Skip to content

Is The Glow Dimming?

April 8, 2009

A recent conversation about Quality Assurance of materials being produced for Glow ended up becoming a much more open discussion on copyright and ownership of materials. I thought it worthwhile sharing some of what was discussed as I suspect this may be an issue that is a lot more wide-reaching than any of us might think.

Glowing, Glowing, Gone?

Glowing, Glowing, Gone? (Image by Mrs W)

A central tenet of Glow , the national schools intranet for Scotland, is the sharing of materials between teachers, yet there appears to be a danger that local authorities are going to put a stop to the sharing before we’ve even had a chance to get started. They are threatening to do this under the guise of ‘Quality Assurance’ though it might be fairer to say that it will be copyright issues that will have the final say in what gets published. No matter what the reasons are, the simple fact is that without open and equitable sharing of resources, Glow will not achieve even a fraction of its potential…

I first became aware of the Glow QA ‘issue’ during a fantastic twitter exchange between Jaye Richards (who has already blogged on this) Robert Hill, Mr MacKenzie and myself with some honourable mentions from a number of other twitteratti over the course of an evening a week or so ago, Bob Hill made us aware of the problem and we all became more aggrieved and annoyed at the implications of it. The net result was that Bob has set up a wiki to start thrashing out some of the details. In essence, there are two main strands to the discussion, namely Quality Assurance and Copyright/Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) issues. For ease, I’m going to address these as separate points, but hopefully you will appreciate that they are interlinked…

Quality Assurance

20070702-keep_calm.jpgI believe there is a strong argument to be made for not having any formal quality assurance mechanism before materials are loaded up to Glow. To cut a long story short, poor quality materials will simply be ignored, especially if there is the facility for rating resources and leaving comments on them (Think iTunes or Amazon). Also, no teacher is going to use any resource without first looking through it and adapting it to suit. This is a point that Alan Stewart made really well on the wiki:

Any teaching resource, without the originator’s insight will be, by definition, incomplete. As such it will be modified by new users for their, and not the originator’s, purpose.

As he went on to say:

Anyone arrogant enough to believe that something they post will be used in an undistilled way must understand that it’s ideas that they are sharing not actual property.

I love this because he gets to the heart of what sharing is all about. It means taking someone else’s ideas and making them their own… I think it is what we are trying to teach the kids to do as part of Curriculum for Excellence! It’s certainly an integral part of the development of human achievement.

Also, I have to be honest that I feel slightly uneasy about having someone who is probably not a subject specialist making decisions on the value of materials that I produce. Let’s put it this way, I would have no idea whether a Maths worksheet or unit was good bad or indifferent… that’s what the maths teachers are for — and I couldn’t begin to assess the worth of materials produced for the primary sector… but I do trust other English teachers to make informed decisions on whether the materials I produce are worthwhile, after all, they and their pupils are the intended audience, not an arbitrary QA committee! There is no good reason not to let me post them and let those who might use them make the decisions. Of course, there may be one valid reason for checking the materials before they are uploaded to Glow: IPR.

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)

panic.gifMany authorities will no doubt be worried about teachers breaking copyright laws when they produce materials and upload them to Glow, and after all, they’ve probably got good reason because they claim to hold the copyright in all the materials a teacher produces.

Yes, you read that right. It is one of the quirks of a Scottish teacher’s contract that all worksheets produced by a teacher are the property of the employer/local authority. This is no longer sustainable and has to change because if it doesn’t then Glow may as well be dead in the water.

I don’t know where the idea came from in the first place, but I would guess that the thinking behind this was to make it possible for a Local Authority to take a teacher’s worksheets and supply them to all the other schools in their control without having to worry about paying the teacher who produced them. I would genuinely be interested to know how this state of affairs came to pass so please comment if you can shed some light on it.

Here’s why this is a problem. A long time ago, I worked for the long-since demised Central Regional Council. While there, I started to produce a unit on World War One Poetry… so technically, Central Region hold the copyright on it. I moved schools, and when Central was disbanded, I found myself working for Falkirk Council… and using the unit I’d created as a Central teacher. I revised and updated the unit… so I wonder if the copyright passed to Falkirk, or if they’d have to ask the non-existent Central Region for permission for me to use the unit I created? Of course, it’s a moot point because I now work for Perth & Kinross. If I am going to use the unit then I suppose, technically, they need to ask Falkirk and/or Central for permission for me to use my unit…

This is farcical and unworkable and it will be the death of sharing on Glow unless we make some really profound changes. Here’s what I think we need to do to get out of this potential impasse…

The Way Forward?

When a teacher creates a new resource for school, he or she will own the copyright on the materials produced. Full stop. No argument. No fudging. However… their employer will be automatically granted the rights to use those resources in their schools as they see fit. In addition, this right will be granted for the life of the units (rather than a ‘copyright-style’ 50 years… after all, how many 50 year old resources are you using?).

