Wednesday, January 26, 2011

On the shoulders of giants: Creative Commons and commercial use (invited blogger of the month - January 2011)

A post by John Owen

Creative Commons (CC) provides the legal framework for creators to offer some rights to others under certain conditions, replacing ‘all rights reserved’ with ‘some rights reserved’. These conditions cover attribution to the creator, whether or not the work can be changed in any way, whether it can be used for commercial gain, and what form of licence must apply to any future use of the work. The NZ CC website has a good description of the licence combinations.

Of all these options, the most controversial and misunderstood is the right to (or restriction of) commercial gain. That is to say, if you issue a creative work under the CC licence, should you let others use it to make money?

mage source - by Mimi and Eunice

Search Flickr for CC images of your favourite subject and you will have a small subset of the overall content available under standard copyright protection. Restrict your search to a CC licence that allows for commercial use and you will have a fraction of the original content (if any, depending on your chosen subject).
Why is this the case? My suspicion is that the public understanding of CC licensing is misguided by the traditional copyright environment we are familiar with; that is to say, an environment that rewards ownership and stifles creativity. Put another way, we think that ownership rather than creative use endows us with the right to claim reward.

Image source - by lumaxart

The intention of CC is to create public goods (resources) for creative use by all, whilst at the same time allowing the creator to reserve certain rights. However, to be of future creative use to others it is essential not to apply too many restrictions. I would argue that, most importantly, we should not restrict the right for others to make money with these public goods. If someone can earn a living using my Pacific Island holiday sunset picture when I could not (or cared not to), should I expect much more than accreditation for a lucky snap?
To give a less trivial example, there are kiosks called Freedom Toasters that burn free and open source software (such as Firefox, Open Office, Ubuntu etc) as well as other social content onto disks for those who cannot download it from the Internet. The licences that these applications and content are distributed with do not prevent the kiosk maker or owner from charging for this service should they wish (the service is actually free). However, it would not be possible to distribute CC non-commercial content this way without agreement - in practice, it would be impossible. Licensing a relatively valueless creative work this way restricts the way it can be used to directly or indirectly benefit others.

The Freedom Toaster (Image source - by Breadbin Interactive)

I chose this (slightly convoluted) example because it touches on another important right, which is the human right to earn a living. Free and open source software supports this right, allowing others to earn a living from products licensed this way. And developers of free software feed themselves by offering support and customisation of free software. Free in this context is derived from libre rather than gratis; i.e. free speech as opposed to free beer, as Richard Stalmann (founder of the Free Software Foundation and author of many copyleft licences such as the GNU GPL) is often credited with saying. This is an organic and self sustaining model that not only works, but works very well. Overzealous protection of rights and ownership not only stifles creativity, but also denies many the right to earn a living; and instead allowing a small few to earn a fortune.

If you wish to support a truly creative environment from which we can all benefit then you should always consider allowing for commercial use. If you have no idea how to make money from your works, don’t stop someone else from doing so. The only restriction you should consider applying is one that ensures your licence cannot be changed in any future use.

What does this have to do with education? In New Zealand we are lucky enough to have the right to participate in primary and secondary education. If we were to make the course content free and open, then maybe some of the barriers to education will be vulnerable to the creativity of our educators - and educators around the world. Maybe it would help more parents become engaged in their children’s education. Could it also help teachers by presenting them with a far wider set of resources and teaching tools and opportunities to collaborate? Perhaps it would result in a more critical evaluation of the quality of our existing teaching materials.

Image source - by steren.giannini

Many institutions are heading down this path with high profile examples such as MIT placing almost all courses in the public domain (although, under a CC non-commercial licence). Here in NZ we are looking at creating some shared national teaching resources through projects such as Learn Guide Protect with NetSafe, and there are numerous examples of on-line teacher communities already sharing ideas such as OERNZ.
Educational resources should be free. There is no reason to own educational resources as they will simply become obsolete. Educational resources should be given to the community where they can be improved and modified far beyond the imagination of the original creator. The community should also not be denied commercial gain from this activity, as this simply stifles creativity for no reasonable benefit.

Consider this from a different, slightly geeky, angle. Do you prefer to use Firefox (free and open) or Internet Explorer (not free or open)? What if educational resources were produced by a community similar to the collaborative creators of Firefox? Resources that were created by a group of people spread across the world from diverse backgrounds and cultures. Imagine the depth and breadth of experience that would be available to educators here in New Zealand. Imagine how we could also reciprocate and help others.

