Sharing is Caring!

‘Sharing is caring’.  A catchphrase which, together with Barney the purple dinosaur, I have attempted to engrain into the intellectual capacities of my kids.  At times it has been a successful reminder. At other times it has not worked so well.

16-year-old: ‘Mom, it’s my necklace.  I’ve taken care of it for such a long time…. What if she loses it!? She just cannot take things from my room without first asking’.   Yet her sister would easily let her have anything that is hers.  #CreativeCommons  # SharingandOpeness

13-year-old: ‘Mom its unfair that the Cassio has been in her room for almost a month, it’s my turn to have it in my room.’  We should both enjoy the benefit of it’.   Yet there is a piano downstairs. #negotiateANDshare

3-year-old: ‘Mamma it’s my Pepper Pig’.    The anxiety of a 3-year-old who does not want to let go of what is his, because he is afraid that he would lose ownership of it. #IntellectualPropertyRights #credit

The idea of sharing and open learning is not a foreign concept to me, given my (or anyone else’s) experiences in bringing up kids. The common themes that arise from rearing my brood are very are analogous to adults faced with the prospect of sharing:

  1. We are anxious about others using our work without giving us credit.
  2. We instinctually want to hold on to what belongs to us, because we want to enjoy the greater benefit of it.
  3. Fear of work being abused or taken out of context
  4. Quality assurance of available material.

In as much as the anxiety is real to any of us who write, publish, invest hours of time and effort in developing our material, the greater benefit of sharing our work to benefit a greater audience of peers and students cannot be overstated.

Very much like Star Trek, sharing and openness takes teaching and learning where no student or educator has gone before:  Cyberspace. A space where we voluntarily offer our knowledge to enable our colleagues to augment the learning experience for their students.  Not all students can afford to buy a textbook. I is so much easier for them to access an OER so as to enable them to gain the same advantages as those who can afford it.  It places learning on an even level. It provides a greater reach of a developers work, beyond geographical borders.[1]

We develop each other as educators.  I learn so much from sharing with my peers at The IIE Varsity College. They adapt and reuse my material, as relevant to their specific modules, as I do with their material.  This community of sharing and openness has enabled us to support each other, towards a common goal: Developing each other in a teaching and learning space, whilst meeting the outcomes of each module, with a studentcentric approach in mind. Our students become lifelong learners, as do we as educators[2].  The more we adapt, reuse, remix each others material, the more its quality is enhanced and made relevant. OER supports our educational and professional development by enabling us to be each other’s editors and supporters. The user chooses which material to use.  Just as hard copies of material range from relevant to non relevant, great quality to that that which is not, it is up to individual users, to sift through it in deciding which of those to use.  The same applies to OER’s.

So, just as my 13year-old now asks her sister’s permission to borrow her stuff, so too do creative commons licences come in to enable us to borrow the work of others and use it in a manner that benefits future users.  Just as my 13-year-old and 16-year-old have learned to negotiate and share the use of the Cassio, so too do we as educators need to negotiate the limits and extent to which we desire to share our own and each other’s material.  This is the reason why creative commons licences are so important.  In providing us with options as to the extent or terms of our sharing, it is in effect enabling us to share on our own terms.

Just as my 3 year olds anxiety surrounding losing ownership of his Pepper Pig has somewhat dissipated in baby steps, the same is required of those who are sceptical about the benefit of OER’s.  It starts with sharing a single document and seeing how that works for you.

We all lend to completing each other’s puzzle in the sharing process.

[1] Yuan, Li, Stephen Powell, and JISC CETIS. “MOOCs and open education: Implications for higher education.” (2013).

[2] Weller, M., (2012). The openness-creativity cycle in education. Journal of Interactive Media in Education. 2012(1), p.Art. 2. DOI: