Notes on Creative Commons & Open Licensing


If we look carefully at the Values and Vision in the New Zealand Curriculum we see that inquiry & curiosity, equity, community, sustainability, integrity, respect – all fit perfectly into the values of the Open Movement – the idea of collaborating on projects, sharing resources, crowd-sourcing and drawing on the expertise of each other.  The Key Competencies also fit well especially participating and contributing as students learn to be effective and positive citizens. The Vision – totally fits! So many parallels! Members of communities, making informed choices, effective users of communication tools…..

If we are really working to develop these values as students go through school then we have to include a fluency around referencing, acknowledging other people’s work, giving credit and showing gratitude as well as being generous with our own IP.  It should be easy to marry up the principles, values and vision of the NZC and embed good practice and understanding around the Open Movement and Creative Commons.

Using information we find in different websites is OK as long as we acknowledge where we found it and credit opinions and ideas to the person who wrote them.  It is important to check what restrictions an author/creator has put in their work. The information should be somewhere on the website. If it isn’t, don’t just assume that you can use it.  If is says that you should seek permission to use the work, then that is what you should do.

Learning how to reference is another thing, but Google makes it easy. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think about why we need to do it and examine the process. Give credit where credit is due, respect others and my additions – show gratitude!

“Respect and acknowledge the work’s creative heritage, as well as that of the creator, and always, always give attribution.”

Intention: critical creativity in the classroom Amy Burvall & Dan Ryder

YarnBombed Bicycle

YarnBombed bicycle by Anne Robertson CC-BY

Quotes provide short sharp commentary that you can talk to but are easy ‘take aways’ for participants. They are also a great way to link to research. But keep them short – choose the bit that really captures what you want to say. The referencing should be specific e.g. chapter/page so participants can find it easily later in context.

NZGOAL is guidance for agencies to follow when releasing copyright works and non-copyright material for re-use by others. It aims to standardise the licensing of government copyright works for re-use using Creative Commons licences and recommends statements for non-copyright material.  NZ Health Research Strategy, 2017 – 2027. Action seven says that “The Government will ensure that… policies support open access to research findings.”


Current employment law means that the Intellectual Property on anything a teacher creates whilst in employment belongs to the employer i.e. the Board of Trustees. This means that our teachers, by sharing their work and by taking it with them when they leave a school, are technically going against the law. The reality is that we all share, we are encouraged to share, it is good for our profession, for our professional learning and for the school when teachers share resources.  Adopting a Creative Commons Policy means that the BoT, as employer, says – we, the BoT still own the IP for works you create but we recognise the work that you put in, we appreciate it and we encourage you to continue sharing and creating, but if and when, you leave the school, you have to leave a copy of all you do with the school but please feel free to take anything you have created with you.

Adopting a Creative Commons Policy in your school – presentation for BoT & SLT

Adopting a Creative Commons Policy in your school – notes for NoT & SLT to go with presentation

Template Intellectual Property Policy for schools

Paula Eskett posed this question to us last year as part of a proposal for the CC Global conference.

An observation as a relative newcomer to the CC and Open movement is that much time, energy and resourcing is put into backfilling people with the understandings and raison d’etre of the Open movement. What if instead, we used existing national education curriculum frameworks and embedded the principles, potential and possibilities of Open and Creative Commons into a student’s learning and thinking through that framework? My proposal is to look at New Zealand’s Curriculum Framework – NZC. Instead of backfilling adults, let’s start preloading our tamariki (children) and have their graduate profile (when they leave school) include; contributing, collaborating and creating and SHARING new information and resources as their business as usual.

