Category Archives: Design

Remix, Reuse and Re-energise using Creative Commons and Open Education Resources.

Beth Noveck Open GovTeachers and students are becoming creators and publishers due to the possibilities new technologies provide. Traditional copyright can limit creativity, however Creative Commons and Open Educational Resources open up a new world of content to re-energise the possibilities when developing resources, and encouraging students to design new ways to demonstrate their learning.

It used to be that when teachers and students created content, it could only be shared within the classroom walls. Today, the classroom walls are flattened, as we share resources and publish our learning to a worldwide audience. Not only do we have the ability to publish to the globe, students and  teachers have unprecedented access to content which is easily able to be remixed, recreated and reused. We have come a long way from the days when scribes painstakingly handwrote copies of manuscripts. Now, Control C, Control V are the keys of power, and with a video camera on every phone, and free editing tools just a click away, students and teachers (and everyone else besides!) must be familiar with their rights as creators, and must also be aware of the need to respect others’ intellectual property also.

It all begins with Copyright

Statute_of_anneCopyright, first initiated by the Statute of Anne in 1710, is a tool which aims to promote creativity, by protecting works from replication. As artists derive their income from selling their works, Copyright seeks to protect this source of revenue from being exploited by others. However, there are many that argue that in the internet age, Copyright is broken. While it is true that wholesale piracy and profiteering from the work of others must continue to be legislated against, the avenue of the internet as a forum for sharing, communicating and creating may be limited by stringent enforcement of Copyright regulations against those who do not seek to make commercial gain, but only to use others’ ideas and work as a part of their own creative expression.

One of the strongest proponents of the need to seek changes in Copyright law is Lawrence Lessig, the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership at Harvard Law School, and the founder of Creative Commons.

There are some provisions within different countries’ Copyright laws that allow students and teachers to use some copyrighted material in the course of education. These provisions, which fall within Fair Use, Fair Dealing and Statutory Licences are useful, and should be taken advantage of; however they are only of use within strict educational settings. For those who wish to share their work more publicly, other options exist.

Public Domain Content

One source of content which can be freely used is that which falls into the Public Domain.publicdomain

Once the term of copyright has expired (usually between 50-70 years after the death of the creator, although this varies internationally, and according to the type of work), it enters the Public Domain. The underlying idea of a work cannot be copyrighted, and therefore concepts such as mathematic and scientific formulae are also within the public domain. Content created before the existence of copyright also falls into this category.  Some government agencies and public institutions donate their content directly to the Public Domain. Some of the most notable include NASA and the British Library.2015-02-20_1821

Content which is in the Public Domain is able to be freely used or remixed without any permission, although it is good practice to acknowledge the source. Fantastic examples of public domain remixes are everywhere – one to check out is the Tate Gallery 1840 Gif Party, where works were recreated as animated Gifs as part of a competition. See the results here.

There are many sources of Public Domain images online; access a range of sites on my Pinterest board here.

As rich as Public Domain content is, it is still limited by the length of copyright. A middle ground between Copyright and Public Domain is Creative Commons. Creative Commons is an effective way to source images, videos and documents while giving credit to the original owner. Creative Commons creates a “some rights reserved” model. This means that the copyright owner retains copyright ownership in their work while inviting certain uses of their work by the public. Creative Commons licences create choice and options for the copyright owner.

Creative Commons Licences

There are 4 primary licence elements:

These elements are mixed and matched to describe whatever rights the creator wishes to reserve. The six standard Creative Commons licenses are

The Licences #CreativeCommonsFinding Creative Commons Material

There is a growing amount of content being released under the creative commons licences. This State of the Commons report released late last year shares the staggering growth of this amazing movement:

Click to access the whole infographic.

Click to access the whole infographic.

Click the image to go to Pinterest board.

Click the image to go to Pinterest board.

This makes it much easier to find Creative Commons Licenced content to use, remix and repurpose. A great place to start is the Creative Commons powered search, which enables you to search across multiple providers. However, for specific resources, check out my Pinterest board for lots of ideas of where to go to find more material. Another great resource are those put together by the wonderful people at Smartcopying, and Creative Commons Australia, who have just released excellent resources for educators.


I have also written about this in more depth on the ResourceLink blog here and in the Copyright Copyleft Wiki I created in my role at Brisbane Catholic Education.