Interesting links and attributions


John Owen

For the past 15 years John has worked predominantly in IT within the telecommunications industry for solution providers and operators (mobile and fixed line). His career has taken him from a Siemens' R and D center, to product development and account management with solution vendors, and through the IT and Engineering departments of telecommunications operators. This journey has given him a thorough understanding of the technical and business requirements of technology led companies.

John's current focus is to apply his knowledge to school and industry education, finding ways to blend technology with learning such that it enhances the experience and delivers real-world skills.

Related articles

Creative Commons License On the shoulders of giants: Creative Commons and commercial use is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 New Zealand License.

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Monday, January 24, 2011

On choosing to teach: a professor reflects (Part 3) - INVITED BLOGGER OF THE MONTH (September 2010)

This is the third, and final part of a three-part recollection and reflection: "On choosing to teach: a professor reflects", by Peter Mellalieu. To read part one, please click this link, and part two, please click here.


In the the first and second part of this series I outlined the events that led to my 'call to teach' at Massey University in the late 1980s, recalled the earlier influences on my life such as the two innovative teachers I had as parents, and my experience tutoring fellow students at high school and university. I also described my arrival at the university and induction, my anxiety and preparation for my first lecture, and the logistical catastrophe of my first on-campus programme. These have all shaped my consequent approaches to curriculum innovation and development.

In this episode, I explore my advancing teaching practice, and discuss some of the principles of adventure learning.


Advancing my teaching practice

Image source - by Mark Brannan

I recall from my 'blue book' that a tertiary teacher often embarks on their teaching according to the manner in which they have been taught. The blue book (mentioned in Part 1) certainly expanded my repertoire of possibilities and approaches. However, I now recognise that by the time I had become a university teacher - in my early thirties - I had experienced as a student an exceptionally wide range of formal teaching and training techniques. Perhaps the learning environments I had experienced are unique in their diversity!

During the early 1970s I was a pupil in what was then regarded as New Zealand's most progressive state school: Cambridge High School. Our principal, George Nairn Marshall, instructed our senior class in what is now termed 'critical thinking'. My physics teacher coached a team of students to compete in the NBR/NCR National Business Game Competition in 1972-73. The competition was a computer-facilitated learning experience that I recorded for posterity in the High School Yearbook. Until recently, I utilised a computer-based business game to teach students about decision support systems, financial engineering, and strategic thinking: Thompson and Strickland's Business Strategy Game, (BSG).

Image source - by Tim Morgan

Whilst Steve Jobs and Bill Wozniak were inventing the Personal Computer (PC) and laying the foundation for Apple Corporation, I was building my own thermionic valve-driven audio mono-fi-amplifier. My equivalent of the internet and Google Search, the Encyclopaedia Britannica, informed me precisely how to make the usual childhood weapons of mass destruction, interplanetary travel, ... and yoghurt. I programmed physics problems (Einstein's relativistic mass equations) by punching out the chad from a Hollerith computer punch card using a bent paper clip: PORTRAN for Portable FORTRAN. These learning exercises were quite autodidactic - or self-directed as we now might say.

The PORTRAN experience led to my selection for a week's secondary school programme with IBM in Auckland in 1972, and my direct entry into the second year of a practical computer programming course at Massey University where I learned Information Structures and Programming. I recall the use of the GOTO statement was grounds for immediate failure of a programming assignment by our lecturer. With similar ferocity (I wish!), I now forbid the use of 'and' as a conjunction in written language, preferring words such as: 'Furthermore', 'Consequently', and 'In contrast'. I permit 'and' solely as part of a list of items! I argue for using succinct sentences. I prefer students write using English that is comprehensible by an international audience for whom English is an alternative language (EAL). Consequently, I recommend students learn to speak and write McAlpine's Global English! I now have statistical evidence from a pilot project that students who are superior at writing formal academic English have a higher likelihood of gaining higher grades in their final grades and a diverse variety of assignments - even including multi-choice tests! (Mellalieu 2010, December 6).

At university, beyond lectures and tutorials I experienced science and engineering laboratories; field trips to paper mills, fellmongeries, and dairy factories; team projects to design a factory - including its business plan; case studies; computer simulations, and annual 12-week industry work placements.