My observations in no particular order – in addition to my thoughts above, just as they came to me, are these…

The struggle often with teachers is that they have gathered bad habits around the use of media which is on the internet – the horse has metaphorically bolted as teachers have made use of photos, videos, music on the internet, overwhelmed by what is out there. There is also a lack of clarity around what they can use and what they can’t.  It was quite clear cut with books, magazines and even videos to a certain extent. Most had a copyright notice in the front plate or on the package. The internet seems to be a place full of free stuff. And to be fair, the people that put stuff there didn’t necessarily think about the ramifications of intellectual property either.  For many of our teenagers it may not be too late but it is hard to convince them that they can’t use everything out there and they should seek Open Resources or at the very least reference accurately. It is just too hard – especially when many of the images they get are from curation sites such as Pinterest, Scoopit which have no referencing protocols.  I remember asking kids when I was teaching about where they get their images for presentations and their response was, “Well if people put it there, they must want us to use it, so why shouldn’t we?” It’s a hard observation to respond to when all they have known is a plethora of media out there for them to consume. How do we get them to become critical, considerate, grateful consumers of media? Even better, how do we encourage them and teach them the skills to be creators of media with a good understanding of their own rights as authors, artists, musicians, filmmakers?

Primary school kids are the target audience but teachers also need to have understanding if they are to teach good practice – how do we do that if we accept that backfilling is too hard?!

Teachers are used to using resources that they are allowed to use in an educational context e.g. films, music but which cannot be used in the public domain. Currently not many reference those resources and don’t model good practice. A good example came up on the Teacher Primary School Facebook last year – a discussion about showing videos at camp and at the end of the year for relaxation – the rules are quite clear about the use of films – they have to be for an educative purpose…so, if you can make filling in time or reward for hard work or entertainment at camp fit an educative purpose then, all good! They also can’t be shown in an environment where there are members of the public – a camp with parents could be argued to be a public place, with a public audience.  I don’t think we need to be all moralistic about it but conversations need to be had.

Many teachers I have spoken too also don’t understand the concept of making their work freely available and are even opposed to giving away their work. Sites such as Teachers Pay Teachers encourage teachers to sell their work and buy other teachers’ resources. Understanding around intellectual property of resources created by a teacher whilst in full time employment is very poor.  Just have a look at the threads on the Facebook Teachers’ Primary page!! (not sure how many times I have had to weigh in and explain again …) Lots of indignation about the work they have put in and how it should be theirs to do what they want with. The message is slowly getting out there that a CC Policy is the way to go – the last time the question was raised two or three other teachers mentioned it whereas a few months ago I was the only one!

Academics in universities also have limited understanding of Open Resources and are fearful that their work will be ‘stolen’ if it is not copyright. (My hubby’s input – he works in a Uni). There is also a perception that ‘free’ has less worth (!?)

Amy Burvall has this to say (see below) about creating, acknowledging those who have come before and ownership of creative works. They are all derivatives, we all use other people’s ideas to spark our own and we build on them. That’s why working collaboratively is so effective. But we should always acknowledge the other voices that contribute to our creative works.



Creative Commons



Story Telling, Our Place in the World, and Digital Technology.

a dirigeable with a boat hanging beneath it seems to float in a garden.                           Storystarter by Anne Robertson via Flickr CC-BY

“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” (Wittgenstein) 

We have always told stories. People from all cultures, all around the world, tell and listen to stories. They are passed down from one generation to another through legends, sometimes spoken, sometimes sung, sometimes acted out through plays or dance. We have a natural compulsion to tell stories; our own, our family’s, our friends’.  I remember the stories told over the years around campfires at camps, at sleepovers, in the pub, at dinner parties. We share our experiences and we are avidly curious about those of others. We have learned from the stories we listened to. They spark our imagination, they bridge cultures, help us to understand concepts we may not have direct access to, they support us in making sense of the past to inform our actions in the future. They help us work out who we are, form our opinions, make connections and build relationships.

For a while stories were always transmitted orally, but then came the printing press, and the written word started to be more accessible to more people. We learnt to read and write, and stories started to be written down. We could access stories even when there was nobody there physically to tell us. Our world grew. We weren’t limited to the stories that our immediate family and friends or travellers could tell us. We weren’t limited to single stories but had access to stories about things from multiple perspectives.

