercial and share-alike restrictions. I’ve realised that these licenses, while open, did not allow the adaptation and re-use I believe in, especially when it comes to the potential for innovation and new creations. I also realised that I had chosen them out of a misplaced fear that someone might benefit commercially from using the content I’ve created. Logically I know this fear is largely unfounded and any commercial benefit will be because they have spent time and effort developing this content further. Based on this realisation, I have now changed the licensing on all my online output to CC-BY, allowing for both adaptation and commercial use. Let’s see what happens 🙂
A lotus flower blooming in the Durban Botanic Gardens – now available for re-use and remixing. Photo by Niall McNulty, CC-BY
Part of my work now, as a member of the IOL group, is to look how open resources can be incorporated into existing product development processes at CUP, building a business case for open through small, successful projects. At the same time, I am interested in the changing role of the publisher — what purpose does it serve when there is an excess of freely available, high-quality content available online?
But first, is Cambridge an open university?
The University of Cambridge states that it “is committed to disseminating its research and scholarship as widely as possible” and supports staff in making their research freely available. There is an open policy in place at the institution, which guides how researchers and staff make content and data available, and a board that oversees this work. The University itself hosts a research repository which includes published articles, conference papers, datasets, theses and video content — basically anything that is considered research output. There are also internal teams available who assist with preparing content and data for open distribution, advise on funding requirements with regard to open access, and provide guidance on sharing datasets.
CUP, as a unit of the University, has an open access publishing division called Cambridge Open, centered on academic journal and book publishing. The principles of Cambridge Open (paraphrased) are:
Knowledge is for everyone. No one should be denied the discoveries and advances of learning or the ability to contribute to the pool of knowledge — whatever their academic status, means of funding or country of origin.
CUP has long history and reputation for producing high quality, authoritative content and the Open Access programme develops this further by bringing together a greater diversity of researchers and thinkers, creating a vigorous and fertile exchange of ideas.
They do this by supporting Gold Open Access, where the author or institution pays an article processing charge to be published and the article is then made freely available, as well as Green Open Access, where authors deposit articles or research (submission copies as opposed to final published copies) in institutional repositories. Both these approaches allow authors to comply with funding requirements of many research donors.
Open business models
Sub-Saharan Africa has a vibrant and diverse publishing industry, with local and international players producing content in a number of languages across various genres. Due to market conditions, however, many print books need to be sold at low-price points, e.g. full-colour, senior level textbooks are sold for less than $3 in some countries. At the same time governments and NGOs are constantly looking for ways to make content freely available as budgets for learning and teaching resource material are squeezed. See for example Siyavula, which develops free maths and science textbooks, and ELRU which maintains an open access database of early childhood development resources, both in South Africa. So, my interest lies in what the publisher’s’ role is when content is freely available in the digital environment, how a publisher can engage with and use open resources, how this sits alongside copyrighted content, and what other revenue streams or business models can a publisher embrace to develop sustainable businesses. Paul Stacey, one of our IOL mentors, has written extensively about open business models and how they can generate revenue while contributing to social good (see also the very useful Open Business Model generation tool, adapted by Paul Stacey), and I must thank him for some really interesting conversations we had when he was in Cape Town.
In the past few months I’ve worked on two example projects, outlined below, as well as developing my thinking around a few other potential business models.
Re-using existing content
The first of these involved a recent submission of materials to the Namibian education ministry. The Ministry released a call for submission for curriculum-based content for secondary schools. CUP developed print resources for learners and teachers, as well as an additional digital component. The digital component was originally simply positioned as a value-add, provided freely to teachers who had adopted the CUP course. It included things such as class evaluation tools, rubrics, teaching guidelines, and multimedia content. For the mathematics course, the Namibian authors highlighted the difficulty learners had with certain concepts in algebra and geometry. After some online research, I discovered the 2,600 videos James Sousa had released under a Creative Commons CC-BY license. This license is the most open of the Creative Commons license suite. It permits adaptation, sharing, and repurposing for any use, even commercially, as long as the creator of the work is attributed. The video clips explain mathematical concepts clearly and succinctly, using easy to understand animations. The videos were pitched at the correct level for the Namibian learners and covered the subjects highlighted by the authors as problematic. I contacted James directly to explain how I would like to use his content and to confirm whether he was happy with this. He was, and I agreed to get back to him with any comments from the Namibian teachers. The video clips were selected from those available and mapped to the Namibian curriculum. These were made available on a CD-ROM (Internet connectivity in Namibia is still an issue, precluding online delivery), alongside copyrighted and other licensed content. The open content provided content unavailable from commercial video libraries, allowing us to make the course affordable for Namibian teachers and fulfilling CUP’s mission of disseminating knowledge in the pursuit of education and learning.
