Amy's Whimsical Musings
As an only child, I learned a lot from my mom, a great single-parent who passed away from cancer a mere 2 years ago. She was an excellent cook and baker, and prided herself in making homemade everything when all the other kids seemingly got Hostess DingDongs and Chef Boyardee. One of my favorite treats – still to this day – are cookies made from scratch. Whatever variety she concocted, I relished in the chewy-crunchy-vanilla-y-chocolate-y-oatmeal-icing goodness of it all. In fact, I hate to admit this but I often start off my week making cookies, and eat one for breakfast every morning just to ensure the day starts off sweetly.
Mom sharing a gingerbread cookie with my daughter
This passion for cookies got me thinking about the culture of connectivity and sharing, and how education is still steeped in what I think is copyright madness and a tradition of hoarding knowledge, petty competition, and grasping at “intellectual property”.
You see, I loved my mom’s cookies so much I was often bewildered and dismayed when she’d pack up half the batch to give to a neighbor or friend. I mean, it wasn’t even new neighbors that she was trying to welcome a la those old Leave it to Beaver episodes when June packs up a hospitality basket for the Beav to deliver – her gifts were for people who already knew us and liked us! She’d always say:
It’s true isn’t it? Perhaps that’s why we gravitate to social media. Remember when we used to take photos and carefully arrange them into albums that we busted out at every party or sleepover? That evolved into making “double prints” for a friend, to attaching digital images in emails, and finally Instagram. When we share we reinforce the connections we’ve already made (like my old neighbors) and perhaps establish new connections. Connections lead to other, wonderful opportunities that may lead to or far outweigh any financial gain from “safeguarding” the idea/work from others.
To be frank, I’m not even convinced an assignment or project is valid anymore unless it is shared with a wider audience. That’s what students do in the real world, and why shouldn’t they be populating the ether with digital artifacts that showcase their creativity and intellect? And what about us? We educators should steer clear from things like “TeachersPayTeachers” (yes, I know they have some free things but the thought of hawking my ideas to my peers is a bit off-putting), and instead be cultivating our PLNs on Twitter or G+, joining MOOCS, contributing to the blogosphere, and offering impromptu PD sessions at our own schools.
As for “intellectual property”, I think we should abandon references to “stealing” others’ work, and own up to the fact that all creation is derivative, and that truly good ideas come from networking. We should talk in terms of “appropriation” and “attribution”, and be teaching students effective use of creative commons material and how to properly credit their sources of inspiration. The more you share openly, the more it will be obvious the great idea originated with you – that is, if you even care. Because I really believe that, as teachers, we care more about how students take the great-tasting ingredients we give them (the inspiration) and craft them into amazing cookie recipes of their own.
I plan to keep sharing freely the efforts of my labor because:
1. It feels great
2. I make valuable connections that make me even more creative
3. Because my Mama told me to
This post was inspired by a variety of fabulous individuals such as
Henry Jenkins, Rick Falkvinge (“History of Copyright”), Mitch Resnick (“Making, Tinkering, and Remixing”), Austin Kleon (“Steal Like an Artist”), Kirby Ferguson (TED: Embracing the Remix), and Matt Ridley (“TED: When Ideas Have Sex“)
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