I remember Saturday mornings as a child. My sisters and I would all creep into Mum and Dad’s bedroom and snuggle into bed with them for Dad’s stories. They were stories of fairies and goblins, of wooden horses, of ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’, good overcoming evil, of derring-do. I later read Greek and Roman myths and realised where Dad got his stories from and for a while the magic was spoilt. But then I realised he was just doing what so many more had done before. He told the stories, embellished and adapted for three wee girls who just wanted to hear about magical things.

story dice red on a black background. Each dice has a different image on

Dice Story by Anne Robertson via Flickr CC-BY

“Those who tell the stories rule the world.” Hopi American Indian proverb

The books and stories we have access to influence the way that we think, the perceptions we have of the world, how we can limit our own understanding and what we, in turn, include in our own stories. Listen to Chimamanda Ngoze Adichie talk about The Danger of a Single Story.  As well as having multiple stories, she also talks of the importance of having stories in which we recognise ourselves and our culture, of us being able to be characters in our own stories.

Being able to tell our own stories gives us the power and to raise our aspirations and open our minds to possibilities. But, “stories are defined by the principle of nkali (an Igbo noun that loosely translates as ‘to be greater than another’) How they are told, who tells them, when they’re told, how many stories are told, are really dependent on power.”

So what?

There is a great emphasis put on literacy in schools. It is the measurement by which all children and teachers and schools are judged. Over the last hundred years or so, we have been taught that if we can’t read and write, we can’t get on in the world.  Those who are illiterate, have no future. No power.

But let’s consider how we learn again. We learn our language from the day we are born by listening to those around us. We develop vocabulary, we learn how to pronounce words by listening and speaking. Through repetition, through getting it wrong, being corrected and trying again. We learn language through a context that is meaningful to us. I always remember my son, aged 6, coming home and telling me that that he had to collect the toucans from the crisp packets to get sports gear for school. He searched the crisp packets in the supermarket for toucans and was disappointed when there were none. Of course, the teacher meant tokens, but his wee brain knew what a toucan was because it appeared in one of his story books and so in making the connection between the sound he heard and a thing he knew about, he came up with toucans. I won’t even start with his story about cheeses curing diseases in the cinema….

The point is that we make sense of what we hear by relating it to a context that is familiar to us. If we don’t have exposure to a wide range of contexts, we are limited to narrow interpretations that don’t make sense to us. So, we need to ensure that all our children have access to lots of stories.  I think what has happened over the last hundred years or so, and this is just a hunch, no research here (please let me know if there is some), the oral storytelling tradition has diminished. We have focussed on reading and writing, not listening or speaking, and that has deprived a significant number of people from the opportunity to hear stories and tell their stories in a meaningful way. Storybooks in schools tell ‘single stories’ that kids can’t relate to. Those kids that aren’t ready to read alone or write, at the age specified by the powers that be, are targeted and more time is spent focussing on reading and writing than developing oral language. They don’t necessarily have access to spoken stories at home either. This is a situation that may be (I hesitate to generalise) compounded if they come from lower socio-economic backgrounds where family members either don’t have the time to read to their children, or in families that are isolated from a community that support them, or they themselves don’t have the ability.

If we don’t have a wide vocabulary, we won’t be able to make sense of new words or express ourselves effectively. As a teenager learning French, my teacher once told me that what was holding me back from progressing in French, wasn’t my ability in language learning, but by my lack of a broad vocabulary in English. Now, I had a pretty good vocabulary, I read avidly, but the problem wasn’t my general vocabulary, it was my specialist vocabulary. I didn’t read or listen to the news or documentaries. I read novels and watched Coronation Street and Z-Cars and Dixon of Dock Green (sorry, showing my age now!) I needed to widen my range of input to improve my output.