Image source - by Oisín Duke

Whilst pursuing postgraduate studies in public policy with the intention of becoming a United Nations diplomat, I undertook a 'finishing school' in the 'final act of diplomacy': I learned to soldier. During my concurrent three years part-time training as a military engineer (sapper), I experienced competency-based training in a variety of skills such as marksmanship, rifle care, grenade throwing, navigation, bridge building, parade drill, explosives, and latrine cleaning. Perhaps more importantly, I learned the importance of ensuring that every team member was carried through (literally, if necessary) to the objective destination - together. The latter value is something rather difficult to inculcate amongst my students, yet I am convinced it would be valued by employers beyond the military.

During my professional, pre-academic life in the New Zealand Public Service, I experienced an extraordinary participative strategic organisation development process - the Strategic Orientation Round (SOR) developed for the Philips multinational. I have used SOR extensively in my consulting and to a lesser extent my teaching. Mellalieu (1987) presents my first published example from my pre-university career as an industrial scientist.
Wisdom from the mentors: what should you teach .. and how?

Image source by dkuropatwa

Very early in my teaching career I stumbled across a recently-published review of the state of university-based management education in the United States (Porter & McKibben, 1988). [Not 'the' Michael Porter of generic strategy and five forces fame.] The study was critical of the lack of attention to: integration across functional discipline areas (management, marketing, finance...); leadership and people management skills; and international components. At my first Australia-New Zealand management educators conference, I presented a review of this study contrasted with several related studies critiquing the state of management education in Britain Australia, and Japan (Mellalieu, 1989). I noted from a study of UK high flyer managers that: "an ability to take an overview, analyse and develop a strategy for solving problems is a vital skill for top managers. This is a skill which can be developed in a formal class room. Academic programmes would probably have more impact on the real world if more attention was paid to this activity in preference to the presentation of information and abstract theory" (Cox & Cooper, 1989). How relevant that quote remains today!

My literature review strongly informed the development of my teaching practice and philosophy. I am - surprised - to note especially my enduring emphasis on practical problem solving, cross-functional integration through strategic and entrepreneurial thinking, and the development of strengths-based leadership and people management competencies.

Case study 'problem-based learning' teaching thrilled me for several years until I was challenged by a postgraduate student to assess the potential contribution of outdoor adventure-based learning. My subsequent exploration led to my engagement with adventure learning, action learning, action research and the necessary co-requisite practice of encouraging students' reflective learning (Mellalieu, Leberman, Bradbury, & Chu, 1994). Exposure to several personality profile indicators (such as the Myers-Briggs indicator, Belbin Team Roles, and later the Gallup StrengthsFinder) led to my last decade applying strengths-based development in my teaching. Most recently, this pathway has lead to my guiding students to create a personal and professional learning agenda (PLA) as part of their first year of tertiary studies in Innovation and Entrepreneurship (Unitec BSNS 5391). Their PLA is intended to act as a regular prompt to remind students of their short and long term aims, their natural talents, and the actions they can take to develop their talents into strengths and excellence (Mellalieu, 2010d).

Image source - by London Public Library

The principles of adventure learning strongly inform my current pedagogy: the design of my learning environments and the assignments with which I challenge my students. Adventure learning - broadly interpreted is strongly consequentialist compared with traditional lectures, and even the case study approach. A student who proposes solutions to a case study never experiences personally the consequences of their decisions. In contrast, a problem framed as an adventure learning task does face the consequences of their decision: a more potent learning experience. Competitive computer simulation games can also be constructed as a type of adventure learning, providing time for reflection is embedded in the pedagogical process (Mellalieu & Emerson, 2009).

Action learning is often confused with adventure learning. They both share a commitment to reflective learning and group processes. However, the former is charged with achieving direct organisational objectives through some kind of project, whereas the latter is typically focussed on learning through outdoor adventure activities often in preparation for individual or team development. I tend to 'mix and match' the two approaches with other pedagogies as appropriate.

Whilst developing my competency to co-facilitate adventure learning, I experienced the extremely potent pedagogical design methodology of isomorphic framing under the guidance of Simon Priest. I also gained practice in using action learning and action research from a variety of mentors including the International Management Centres, IMC. This experience lead to the creation of the Action Learning Management Practicum. This course taught students how to design, facilitate, and risk manage client-focussed adventure learning interventions (Leberman & Mellalieu, 1996).

The future for tertiary education

I began my teaching career 'crowd managing' over 1000 students per year, examining each student against a single curriculum. Before I entered the Procrustean Bed of the New Zealand polytechnic business education system, I had developed confidence in facilitating senior students to tailor their learning to their own interests: my interpretation of the emergingly-fashionable phrase 'self-directed learning'.

