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)

An Open Assignment Bank … For Languages

An Open Assignment Bank … For Languages

From the editor: We’re happy to repost this entry with permission from Barbara Sawhill. You can catch more of her thoughts at Language Lab Unleashed. We welcome Barbara to our community of language educators for the progress of OER.

I’m a big fan of the creative work that happens at the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies (DTLT) at The University of Mary Washington.

Digital Storytelling 106 (ds106) is one of the many creative ideas that DTLT  has spawned, and it certainly has a presence on the web. I have been watching ds106 (and I have sometimes participated, because that is what you are expected to do) and also wondering what ds106 – a course about using media in a creative way for digital storytelling — could teach those of us who are interested in using media in a creative way  for language learning.

To be clear: I am not looking for new shiny tools or cool apps. What I am looking for is creative and fun ways for students to speak, listen, write and read in a second language. I am thinking about fun tasks to develop language skills. And I want to  integrate free, open, available tools and objects into exercises for developing languages.  And then I want to share them with everybody.

So here is my idea:  What about an open assignment bank for LANGUAGES?  I know what you are thinking, jeeez louise aren’t there enough of those out there already? True, yes there are, but many of them are tied to specific textbooks, courses and lesson plans.

I’m thinking more broadly, more generally. And yes, more open-ly.  Like ds106, I want to make it possible for anyone to suggest an assignment and for everyone to try them out.

And, rather than re-inventing the wheel, maybe there are ds106 assignments that are already in the hopper could be stolen liberated repurposed for language learning. I’m pretty sure the DTLT folks are into sharing, and wouldn’t mind seeing that happen.

So here we go.  Here’s a start. Here is a link to a rudimentarygoogle form where you can add ideas to  a language assignment bank. Please add something, please share it with others.  Please think about ways to incorporate existing open resources into the mix.

Ready?  Let’s see what we can create together.

Barbara Sawhill portrait

Barbara Sawhill has been working for a small liberal arts college in the cornfields of Ohio for about 15 years. In addition to teaching Spanish she runs a somewhat unconventional language center. Prior to this adventure in higher ed she taught high school Spanish and loved it. She wishes she had more time in her life to write, read, swim, and watch the Red Sox. And sometimes she blogs over here and here as well.

Papiers-Mâchés, a New OER forFrench Writing

Papiers-Mâchés, a New OER for
French Writing

Some years ago, we found that our French majors here at NYU were not writing at the level we had hoped for. This led us to reexamine how we incorporated writing throughout our program.

We  decided to try Gammes d’écritures (CNDP fr), a French writing software program. Our students made amazing progress, and they truly enjoyed working with the software that allowed them to progress at their own rhythm. However, the texts and interface of this program were outdated. We felt its method of instruction could be modernized into a more comprehensive tutorial format.

We also felt strongly that our program should be an open resource, not only because our language teachers had been benefiting from open resources for years and this was a way to “give back,” but also because we knew that our program could provide a model to our university (and others) of how open resource language programs can be inventive and engaging.

At a time when numerous colleges and universities understand open education as merely the process of having lectures videotaped and delivered on line, we envisioned a course that fosters and channels analytical and independent thinking.

papiers machesThis is how Papiers-Mâchés was born.

Although Papiers-Mâchés uses simple tools, its consistent method of detailed annotations and suggestions is efficient for systematizing and extending the work conducted in the classroom. It provides personalized interactive instruction that challenges and encourages students at each step of the writing process – from questions of vocabulary choice and grammatical structure to elements of organization – until they are satisfied by their own response.

We also seized another opportunity: having students collaborating with the material. All through the experimental phase of the program, numerous students of the advanced module offered their best work either as models to accompany certain activities, or as examples now displayed in the third section of the program. Similar to the “knowledge ecosystem” Jonathan Perkins envisions in the context of graduate studies (see Why Foreign Language Grad Programs Should Care About OER), this collaborative element is a fundamental feature of Papiers-Mâchés that allows students to take an active role in creating and perpetuating an online learning community.

We are thrilled to join the OER community with Papiers-Mâchés. We hope that our program will prove to be an exciting addition to upper-intermediate and advanced level French courses. Since it lends itself for both in-class use and individualized homework, teachers will find a variety of ways to incorporate it into their lessons.

