BY MATT MCGREGOR
Taupaki School is a co-educational primary school, located an hour north-west of Auckland. On 20 February 2013, Taupaki School’s Board of Trustees passed a Creative Commons policy, giving permission to Taupaki’s teachers to share and collaborate, legally.
Paula Hogg has been the chair of the Taupaki BoT since 2012, and oversaw the passage of the Creative Commons policy. As Paula explains, the idea for the policy was initially introduced by the school’s principal, Stephen Lethbridge. While the BoT didn’t have any specific expertise on copyright or intellectual property, Stephen ensured that they had all the necessary information.
“We got a great letter from Stephen outlining all the issues, and following that we put it on the agenda for the next meeting. Stephen provided a lot of information for us to read prior to that meeting, so we felt quite well prepared.”
Nevertheless, copyright and intellectual property were new issues for the BoT. As Paula says, “Creative Commons was something we’d never heard of — it wasn’t even on the periphery. While we were aware of copyright laws, we were not as well informed around exactly what was Board and teacher owned.”
According to New Zealand’s 1994 Copyright Act, employers hold first ownership of copyright works produced in the course of employment. As is stated in TKI, the Ministry of Education’s information portal, this means that, “Unless agreed otherwise, the school will own the copyright in any teaching materials that teachers (employees) create during the course of their employment.”
Simply put, this means that teachers who share resources may often be infringing the school’s copyright. Creative Commons policies solve this problem by enabling the school to give advance permission to all teachers to legally share and collaborate using an open Creative Commons licence.
Stephen Lethbridge introduced the idea of the policy after noticing that, as he put it in a blog post, that “teachers were sharing more on more resources online and connecting with a great many schools who were visiting us. It would have been a nightmare to seek permission from the board, more likely the school principal, every time a teacher or student wanted to share information.”
As Paula points out, the policy is also strongly aligned with the school’s existing vision. “Our school’s vision strongly encourages collaboration, and we encourage sharing, so it was a bit of a shock to learn that we needed to have a policy for teachers to share legally.”
“The Creative Commons policy was very aligned with our thinking as a board. There was no dissonance in our discussion. The main issue was that everyone was surprised to discover that this isn’t normal practice.”
According to Paula, the CC policy passed because it supported the fundamental mission of the school — improving student outcomes. “We knew from the documentation Stephen provided, and from other background reading, that professional development is actually one of the best ways to lift student outcomes. And a big part of professional development is sharing best practice, including resources”
Paula also points out the importance of BoTs aligning their school with existing government policy. While the New Zealand Government’s Open Access and Licensing framework encourages schools to use CC to release copyright works, relatively few schools are aware that the policy exists.
Given the number of policy and procedural issues confronting schools, it’s also unlikely that BoTs will seek out additional policy changes that aren’t brought to their attention.
“It’s important that Boards don’t just view this as a legal obligation and stop there. It does encompass a lot more than that, and it’s important that Boards are aware of that.”
As Stephen points out, “With the Network for Learning Portal just around the corner school leaders need to revisit their intellectual property documentation. Creative Commons in Schools isn’t about abdicating responsibility and a copy anything approach. It is about acknowledgement, respect and attribution where the license is determined by the creators of amazing information, resources and ideas within our schools.”
Learn more about Creative Commons in New Zealand Schools
Read Stephen Lethbridge’s blog post, Creative Commons and Schools.
Get in touch with CCANZ to ask for resources or request a workshop.
Listen to Stephen’s presentation at the CC in Schools roadshow, from March 2014.
Follow Paula (@diana_prince_ww) and Stephen (@stephen_tpk) on Twitter.