Reuse, Revise, Remix

Following is the eleventh in a series by participants in the Winter 2022 Open Pedagogy Fellowship (which will be known, going forward, as the Open Knowledge Fellowship), coordinated by the Mina Rees Library. Fellows share insight into the process of converting a syllabus to openly-licensed and/or zero-cost resources, as well as their experiences teaching undergraduate courses at CUNY. 

Tuka Al-Sahlani is a Ph.D. student in the English Department at the Graduate Center, CUNY, interested in creating digital humanities project(s) to feature Arab and/or Arab-American women writers and voices. She hopes to arrive at this goal by delving in composition and rhetoric, women’s studies, and applied linguistics.

In preparation for writing this blog post about the Open Pedagogy Fellowship (now aptly named Open Knowledge Fellowship), I sifted through my notes and realized that many of my scribbles and starred and highlighted items were phrases that made me think beyond pedagogical practices and about the nuances of knowledge creation in a world that may seem open, i.e. because the content is on the internet. I learned to ask what intersects with knowledge creation in the time of the internet, and how I can help create/facilitate/provide “open knowledge.”

Although these are questions that I will continue to ask myself in my career, I did gain an insight into some aspects I should consider. A few of the highlighted items in my notes pertained to knowledge gatekeeping, invisible labor, academic publishing, and of course the immense power of the internet—simultaneously empowering and detrimental to knowledge production.

As an educator, I know I am a public servant, but the Fellowship challenged me to think about being a public servant in the public eye. I applied to the Fellowship because I believe in open education resources as a way to democratize learning and to enable access for those who want to learn within and outside of the institution. Access, as I learned, is complex. There is access to those who need accommodations, e.g. accessibility features on our open class sites (WordPress has some built-in features, and one may use this checklist), and access to open and free education resources. Both forms of access carry a significant amount of invisible labor and uncompensated hours on the part of the creator. Moreover, open access resources do not come in a one-size-fits-all form. There are differing tiers of openness and a plethora of copyright regulations/practices for the various forms of content that may be open/free. This may seem daunting, but someone decided to do the labor and create a Fair Use Checklist. (Thank you, checklist creator.)

Another useful phrase I highlighted was “Reuse, Revise, Remix.” Despite being a high school English teacher, as a first-year English Ph.D. student, I have not yet had the opportunity to teach an undergraduate class, nor develop a syllabus for an Introduction to Writing course. The solution: ask a colleague for a sample syllabus. In the spirit of creating and promoting open access knowledge, Andre Perez graciously shared his ENG 120: Introduction to Expository Writing syllabus. In this way I was able to “reuse” his syllabus, then “revise” it to add and/or delete components, and finally “remix” it by adding my own interpretation of items or other forms of OER.

image of sound mixing board with sliders

After implementing three Rs of “The 5 Rs of Using OER,” I realized they can be used as a scaffolding tool in the classroom to promote fair collaboration, and to develop confidence in publishing work publicly. I know how difficult it is for many students to share their work publicly for reasons such as privacy concerns, fair use issues, confidence in their work, etc. As a pedagogical tool, I could engage students in the practice of collegial collaboration at the beginning by reusing each other’s work. This would work well in an introduction to writing class as an added feature to peer editing. A prompt like “ask your peer to incorporate one of your favorite sentence(s) from their paper in your short answer response” could be added to the peer review instructions. Peers should already recognize the well-done portions of a work, so the additional task will boost student comfort in asking for permission for fair use, negotiating usage, and enforcing proper citation practices. Instructions will be provided on how to possibly “revise” and “remix” the sentence(s) they have chosen to “reuse” and to incorporate the sentence(s) into their own writing.

Having a low-stakes usage negotiation task built into the writing classroom will build confidence both in future usage negotiations with peers and scholars in their field and in publishing their work publicly because it becomes a part of a joint effort and not just the lonely “I.” Of course, students’ privacy concerns are a priority, and they will be provided with options where they feel safe to publish publicly such as using an alias or a limited access public posting. I believe using the five Rs to scaffold students towards publishing helps them become more confident writers, and ultimately better generators of knowledge.

As a student and soon-to-be instructor at a public university, my belief in the benefit and necessity of OER has increased, especially as the pandemic forced us to rethink our resources and our access to legitimately open content. It is important that we provide students access to fair use resources, so we slowly eliminate the use and perpetuation of piracy and plagiarism. As we impart knowledge onto our students and learn to create knowledge, we need to protect the still at-risk intellectual property. And as I highlighted in my notes, “free=invisible labor.” The Fellowship has made me aware of the morality in OER and the values we need to practice and encourage in our students.

A special thanks to Elvis Bakaitis, Jill Cirasella, librarians, and Open Educational Technologists who helped us understand the why and how of OER and using WordPress, and made life easier for us with checklists—and of course, the other Fellows who asked all the questions I didn’t dare to ask!

Tuka Al-Sahlani’s syllabus created in the Fellowship can be found here.

Photo by Pixabay, shared on Pexels under a CC0 license.

About the Author

Katherine Pradt is the Adjunct Reference and Digital Outreach Librarian at the Graduate Center.