Resources uploaded to Glow must be done under a Creative Commons License, most likely Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.5 UK: Scotland. This will allow sharing in an open and appropriate manner and allow people to take and adapt the work (as mentioned above) without having to make a big deal about it.

This also gets rid of the potentially embarrassing situation where a teacher, working on an educational resource during their own time, cannot then sell it to a publisher because technically the employer owns the copyright. By allowing the teacher to retain the copyright, but allowing the authority a non-exclusive license to use the materials, everyone benefits.

I am not a legal expert, and my knowledge of IPR and the like is basic to say the least, so I’d really appreciate any thoughts you might have. Is my solution too simplistic, or could it work? What would you suggest as a way forward? And is this just a Scottish problem? Somehow I doubt it… please let on how things are in your neck of the woods.

And finally, start kicking up a fuss about the issue of Quality Assurance and IPR because if you don’t you’re going to be sadly disappointed at the lack of resources to share on Glow. This is one that the teachers and not the bureaucrats need to win…

Please get involved here, or on the wiki!

38 Comments leave one →
  1. April 9, 2009 6:48 am

    As always you get to the crux of the problem. I have 16GB of resources collected over the years which I use regularly. Most are adapted to suit my class levels or interests. Many of them are mine, that is to say, typed up or put onto PowerPoint or turned into films etc by me in my own time outwith school. They also include images, film clips and practice question papers from different schools I was at during university placements but which I asked for permission to use first.

    Other things I either do not know the author or cannot find the ‘owner’ of as they’ve been in use for so long they’ve become almost traditional – talking about war poetry worksheets here!

    Unless the PowersThatBe sort this out then we will see people using excellent resources they found or developed but never sharing them – I am happy for people to use and adapt beyond recognition things I have developed as they usually give me a copy back which improves my original and I can then use in lessons. Everyone’s a winner !

    The other problem is that many in authority have not been in front of a whiteboard for years and simply do not understand HOW and WHY we use the many and varied resources available on Web 2.0 etc. Unless we get the staffroom to share across the subject areas we face the problem of GLOW being merely another council intranet which falls into disuse. Already our local GLOW groups are rarely touched or updated and we only set them up 6 weeks ago when we did our training!

    This is why we need Ollie Bray, Bob Hill Joe Wilson and Andew Brown at top level and the likes of yourself and David Miller doing Masterclasses to kick bottoms! As Ollie says in one of his excellent slideshows – “the biggest danger of the Internet is that we concentrate on the dangers and ignore the benefits”. This should be carved on the doors of the so called ICT experts/QIOS at authority level along with another quote: If we teach today as we taught yesterday we rob our children of tomorrow (John Dewey)

    Another good post Neil – cheers!

  2. April 9, 2009 7:16 am

    I’m intrigued! I’ve not heard of Glow before, and am wondering why not. Have I stumbled upon this at a bad time?

    Love the tagline!

  3. April 9, 2009 7:53 am

    Hello Grump!

    In the words of the kids: Soz, my bad! I usually include a link to Glow on the LTS website but forgot this time! (Updated above)

    In short, Glow will be a Scottish education intranet designed to allow us to share resources and learning between everyone in the country. The thing that strikes me is that Glow appears to be about to start triggering very necessary and long overdue conversations about copyright/IPR and teachers.

    Hope that answers your question… now, I’m away to read your blog! ;o)

  4. mimanifesto permalink
    April 9, 2009 8:13 am

    I think the other side of the coin which needs to be examined is the fact that this problem, or the knowledge of a potential problem is nothing new. As Alan Stewart commented on my own blog post on this…

    “I remember, with some embarrassment, my questions re. accessibility being brushed aside with disdain at numerous meetings. It was galling then and it is galling now”.

    I think this demonstrates very amateurish project management – any analysis tool would have picked this up as a potential threat to the success of GLOW and it should have been addressed at the time by the LTS Glow program management rather than being brushed under the table , as appears to have happened, for the sake of expediency. This goes, as you say Neil, to the very heart of the whole GLOW project ethos, also described so well by such as John Connell, one of GLOW’s founding fathers. This is one of opening up learning nationally, with crucial planks of this construct being creation, collaboration, and communication between learners, which of course, includes teachers and the resources they are willing to share. How on earth are we going to create an environment which is buit on this concept of sharing when the mechanism for doing so is closed down by this big-brother approach from the LA’s as appears to be happening.
    LTS should, no, must take a lead on this as well as teachers in working with LA’s to resolve the whole issue of copyright. They are at least ideally placed to go some way towards achieving consensus between LA’s, and all users need to make their concerns known to the appropriate contacts at their respective LA’s.
    Lets hope no more cock-ups of this magnitude swim to the surface over the next few months. Large tracts of the country, although signed up for GLOW are not or have no plans for wider roll-outs as yet. If Glasgow, Edinburgh and Highland are to adopt it in any way other than a few token schols and teachers, then there must be much more transparency of intent and focus on day to day operational issues which affect classroom learning, for this is where GLOW will stand or fall nationally, on its potential to enhance learning and teaching. The issue of resource sharing goes straight to the heart of this, and nothing will put those LA’s who have yet to roll out GLOW more, than the perceived issue of disputes over ownership of resources contained within it.

