Open source: for more than just applications?

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In looking around for some new stock footage with which I could teach, I rediscovered a concept I first encountered years ago: open source films.  You might be familiar with open source projects, or the concept of open source.  Many popular pieces of software are created, distributed, and maintained by using this principle: Firefox, VLC, Blender, and most of the Linux operating systems just to name a few.  

So what are fully open sourced films, and how do they differ from, say, works issued under Creative Commons licenses?  Most are animated, and backed by Blender or similar software firms.  Take a look at a couple examples from Blender specifically, such as the animated Sintel, Big Buck Bunny, and the live-action Tears of Steel. What makes these films different is that they are not just shared as an open license with which individuals can reuse or redistribute them.  They, instead, are shared in such a way that the individual frames of the film are accessible and reusable in every sense of the term. I can cut, splice, and manipulate in any way that I would like, with relatively few restrictions.  

This sparked some interesting thoughts about the pedagogical implications of this type of workflow.  First, I think students may find it interesting to work on footage from real films – and may benefit from being able to create new cuts that are different from the original, using them as a point of comparison.  This, however, I think is less interesting than the potential of having students to collectively edit the same footage, especially if it is footage that they may have collectively shot.  What if students were all given the same stock to work with and turned loose with little more than the accrued knowledge of how to edit?  
What’s to be gained?  Well, from a UDL like lens, the freedom and creativity to approach things allows for multiple perspectives to be seen, and for a multitude of learners to engage in new and interesting ways.  There is also the advantage of having a single repository from which to work which may simplify any existing storage schemes.  You could even conceivably use resources like GitHub to manage push and pull requests.  These are clear wins, but I do wonder if there are other advantages to allowing students to work in this manner.  Would this enhance the richness of the collaborative nature of coursework?  Perhaps, tying in with some thoughts from Jeff it may actually be quite the opposite.  In either event, I think that it may be worthwhile to discuss such possibilities with students and potentially try something akin to this in a project here at the DLMC as part of a larger training effort.  If you’d interested in a collaboration, please let me know!

Andrew Smith