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*From*: Mary Bitter <mbitter redhat com>*To*: Greg DeKoenigsberg <greg dekoenigsberg gmail com>*Cc*: OSDC Education authors <osdc-edu-authors redhat com>*Subject*: Re: [Osdc-edu-authors] First draft: remixing Euclid*Date*: Mon, 22 Nov 2010 14:45:13 -0500

thanks much. Mary Ann Greg DeKoenigsberg wrote:

OK, I've been working on this way too long, and I need some eyes.Mostly, I just need to walk away from it for a little while. Patcheswelcome.* * * Remixing EuclidAs we struggle towards a world of remixable educational content, oneof the oft-expressed fears is that the remixers will ruin otherwisebrilliant work. Is this a reasonable fear? What would Euclid say?<break>When we talk about geometry, the vast majority of us are actuallytalking about what mathematicians now call, more precisely, <ahref="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euclidean_geometry";>Euclideangeometry</a>. And why do they call it Euclidean geometry? Probablybecause the Greek mathematician Euclid laid out its foundations in amanuscript about 2400 years ago, and mathematicians have been mostlynodding their heads in agreement ever since.Euclid's Elements made its way from Alexandria to Athens, to Rome, toBaghdad, back to Europe, and around the globe. In days gone by, onecould not be considered properly educated without having studiedEuclid. Until the 20th Century, Elements was the second most printedbook in the world, ahead of Shakespeare and behind only the Bible. Itis said that country lawyer Abe Lincoln carried a copy from town totown so that he could study its proofs by candlelight. Einsteincalled it "the holy little geometry book".Our understanding of many academic topics continue to evolve -- insome cases slowly, in some cases rapidly. Euclidean geometry is notone of these topics.It's no exaggeration to say that the compasses and straightedges weused in our geometry classes in school were functionally identical tothose used by the Greeks, with construction techniques described inEuclid's proofs, more than two millenia ago. Every illustration fromevery elementary geometry textbook can be reasonably considered adirect derivative of Euclid's work.Sounds like the very epitome of public domain, doesn't it?Which is what makes it so fascinating that a Google search for"Euclid's Elements" yields, for its first three hits, links to <ahref="http://aleph0.clarku.edu/~djoyce/java/elements/elements.html<http://aleph0.clarku.edu/%7Edjoyce/java/elements/elements.html>">DavidE. Joyce's interpretation of Euclid's Elements</a> -- which have aprominent notice assigning copyright to Professor Joyce, and hisemployer Clark University, on every single page.* * * Copyright by Default and What it MeansWe live in a world of copyright. In countries that are members of the<ahref="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berne_Convention_for_the_Protection_of_Literary_and_Artistic_Works";>BerneConvention</a> (which is almost all of them), it's no longer necessaryeven to claim copyright; copyright is simply assumed, and creators ofworks must make a conscious effort if they wish to put those worksinto any kind of commons. Which means there's no sense in blamingProfessor Joyce. When he first put his site on the internet in 1997,Creative Commons did not yet exist, and the copyleft debate was in itsinfancy even as it pertained to code.It's a funny thing about the public domain: anybody can take any workin the public domain, remix it to their heart's content, and releaseit as their own, and they magically become copyright holders of thatnew work -- even if it were orginally 99.9% someone else's work.Absolutely legal. Want to take a Jane Austen novel and turn it intoa <ahref="http://www.amazon.com/Pride-Prejudice-Zombies-Classic-Ultraviolent/dp/1594743347";>regencyzombie thriller</a>? Knock yourself out. Want to <ahref="http://www.amazon.com/Android-Karenina-Quirk-Classic-Winters/dp/1594744602/ref=pd_sim_b_3";>turnTolstoy into steampunk</a>? No problem.It therefore makes perfect sense that there should be tons ofproprietary derivatives of Euclid's work. It's the oldest textbook inthe world, it's a complete and essentially perfect encapsulation ofits subject matter, and it's completely free to be pilfered. What'snot to like? There's every incentive to take things from the publicdomain, and zero incentive to put anything back. Which explains, inpart, why it's surprisingly difficult to find a useful version ofElements in the public domain.There's the Joyce version, which is comprehensive and extremely wellannotated; to modern readers, succinct definitions