    I’m working on my own contribution to the wiki at the moment. Hopefully, I can expand on some of these points in that post soon…


  5. April 9, 2009 9:08 am

    Two things strike me about this. One is that surely Glow is just facilitating what we always did – create units (or whatever you like to call them), use them, put a copy on the shelf for your colleagues to use, ignore, adapt … and get on with the next thing. No?

    And the other is that long, long ago, Mr B was seconded to write classroom arrangements for the now defunct Strathclyde. They were hugely popular – but he had no say over what happened to them. Years later, while attending a presentation on some new web resource for music teachers, he found his name next to Beethoven in a resource list of composers whose work was used in Scottish schools – and yet he’d not heard a peep from anyone about this. And Master B was then asked in East Lothian if he was the composer of “Jumping Bean”. Who needs Glow? 😉

  6. April 9, 2009 9:15 am

    @Chris: I think the picture you paint of Glow is the model we aspire to, but I think there is a real fear that the LAs will prevent that happening because, by introducing an arbitrary QA level, many good (or awful) resources will never be shared. I would far rather that I be able to create a resource and post it to Glow for you to decide it is useful/useless, rate it, comment on it, and otherwise share it. This has got to be a much healthier model for collaboration…

    And I’ve heard of Mr B, who’s this Beethoven bloke you’re talking about… is he on Glow? 😉

  7. April 9, 2009 9:32 am

    These copyright laws (as far as I know similar in England) seem archaic and outdated. It’s something that could be changed easily in a teachers contract and possibly something teaching unions should be involved in sorting out. Your solution seems eminently sensible.

  8. April 9, 2009 9:39 am

    Brilliant post Neil.

    I don’t know the exact in’s and out’s, but my understanding was that if you created a resource in your own time you owned the copyright.

    I think you have addressed a very important point. If IPR etc are not dealt with now, I have the vision of a sort of ‘Black market’ going on with resources. The exchanging of resources has been going on offline for as long as I can remember. However, now with Glow I could contact Biology staff from all over Scotland via email. Though people may not was to share resources due to mis-understandings or Fears of IPR in a national forum, I am pretty sure they don’t mind ‘bartering’ out of the public eye.

    It is a tricky one!

  9. April 9, 2009 9:46 am

    When this cropped up some time ago at a Glow meeting, I mentioned it to Don Ledingham and suggested that it should be on the radar of the ADES (Association of Directors of Education in Scotland), with which he agreed, but I haven’t spoken to him recently about it. Maybe a paper needs to be submitted to that group?

  10. mimanifesto permalink
    April 9, 2009 9:48 am

    @Tess -The problem with GLOW, and in particular, GLOW learn is that for your resources can be tagged for search, but it’s your LA which decides on opening up this nationally. So if they decide against doing this (for whatever reason) then you can’t share or access any other resources within learn other than those you have loaded yourself. So all over the country, people are reinventing the wheel in their own little GLOW enclaves, and none of this will be shared unless their LA’s agree to tick the box.
    The offline or blackmarket sharing of resources is ok if you know quite a few folk (and I’ve used many things from your own blog, btw – thanks :-), but wouldn’t it be good if we all decided to share, tagged stuff in GLOWLearn, and then could search withing learn to see what others were sharing for a particular subject/topic/sector…?
    This is what’s in danger of not happening, and for many teachers, it was to be a big, big selling point for GLOW, and this is what Neil means when he talks about GLOW dimming. The lights may indeed, not stay on if there is no satisfactory solution to this….


  11. mimanifesto permalink
    April 9, 2009 9:51 am

    @David – the fact that this has already been discussed, as you put it, some time ago and that nothing has moved it forward on the agenda for action/policy concerns me. This is a national issue and should have, I believe, been dealt with by national policy as a part of the LA sign-up mechanism initially…


  12. April 9, 2009 10:08 am

    @Dan: Thanks for confirming that it’s a similar situation in England. I’d suspected as much. I wonder what happens in other parts of the world (Hint, hint 😉 )

    @Tess: I love the idea of ‘under the counter’ teaching resources, but we really shouldn’t need to go to those lengths. Also, as far as I am aware, any classroom resources you create while a LA employee (own time or not) are their copyright… Steve Beard sent me a tweet saying that, “2 years ago when I wrote part of a book, the LA claimed copyright even though I did it on my own machine in my own time 😦 ”

    @David Gilmour: I did wonder about asking Don what the story was. I would think if anyone would be in a position to lead a change at LA level, Don would be the person.

    Like @Jaye: I’m worried if this has been on the radar but nothing has been done yet. I believe that this could be a, if not the, major stumbling block to adoption of Glow nationally. As I said in the post, this has to be dealt with and quickly… very quickly.

