I’m attending our Oklahoma “2007 State Superintendent’s Annual Leadership Conference” today in Oklahoma City. We’re about to hear the keynote address by Dr. Robert Marzano, whose book (and the title of his presentation) “School Leadership That Works” is among a collection of books I’ve bought from Amazon.COM but not yet read. If I could suspend all my other life-committments and activities, I’m thinking I could probably read for at least a couple of months straight and not be through that book stack….

As we entered the arena where Dr. Marzano is going to speak, we were given a stapled handout of five pages, and a small bookmark-sized piece of paper printed on the front and back. The title of this smaller handout is, “The 21 Responsibilities of the School Leader.” In small print on the bottom of the back page, the following words are recorded:

Reprinted with permission from McRel. Printed by the State Department of Education as authorized by 70 O.S. 3-104. Reprinting this publication in whole or in part without permission is in violation of the copyright laws; you must obtain copyright permission from the source.

I’m sure Dr. Marzano is going to share some great thoughts, so what I am about to write here is not a reflection on him or his ideas. (This will actually be the first opportunity I’ve taken to be directly exposed this toughts.) My thoughts are more general, and are specific to the importance of value of freely sharing ideas.

While it may be great to hear the themes in this upcoming presentation, “The New Era of Comprehensive School Reform: Three Critical Interventions for Effective District/School Reform,” I’m thinking I’d much rather hear or actually present myself a keynote address on Creative Commons and shared digital curriculum projects like Curriki. The reason I’d love to hear or share a presentation about Creative Commons relates directly to these five small lines of print at the bottom of this handout.

“In violation of the copyright laws.” Does this relationship we’ve been ordered to have with the ideas contained on these pieces of paper necessarily have to restrict all sharing of these ideas? Why do people think about, write about and share ideas in the first place? Is making money the #1 reason? I admit I am idealistic, but I think a significant (and even overriding) reason for having ideas and sharing them is to hope for and expect transformation: both personal and collective. If we want to change the world with our ideas, I agree we first need to look to ourselves and seek to make internal changes first. But as we look outside ourselves into the world and share ideas, I think we should acknowledge that the broadest possible dissemination of ideas serves the interest of transformational change.

I like the Biblical analogy here of light. You do not have a light in a dark room, so you can hide it, you have a light so you can put it on a lampstand and give light to the entire room. Lights do not naturally exist to be hidden under bushel baskets, rather they are meant to be held aloft so they can light the way for many others. I love that analogy of “the good country” as a light on a hill, offering both hope and guidance for humanity which often finds itself in the dark on a stormy sea.

The gist of my thinking here comes down to this: We need to both educate others and overly model the use of Creative Commons licenses for our ideas and the ideas of our students. Why? Because if our ideas are good (of high quality) we should want as many people as possible to have access to those ideas. This thought gels with the key messages of the Attention Economy article I finally read in full last week. In an environment awash in information, restricting access to your ideas invites irrelevancy. My blog (like pretty much everyone’s, I am not offering something unique here with my communication modality) is freely accessible to anyone connected to the Internet and not behind a restrictive content filter. In making my thoughts freely available, I hope to make my ideas more accessible and therefore relevant to others.

I wish all of Dr. Marzano’s materials were being shared under a Creative Commons license, even if it was a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial license. The invitation should be, PLEASE share these ideas with as many other people as you can. We want to change the world through these ideas, and to do that we need you to share them with everyone you know. Instead, the message is authoritative and threatening: Don’t copy these materials and share them with others, or you might get sued. That’s not a very positive message to share if you think you have great ideas that are capable of positively transforming the lives of others around the world.

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One Response to The importance of freely sharing ideas

  1. CVanHook says:

    I agree with you wholeheartedly! As an educator, I am hittin’ the edu blogs this summer to better understand the new web tools available for learners. Please do focus more discussion on CC and curriwiki! I am listening! In my high school library orientation classes this fall, I will focus on Creative Commons. For the 21st Century learner, I encourage students to think creatively and be curious; to ask permission and appropriately take from the words, pictures, and thoughts of others–remixing and advancing, recreating and expounding; and then to enthusiastically and globally roll out exciting results so that this contagious process can begin again. The final story only gets better and better for ALL! It’s great when CURIOSITY and LEARNING become contagious!

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