Image source - by h.koppdelaney

I see the future challenge of tertiary education as being to 'mass customise' the learning experience for each student building - especially - on their identified talents and aspirations. Part of the challenge includes focussing attention on ensuring that students achieve 'basic competency' in core, generic academic literacies and supporting students' individual strengths-based development. Certainly, information and communication technologies such as pedagogical games, decision support systems, the electronic text book, and collaborative learning technologies will be amongst the portfolio of instruments that I will continue to advance in my practice. However, I believe that at the heart of tertiary education lies the crucial importance of formal academic writing, numeracy, creative problem solving ... and consciously thinking about how to create an environmentally sustainable society. I think the latter presents an outstanding opportunity to build cross-disciplinary thinking and collaboration.

Image source

Peter Mellalieu

Peter J. Mellalieu is a curriculum innovator who teaches innovation, entrepreneurship, strategy, creativity, and sustainable enterprise development at Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand. He studied industrial engineering and management at Massey University (BTech (hons), 1973-1976) and public policy at Victoria University of Wellington (MPubPol, 1976-78). His doctoral studies in management science and information systems (1979-1982) engaged him implementing decision support systems for strategic planning in several agribusiness sectors. He is an ardent advocate for education for sustainability. His professional journal is at and resources for teachers and students at

Cox, C. J., & Cooper, C. L. (1988). High flyers: An anatomy of managerial success. Blackwell.
Inkson, K., Henshall, B., Marsh, N., & Ellis, G. (1987). Theory K: The Key to Excellence in New Zealand Business. Auckland, NZ: Bateman.
Leberman, S., & Mellalieu, P. J. (1996). ALP-DevCo and the Action Learning Programme: A Trojan Horse for Moving from Mystery to Mastery - Training educators to use experiential education using an isomorphically-framed training-products development company. In Proceedings of the Outdoor Education Conference: From Mystery to Mastery (pp. 66-83). Presented at the Outdoor Educators Conference, The Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre, Turangi, NZ: Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre of New Zealand. Retrieved from
Mellalieu, P. J., & Emerson, A. (2009). Developing reflective learning in a strategic thinking class. In Unitec Teaching and Learning Symposium. Presented at the Unitec Teaching and Learning Symposium, 28 September 2009, Auckland, NZ: Unitec Institute of Technology. Retrieved from
Mellalieu, P. J., Leberman, S., Bradbury, T., & Chu, M. (1994). Opening the black box: Beyond adventure-based management education programmes. Discussion paper. Palmerston North, NZ: Department of Management Systems, Massey University. Retrieved from
Mellalieu, P. J. (1987). Strategic orientation in a biological science laboratory (the case of DSIR Applied Biochemistry Division). New Zealand Journal of Technology, 3, 153-157. Retrieved from
Mellalieu, P. J. (1989). Educating future managers: A survey of recent publications. In Proceedings of Australia and New Zealand Academy of Management Educators. Presented at the Australia and New Zealand Academy of Management Educators Conference 1989, University of Auckland, Auckland, NZ: Australia and New Zealand Academy of Management Educators. Retrieved from
Mellalieu, P. J. (1998). Weaving the threads of innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurial learning through a university-located reality-TV and master class: Enterprise MasterWorks (EMW)™. In International Conference on Higher Education and Small/Medium Enterprise (SMEs). Presented at the International Conference on Higher Education and Small/Medium Enterprise (SMEs), Rennes, France: Centre Études et Recherche EURO PME, Rennes International School of Business. Retrieved from
Mellalieu, P. J. (2010b). Course Handbook and Syllabus - Strategy and Sustainability - Unitec BSNS 7340. Auckland: Unitec Institute of Technology. Retrieved from
Mellalieu, P. J. (2010c, August 21). Course Handbook and Syllabus Unitec BSNS 5391 Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Scribd. Retrieved August 21, 2010, from
Mellalieu, P. J. (2010d). Engaging a student-directed 'living curricula': Progress results and reflections from introducing strengths-based professional development in an international business school. Presented at the Unitec Learning, Teaching, and Research Symposium, Auckland, NZ: Unitec Institute of Technology. Retrieved from
Mellalieu, P. J. (2010, December 6). A Decision Support System for predicting success, excellence, and retention from students' early course performance: a machine learning approach in a tertiary education programme in innovation and entrepreneurship: Part 1: Project summary. Innovation & chaos ... in search of optimality. Retrieved December 9, 2010, from
Evaluating the Enterprise MasterWorks format in a university context. EMW: Enterprise MasterWorks. Retrieved from
Peters, T. J., & Waterman, R. H. (1982). In Search of Excellence: Lessons from Americas Best Run Companies (Later Printing Edition.). Grand Central Publishing.
Pettigrew, A., & Whipp, R. (1993). Managing change for competitive success. Wiley-Blackwell. Retrieved from
Porter, L. W., & McKibben, L. (1988). Management education and development: Drift or thrust into the 21st century. McGraw-Hill.
Slappendel, C. (1992). The Emergence and Development of Ergonomics Capability: Case
f0Studies of Innovation in Product Design and Development (Doctor of Philosophy in Business Studies). Massey University. Retrieved from