    Final thought for the moment… All the resources that Tess created and that Jaye used would have ‘technically’ been copyright East Lothian… so now that Tess is working elsewhere, is she still allowed to have her resources on her blog given that she doesn’t own the copyright to them… 😉 (Thanks to Mrs W for spotting that one!)

  13. April 9, 2009 2:33 pm

    Good question Neil!

    And what about all the Science and Biology piccies I have on my Flickr account? It is a Pro account which I paid for and I DIDN’T claim expenses… And they were taken on my own camera- And the majority outwith the classroom… Who owns my pictures that I paid for now 😦 ?

    Re: My blog… DavidG is already on the case here as although I have web forwarding, it is still an EduBuzz blog… Does this also mean that I should move my blog and leave the old posts behind as they belong to East Lothian even though just about every single post was written out with my contractual hours!?!

    I am sure East Lothian won’t have an issue here, but thats not to say other LAs will be as willing to share.

    Hmmm a tricky one!

  14. April 9, 2009 2:36 pm

    How do these guys do it?

  15. Richard permalink
    April 9, 2009 2:38 pm

    Interesting debate. Thought provoking post. Thanks for brightening up an otherwise dull day here in Aberdeen.
    I have a history in e-learning in FE and have certainly experienced the ab/use of QA applied to learning materials there. In that (commercial?) environment quality of output is particularly important – ie:- the stuff that eventually gets to the student should be of good quality – in many cases they are directly paying for it. The problems arise when the definition of good quality begins to erode the creative process involved in developing innovative teaching materials. Who is to say that my scanned notes or PDFd whiteboard scribblings are not of good quality if their existance online enhances the learning of even one of my students?
    College staff were often very reluctant to post materials to the e-learning system because they perceived them to be of poor quality and were concerned (with some justification) that the Thought Police would disapprove. In some cases this was a genuine fear – in others it was an excuse. I certainly agree that we should do all we can to promote the sharing of resources and also agree that poor quality materials will simply fail to be used. However, the sharing of ideas is equally as important as the sharing of actual resources – it would only have been very rarely that I used a resource without applying some of my own effort to personalise it to my style of teaching. “I like what she is trying to do with this handout but I think I’ll adapt it a bit ……”. So not everything needs to be a polished article.

    Does this mean that I think that teachers should be the sole judge of quality of their own materials? Well, regretably no. Experience has taught me that if there is no benchmark at all, too many items will fall below a reasonable standard. Do I think that others should be formally checking? No again. But I do believe that there should be guidance and assistance available to help teachers to produce materials which are of a reasonable standard. Further, the way in which students prepare their responses to homeworks, essays and projects is now increasingly influenced by material sourced online. We should set a good standard in our own work.
    Jaye is quite right to raise the issue of accessibility – materials intended for general use should take account of issues of accessibility both because there is a duty to do so (SENDA) but also simply because we can. The fact that a document will be read online opens up many new and interesting possibilities for the learner in the way that they may access this content. A little extra care applied at the time that a worksheet is created can greatly enhance the online learning experience of a whole range of people including many mainstream learners who would benefit from appropriate application of font size, styles and “roll-overs”. I would reccommend that readers take a look at the JISC TechDis service ( for excellent practical advice.

    IPR is another matter altogether and requires much careful thought. I am beginning to develop a fuller picture of the issues and have enjoyed reading the various posts on the subject. I am sympathetic to the Creative Commons idea but in order to share a new resource under a CC licence you must be the copyright holder. Where a teacher has created such a resource (in the absence of a specific agreement with the employer) the resource belongs to the employer – however unpalatable that may be. Logically therefore, the employer should authorise the use of a CC licence. Will they do this? I doubt it. Some authorities derive an income from the sale of such resources. Perhaps we need guidance from further up the tree. The Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) ( have been around for a while. We are all familiar with the notice that hangs on the wall by the photocopier. How many of us have read it? CLA now license scanning as well and have a pilot licence (2008 – 9 with possible extension to 2010) for loading scanned material into Glow. The conditions in the licence are quite restrictive and I’d be fairly sure that it gets broken with alarming frequency. It contains such useful statements as “Digital Copies may be uploaded onto the Glow Network by the Council only” and “….and shall, in any event, be deleted at the end of the Academic Year in which the Digital Copy was made”. Check it out at ( Also remember that the CLA licence only covers some published material from some countries. It does not cover audio, video, newspapers, periodicals etc, etc..

    Much food for thought and debate here.

  16. April 9, 2009 4:34 pm

    Neil, an excellent post.

    Copyright/IPR is becoming a big issue down south. As far as I am aware it is the school that owns the copyright to work produced by teachers for use within their job. Some teachers seem to either claim that they don’t know or their school gives them permission to sell their work.
    Unfortunately this was not the case for me, a couple of years ago I wrote part of a Year 7 ICT textbook in my own time and on my own machine. The LA claimed IPR for my work and it was them that got paid by the publisher and not me, a hard lesson was learned and I have not written anything commercially since!

