Team Open

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Kasyoka Mutunga

How open educational resources brought running water to a community in Kenya.

19-year-old Kenyan law student Kasyoka Mutunga knows the power of open educational resources (OER) — students in an after-school program she co-teaches used free online tutorials to build a makeshift plumbing system that brought running water to their community.

Not only do her students learn from Creative Commons–licensed materials by the likes of MIT OpenCourseWare; they in turn share their own projects under CC. “OER have a direct impact on their personal mission, which gets them receptive to the idea of openness,” Kasyoka says. “Then they become active participants in open culture.”

At Mwiruti High School in Eldoret, Kenya, a group of students complained of having to carry water in from the well every day to take showers, and wished there were a way of making the water flow to them automatically. Through Twitter, the students discovered a resource that turned out to be a person — a plumber from the Netherlands who was able to walk them through the steps needed for a do-it-yourself plumbing system. Through tweets, video tutorials, and additional resources that the plumber linked them to, the students built a makeshift system that allowed them to take showers without having to make the daily trip to their water source.

Another student, Papa Samba Dieng Diallo from El Hadji Malick Sy High School in Senegal, wanted to tackle a social problem: How do you bring Africans together to share knowledge when they are dispersed over so many regions and with so many languages? Papa Samba searched online and found MIT OpenCourseWare and YouTube videos — first on science, and then on various other subjects. He was inspired; if these world-renowned universities were sharing their knowledge, what was stopping him and other Africans from sharing their own? Because Senegal and most of West Africa is French-speaking, Papa Samba thought that if people in his region learned more English, they could communicate better with Africans from other regions. So in collaboration with the English club at his school and two faculty members, he created videos and text resources for teaching English. They uploaded the videos and resources online under a CC license to encourage other Africans to adapt it for their regions. The more Africans who learned English, the more united the continent would become under a common language.

Both groups of students were part of an after-school program that introduced the concepts of Open Educational Resources and Creative Commons licensing. A School of Open initiative, it is led by volunteers Kasyoka Mutunga, a 19-year old law student, and Simeon Oriko, a 24-year old developer.

In each case, it wasn’t always immediately obvious that CC licenses were playing a role, but Kasyoka says that by the second week of the School of Open program, the students definitely got it.

First, we wanted to let them realize the value of open materials online. Then [in the second week] we asked them, ‘What do you think enables all this stuff to happen? For example, videos from MIT, document templates from X institution or university? How do these things exist?’ This is the point where we introduce them to the CC licenses. Then we go back to copyright; if these materials were copyrighted, would they have been able to achieve their goals?’ And they answer, ‘No, because I wouldn’t have been able to use MIT OpenCourseWare materials the same way. I would have had to ask so-and-so for permission. These videos enable me to experience the classroom without having to fly across the world.’

Access to resources is only the beginning; all of the students’ projects involve remixing and building on CC-licensed resources. Students create their own videos, drawing from a variety of CC-licensed media, and in the process of uploading and sharing their final projects, they have to think about what CC license they will choose for their own work.

Kasyoka and Simeon have designed the program around the students’ needs and interests, which Kasyoka finds is a proven working model. This way, “OER [open educational resources] have a direct impact on their personal mission, which gets them receptive to the idea of openness. So once they are familiar with open resources based on their personal effort, they will explore how open resources relate to their ambition. Then they become active participants in open culture.”

So how did Kasyoka get into all this? Well, when she was a student at Precious Blood High School, Simeon was running Digital Camps at her school through Jamlab, a community of peers providing mentorship, and she was one of his mentees. Upon graduating, she heard about the School of Open and wanted to combine the two efforts to teach about open educational resources and Creative Commons licensing, so they started School of Open Kenya, which Simeon has taken over since Kasyoka started her graduate studies.

When asked to describe the impact of CC licensing on her and her students lives, Kasyoka said, “To most people, CC is a legal tool — this thing that [builds on] copyright. But when you actually go out in the field and you see it influencing students’ lives (and me personally), it stops becoming a legal thing. It becomes an instrument that people are using to advance themselves. It’s not just a legal thing that was invented in an ivory tower; it is actually changing lives. It’s huge.”

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Creative Commons License

Kasyoka Mutunga (Team Open) was written by Jane Park for Creative Commons. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

The illustration of Kasyoka Mutunga was created by Luke Surl. To the extent possible under the law, Luke Surl has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights under the CC0 Public Domain Declaration.