In 2012 Wellington High School (WHS) became the first Wellington school to adopt a Creative Commons policy, which mandates a Creative Commons Attribution licence for all teaching materials.
Under their Creative Commons policy, the teachers of WHS can share, remix and re-use their teaching materials — including quizzes, lesson plans and classroom activities — without having to ask their Board of Trustees for permission.
Before WHS adopted their Creative Commons policy, teachers who shared their materials online would have been in violation of copyright. This is because, like other New Zealand schools, the copyright to all teaching materials created by WHS teachers in the course of their employment is held by the WHS Board of Trustees.
As every teacher knows, sharing is a crucial part of education. With the rollout of Ultra-Fast Broadband and the growing use of portable devices, school leaders are realising that there is an extraordinary capacity to share, adapt and collaborate with others across New Zealand. Without a Creative Commons policy, there is a chance that this potential will remain unrealised.
Changing policies, though, is a big step. How did WHS go about it? The process started on 23 November 2010, when Creative Commons Aotearoa New Zealand and the OER Foundation hosted WeCreate, a Creative Commons workshop for New Zealand educators. With support from the Ministry of Education, the workshop was attended by over 30 Wellington school leaders.
The workshop introduced the suite of Creative Commons licences, outlined the New Zealand Government’s position on open licensing and encouraged schools to develop policies to allow the development of Open Education Resources (OERs). Among the attendees were WHS Classics teacher Trudy Harvey and Librarian Jane Shallcrass.
As Jane put it, “We saw the Albany Senior High School Creative Commons policy and when we came back to school, we decided we should do something about it. We met with one of the Deputy Principals, gave them a copy of the policy and said, ‘we think we should have one of these at our school’.”
As one of the first schools in New Zealand to mandate Creative Commons licensing, school leaders at Wellington High School spent the next year considering the policy. Embracing the Creative Commons ethos, school leaders at Wellington High adapted the existing Creative Commons policy from Albany Senior High School; this was approved at a board meeting in early 2012.
For Trudy and Jane, this was good news. When the new policy was announced, however, some of the school’s teachers were concerned. Their problem, though, was not Creative Commons — their problem was copyright. Some teachers were worried that the copyright to any work they brought into the classroom — everything from photos to computer programmes — would be automatically owned by the school.
While this is not the case, school leaders were careful to bring more complex cases to the Board of Trustees, who made it clear that they had no desire to assert copyright over such works. The school is considering making alterations to the policy to address exceptional cases.
As Jane pointed out, these anxieties about copyright underscore the importance of a Creative Commons policy. The easy-to-understand Creative Commons licences cut through the ambiguities and uncertainties of copyright, ensuring that teachers can legally share and collaborate, without going through the motions of asking permission — or, even worse, breaking the law.
Although the Creative Commons policy at WHS is still very new, many teachers have started — or continued — to use Creative Commons licences on everything from general teaching resources to professional development presentations and videos of school events (including their prize-giving). Jane looks forward to seeing more examples of sharing, remix and reuse in the future.