  17. April 9, 2009 6:45 pm

    Neil; great to see that you have raised this timely issue; and hopefully your rallying call will be heard south of the border as well. Like you I am no copyright/IPR lawyer, (not that they usually agree anyway). I think you analysis of the the way forward is spot on, and the solution in the your concluding paragraphs is perfectly workable. The only way a Local Authority could stop a teacher sharing resources they make under a CC (Creative Commons) licence, would be to actually to forbid them making any CC licensed resources in the first place, either in school or their own time; the first would be foolish the second downright stupid. Such a scenario would be totally ludicrous. And of course it is highly unlikely that any such stipulation would be in a teachers contract.

    I am not familiar with the current position in Scotland but my professional experience in England suggests that Creative Commons is not on most Local Authorities radar; most seem to be more concerned with that other perennial; ‘filtering’. Like other ‘industries in trouble’ e.g. music and the newspapers they have not grasped the full implication of how the Internet and digital resources change the game.

    A teacher created resource can be accessed, instantaneously as it is published anywhere in the world by other teachers and pupils who can read, comment or adapt and share. As Lawrence Lessig and Cory Doctorow amongst others argue, the outdated concepts of Copyright simply cannot be made to fit.

    The choices are simple do we want harness the wonderful opportunities for learning, that digital knowledge, collaboration, sharing and communities of practice hold for our students and teachers or play digital whack-a-mole.

    It may also be worth mentioning in the context of Glow, with all its potential and promise, that any CC licensed work uploaded to Glow would also need to be available elsewhere, because those licences don’t apply in the context of a private community. Perhaps that’s an issue for further discussion?

  18. April 9, 2009 7:16 pm

    I think we should drag all the Directors of Education and ICT QIOs to read this blog post!

    @Theo – the image of digital whack a mole is hilarious but sadly true. The number of times I’ve talked about something such as blogging or using wii remotes instead of Smartboards etc and got a ‘Yes, *pat on head* run along now…aargh!

    We need to drag this whole issue front and centre otherwise GLOW is going the whack a mole route.

  19. April 9, 2009 7:33 pm

    On a lighter note, a came across an excellent book in a very dusty filing cabinet. It was a first edition from 1947 which had excellent introductory woodwork projects in it and I used it to death. Sometimes the old uns are the goods uns.

    Richard makes a good point when he says “there should be guidance and assistance available to help teachers to produce materials which are of a reasonable standard”.

    Although I don’t believe a blanket CC LIscense is the solution. A teacher should decide what level of copyright they attribute to their own work. If it is percieved as ‘arrogant’ thenso be it but it should be their choice. Removing that choice is a contributing factor as to the problem that we are discussing right now.

    PS Excellent post Neil, and facinating comments

  20. April 9, 2009 8:01 pm

    Thanks to everyone for making this such a lively debate… I’m going to come back in more depth later, but I did want to make one point about something Richard said in his long and very valuable comment…

    Richard points out that:

    Where a teacher has created such a resource (in the absence of a specific agreement with the employer) the resource belongs to the employer – however unpalatable that may be.

    I think this is exactly where we need to make the change. I thin it is time for the teachers to be given the credit for their own work, knowledge and expertise. They should be free to give away the materials under a Creative Commons (CC) License, or sell them using their own Copyright. I genuinely believe that it is no longer tenable for an employer to claim the copyright for work they have not produced themselves.

    I had a great conversation with Mrs W about this very thing. We were trying to think of an equivalent scenario that might cover all the bases, but struggled. We considered that, if I were writing code for Microsoft or Apple (I wish!), then they would quite rightly own the copyright for that code as I would have been employed specifically to create that code on their behalf. This is surely pretty clear. Similarly, if I am being employed to design dolls, and then go and set up a rival company using designs I had created while being employed by the original company, I can hardly be surprised when they come knockng on my door (Can anyone say Barbie vs Bratz)… BUT…

    I am employed first and foremost as a teacher of children. My primary duties require me to educate and raise achievement. If I create a worksheet to enable me to do that, then it is MY creation. I have created something that will serve a specific purpose with a specific group of pupils… in doing this, I am fulfilling my primary duty. That does not mean that my employer has the right to benefit financially from, or exploit my expertise. I should be free to share my own resources with anyone I choose because, in doing so, I will hopefully be helping many more pupils than I could possibly teach myself. This is only possible if I, and I alone, have the copyright to the materials I produced.

    I think it is reasonable that my employer should have no unreasonable impediment from me holding my own copyright, hence my belief that my employing authority should be automatically entitled to use my materials in any of their schools… but I should still be free to give them away, or sell them, to others.

    I don’t want to end up in a situation like Steve outlines above where I decide that someone else will have to produce the materials I use in my class because I have been mistreated by my employer.

    At the moment we are changing so much of how teaching and learning happen in schools. By recognising that teachers are mature enough, and responsible enough, to take ownership of their own materials, I hope we will see the floodgates open and sharing freely become the norm, I hope we will populate Glow with the finest materials possible produced by the finest practitioners, I hope we will model a free, open-source culture that we can imbue in our pupils. I hope.

