Re-Mixxer: Using French and German OER in The Mixxer

Re-Mixxer: Using French and German OER in The Mixxer

Last year, the Mixxer (a free educational website for language exchanges via Skype) offered a MOOC to English speakers learning Spanish and paired the participants with a partner course of Spanish speakers learning English. Using open educational resources from COERLL, Colby College, Voice for America and the BBC among others, the language learners were introduced to new vocabulary and grammar points through texts and audio and then given activities to complete with their language partner from the other course. If you have ever taught a language class, you can think of the language exchange with the partner as a substitute for the partner activities we do most every day in class.

Thanks to a generous grant for digital humanities from the Mellon foundation, we were able to hire three education and language students at Dickinson College to create lessons in German, French, and Chinese. Created by Betsy Vuchinich, the Chinese materials use content primarily from the Confucius Institute and the University of North Carolina. The lessons have been designed for beginners of Chinese and are available on the Mixxer site.

The German and French lessons, created by Ezra Sassaman and Caitlin DeFazio respectively, are based on the COERLL open textbooks Deutsch im Blick and Français interactif. Both lessons assume some knowledge of the language – roughly one semester – though beginners could start by working through the text on their own. These lessons are currently available and free to use.

We had the opportunity to showcase these resources at the CALICO / IALLT conference in Athens, Ohio (May 6 – 10) and received a lot of praise from educators. Of particular interest is the news that we will use these lessons as part of three MOOCs to be offered this summer (starting July 1st). As before, each MOOC will have a partner course for speakers of Spanish, French and German learning English. Learners from each course will then be able to find partners to complete the language exchange activity provided within each lesson. The courses and lessons are open and free to anyone interested. We will be suggesting that our own students join as a way of maintaining their language skills over the summer.  A more detailed description of each course is provided below along with the sign-up form. If you have any questions, leave a comment below or you can contact me at bryantt@dickinson.edu.

http://www.language-exchanges.org/node/113108 (Spanish MOOC)

http://www.language-exchanges.org/node/113052 (French MOOC)

http://www.language-exchanges.org/node/113051 (German MOOC)

The Tipping Point: Language Learning for a Changed World

The Tipping Point: Language Learning for a Changed World

Way back at the end of November, you may have heard that the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) held its annual convention for more than 5000 foreign language educators in the sprawling southern city of Orlando, Florida. With the temptations of SeaWorld, Universal Studios, and Disney World just footsteps from the convention hall, several hundred teachers managed to stay on task to attend The Tipping Point: Language Learning for a Changed World – the ACTFL plenary talk that COERLL director, Carl Blyth, had the privilege of giving with fellow rock star educators Kevin Gaugler, Noah Geisel, and Felix Kronenberg. In four 10-minute long presentations, each of the presenters told of a “tipping point” or “ah-ha” moment in their teaching careers, describing how these moments just may have the potential to disrupt and transform the way we teach and learn. If nothing else, what they describe are technologies and trends worth paying attention to in the new year.

Here is a compilation of the some of the talk’s highlights, put together by ACTFL: The Tipping Point: Language Learning for a Changed World

So, how about it?  Do you have a similar story of a tipping point in your teaching or learning of foreign languages? What technologies, ideas, or practices do you see having the potential to change the way that we teach and learn – especially in the realm of foreign language education? Share your thoughts in the comments below or send us a message on Twitter @COERLL

 

BOLDD: At the Speed of Language

BOLDD: At the Speed of Language

It’s the current speed and ubiquity of growth of online language learning at the beginning levels that has brought together an open community of designers, teachers, teacher trainers, and scholars, calling ourselves the BOLDD (Basic Online Language Design & Delivery) Collaboratory. We experiment and interact, sometimes face-to-face, but more often using the very social media and electronic tools of our emergent, open access economy.

On the top page of the BOLDD wiki you can see the who, what, where, for whom, how, and why of this collaboratory. Whoever has the link can view our work and any member can accord full editorial access and status to newcomers. We welcome lurking, but ask that visitors contribute to and share with the collective.

Some of us have designed whole programs for the institutions we teach at, for instance, I’ve created a four-course suite for beginning-intermediate French for VCU. Some have created a course or two, some are freelance, some focus on teacher preparation, some are in the planning stages.

How one collaborates and what one shares depend upon the individual. What individuals produce runs the gamut, from entirely open access to grant funded to institutional to proprietary materials and courses. Whatever BOLDD produces collaboratively, however, is OER and open to anyone.

Much of our collaboration thus far has been to identity and organize ourselves and to start sharing our knowledge and resources at regional and national conferences. In 2012 we presented at CALICO , FLAVA , ACTFL , and the University of Pennsylvania Symposium 2012. The Google Presentations we co-created for each venue are attached to the wiki.

Kathryn_workshopThis year, subgroups of our collective will hold workshops at NECTFL, SCOLT, CALICO, FLAVA and, hopefully, at ACTFL again. Subgroups are, likewise, beginning to work on a position paper for ACTFL on the adaptations of the ACTFL Standards for the entirely online environment that will underscore their foundational place, all the while accounting for the specificities (and range thereof) of the environment for learners, teachers, content and media.

The field is pretty much the Wild, Wild West — with the good, the bad, and the ugly and a bit of the fast and the furious thrown in. We look to thinkers like social media theorist Clay Shirky to contemplate the workings of collaborative social media for our learners as well as for ourselves and our institutions. (See Use Your Cognitive Surplus to Improve Foreign Language Education by Carl Blyth.)

The products, practices and perspectives for individual deliverables as well as what we create for BOLDD are part of a radical new economy that we don’t entirely have a handle on! The ‘value’ attributed to online learning circulates and has different, ofttimes conflicting, meaning for administrators, designers, teachers, learners and other stakeholders (communities, families, governments). Several of us, in fact, are checking out a Spanish MOOC, thanks to the suggestion of Marlene Johnshoy of CARLA. Marlene invited all BOLDD educators considering aspects of this learning platform to participate in the Spanish MOOC. She obtained permission from the instructor, Scott Rapp, asking if we “teacher-lurkers” could participate.  Then she set up a discussion board for us to chat about our experiences  “lurked.”

Questions we are asking ourselves and you:

  • What percentage of basic (first and second year) language classes do you see being delivered entirely online in 5 years? 10 years?  
  • Do you think it will affect the overall percentage of  foreign language students at the post secondary level (see: MLA 2009 survey that shows in 1965 16.5% of college students took a foreign language v. only 8.6% in 2009)? 

Please join the conversation and the ride!

KathrynKathryn Murphy-Judy, Ph.D. (Associate Professor, School of World Studies, Virginia Commonwealth University), teaches French and global media literacies and works in technology enhanced language learning (TELL). She has designed and delivered online French for first and second year and founded the BOLDD Collaboratory to share via social media good design and teaching practices in online language courses.

To read more about innovative collaboration in language education, check out ACTFL Innovates: Think Outside the Book by Tom Welch.