However, in the rush to give kids access to wide range of contexts, are we in danger of not recognising that to start off with they have to develop language in a context that is culturally and socially familiar? And do we also need to give them a voice so they can tell their own stories? And do they need to tell those stories in their own way?

I hark back to the last hundred years in schools. What opportunities did you have to tell stories? What medium did you have to tell those stories? When I was at school and for most of the years I was teaching, despite there being other ways to tell stories, writing has been king. That wasn’t too much of a problem for me. I was a good writer – well physically at least. My handwriting was neat and tidy, I liked writing in exercise books and I was quite fast too.  I wasn’t particularly creative, I don’t think, but I never had too much trouble churning out what was required to get by. Fast forward to my sons. Both full of ideas, they had broad vocabularies and their stories were creative. But they both struggled with writing. As soon as those stories had to be put on paper, they were condensed into as few words as possible and they didn’t achieve success as measured by the system.

I wonder if they had had the opportunity to tell their stories in other ways, if that would have helped?

a double exposure image of an airport lounge. Advetisinghoardings and people sitting at tables luggage at their feet.

Tell me Your Story by Anne Robertson via Flickr CC-BY

 “…new technologies give creative people new ideas. Art is affected by the technology of art, because artists love to experiment, and every new development is a new tool.”

Naomi Alderman, 2017

I am a firm believer that the technology we have available to us today provides opportunities for all our children to have a voice, to tell their stories. Learners can record their own voice, create a video or an animation, they can write by hand, they can type. They can speak to the computer and it will type for them, they can tell their story through song or dance. They can use a variety of media to enrich their stories.  If we let them.

But equally, we can use digital technologies to provide access to the stories in the first place. When we provide a stimulus for kids to tell their stories we can offer videos, podcasts, picture books, cartoon strips, songs, sound files of different contexts, artwork – the options are varied and limited only by our imagination.

There are blogposts that list the ‘top ten digital storytelling tools’ and there are any number of them out there. This one, this one, this one, this one, and this one (which is probably the most up to date one) to post just the top links on a google search.

There are a few that I have tried and found that students enjoyed using them too, not just because they were fun but because they gave them more options for expression.

  • Storybird – choose a theme, or an artist and be inspired by the artwork or read a story and respond, or co-create a story with a friend or even a complete stranger!  Example here
  • Book Creator – tell your story using text, sound, images and video Example here
  • Thinglink – interactive images, plot your own story linking sound, video, images and text. Example here
  • Puppetpals – chrome and iPad app, animate stories, choose your characters, upload sound or use the inbuilt voices
  • WeVideo – create videos from video clips, images and annotate with text and sound
  • Animoto – create animations, upload your own sound, add text
  • Piktochart – visual infographic type format. Upload images, text, sound and video to tell your story.
  • Google Cardboard – VR and AR – explore different worlds, connect stories, unleash the imagination
  • My Maps – create maps that tell a story, link images, history, video, sound files and text. Examples of how My Maps can be used can be found here. 
  • Adobe Spark Video – easy to create videos
  • Scratch – code a story – see a very simple one here

Each of these needs researching before you try them out with a class and they all meet different needs. Allow time for exploration, but the starting point is always going to be your learning intention. How can they express their ideas in a way that works for them and also achieves the learning outcomes you have set or co-constructed with them?

And…. telling stories through a multimedia approach provides opportunities for learners to solve problems, be creative, innovative, and develop soft and hard skills that are sought after in the workplace.  This post suggests that there is a huge shift in the way that traditional text based businesses like advertising are now developing stories.


I was just scrolling through my twitter feed and found this.

ImageIt is a very simple and graphic way of illustrating Roger’s Bell curve of adoption.   I also think that it is a very apt image to use for education.  However, it made me think of a “story” that went around the email circuit way back in the 90’s when I was first experimenting with using computer technology in the classroom.  When we were fighting to get computers in every classroom and not just in “Computer Suites”, when we wanted to have a little bit more control over the computers rather than being magnanimously granted the honour of being able to book into a computer suite once a month, when control was wielded self-importantly by those who “knew” and who had the “power”.   