  21. Iain Hallahan permalink
    April 9, 2009 9:35 pm

    Despite the fact that this thread has given me a pounding headache, I have already recommended it be read by every teacher in Scotland. Apart from the copyright/IPR minefield it has suddenly made me aware of being caught in the middle of, it has opened my eyes to the ‘unpalatable’ situation regarding resources that I create. Where in my contract does it say that they belong to the authority? I would have noticed that, wouldn’t I? ~%-c

  22. Alan Stewart permalink
    April 9, 2009 9:36 pm

    The lack of accessibility for pupils with ASNs within Glow is, I believe (but am not absolutely certain – so I’m happy to be corrected/chastised – I was never given a clear response) down to the fact that critical elements of Glow were built on an existing and somewhat dated software platform.

    It is clear that much still needs to be done for schools to comply with legislation relating to the DDA – simple stuff like logging-on options for non keyboard users, speech enabled pages, symbol support for non/part text users.

    Interestingly, CALL Scotland have been chiselling away, via the Scottish Government, at copyright restrictions to enable progress in their Books for All project and made a significant breakthrough last summer.

    Adam Ingram, Minister for Children and Early Years stated, “We are totally committed to ensuring that all our pupils can access the curriculum. The Books for All report has enabled us to identify gaps in provision and take positive steps to ensure that we can achieve that aim.”

    While this is not exactly mainstream, the issues have a resonance for what we are trying to achieve through the use of ICT and Glow – access to the right and most appropriate materials for all of our pupils.

  23. April 10, 2009 8:06 am

    I’d open my comment by saying that speed is of the essence in a debate like this – Local Authorities and LTS need to join in before the next 23 comments appear. Here’s my tuppence worth:

    In terms of Intellectual Property, something over which I’ve spent the last six months my head in contracts, there are two elements: ownership and exploitation.

    Firstly, it is perfectly normal in most domains that the employee automatically transfers ownership of their IPR to the company. So if, for example, I am commissioning a Supplier to do some work for me, I don’t want an employee within that Supplier to raise an action against my Company for having used an element of their work. Therefore, Local Authorities are right to claim that resources created within the terms of your contract (35 hours per week) are assigned to them. It makes it easier to sell them on. It also assumes that, with all teachers paid more or less the same, all teachers are also putting in the same amount of new IPR to the organisation. In the ‘real’ world, the coasters would be out of a job or, at the very least, paid less than the high flying profitable creators of new IPR.

    Resources created over and above that period of time (films, for example, which have required significant effort outside the working week) could belong to the employee, but you need a different status. Without being self-employed, you remain an employee.

    More importantly, IPR created before employment, existing IPR, currently is not recognised as belonging to anyone other than the current employer. This is a really blunt instrument, created by lawyers or Local Authority managers who don’t understand IPR.

    Therefore, one solution is that all teachers become self-employed and use this status (, – as I did at LTS, and which I assume Ollie did when writing textbooks) to assert their rights to IPR created over and above and outwith the terms of their contracts. The solution also means all teachers have to get savvy about their rights – and not sign contracts that go against those rights.

    Regardless of who owns that IPR, something which is quite easy to make a decision on and can often end up mattering less in the digital world than the atomised one, exploitation is where the action is.

    I think a more intelligent and sustainable system than the one above is that Local Authorities recognise that all IPR created by an individual is owned by that individual, much in the same way as all broadcasters recognise that ownership of the IPR remains with the television producer, but that the Local Authority has a licence to exploit that IPR for a period of time:
    * a finite time – one year, five years
    * having exploited it to a certain financial value, and perhaps on profit- or revenue-share with the teacher
    * for as long as the teacher is employed by the Local Authority
    * in perpetuity (the current system)

    This would make for an interesting marketplace for teachers. It would financial recompense teachers for successful sale of their resources, and also motivate them to exploit them.

    As you say, good resources will tend to rise to the surface anyway, so quality control (is this good?) is not really required so much as a vibrant community who give a damn – and teachers would rise to the plate, I think.

    REALLY good resources might be so good people were prepared to pay. Glow needs its own iTunes/App store, which makes electronic distribution outside that tricky or impossible, and allows good resources to attract a micropayment – 99p a resource?

    Personally, I’ve always felt free is a hard price to beat, and I think most teachers would be happy to share and sharealike for free – but I guess we’re talking about choice. If two great resources are available, one for free and one for 99p, I’d like the choice more than the obligation.

    Whatever mechanism is used to share resources, CC, licenced or copyright, LTS have an unescapable onus to make sure that materials do not infringe third party copyright i.e. the picture or video you used can be reproduced in the material.

    LTS do not have the manpower to do this, and often it’s hard to trace back the way.

    LTS probably expect Local Authorities to do this, but likewise it’s hard for them to trace back.

    Teachers do not produce goods with distribution in mind, therefore they do not keep a record of where CC images come from as proof of their CC status.

