Who wants to own content? (Cont.)

I keep concentrating on the media and citizen end of the explosions in content and distribution. But here‘s a post from my friend Will Richardson, the educator who understands blogs and citizens media better than any I know, and here‘s another from a a librarian looking at the question of who wants to own content from their perspectives.

Says the librarian:

So, one thing this suggests is that the parts of the content industry that have experience with relationships and trust–like libraries–should be in the ascendancy. Are we dismantling the fences and walls and expanding our trust circles? Slowly.

Says Will (my emphasis):

Schools used to own the content they delivered, but no longer. There is better content, in most cases, to be found on the Web than in standard texts. There are richer databases of information, more knowledgable experts, and more diverse sources of uniquely pertinent material that we can draw upon now. And that renders the one-textbook-for-all approach basically irrelevant. While these resources may at first blush appear more unwieldly and complex than those comfortable, traditional texts, we do our students a disservice by not tapping into their diversity and timeliness.

We need to create our own texts, because we can. Our students need to help us, because they can. We need to ask relevant, diverse, living sources to participate, because they can. This is a totally changed world we’re entering, and we need to begin serious conversations at our schools as to what those changes mean and what strategies we can use to take advantage of them.

It helps to analyze the future of media from more perspectives than just the newsstand or the bookstore: like the classroom and the library.

: SEE ALSO: Libraries offering downloads.

  • Silly me. I thought the textbook division here at McGraw Hill was a nice hedge against all this turbulance in the media…

  • Glad to see the folks at OCLC weighing in on these matters, as in the space of a little more than a generation libraries have gone from some of the last places in the world to embrace technological change (some big academic libraries were still using card catalogs and manual circulation procedures until the mid-1990’s!) to being laboratories and incubators for what comes next.

    “We need to create our own texts, because we can. Our students need to help us, because they can. We need to ask relevant, diverse, living sources to participate, because they can.”

    This is already happening. The skyrocketing costs of traditional periodicals and the growing financial pressures of maintaining a comprehensive electronic collection is forcing universities to innovate in some amazing ways. Consider the problem of peer-reviewed journals — researchers and scholars have begun to combat the ludicrous prices of these essential journals by creating free online peer-reviewed journals of their own.

    Check out DOAJ – the Directory of Open-Access Journals – an growing international collection of scholarly periodicals that upend the historical relationship between academia’s content producers and its distributors. Currently DOAJ offers over 1700 journals which are peer-reviewed, universally respected, and totally free. And whereas in most cases authors surrender their intellectual property rights when they publish in traditional journals — to the point where they have to pay for a reprint of their own research! — open access journals largely leave authors with control of their work, so they are free to republish it elsewhere as they see fit.

    University libraries are also adding a significant amount of value to their web portals in the form of finding aids and research guides. Some of these have reached a point where they constitute original scholarship in and of themselves. I highly recommend, for instance, some of the online guides at Boston College’s libraries website (or any other academic institution — I chose BC because I had a library science instructor who was a bibliographer there and responsible for several of the better guides).

    All of these are publicly accessible and serve in many ways as introductory textbooks did back in the days when print was king. Only a good online research guide is ten thousand times more useful, as it combines old-fashioned bibliographic scholarship with the latest in digital content. People used to earn their Ph.D.’s compiling work like this, only to have the fruit of their labor mouldering on a shelf somewhere in the library stacks. Now this stuff is available to anyone at anytime, and it’s transforming the way we do scholarship at the most fundamental level.

    These are new kinds of content — hypercontent, if you will. They are creations of trust as much as they are functions of (traditional) content and distribution. All of this is terribly exciting not just for librarians but students, faculty, scholars, and even the general public, who is being increasingly invited to participate in the ivory tower even without ponying up the $30+k annual tuition bill. For a good taste of this, see MIT’s extremely forward-thinking Open Courseware Project, which offers the world a virtual MIT education.

    Share and enjoy.

  • And as for libraries offering downloads — this is by no means a new thing. Many larger public libraries have been offering ebook “loans” for quite some time now, and academic libraries have a growing list of electronic books in their catalogs as well which can be accessed by authenticated users from anywhere in the world. The spread of the Ebrary reader — which not only allows one to read etexts but to perform fulltext searches of the entire digital collection at once, a la Google Print or Amazon’s Search Inside the Book — and other reader-friendly etext interfaces has ramped this phenomenon up signifcantly in the past year or so.

  • “We need to create our own texts, because we can. Our students need to help us, because they can. We need to ask relevant, diverse, living sources to participate, because they can.”

    Sounds like Mr. Richardson and the teachers of New Jersey should start a Wiki to create their own curriculum content. It would be a great alternative to relying on textbooks. Print on demand could turn the final product into a “textbook” very easily, or they could just buy laptops for all their students with the money that they would save.

    Once teachers and professor start making the texts for their classes, the textbook industry will be in serious trouble. If a states and academic institutions begin approving these texts, thereby giving them an official status it will be the dawn of something completely new.

  • The note about schools and content is pretty superficial. As though teaching is about nothing other than handing a textbook, or a laptop to a child and then walking away.

    Also, the notion that students (novices) can and should create their own learning is absolutely ridiculous. It’s the same thread that led us to some of the worst education practices in the nation that reached their peak in the 1970s.

    Teaching and learning is a little bit about content. It’s also about teaching and learning.

  • George

    There is better content, in most cases, to be found on the Web than in standard texts.

    Um, I dunno. Recently I’ve been reading Shakespeare’s “history” plays, something I managed to avoid in school. I don’t see much “content” like that on the Web.

  • Hey Jeff…thanks for the kind words and the link. Hope things are well…if you’re out this way, stop in.

    Adam–we’ve been playing with wikis, but they are scary things for school administrators. They are fun though.

    Jenny–who said anything about walking away and about students creating their own learning? Whoa! I said they should help us. In no way am I suggesting we just put them on the Web and leave them to their own devices. But the way I see it, in an ideal world where we all have access to the content, why wouldn’t we demand that they find and share quality content that interests them and that educates us all. I no longer have 25 sponges in my classroom waiting to be filled up with the same knowledge. I’ve got 25 researchers who can teach me as well as themselves. My job is to connect them to that content, and there’s a lot of teaching that goes along with that.

  • Buzzmachine says, “Jim Dermitt Says: Your comment is awaiting moderation.”
    I didn’t say that.

    I said, “All you need is love.”
    Buzzmachine seems to be making stuff up or something. Maybe it’s a technical problem or something. You might find that you have another problem and it won’t be love.

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  • Robert

    Producing quality content takes a lot of time. People have to earn money to live and most of us have to spend most of our time working to earn money. How do the people who are creating all this alternative content survive? What do they use to buy food to eat? Or do they just knock up some third-rate content in the few hours of spare time they have each week when they are not busy doing a (presumably) non-creative day job?