Here is the story:

Pencils Across the Curriculum
A Fairy Story

Bryn Jones c 1990
(Except for some very minor revisions, the text is as it was in 1990)

SCENE : It is deep in the past, schools are using chalk and slates, stylus and tablets, chisels and granite. Suddenly a new technology appears:

The Pencil!

Once upon a time, the Ministry of Education, after appointing a Special Pencil Task Force and inviting tenders from all the major Pencil manufacturers, gave 16 Pencils to each High School as part of a Special Pencil initiative.

(They also gave ONE Pencil to each Primary School but that’s another story!).

This is the story of two of those High Schools.


Opened a New Pencil Centre in a blaze of publicity and housed all 16 Pencils in it. They appointed a Teacher-in-Charge of Pencils.

They were worried that someone might steal these rare and valuable Pencils so they put bars on the windows.

“Special Pencil Centre” signs were painted on the outside wall to tell the world that they were proud of their Pencils and that Pencils are special.

Teachers were not allowed to use Pencils unless teaching a Pencil Studies course – special training was needed to handle these expensive and delicate instruments: teachers needed to understand about Hardness, Length, Handling, Care and Safety (Pencils are very sharp).

Pencil Awareness was introduced as a compulsory course for all Year 8 students – they studied the Applications of Pencils, Pencils in Drawing, Pencils in Writing, the Social Implications of Pencils, Design and Manufacture of Pencils, History of Pencils and Future Trends in Pencils.

10 Pencil Scholarships were offered to local primary students to attract the brightest and best.

One day the Art teacher heard about these new Pencils and thought they could be useful in Art classes but the Pencil Studies teacher explained that all the Pencils were always being used by Pencil Studies classes, and anyway, you need special training to use a Pencil.

The Pencil Studies teacher agreed to do a few lessons on the use of Pencils in Art as part of the Pencil Awareness Course (despite not knowing anything about Art).

“Wouldn’t it be better if we had our own Pencils in the Art Dept?” inquired the Art teacher.

“NO, NO, NO! DON’T BE SILLY!” countered the Pencil Studies teacher.

A similar thing happened in Technical Drawing:

“I’ve heard these Pencils are great for Technical Drawing – really sharp!” and “It sure beats chiselling in granite – can we have some?”

Across the way in English:

“Could we use Pencils do you think? Would they make it easier to create and edit writing?”

“We’ll see what we can do,” said the Teacher-in-Charge of Pencils, “but it’s very hard to fit any more into the Pencils Awareness Course. Besides, all our Pencil teachers are incredibly busy”.

In Business Education they got the news:

“Accounts, Letter Writing, Bookkeeping…could pencils have a role to play here?”

Similar things happened in Music/ Theatre Arts/ Home Economics/ Science/ Mathematics/ Library.

Demand for Pencil Studies courses became so great that School A had to spend $100 000 on new buildings to house more Pencil Labs and hired more Pencil teachers.

Meanwhile, back in the Technical Drawing room the stylus and tablet is all they have, in Art, chalk is state-of-the-art and in Business Ed the abacus is all the go.

Tons of granite are consumed daily and a granite recycling programme is introduced.

Five years later School A had 5 Pencil Labs, 6specialist Pencil teachers and half the students doing Pencil Studies courses.

But no-one else in the school ever used a Pencil!

Then one day all the Pencil Studies teachers left to work in private schools and industry!


School B also started with it’s 16 Pencils in a special room but they had a PLAN.


It was a Brave Plan, a Bold Plan, a Problematical Plan – but it was a Good Plan!

They introduced special programmes to lend Pencils to teachers and put a Pencil in each staff office.

They put a few Pencils in the staff room so that staff could play with them at lunchtime.

