When looking for educational resources, you occasionally find materials that are fully consistent with your needs and that can be used “as is”. In most cases, however, a resource will not be fully compatible with the goals you have in mind. This does not mean that the resource is useless: you can often tailor it to your own educational context and needs.
There is so much material on the Web, produced and tailored by experts in specific fields and creative thinkers who promote cutting-edge solutions to engage young minds in the learning of specific themes. So the question in fact is why NOT to adapt? Why should you reinvent the wheel if it is already there, adaptable and freely available on the shelf?
Even taking into account the existence of amazing material, teachers often find it necessary to make some changes. It can be simply to suit a specific topic of curricula or to tailor the resource for a specific student need, to translate into a specific language, etc. The possibility to adapt already existing resources often is an efficient and effective way to promote e-learning.
What to adapt?
Educational content, lesson plans, scenarios…basically everything can be adapted. You may, for instance, modify an existing inquiry learning scenario for use in history classes, integrate images of Picasso’s drawings in your PowerPoint slides, translate an existing student text into your own language, change examples and Web links in a lesson plan, and so on. So many things can be adapted in many different ways. It all depends on the goals you have in mind. Examples of the reasons for adaptation are:
- to address a particular teaching style or learning style
- to adapt for a different grade level
- to adapt for a different discipline
- to adjust for a different learning environment
- to address diversity needs
- to address a cultural preference
- to meet cross-border requirements
- to support a special pedagogical need
- to address either a school or a district’s standardized curriculum
How to adapt?
Given the many different reasons and ways to modify existing educational resources, we cannot guide you in every step along the way. But there are some general guidelines that apply to most, if not all situations; these are listed below.
1. Decide what to adapt. The first step is straightforward: you have to figure out what you need and which pieces of a resource you want to use. This requires a good balancing between the educational goals you want to achieve, the materials you may already have, and the resources you have retrieved through the ODS portal.
2. Check if the source material enables adaptation. Once you have decided what you want to adapt, you have to make sure that the resource comes in an editable format. An MsWord document, for example, can be changed whereas a PDF file cannot. In case a resource cannot be edited, you can contact its creator to ask for the source materials. This is particularly useful if you want to adapt software applications and tools (e.g., computer simulations, Flash animations) as these are usually offered in a compiled, non-editable format.
3. Verify that the license allows adaptation. Before you start editing a resource, or ask for the source materials, you have to make sure that you are allowed to make changes to that resource. This pertains to the ‘copyrights’ that are laid down in a license. The Creative Commons Organization proposes four licenses that allow for adaptation:
You can adapt and use the resource in any way you want as long as you credit the original author.
You can adapt and use the resource for non-commercial purposes as long as you credit the original author.
You can adapt and use the resource in any way you want as long as you credit the original author and assign the same license to your adapted version of the resource.
You can adapt and use the resource for non-commercial purposes as long as you credit the original author and assign the same license to your adapted version of the resource.
The following two licenses do not allow you to adapt the material:
You are not allowed to adapt the resource, but you can use it ‘as is’ if you credit the original author.
You are not allowed to adapt the resource, and you can use it only for non-commercial purposes on condition that you credit the original author.
More information can be found on http://creativecommons.org/licenses/
4. Find the tools needed for adapation. If the original resource is in an editable format and the appropriate rights are granted, you have to find the software tools needed to edit the resource. In many cases, default programs are all it takes: a text editor, an image editor, a video editor etc. In case you do not have the software needed to adapt a resource, visit the Tool Library in the ODS Toolbox; here you will find a collection of software tools you can install or use free of charge.
5. Adapt. Now go ahead and make the necessary changes.
6. License the adapted resource. When you have completed the changes, you have to license your version of the resource. Which license you choose depends on the license of the original resource and your personal preference. The Creative Commons Organization provides a simple online tool that helps you make your choice (http://creativecommons.org/choose/)