like "a line isbreadthless length" can certainly benefit from a bit of exposition,and Joyce does that well. Trouble is, it's all under a <ahref="http://aleph0.clarku.edu/~djoyce/java/elements/copyright.html<http://aleph0.clarku.edu/%7Edjoyce/java/elements/copyright.html>">verystrict license</a>, which means that creating and distributingderivative works without consent would be forbidden. There's also the<ahref="http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.01.0086";>interactivetext from the Perseus Digital Library at Tufts</a>, which provides theentire text of the Sir Thomas Heath translation, including commentary,in HTML and XML, with extensive internal hyperlinks. Also great, butlacking in useful illustrations, and made available through a somewhatrestrictive Creative Commons license with a non-commercial clause.The versions that are truly public domain are scanned PDFs of variouseditions, of varying quality, and not easily consumable by mostwould-be Euclidean disciples.And then there are the thousands of elementary geometry textbooks outthere, all of which are, by very definition, derivative works ofEuclid -- and are sold at a much higher price point than "free on theinternet". What about those? How much money do taxpayers spend topurchase endless derivative works based on a public domain text thatwas the gold standard of scholarship for more than 2000 years?* * * Why Give Back?It's true that there are improvements to be made on Euclid's Elements:in style, if not in substance. It's true that different kids learndifferently, and that different teachers teach differently -- andthere may well be room for dozens of geometry textbooks, all gearedtowards particular learning styles and needs.But that's not what happens in our schools. Districts choose onetext, and hand that text to every student. It's no one's fault;that's how our schools evolved. Our educational system comes from theindustrial revolution, and at that time the factory school was theonly conceivable mechanism for achieving quality education at scale.That's not true anymore. More and more people are starting toquestion the viability of the educational model of the industrialrevolution -- LINK TO RSA VIDEO-- and as the educational ecosystemexpands into the digital world, new potential contributors are joiningthe ecosystem. It's not just professional educators, either: smalleducation startups, homeschooling parents, passionate bystanders, andeven motivated self-learners are all potential creators of educationalcontent. The more we can do to keep that ecosystem open, and thelower the barriers for new entrants to add to the ecosystem, the moreinnovation we'll see.Open Ecosystems = More InnovationThe ecosystem of open source software exploded once it reached acritical mass. Suddenly, it was no longer necessary to figure outlegal terms to get access to code, and it was no longer necessary tobe a "professional"; anyone with an idea and some basic computer skillcould find a good base of code, grab it, and start running. Andbecause that commons was designed from the beginning to expand,software innovation based on open source software continues toaccelerate.Getting to that critical mass of open educational resources continuesto be a challenge. The resources must be good enough to be useful,and open enough to be extensible. There are lots of efforts to buildthose resources from scratch, but building quality educationalmaterials from scratch is not easy. Actually, it's really, really hard.Which is why it's important to take copious advantage of every goodresource that does exist. Euclid wrote the definitive geometrytextbook for us, 2500 years ago. That's hard. Now, writing aJavascript widget that illustrates one of Euclid's propositions?That's easy, at least by comparison -- something that a clever hackerparent could do in a weekend. And if a hundred clever parents gettogether, ol' Euclid takes on new life. And of those parents decideto put that code goes into the commons, it stays there -- for good.Since Professor Joyce has made such a good start, maybe someone shouldsend him a nice email and ask him if he'll give his work to the world,just as Euclid did before him. Someone really needs to replace thoseoutdated Java applets, and I can't imagine he'd turn down the help.--g ------------------------------------------------------------------------ _______________________________________________ Osdc-edu-authors mailing list Osdc-edu-authors redhat com https://www.redhat.com/mailman/listinfo/osdc-edu-authors

**References**:**[Osdc-edu-authors] First draft: remixing Euclid***From:*Greg DeKoenigsberg