Sign up online and try it with your students, adapt it for your classroom, envision it for another language and send us your suggestions so we can continue to make it a better program that serves the needs of the OER community. Today more than ever, facilitating the acquisition of languages other than English will help diversify the linguistic landscape of online education, open the horizon to a greater variety of resources and thus reduce the danger of the imposition of one global language and culture.

AlineAline Baehler, Senior Language Lecturer, Department of French, NYU. Major Interests: 20th-Century French Literature; second-language acquisition; computer-assisted language learning. Co-creator of Papiers-Mâchés.

 

 

JohnJohn Moran, Clinical Associate Professor of French; Director of Undergraduate Studies & Director of Language Programs, Department of French, NYU. Major Interests: Foreign language methodology and pedagogy; historical linguistics; Old French language and literature; phonetics. Co-creator of Papiers-Mâchés.

Emerging Leader Creates Language Learning OER

Emerging Leader Creates Language Learning OER

We have been following academic technologist Todd Bryant and his ideas for creating meaningful language exchange experiences online. Todd created an open educational resource, the Mixxer, to do just that. (See The Mixxer Launches Spanish and English Language MOOCs.)

Check out Todd’s presentation at the New Media Consortium (NMC) summer conference.

You’ll see that Todd has utilized a variety of open online language learning materials, including some of COERLL’s Spanish and German materials,  to create a whole new open resource. This is what remixing and reusing is all about: fueling innovation and ideas to keep creating new learning resources for the public.

Building Community at AATSP

Building Community at AATSP

Conferences are a great place to talk to teachers and hear what’s on their minds.  The Spanish and Portuguese teachers at the AATSP conference in San Antonio gave us lots of terrific ideas. Here are a few:

Ann Mar, a high school AP Spanish teacher from San Antonio, told us that she had recently become aware of COERLL’s SpinTX Video Archive.  She was excited to discover that it  closely aligns with the new AP Spanish curriculum scheduled to begin this fall.  The AP Spanish Language and Culture Course is a national curriculum set by the College Board. Ann told us that there are 6 themes within the new curriculum  that match up well with the themes in the SpinTX videos ( e.g. “Personal and Public Identities”, “Families and Communities”,  “Contemporary Life”).

Ann has already posted a link to SpinTX in the AP teacher community forum. She will also be running a summer institute for AP Spanish teachers at UT Austin later in July. Finally, she is  interested in having her high school students in San Antonio collect videos using our protocols, with the idea that we could use them as part of the corpus if they turn out well.  So, it looks like COERLL will definitely be exploring how to  connect our video archive to the AP Spanish curriculum with Ann’s help.  Thanks, Ann!

Another terrific idea came from  Dr. Margo Milleret from the Portuguese program at the University of New Mexico. Margo suggested that COERLL consider developing badges aimed at middle or high school students based on our introductory LCTL resources. Badges are a way to recognize and verify online learning. The goal would be to expose students to languages that aren’t normally offered in high schools (such as Portuguese), so that when the students go to college, they would be more likely to study a LCTL.  She noted that while she doesn’t have the resources to do something like this herself, she would really like to collaborate with a center like COERLL and other  K-12 teachers to make it happen.  Margo’s great idea combines various elements of COERLL’s mission:  K-12, LCTLs, and Open Education.

And finally, another good idea came from ACTFL president Toni Theisen. Toni was chatting with us at the COERLL booth about the tremendous potential of badges for teacher development.  She wondered whether COERLL could help ACTFL award attendees of this year’s convention in Orlando with a participation badge.  Great idea, Toni! That would certainly help bring badges to the attention of the foreign language teaching community.  Let’s work on this … together.

Open Education is fundamentally about sharing.  So a big “Thank You” to all the teachers who shared their  ideas with us at AATSP.

Carl BlythCarl Blyth is Director of COERLL and Associate Professor of French, UT Austin.  His research includes CMC,  cross-cultural and intercultural pragmatics, interactional sociolinguistics, and pedagogical grammar.  He is project director of eComma, an open-source annotation application to facilitate more “social” forms of reading.

 

 

Meet the iTunes U Language Learner

Meet the iTunes U Language Learner

Have you ever wondered about those students who are learning foreign languages on iTunes? There are over 600 free language learning collections on iTunes. People are using them. What do you know about these students?