A sample of one of James Sousa’s openly-licensed videos.
Adapting content for local context
The second project I am currently developing involves conceptualising and producing an online course for South African teachers on using technology to aid teaching and learning in the classroom. The course will prepare teachers inexperienced with regard to digital tools to effectively use them in the classroom to enhance teaching and learner and fulfil curriculum requirements. Written to the ICT level of teachers in South Africa, the course content will be aware of the particular issues that teachers might experience in their classrooms.
At the suggestion of colleagues from Cambridge University, I made contact with Dr. Sara Hennessy from the Education Department at University of Cambridge. Dr. Hennessy has done extension work in training African teachers to use ICTs in the classroom in Zambia, as part of an ongoing research project (see www.oer4schools.org). Content produced by Dr. Hennessy and her team is available for re-use and adaptation under a Creative Commons license. This content includes professional learning resources for teachers — focusing on interactive pedagogy for teaching with ICTs — and consists of videos, images, lesson and activity plans and templates.
Although contextualised mainly for Zambian teachers, the content is largely appropriate for the South African environment and can be adapted and rewritten for the local teachers and curriculum requirements. We plan to match (and use) appropriate content from the OER4Schools project and then develop missing modules or components for the course. The course will be made freely available to teachers in South Africa, complying with the original content license of CC-BY-NC.
Introducing digital Open Educational Resources into Zambian schools
At the same time I have been exploring other open business models that could support the development and distribution of educational content.
Data as a commercial model
We are constantly generating data by using digital tools and platforms. Feedback in education is a two-way process: learners, through feedback, can revise and improve, but teachers benefit equally from getting feedback on learners’ progress. Learning analytics in educational technology make it easy to identify and flag issues and provide learners with responsive, adaptive learning opportunities. Particular kinds of learner data collection have always been used to monitor progress and reward achievement in education, such as the grading systems used around the world. Learning analytics today are being used to track many more elements, such as:
The time learners spend completing specific online tasks
How learners engage with educational content both in learning management systems and on social media, e.g. what they access and how long they spend engaging with specific content
In 2011, education theorist George Siemens described how analytics empower educators to make informed changes in education. Educators can understand better ‘how [their] inputs influence or produce outputs.’ When high-quality content is provided freely and openly to learners they generate data through engaging with this content. The data, and its analysis, has value to education ministries, schools and teachers, and can be used as revenue a stream to fund the creation and publishing of open content. This data would need to be anonymised and follow local privacy laws, such as POPI in South Africa. Tech companies such as Facebook and Google have built entire business models out of the commoditisation of data generated by users.
Innovation, pedagogy, and the changing nature of content
The global buzz unleashed by the release of the Pokémon Go game for smartphones in 2016 exemplifies how augmented reality (AR) technology is growing. AR refers to the use of technology (such as smartphones and tablets that have integrated microphones and cameras) to augment or overlay additional digital content to a real-world activity, in real time. Simply put, AR is used to superimpose visual data over real-world backgrounds. As would be expected, the educational possibilities of the technology are innumerable. In 2015, for example, CUP made use of AR when they released the ‘Cambridge Experience’ app for iOS devices. Cambridge designed this AR app to ‘bring classroom materials to life’ and so when users point their smartphones or tablets at the companion posters, course books and other learning materials, additional information such as fact pop ups, educational videos or illustrative photography is displayed on-screen. This functionality adds value to the physical products and makes it possible for educators to give learners a more interactive, novel learning experiences.
In terms of further possibilities in this field, UK-based magazine Education Technology identified applications such as:
Enhancing static content such as posters with helpful facts and newer insights
Helping learners to visualize complex problems such as maths equations
Making abstract concepts easier to understand via animated visualizations
In this scenario, the core content is made available freely to the learner but additional resources that complement the open resource or extends the learner, such as AR data or additional assessment, is available as a premium.
While still in the early phases of my thinking and experimentation around open business models and the relationship to education and publishing, it does seem that opportunities exist to explore new revenue streams that can embrace and re-use open content while at the same time providing sound pedagogic solutions to learners in sub-Saharan Africa that are innovative and of a high-standard. I am interested in developing these ideas further and encourage interested readers to leave comments below or contact me.
Thanks to my mentor Kelsey Wiens (Creative Commons South Africa Lead) for assistance in developing these ideas and guidance in the IOL process.