    In Glow, LTS is the publisher of those materials and is therefore ultimately responsible for making sure that they do not infringe third party rights. From what I pick up they are transferring the responsibility for this check to Local Authorities, not that this stops LTS from still being liable. What is has meant is that LAs have become the baddies for ‘quality checking’ (when what they mean is checking for third party infringements). It’s not their fault – they should be passing the baton back to the publisher, LTS.

    What would I suggest as a solution? The marketplace that I mentioned above. If teachers own the IPR to what they are producing and stand a chance to make even the tiniest bit out of their material – and this would include simply being recognised for having produced it – then they would perhaps take more care in what 3rd party material they insert.

    Secondly, if publishing material had now become the norm, teachers would be well-versed in where to seek out cleared images and videos. This is what I slaved pretty hard for over five years, firstly at Musselburgh Grammar School with mgsonline, then with and its image bank and resource centre, then with and the training that went with it, and then with LTScotland’s own online service, where my efforts to have the whole site, and then Glow, released on Creative Commons as default failed.

    It’s a bit, just a bit, of a long comment, and one I might tidy up for a blog post chez moi. But I hope it’s got some fresh understandings of IPR ownership and exploitation that help target your debates.

  24. Richard permalink
    April 10, 2009 9:53 am

    It’s still dull in Aberdeen so here I am again.
    A couple of short points. Can we separate the quality of teaching and learning from the quality of the resources? Some of the best teachers I have known are wonderfully disorganised and basically quite incapable of producing a polished worksheet. I want those teachers to be able to continue to inspire without needing to worry about the point size of the text. So I don’t agree with a market place for teacher produced resources.
    Third party copyright infringements are a huge issue – we all do/did it. The eleventh commandment should be “Thou shalt not right click and save image as…” (Sorry, I can’t afford a mac!) However there is not really a problem here. The law is quite clear and we should simply follow it. Licenses from organisations like CLA and to some extent CC just muddy the waters. Just make sure you have permission to use what you use and make sure also that the person giving you the permission has the right to do so. We wouldn’t steal or receive stolen goods in any other aspect of our lives would we? What would help here is not just a bank of free resources but a bank of people who are prepared to allow you to use their work. I keep a growing file of people who have given me permission to use their stuff – I haven’t been turned down yet.
    Much of the discussion above concerns the relationship between the teacher and the employer in terms of IPR ownership. I would really welcome some comment from someone who might be able to influence this aspect of the debate.

  25. Iain Hallahan permalink
    April 10, 2009 12:07 pm

    I wouldn’t worry about the length of your post Ewan, it’s all stuff that needs talked about after all.

    I find the idea of having a resource-producing alter-ego a strange one, but I suppose that makes the distinction between what is made during contracted time and non-contracted time clearer – but would it be clear enough? I keep looking back at the post from Steve where he wrote an ICT textbook in his own time using his own resources and still ended up getting done over by his authority. How did they justify that Steve? Was it a case of “You work for us so it’s ours….” or was it “Well, if you can PROVE you did it on your own time you can have it…”? Did you try and fight them, or was it not worth the hassle (the usual problem!)?

    It’s just all so unclear – I looked out my contract of employment last night to see what I had signed regarding this – I felt sure I would have remembered feeling aggrieved about such a clause (even if I had gone on to sign the contract anyway!) – , and there’s no mention of this issue anywhere on it, although it does refer to ‘additional conditions’ contained in circulars (which when I then tried to track them down I couldn’t find anywhere…quelle surprise!).

    I think you’re definitely right that as teachers we all have to become more savvy, but we need the right information to work with from folk like yourself, Neil and Ollie who have been there done that. I started having a sniff round last night after being on here, and the situation seems as clear as mud to Joe Punter like me. One of the sites I was on (can’t remember which one just now, will need to try and find out!) made a good point, that if thousands of copyright lawyers could make a career out of the muddy waters of copyright law, what real chance does anyone have of understanding it? There was also a story on the fabulous ICT4LT (where Ewan’s LTS resources get an honourable mention as good practice!) of a German, Folkert Knieper, who publishes a cookbook online including fantastic photos of recipes that he has taken himself. He then searches Google images for his own photos, and bills people for the use of them! As ICT4LT say “Nice little earner, eh? It could catch on…” Schools I have been in tend to have been of the opinion that “It’s for education, so it’s ok” whereas having had a good root around it seems that that is not the automatic assumption, but that there are exceptions that you can use to cover yourself. It’s a complicated, messy situation, and when all most teachers want to know is can they use a picture of Homer Simpson on a maths worksheet about doughnuts (to which the answer appears to be both yes and no), I suppose it’s not really a surprise that they choose to ignore the issue. But obviously, it’s not a terribly satisfactory situation and one that is prone to blowing up in someone’s face. Soon.

    Finally , 2 questions. Can I ask whether you think things would have turned out the same way if you had worked for a different authority – if, for instance, you had been working for Steve’s friendly neighbourhood LA would they have hijacked all the IPR as they did to Steve and his book? Also, if we have all already signed contracts selling our IPR soul to our LAs, is there a way to change that short of open revolt?

