Blended Learning, Guest Post, Online Learning, Professional Development, Teaching, Uncategorized

The Open Source Remix


The Remix Culture

I love Bob Ross. I’m not sure if it’s his poofy hair, his soft voice, or perhaps his “happy little trees,” but nothing relaxes me more on a Saturday afternoon than sitting back and watching reruns of the 80s PBS sensation The Joy of Painting. Apparently, I’m not the only one. PBS Digital Studios created an homage to the painter/host by remixing clips from his shows into an uplifting song. Join nearly 11 million other fans by watching the tribute below.

The video above is a perfect example of what has been coined the remix culture, which is a society in which one is encourage to create new derivative works from the original work of others. Rather than viewing such activity as the theft of copyrighted materials, members of an open community deliberately share their work so that others can build upon and improve it. We have seen the power of this open source movement most clearly evident in the development of the software that powers many internet applications, Moodle and WordPress being two prominent examples.


Open Educational Resources (OER)

In the world of education, there is a tension between what I call the curriculum industry, which fundamentally depends on the sale of copyrighted educational content, and the inherently collaborative nature of teachers, who freely share ideas, resources, and strategies with one another. In many ways, the remix culture has snipped the cord in this tug-of-war, and education is now in a freefall toward becoming a fully open source community.

This is made clear by exploring the absolutely incredible educational resources that are now freely available for teachers to use and modify for their own classrooms. Here is a brief list of some of my favorite OER sources.

Textbooks: OpenStax, CK12

Science simulations: PhET, NAAP Astronomy Labs

Entire courses: Georgia Virtual Learning, Saylor Academy, MIT Open Courseware

The resources above are not just free, they are open: that is, they are available to remix and redistribute. To us teachers, the difference between “open” and “free” may not seem to matter all that much, but in the digital age, it is a distinction that is increasingly relevant for all of us (students and teachers alike). Let’s explore exactly what makes online content remixable.


The Creative Commonscc.logo_.large_

We have to start from the understanding that everything on the internet is copyrighted, unless specifically stated otherwise. If you didn’t create it from scratch, then someone else owns it, and you will need permission (in the form of a license) in order to repost, remix, or otherwise make use of that content. What a pain, right?

Well, thanks to the Creative Commons, the pain is removed. Creators who wish to maintain their ownership while still offering their content to the open source community can choose from one of six easy-to-understand Creative Commons licenses. These licenses allow you to easily place restrictions on how others can use, remix, or profit from content that you have created.

Creative Commons has been a revolutionary tool in music, photography, and film. Its impact on education is already being felt through a variety of sharing websites where teachers upload and share their work under a Creative Commons license so that others can use, modify, and improve the resources.

To the community of educators working at Christian schools, the open source movement is a Godsend. With OER content, we can take the best of what other teachers across the globe have created, and we can infuse a Christ-centered worldview. This frees us from the burden of making excellent resources from scratch and allows us to focus our effort on what we do best, showing our students how the light of Christ shines in all areas of life and learning.


Andrew VHGuest post author, Andrew Vanden Heuvel is the Senior STEM Educational Specialist at Michigan Virtual University. To connect with him further, visit his website at or you can connect via email at or Twitter @avheuv.

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