They paid for teachers to go on Pencil courses.

They even put some Pencils in the Library for ANYONE to use even if they had no training!

“What? Anyone? “, “Oh what problems!”

“Who will sharpen them?”

“Who can understood all the jargon – HB, 2B, 2H?”

“What about quality?”

“What about editing – who will replace the erasers?”

“Who will look after them?”

“What about compatibility problems – 0.2 , 0.5 mm or non-standard leads?”

“Who decides whether to have hexagonal or circular Pencils?”

“What about all these new Pencil technologies which appear with monotonous regularity – who will make decisions?

Well yes, there were a few teething troubles but somehow people coped. After a while they began to realise that Pencils were quite easy to use, even for teachers!

A few Pencils were put in subject areas for teachers to experiment with.

Some teachers were so impressed, they even bought their own Pencils and wondered how they ever managed without one.

There were still major problems to overcome as far as using Pencils in the actual classroom. New discipline and management problems that teachers hadn’t faced before. Was it necessary for every student to have a Pencil each or could they share or work in groups?

Would One Pencil per Classroom make a difference?

To begin with, only a few brave teachers used Pencils in their lessons but as time went by more and more teachers saw the amazing work being done by the students of the teachers who used Pencils and they began to ask for some Pencils in their classroom too.

Five years later the school didn’t need its Pencil Lab any more except for a few students who wanted to do Pencil Science at University or get a job in the Pencil Industry. There were Pencils all over the school and most staff and students used them quite naturally. Some even carried a pencil about in their pocket.

This was written around 1990 and I am pretty sure that most people will have read this story several times over the last twenty years.  Sadly, there are still schools where this system holds sway, there are still schools where people lack the courage to let their staff play, experiment and explore, there are still teachers who lack the confidence to take a risk, to try something new, to allow themselves to “fail”.  There are also plenty of pressures on our schools and teachers to succeed, to have high pass rates in examinations, pressure to perform and to be seen to perform, pressure from parents to educate their children the way they were taught, self-imposed pressure to not fail. Pressures that hinder educators from doing what we know could work and could improve the way we teach and our students can learn.

Roger’s Bell Curve and the Pencil Illustration underline the fact that we are all human, we are all different, some of us naturally want to try new things and are not afraid to fail, some of us want to try but want others to trail blaze and we will follow more comfortably in their wake, some of us just want to keep on doing what we are doing, it is easy, it is comfortable, it works, but we might just be tempted to try something new once it has been proven to work.  And some, well we just want to hide in a corner and hope that the future will go away; if we keep quiet for long enough and resist for long enough maybe we will be forgotten about and nobody will bother us any more.  Worse though, are the nay-sayers, those that actively undo the good work that others are doing through constant moaning, undermining comments, they suck the good will and the positivity out of workplaces. 

We also have to understand that our students will also match these human qualities.  They may all have been born in the “Digital Age” – brought up in an age where technology is at their fingertips but they are not all “Digital Natives”.  They do not all use, know how to use, or like to use technology all the time.  Nor do they often see the benefits of what they see as a toy, to aid them in their learning. 

The challenge is to somehow encourage everyone to realise the worth of trying something new.  Not just doing new for the sake of new, but new because it helps us to do things more effectively, more efficiently.  The challenge is to negate the “nay-sayers”; they are often a vocal minority but they hold some sway.  

“Attuning yourself to others—exiting your own perspective and entering theirs—is essential to moving others. One smart, easy, and effective way to get inside people’s heads is to climb into their chairs.” Dan Pink

Thanks to George Couros for the above quote from his blogpost “The Value of the “Naysayer and Antagonist””.  He has some interesting things to say but I like his perspective that we all have the potential to be a “naysayer” or an “antagonist” depending on the context we find ourselves in.  There is also a lot to be said for putting ourselves in the shoes of others to be able to understand where they are coming from.   Food for thought…