  26. Iain Hallahan permalink
    April 10, 2009 12:31 pm

    Oh yeah –


    All my posts Copyright Iain Hallahan 2008 ©, all rights reserved.

    Don’t want Neil claiming he owns our posts and then selling them on because it was ‘work’ we were doing on ‘his’ site for him…….


  27. April 10, 2009 2:52 pm

    But it gets messier still. Whilst at uni I set up a moddle site just for the English students I was training with. We collected tons of resources designed by the students AT UNI for use on placements etc. I know Strathclyde used to get theirs to design a whole unit of work on a book of their choice and then Strathclyde copied ALL the units onto a CD and issued to ALL the students so they ended up with 50 units as well as their own. Who ‘owns’ these then as presumably they all agreed to share their efforts. I found a PowerPoint I designed on another site in England which the guy had asked for so wasn’t too worried apart from the fact that it was implied HE had designed all the resources.

    Who wants to try and decide what is what and whose is whose in these sort of circumstances? I know for a fact that many of my resources are being used by fellow former students and I have no problem with that – the red herring comes yet again with QA. One LA’s decision that a resource is not suitable might not be the same as another, especially for localised stuff such as Doric, Scots or Gaelic resources.

    Worms. Can. Open.

  28. April 10, 2009 2:54 pm

    moddle? MOODLE!

  29. April 10, 2009 5:05 pm

    Having had a look at my old contract from East Lothian there is no mention of resources produced by me belonging to my employer – anyone else? However, with my current employer everything I do does belong to them (but I feel I’m recompensed at the market rate for that, of course).

    The easiest way forward is this:

    If you only use images and videos that are already CC share and sharealike, then your Local Authority would be unable to assert copyright over any part of the resource (it has to be what is called paripasu – the LA has the get the same out of the deal as anyone else, i.e. it also has to operate on the same basis as that CC licence or just not use the resource).

    The original IPR you create at that time may still be owned by the Local Authority, if they insist, but it will be inseparable from the CC material around it.

    That would also go for your blog posts, for example. If anyone cites mine (or just rips off what I’ve said without attribution, thereby breaking my own generous CC licence – it happens ALL the time) then they are obliged to share their own work in the same way, regardless of who owns the new IPR.

    Let’s all start using CC share and sharealike for non-commercial purposes and with modifications permitted. It’s the easiest way to usurp the system in a legal and effective manner.

  30. April 10, 2009 5:08 pm

    I think it’s worth actually pointing out how simple CC is, designed for use by ‘normal’ folk 🙂 Here’s the text in full – I think it reflects Richard’s inbuilt ethics in good old black and white legal text:

    You are free:

    * to copy, distribute, display, and perform the work
    * to make derivative works

    Under the following conditions:

    * Attribution. You must give the original author credit.
    Attribute this work:
    What does “Attribute this work” mean? – provide a hyperlink to the original source

    * Non-Commercial. You may not use this work for commercial purposes.
    * Share Alike. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a licence identical to this one.
    * For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the licence terms of this work.
    * Any of these conditions can be waived if you get permission from the copyright holder – so if you want to sell it you can ask nicely and maybe into a revenue share.
    * Nothing in this license impairs or restricts the author’s moral rights.

  31. Gordon Brown permalink
    April 11, 2009 11:34 am


    Thanks for summarising this so succinctly for everyone.

    To some extent (but only some), these issues will be dealt with by the National Assessment Resource being developed jointly by SQA and LTS. Uploads to this will not be filtered through LA access, and so control at that level will not exist. Also, since the NAR will be a free site available for all, with no subscription at LA level, the issue of local roll-outs doesn’t arise.

    Of course, this doesn’t address all the problems. The NAR is purely intended for assessment materials, and the IPR question remains unanswered. However, at least we have time to look into possible solutions before it’s too late.


  32. BrianC permalink
    April 13, 2009 3:18 pm

    Very interesting post Neil and its raised a number of issues. I think one of the first things that needs to be addressed is the legal angle.

    I am with The Eagles when it comes to attitudes towards lawyers, but I think specialist legal advice needs to be taken in order to ascertain the stance of each and every council on the ownership of any resources that their staff produce.

    Its only then, I feel , a way ahead can be mapped out.

  33. April 24, 2009 10:42 pm

    I arrive at this debate a little late, but I just want to make one comment: Where does it say in the A teaching profession for the 21st Century that your employer has ownership/copyright on the teaching materials you create?

    In fact the only mention of “teaching materials” on the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers (SNCT) is in the duties of Education Support Officers, section 2.15(e) co-ordinate the production of teaching materials and identify subject related resource needs of schools.



  1. Copyright Update « Mr W’s Blogging Great Thing
  2. Copyright Update
  3. Moving forward with IT « Mimanifesto – Jaye’s weblog
  4. The H-Blog » Blog Archive » Do you own your own resources? The continuing struggle for IPR.
  5. Under Threat « If You Don't Like Change…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: