Here at Remove the Walls, we attempt to justify the elimination of current educational limitations. This includes the old timetables, organizations, equipment and well anything else – even grades. Technology is providing the opportunity to restructure our classrooms and schools. I think we need to rethink other aspects as well. I know I need to be careful. These changes may work out fine for well financed private schools, or public boards that are funded properly but have serious limitations in other areas. [The limitations – usually financial – are walls. And we don’t like them but reality is reality]

So whats my point?

Yesterday I became informed of this story over at Retrospectacle. The blogger, Shelley Blatts, was asked – not so kindly- by the publisher Wiley to remove diagrams extracted from a science journal Wiley publishes. This actually caused a fairly quick and decisive response in the science blogging community. You can see the list of bloggers who responded here. To summarize, we science bloggers were not happy by the heavy handedness of Wiley, nor the attempt to prevent the sharing of scientific reports. To be fair Wiley has apologized to Dr. Blatts for their incorrect application of the fair use policy. And so we thank them – Thank you Wiley!.

And? [Since they apologized, why not drop the issue?]

I don’t drop the issue for two(?) important reasons that I feel we as educators and scientists need to be cognizant and preferably act to ‘Remove the Walls’.

First, many of use use diagrams, animations, videos – what have you – in our blogs and content management systems. It is important for us to understand the laws that apply to the use of copyrighted material within the public forum. I cannot claim to understand these laws very well. But I [and YOU] better learn them to protect ourselves.

Secondly, the nature of science requires the sharing of information. Scientists need to share how we collected data. What data we collected. How we analyzed data. The conclusions we make and the improvements we make. Its the scientific process. Critical analysis and building on previous knowledge moves science forward AND detects fraudulent claims.

So where are the walls?

I have a strong acceptance of the open source movement. I like my open source operating systems [linux!] and I think science needs to be as accessible and open as possible. As educators, we need to use materials to educate our students. In science, videos, animations, pictures need to be made available for students on a regular basis. Making these resources available online provides greater opportunity for students to learn. I want to be able to provide these materials without fear of a lawsuit. It may be argued that copyright laws are needed to provide financial motivation for innovation. I’m asking for a better way to be
found. Is their no other way to motivate?

Example: Failure of the recording industry to adopt and help develop p2p sharing has make
them seem out of date. Instead of working with new tech, they have attempted to regulate [walls] and in the process lost a great deal of legitimacy with younger generations.

I cannot claim to say I understand the general public license that governs much of open source software community. As educators I would like to be able to offer my students the tools they need to learn, when and where they can learn. My responsibility to the creator of that material should be to not profit from its use and acknowledge the source of the educational materials. As long as I, as an educator, state the source of the material and do not profit from its use, I should be able to use it.

In practice I think this is how much of science works today. [Scientists may say I’m being naive! – I probably am]. Similarly education needs to work this way.

Where do we go from here?

I wish I knew the answer to this question. Its obvious that the internet is incredibly accessible. It lacks walls and this makes it extremely powerful. I have read of numerous attempts of governments acting to raise walls around the internet [the great Chinese firewall!]. The freedom the internet represents a great democracy – the human population. As educators, we need to prevent walls from forming in, and around it, and teach our students responsible or fair use.

If you are like me, there is a good chance you have often used or posting something with the fear that ‘you’ll get caught’! Even though, like me, its always been about education and learning.


p.s. I don’t feel I wrote that really well. I apologize to all the English teachers out there!

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