“We have to think about how copyright can really serve teachers and learners”Name: Kamil Śliwowski
Position: Blogger and trainer
Expertise: Open resources, digital skills in education
Institution: Otwartezasoby.pl blog / Sektor 3.0
More info: Twitter Video
An interview with Kamil Śliwowski on 8 October 2021
Tell us about your work with Open Educational Resources (OER), or Open Pedagogy more broadly? How did you come to be involved in Open Education, and have librarians supported you on that Open Education (OE) journey?
So, firstly, I think I need to say that I am a librarian myself. I’m not working currently as a librarian, but I was starting my studies and moved from studying law to studying library and science, and information science, and at that point, I think it was around the first month of my studies, I went to what was perhaps one of the first meetings of Creative Commons Poland and asked them if they needed any help, or volunteers. I had just read the Lawrence Lessig book, Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity, and I was amazed and inspired by the just-starting open culture movement,
At that point, I didn’t know anything about Open Education. I didn’t even know that education was on the horizon of this kind of movement 14 or 15 years ago. But after a few years, I formally became part of the Creative Commons Poland team and started working a bit on training in copyright, and it was at that point where I discovered Open Education and Open Education Resources. As I was finishing up my studies, I knew that I wanted to be more of an educator than a lawyer, working with Open Practices and open culture, and at this point I was training more and more teachers and librarians, so I thought, okay, this is my part of the movement. I wanted to join in and be more active in OE and Open Education Practices (OEP). So at this point I myself, as a librarian, and training librarians and working with librarians researching their needs, I think they were a very important part of my becoming an activist for OE.
Who has benefited from Open Education at your institution, as well as beyond your institution, and what would you say have been the key benefits?
So we have to think not only about pushing publications online, but when we want to publish more and more online books, textbooks, stuff people can learn from, can read, can develop themselves, we have to think also about copyright. Additionally, when we’re thinking about copyright, we have to think about how copyright can serve people, as opposed to being a part of the problem of getting content to people who want it or need it for their development or their education.
I was always working for institutions that are kind of like support institutions for other institutions. So we were providing training as Creative Commons and other NGOs (non-governmental organisations), training for librarians, training for teachers, etc. I think from this time perspective, being from this kind of support angle, the best benefit, the biggest benefit that educational institutions in Poland had from Open Education was the shift we managed to lobby, that the publishers, especially commercial publishers, and librarians and libraries, they started to understand that the times were changing, and they were changing with the Internet. So we have to think not only about pushing publications online, but when we want to publish more and more online books, textbooks, stuff people can learn from, can read, can develop themselves, we have to think also about copyright. Additionally, when we’re thinking about copyright, we have to think about how copyright can serve people, as opposed to being a part of the problem of getting content to people who want it or need it for their development or their education.
The digitalisation in Poland, for many years was understood as something that has to be always taken into account with copyright. It doesn’t have to be two separate processes that you think about — digitalisation of education or books or culture. When you’re thinking about this, you always have to think about copyright issues and openness as well.
I think those first institutions in Poland, such as the Zachęta Gallery, which was the first one among many other countries, published modern art content on Wikipedia, even before opening their own projects. I think those were kind of small successes, but they were pushing boundaries.
So I think even smaller successes were on those different journeys and paths of the Open Education movement in Poland. Even before we had huge programs with European Union or Polish government funding for openness, we had some great examples of institutions that were often afraid, they wanted to do something differently, they wanted to publish online, but they didn’t know anything about the new ways of doing copyright. They were stuck in the thinking from the 1990’s, and earlier times, about how to publish something online that they should have that should be restricted in the same way as we restrict the copyright for non-digital materials. I think those first institutions in Poland, such as the Zachęta Gallery, which was the first one among many other countries, published modern art content on Wikipedia, even before opening their own projects. I think those were kind of small successes, but they were pushing boundaries because if such institutions were willing to experiment and to even think about this kind of opportunity, then we knew that maybe even without the copyright reform, we will be able to talk with other institutions and help them make similar changes in the future. Each year we had some institution in Poland, or a publisher, that was willing to go digital and open, at the same time.