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

An uneasy dichotomy? How are ePortfolios being used in education?

Key stages of learningImage by hazelowendmc via Flickr
Trent Batson, executive director of The Association for Authentic, Experiential and Evidence-Based Learning (AAEEBL), provides an initial summary on the current status of global portfolios in his article: "Review of Portfolios in Higher Education: A Flowering of Inquiry and Inventiveness in the Trenches". The article indicates the variety of current uses for ePortfolios, and how they are assisting learners to develop digital literacy, communication, and writing skills. Reference is also made to the formation of The Fund for the Improvement of Post Secondary Education, and how it heralds the emergence of the field of portfolio studies. The article concludes with a recognition of the up and coming technologies for ePortfolios, as well as a comparison of course management systems and portfolios:

"course management systems, no matter the name, usually are defined by and focused on a course, which has a beginning and an ending. Portfolios are instead most often identified not with a specific course but with the learner over time" (Batson, 2010).

Dynamic interconnectedness: ePortfolios

This article seems to suggest that portfolios / ePortfolios are already taking on a lifelong learning purpose, with students taking them forward through their primary, secondary and tertiary education, and then out with them into the world of, for example, work. Two points spring to mind. The first is that ePortfolio use has not been around long enough in education institutions to show the level of flexibility and portability for a student to work through the school system and graduate with their own ePortfolio - owned by the student rather than the institutions where they are studying (partly because of issues with interoperability, policies, and standards, as well as concerns and tensions around using Web 2.0 ePortfolios). The second is, as far as I have witnessed to date, some ePortfolio use in education tends toward templates, and specific requirements. While it can be argued that requirements need to be made clear and students need to be scaffolded, how can this be translated to an ePortfolio that is structured in a way that is personalised, relevant to a learner's future, and useful to, for instance, future employers?

One of the comments that follows Trent Batson's article poses the question "Why do portfolios always seem to end with graduation?", and goes on to suggest: "Let's not continue to use portfolios just as a repository for student work. They can be more than that; make it an online space alive with activity, interaction, and connections" (Brian). This comment highlights the current uneasy dichotomy of assessment / lifelong learning; and assessment / creativity.

Perhaps, as the use of ePortfolios matures, then education will find a way to enable learners, while also fulfilling course requirements, and in turn encourage them to take their ePortfolio forward with them(??). But it may prove to be a long arduous road to reach this destination
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Friday, January 14, 2011

More or less human? We are all cyborgs now (Amber Case)

Image representing Amber Case as depicted in C...Image by Kris Krug (used with permission) via CrunchBaseThis video shows a thought-provoking, if rather controversial presentation by Amber Case. The whole notion of whether we are more, or less, human when we use technology in the way we currently do is a hot topic.

Reading through the comments underneath the video on the TED site shows a wide range of emotions (for example, fear, excitement, anger) inspired by the notions she discusses. Other comment posters have chosen to share their own experiences, while yet others have checked out (online) the credentials ('second selves') of a couple of the community engaged in the conversations.

Taking a step back, what Amber presents is, in a way, enacted in miniature by the TED community, who are involved in a discussion that would not be possible without the technologies used. The TED community may not be bosom pals, or even 'know' each other at any level, but would they be exchanging ideas and opinions...and building connections so easily without it? Cogito ergo sum - "I think therefore I am" was stated in 1644 by Descartes. So, by taking advantage of these increased opportunities to think, share ideas, connect, agree and disagree, are we becoming more or less human?

The write up on the TED site reads: "Technology is evolving us, says Amber Case, as we become a screen-staring, button-clicking new version of homo sapiens. We now rely on "external brains" (cell phones and computers) to communicate, remember, even live out secondary lives. But will these machines ultimately connect or conquer us? Case offers surprising insight into our cyborg selves."

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