If you are a teacher and you are creating a really cool program in your classroom you should scale it globally. But if you think you should also make money from scaling your awesome program, it’s probably not the best way to go about it.
To innovate in a school setting, going the open source or open innovation route, however you define it, is probably your best choice. Likely, a combination of proprietary and non-proprietary intellectual property scenarios might be more favourable. Below is a list of things that in my experience are important to consider – please feel free to comment.*
As a public school teacher going the proprietary route in terms of IP would lead to many conflicts of interest – a non-proprietary route (or at least a mix) is much easier.
You have to ‘give it away’. Some teachers or students might have problems about giving their work away. Of course, you always need a ‘bread and butter’ gig that pays the bills. But on top of that, participation in a coding or entrepreneurial community (or similar), to gain experience, knowledge, and reputation is increasingly possible. Consider ‘giving your work away’ in exchange for these valuable assets.
Going the open innovation/open source route is a good model for students in schools as a basis for project based learning. Assuming they have access to internet, cloud computing, and [mobile] devices, students can innovate using increasingly available webtools. The ‘soft skills’ learned by working in teams to solve problems are transferable and sought after by both the private and public employment sectors.
Service learning, project based learning, entrepreneurship education, and STEAM are all well served when students understand their level of IP commitment, especially because cloud computing now allows for student projects to last over many years. A lot of work can go into a three or four year project, and a proprietary IP stance won’t likely stimulate innovation or cooperation.
If it’s innovated at school, student (and teacher) work in the form of cloud stored portfolios should be saved and shared in a school improvement repository/library/bank – a sort of ‘creative commons’ for the local community – viewable by parents, staff, students, district supervisors and trustees. This data can also be used to attract mentoring or outside partnerships and/or investment, in effect transforming the school into an innovation hub with classroom as incubator and school as accelerator.
However you define open source (I’m studying Github Open Source Guides), the tools available for working this way are becoming more and more available. Google, AWS, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin are all free or relatively cheap tools for scaling your awesome program. Twitter is extremely powerful, and although ‘following’ and ‘liking’ is not supposed to imply reciprocity, if used well it can inspire collaboration.
Choosing the more non-proprietary route, teachers can be more assertive (i.e. pushy) at acquiring resources for their students. Resources can come in the form of funding, mentoring, and equipment, to promotion on social media, and so on.
School district legal departments can more easily facilitate this type of open innovation by providing teachers and students with some basic IP guidelines. Also, teachers and students need to do their homework and learn more about IP law.
We can use and grow our present internet age economy of knowledge abundance. It is not constructive to stray too far to any one side of the non-proprietary or proprietary debate – we all need to mix it up according to our circumstances. Education can share the hope and skills that our internet age brings, and open source and open innovation projects can make local and global solutions happen.
*Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and this is an opinion piece. Consult a lawyer with your specific case. Thanks!
Rich Baxter is a founder, educator, not a lawyer, and advocate for social innovation, the arts, and entrepreneurial education. The Bootstrapping Checklist was Shortlisted in the Teaching Delivery Category and Showcased on December 5, 2016 and December 4, 2017 in Philadelphia at the Reimagine Education Awards and exists in the Creative Commons as an open innovation project.
The Bootstrapping Checklist is a global initiative because it uses Twitter and YouTube to promote the program, and Github and AWS to build the website hosting the short slide deck on ‘How to Run the Bootstrapping Checklist’ .
When teachers or groups of students download the slide deck and then try the 5-step process, I wish them to post videos about their experiences on our YouTube or Twitter – this is how we are building community.
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