Learning mathematics in a second language has been identified as a major barrier to understanding mathematical concepts and terms for South African learners. The Cambridge Maths Dictionary App (English and isiXhosa)is an easy to use, helpful mobile reference tool for South African learners aged between 10 and 15 years old (Grades 4 to 9). Written in a language that is easily accessible to non-mother tongue speakers of English, the app contains over 900 Maths terms and definitions in both English and isiXhosa. Words are explained using examples relevant to the South African context and entries are supported with compelling visual content to further enhance the explanations and to reinforce the concepts.
Developing this app, the authors wanted to ensure that all the mathematics terminology needed in the South African Intermediate and Senior Phase classroom was covered to really support learners in their studies. More than this, they wanted the content to be interesting, creatively presented and, most of all, learner-friendly. By helping learners to acquire and understand the terminology used in the mathematics classroom, they are able to engage with the concepts in a meaningful and constructive way, rather than being hindered by possible gaps in comprehension.
The app gives users the ability to:
Easily search for a Maths term in English
Toggle between the English and isiXhosa definitions by swiping left and right
Tag words as Favourites for a personalised, quick and easy reference list.
The app was developed when Cambridge University Press (CUP) noticed that home-language isiXhosa students struggled with understanding English mathematical terms and definitions, and this was hindering their progress in the subject as a whole. This issue is seen throughout South Africa, where learners are often taught subjects in their second or third language. Currently this multilingual learning environment seen by many educational practitioners as a challenge to overcome, rather than a potential strength to leverage. CUP, however, is an advocate for bilingual education and the recognition of languages like isiXhosa as a co-medium for teaching and learning. This approach also debunks the common myth that African languages are not developed for teaching mathematical concepts and encourages students to value their home languages.
Drawing on current trends in education and technology, the app makes use of a mobile learning resource to develop 21st century skills in learners. This approach is premised on the use of devices like cellphones, smartphones and tablets, and taking advantage of the enhanced functionality they are able to offer. It makes use of both the medium and the content to encourage learning, helping learners to develop their digital literacy while at the same time ensuring that they acquire subject-specific skills.
While this approach to learning is in line with global best practice, up until now it has been difficult to take advantage of in South Africa because of limited access to smart mobile devices. The new generation of cheaper devices that have since entered the market, however, gives many learners in this country access to quality educational media both inside and outside of the classroom. As these devices become more and more common, they open up exciting possibilities in education, making it easy for learners to access and share information and develop their skills outside of the classroom through self-directed study.
These days everyone who spends time online is a producer of content. This content could be the blog posts you write, photographs you take, research articles you publish, videos you upload – the list goes! As the producer of the content, you get to decide how to license it. You can retain copyright (current standard and in most cases automatically assigned); you can decide to use a Creative Commons license and retain some rights; or you can release the content into the public domain, relinquishing all rights. The issue of copyright is an equally important consideration when developing and managing any online project, including an education project where you can decide whether to openly license your content or product as an Open Education Resource. Some organisations feel it is important to retain full rights to their content in order to commercially exploit them, however there is growing evidence that open business models (where some or all content rights are ‘opened’) can be successful in the ‘new economy’. I’ll write more on open business models in future posts. Deciding how to deal with copyright duringthe conceptual phase of a project is important and ensures that the project does not run into problemslater, during the execution phases. With this in mind, I’ll attempt first to introduce the concept of copyright and then cover appropriate policies for digital education projects, including a discussion on Creative Commons.
Copyright is a legal concept that gives the creators of intellectual property (IP) the right to assert ownership over the things that they create andreceive compensation for their use. As defined by the World IntellectualProperty Organization (WIPO, n.d), the works covered include anything from “books, music, paintings, sculpture and films, to computer programs, databases, advertisements, maps and technical drawings.” Copyright basically applies to any “creative” work and prevents other people taking an individual’s IP and using it withouttheir permission (whether the intention is to make money from it ornot).
It is important to understand, as WIPO further explains inUnderstanding Copyright and Related Rights (n.d.), that copyright is generally acceptedas “declaratory” – that is to say that a work is considered protected as soon as it comes into existence. Once in place, copyright is generally understoodas preventing the reproduction, distribution, copying and public performance works, and also includes the translation and adaptation withoutconsent.