I have to mention that for a few years, the biggest open textbook projects were happening in Poland, and I think this also opened the doors to other projects that are not only government funded. Right now we see projects for both Open Education on the primary, secondary level, and we also are one of the only countries outside of the U.S. who has open textbooks for higher education,both in Kraków and on the university level and privately funded by Openstax. So I think that’s also like a great success that we have such projects, especially since Polish is not a very popular language; if you do it in Polish it’s not very usable outside of Poland, which is very different for languages like French or Spanish or, of course, English. So I think that’s pretty good, and that’s been a huge success.
What still needs to be done for Open Education to truly take hold? What are the most pressing challenges?
I would say, is that the Open Education movement in Poland didn’t stop growing, but I think it kind of stopped at the wall of how difficult the educational system happens to be.
So from a research perspective, for Open Education to grow even more there are issues with copyright and I think it’s not just an issue with awareness of copyright. The issue is that the awareness is very often getting teachers and educators to think that there are more risks than opportunities for them to use Open Education Resources. I think we have to shift that thinking; it would be a great thing to see over the next few years how we can make Open Education Resources even easier to use, and easier to think, “if I’m using them, how can I benefit from them in comparison to copyrighted material from the typical commercial publishing sector?” So I think that is one of the things that we could improve upon.
Another one, I would say, is that the Open Education movement in Poland didn’t stop growing, but I think it kind of stopped at the wall of how difficult the educational system happens to be. So I think a lot of teachers don’t have the proper support system, and because of the lack of a support system for them, in terms of lacking technical or legal support, is a challenge. A better support system would help them feel less like they are risking something, and they wouldn’t have to spend too much time developing their own resources, but rather they can invest their time because this will be beneficial for them and their colleagues. Right now I think they are kind of stuck in a lot of issues with bureaucracy. It’s a bit different in higher education where the opportunities are better in comparison to K12 education, however.
I stopped developing my own blog at some point, because, I had this problem when I was training and traveling around Poland that people did not know where to seek those great resources. So I combined them and showed them with Polish language description and tutorials. Right now, it’s so easy to find that, so it’s kind of like “mission accomplished.” I have to seek something else.
I have developed parts of online courses as well, so that I don’t have to always train by myself and additionally, other teachers and educators can use this kind of content, and I think my plans would be to combine as much as possible, showcasing how Open Educational Resources could be used in specific educational ad tech tools. So I think there’s a huge opportunity for educators, especially in K12 education, with how they can learn how to use those great tools that are very often commercial, and that they’re allowed to use and create Open Education Resources themselves. So how we can combine these great technologies and great apps with resources that are open, that are truly shareable and with ways that they, those resources, could spark some open practices as well. So I think that could happen and I would love to invest more of my time in this.
And from a broader perspective, not my own plans, I think because we have this great project of open textbooks for higher education, I think maybe it’s time to not take a step back, but take a step in the direction of digging more into how those textbooks could be used, and maybe developing some kind of skill-sharing apps for teachers and for educators. We have a lot of those resources in Poland, and we have a lot of them in Polish, which wasn’t the case five or 10 years ago. Within these skill-sharing apps teachers and educators can dig more and learn how they can reuse material, remix images and adjust them for their own needs. I think it would be a great thing to plan more projects in that direction.
I’m always interested when I’m talking with people from other countries from the same movement, or at least like people who are interested in education, that’s it’s always very interesting to compare what kind of skills and what topics are teachers and educators interested in, aside from their own subject matter. In Poland, I think it’s amazing that the copyright issues and Open Education, at some point, was really a discussion point in broader discussions about education. I think that’s something we did not appreciate enough and I think that’s something we could work on more. We have this opportunity, which is a good starting point for pushing Open Education even further.
Copyright: Creative Commons CC-BY 4.0 Licence SPARC Europe
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