Tips and Tools to Reference Correctly

Of course, you can’t go about using Creative Commons licenced material without clearly referencing it, and acknowledging both the creator, and the licence under which the work is released. Fortunately, referencing is simple, and this handy, printable (PDF) guide is excellent for providing examples and information. This wiki is also an awesome and easy to follow guide.

To make it even easier, several tools exist to make referencing as simple as copy and paste. I have written before on the ResourceLink blog about the wonderful work of Alan Levine, who has created a tool for Flickr, which loads not only the reference, but also an embed code for any Creative Commons licenced image shared on Flickr. You can get the button for your bookmarks toolbar by simply dragging and dropping – read all about how to do it here.

open attributeAnother handy plug in is Open Attribute. By installing this extension into your browser (works for Firefox, Chrome, Safari and more), whenever the site you are on contains a Creative Commons licenced object, a CC logo will appear in the address bar. Click on this, and the text or html attribution will appear, for you to simply copy and paste. Although this only works for content that has been licenced with the machine readable code (find out more about the layers of a CC licence here), many pages include this metadata, and it sure makes referencing content easier!

Wikimedia Commons is another phenomenal source of open content, and they too provide copy and paste referencing, known as the reuse assistance tool. Read this handy page on the wiki to find out more!

Open Education Resources

Click on the image to learn more.

Click on the image to learn more.

Many believe that the high cost of textbooks and other educational resources are leading to the commodification of education, and that education should be free and accessible for all. By encouraging educators and other educational resource producers to share their work by either releasing it to the public domain, or by licencing it in an open way using Creative Commons, a growing bank of resources is being developed, so that everyone can share access to knowledge.

This cause has many supporters, and resources can be contributed and accessed via a range of channels; some of the best known open educational resource repositories are listed on this Smartcopying page. The more educators are aware of these repositories, and contribute to them, the greater the availability of quality educational resources for all.

In a world where everyone can publish to a world stage, the concepts of Copyright, Creative Commons, Public Domain and Open Educational resources must be familiar to all. Take the time to explore, and remember, technology truly allows us to:

This work, "RRR,PPP", is a derivative of "Open source gifts for the holidays" by opensourceway, used under CC BY-SA. "RRR,PPP" is licensed under CC BY-SA by KayO.

This work, “RRR,PPP”, is a derivative of “Open source gifts for the holidays” by opensourceway, used under CC BY-SA. “RRR,PPP” is licensed under CC BY-SA by KayO.





Creating Interactivity: When an infographic talks!

Infographics are wonderful things. In this world of the visual, they provide an effective way of conveying a complex information graphically, so that the reader may quickly get an overview of a topic.

Tools such as Piktochart make creating infographics easy; with predesigned templates, a wide range of text and icon options and a simple click and drag interface, designing an amazing looking infographic is within the reach of everyone.

I wanted to go one step further, and create an infographic that was truly interactive.

The first step was to create an infographic that invited interaction. Being a based in a library, what better than to respond to that constant question, ‘what will I read next?’


Ordinarily, this type of poster would invite viewers to read a short review of each book, but to introduce the element of interaction, I decided to use the Makey Makey and the Raspberry Pi to create a touch sensitive poster, where the users could point to the book of their choice, and listen to the book review.

Creating this was surprisingly easy. The Makey Makey is a device which, when plugged into the computer, replaces the keyboard or mouse and allows you to use almost anything (as long as it is conductive) to input data. You can see what I mean in the video below:

In the case of the interactive infographic, I used copper tape to provide the conductive inputs. I used Scratch to create a simple program, which when certain keys were pressed, would play sound recordings of reviews of each of the books I had chosen. Knowing that the Makey Makey provided input for the W,A,S,D,F & G, keys, it was easy to quickly create the program:

So now I had a program which allowed me to play a recording of a particular book review each time a particular key was pressed.

Of course, I needed a computer to run all of this. Luckily, we had a Raspberry Pi, which, when installed with the Raspbian operating system came automatically with Scratch installed. You don’t need a Raspberry Pi computer – any computer will do – and Scratch is a free open source programming tool.

Installing my Scratch program onto the Raspberry Pi, I then connected the Makey Makey to it (see below)

The Raspberry Pi and Makey Makey

The Raspberry Pi and Makey Makey

After that, I went about attaching the Makey Makey to the poster, so that the poster became the input.

Here’s the finished product:setup

This could be applied to a wide range of contexts. The wires and tools don’t need to be visible; you could place the Makey Makey and Raspberry Pi inside a covered shoe box, and have the cables coming out through the lid.
Imagine the possibilities, now that posters can talk!