Copyright does not always require remuneration from the individual who wants to make use of the copyrighted material. WIPO explains that the concept of“free use” (also sometimes called “fair use”) “allows use of works withoutthe authorization of the rights owner, taking into account factors such as the nature and purpose of the use.” Generally, it simply requires that the copyright holder is attributed and the user does not make commercial gain from the use. Permission is only required for extensive use, e.g. for complete films, extensive imagery and full texts, however, fair use does notapply.
Digital education projects are encouraged to make use of CreativeCommons licensed content where possible. This framework’s ideology of sharing and open access to information aligns strongly with the broader aims of many education projects, and feeding into it further encourages sharing of information. Licensingcontent produced using the framework also helps to get local or so-calledindigenous content (which may be collectively produced or owned) into the world through sharing and other forms of dissemination. Content made available under these licences is also generally guaranteed to be safe for use as long as correctly attributed, and as such offers a valuable resource for project teams.
Creative Commons Licences
As outlined on the initiative’s website, Creative Commons licences (indicated by CC, rather than the traditional C) can take one of the followingforms:
Attribution (CC BY) – Giving others the right to distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon content, even commercially, as long as the original creator is credited.
Attribution-ShareAlike(CC BY-SA) – Others have the right to distribute, remix, tweak and build upon content, even commercially. They simply have to attribute the original creator and disseminate the work under the samelicence.
Attribution-NoDerivs (CC BY-ND) – Allowing for distribution (commercial or not) as long as the content is unchanged and credited to thecreator.
Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC) – Others can remix, tweak, andbuild upon content non-commercially. They must acknowledge the original creator and remain non-commercial but can license their derivative work however theywish.
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA) – Allowing for others to remix, tweak, and build upon content non-commercially, as long as they credit the creator and license their new creations under the identicalterms.
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND) – Others candownload content and share it as long as they credit the creator, but it can’t be altered or used commercially.
Copyright and Digital Education Projects
Being aware of copyright (and related licensing) is important for digital education projects because much of the content collected, produced and disseminated in the course of the project could fall under copyright protection. This is especially the case with content produced by individuals outside of the project team such as images and audio recordings. If this content is uploaded to a website or another digital platformwithout permission, the copyright holder is within their rights to request that it be taken down. For repeated or large-scale breaches of copyright, the creator can also resort to legal enforcement.
Fortunately, ensuring that you have the rights to reproduce copyrighted material is a simple process. While the concept of “fair use” (as explained above) can apply to some content, it is better to be overly cautious in this regard, and ensure that permission is sought and documented as follows for allcontent:
Identify the Copyright Holder – First find out who holds the copyright of the content. For narratives and first hand accounts this would be the person who was interviewed. For audio, videoor images, copyright resides with the person who created the work.
Obtain Written Permission – Gain permission from the copyright holder to reproduce the work (note that this is not a request for transfer of copyright ownership but simply the grantingof permission to create a digital representation of the content so as to make it publicly accessible). Importantly, this needs to be obtained in writing so that there is a record of the interaction. During this interaction you can explain Creative Commons licensing to the rights-holder and, where appropriate, suggest they consider openly licensing their content.
Attribute Content Accordingly – Ensure that content clearly references the copyright holder if required. This shows that the work is copyrighted (or licensed under Creative Commons) and gives the creator the recognition they are entitledto.
If you are unsure of who the copyright holder is, or are unable to reach them, you do still need to make reasonable efforts to establish who they are and contact them before using the content. Document all of your attempts in writing (letters/ email) and keep them on file. You are then able to use the content with the understanding that should the copyright holder contact you and request the content taken down, you would dothis.
Good copyright practice for digital education projects include making availableon the project website a Copyright Policy, a Conditions of Use and a Public Disclaimer Notice, as well as any pertinent Creative CommonsLicences. Placing a Copyright Policy on the website is important because it states your organisation’s position with regard to copyright. It helps to confirm the code of ethics of the organisation, while also protecting the rights of the creators of the digitised materials. Terms and Conditions of Use advise users what they can and can’t do with resources on the website. For example, use of the resourcesis permitted solely for educational, scholarly, research and non-commercial/fair use purposes and bulk downloading is prohibited. A Public Disclaimer notice on the website helps to indemnify the project team / website managers fromlegal liability, for example, stating that the historical accuracy of content cannotbe guaranteed and a particular community accepts no liability for any inaccuracies, errors and omissions.
Copyright is an important element to consider when planning and undertaking a digital education project. While copyright can seem complicated at times, withthe proper procedures in place, content can be correctly attributed and complications avoided. Contentlicensedthrough Creative Commons has been shown tobe both a valuable resource for digital projects, as well as an ideology worth aligning with.