Making Sense of Maker Spaces – Resources and Ideas

This is what I didn’t know!!
creative commons licensed ( BY-NC ) flickr photo shared by symphony of love

I was never an artistic child. I couldn’t draw, my attempts at painting were abysmal and when I tried to emulate my mother’s skills in crafts it became clear that I had not inherited her talents. Being rather academic, I figured that I just wasn’t ‘creative’ and that ‘making’ just wasn’t my thing.

Technology has changed all of that. It has become apparent that the view of ‘artistic’ and ‘creative’ I held growing up was far too narrow. I am creative! I am a problem-solver, I have an ‘eye’ for what looks good on the screen, and I have a very well developed sense of design. How do I know this?

It all began over ten years ago, when I got my hands on a copy of a basic webpage authoring tool, and began exploring the possibilities of web design. I realised that technology provided tools where I could create something practical, something useful and something beautiful – even though I still can’t draw anything more than a stick figure!

Fortunately today, there exists many avenues for creativity, and technology has grown so accessible and affordable that as educators we must offer opportunities for students to explore, develop and apply their creative skills in many different ways.

Recently I have been exploring the potential of ‘makerspaces’. Combining opportunities for design, science, technology, maths, engineering and the arts, these spaces offer students the chance to learn by doing. There are so many exciting and affordable technologies that allow students to invent and imagine incredible things, and with the The Australian Curriculum: Technologies finally endorsed, now is the time to start exploring!

Two key resources for those who are interested in finding out more about Makerspaces in education are the seminal title ‘Invent to Learn‘ by Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez, and the Makerspace Playbook, which is a free PDF. Click on their images below to access more info.


The resources below have been compiled to support teachers who wish to explore this area; if you have any suggestions, ideas or experiences, please drop a line in the comments.

I have written extensively on implementing Makerspaces in classroom and library environments on the ResourceLink Blog: check out these posts at Resourcing the Maker Movement and Running a Maker Faire. These articles focus on the types of resources available, how to manage these resources and an example of how we implemented a hands on makerfaire at a primary school for Years 6 & 7 (11-12 year olds).

I also have presented on this topic, and you can view the slides on Slideshare here.

If you are looking for more ideas, resources and information, click on the images below to access a range of Pinterest boards which have been created in a number of different areas.

(I wrote a blog post about these Maker books on my work blog here.

More pins, arranged according to different types of maker activities, are below. Click on the images to access these boards:







Learning Spaces: Campfires, Watering Holes, Holodecks?

Our workplace has been in the midst of great change recently. Walls have been knocked down, furniture has been culled and storage systems replaced. The result is a huge space, which has brought many visitors from the upper floors, amazed at how different the area looks. We, who work in the space are experiencing a mix of emotions. The openness of the floorplan is very inviting; it encourages collaboration and a different way of working. However we also are struggling with the complete lack of privacy; our work area is open to the world, and any ‘mess’ we make –  processing books, creating displays, sorting through equipment – is oh so public. The space in which we work impacts upon us tremendously; not just in the way that we operate, but in how we communicate with others and how we feel emotionally.

Is it any wonder, then, that many question why we ask students to do their best work in uninspiring rooms, with uncomfortable (and sometimes immovable) furniture, under the glare of fluorescent lighting? While in many ways schools have changed, in some ways they remain the same. Most schools have at least some ‘traditional’ classrooms that are yet to be revisioned to reflect what we now know about pedagogy, environment and learning spaces. Who says that we need  front and a back of a classroom, or even a black/white board, when we consider the changes in technology that bring the information of the world into the palm of a student’s hand? The traditional classroom design is not necessarily the most effective model today.

Part of our physical change has been as part of a larger review of learning spaces in general; and has been accompanied by professional reading and research, most notably (as you may have noticed by the title of this post) the work of David Thornburg, Bruce Mau and the Third Teacher crew and Ewan McIntosh. I have tried to encapsulate some of what I have learnt into the infographic below.

Learning Spaces

For those undertaking any type of redesign, I would direct you to my Pinterest board, Learning Spaces, the Third Teacher , and also to follow the Twitter hashtag #inf536, which are the tweets of students currently undertaking the new CSU subject Designing Spaces for Learning, being run by Ewan McIntosh in consultation with Judy O’Connell.

Have you been on a journey redesigning learning spaces recently? Share your experiences in the comments!