Earlier this year, I presented a paper at the e-Learning Symposium in Southampton University in the UK about the iTunes U language learner. I wanted to share the results with you. The findings show that most iTunes U learners have quite a different profile compared to university learners: from their age and gender to their occupation and motivations for accessing iTunes U language resources.

Before watching, think about who you think the iTunes U language learner is. Mostly male? Mostly female? How old? What do they do? Do they listen on mobile devices or on their home computers? Do they think they are learning by engaging with the language resources they download from iTunes U? And what implications do the answers to these questions have for the design and implementation of iTunes U resources from your own institution?

Now watch the presentation.

How do your answers to the questions above compare with the actual results? Feel free to comment on your impressions and implications for teaching and learning through iTunes U.

Fernando Rosell-AguilarFernando Rosell-Aguilar is a lecturer in Spanish and coordinator of iTunes U content for the Department of Languages at the Open University, UK.

Read more about open language learning on iTunes.

 

Shareworthy: COERLL’s Webinar Series

Shareworthy: COERLL’s Webinar Series

Your foreign language department will thank you for sharing COERLL’s Webinar Series, all about open educational resources (OER) for language learning. Here’s what we covered:

Finding Open Media for Foreign Language Instruction Learn how to search for and find high-quality authentic OER (multimedia, realia, interviews, etc.) for use in language teaching and learning.

 

The Practice of Using and Teaching with OER Explore the practice of implementing OER into teaching and learn specifically about integration of COERLL’s popular French curriculum, Francais interactif, into foreign language classrooms.

 

Focus on SpinTX: An Open Video Archive for Language Learning We unpack one of our most recent projects, SpinTX–a resource for bilingual Spanish speakers in Texas. Learn how to search and tag videos for features that match your interests, and create and share your favorite playlists.

 

5 Ways to Open Up Corpora for Language Learning

5 Ways to Open Up Corpora for Language Learning

Corpora developed by linguists to study languages are a promising source of authentic materials to employ in the development of OER for language learning. Recently, COERLL’s SpinTX Corpus-to-Classroom project launched a new open resource that seeks to make it easy to search and adapt materials from a video corpus.

The SpinTX video archive  provides a pedagogically-friendly web interface to search hundreds of videos from the Spanish in Texas Corpus. Each of the videos is accompanied by synchronized closed captions and a transcript that has been annotated with thematic, grammatical, functional and metalinguistic information. Educators using the site can also tag videos for features that match their interests, and share favorite videos in playlists.

A collaboration among educators, professional linguists, and technologists, the SpinTX project leverages different aspects of the “openness” movement including open research, open data, open source software, and open education. It is our hope that by opening up this corpus, and by sharing the strategies and tools we used to develop it, others may be able to replicate and build on our work in other contexts.

So, how do we make a corpus open and beneficial across communities? Here are 5 ways:

1. Create an open and accessible search interface

Minimize barriers to your content. Searching the SpinTX video archive requires no registration, passwords or fees. To maximize accessibility, think about your audience’s context and needs. The SpinTX video archive offers a corpus interface specifically for educators, and plans to to create a different interface for researchers.

2. Use open content licences

Add a Creative Commons license to your corpus materials. The SpinTX video archive uses a CC BY-NC-SA license that requires attribution but allows others to reuse the materials different contexts.

3. Make your data open and share content

Allow others to easily embed or download your content and data. The SpinTX video archive provides social sharing buttons for each video, as well as providing access to the source data (tagged transcripts) through Google Fusion Tables.

4. Embrace open source development

When possible, use and build upon open source tools. The SpinTX project was developed using a combination of open source software (e.g. TreeTagger, Drupal) and open APIs (e.g. YouTube Captioning API). Custom code developed for the project is openly shared through a GitHub repository.

5. Make project documentation open

Make it easy for others to replicate and build on your work. The SpinTX team is publishing its research protocols, development processes and methodologies, and other project documentation on the SpinTX Corpus-to-Classroom blog.

Openly sharing language corpora may have wide-ranging benefits for diverse communities of researchers, educators, language learners, and the public interest. The SpinTX team is interested in starting a conversation across these communities. Have you ever used a corpus before? What did you use it for? If you have never used a corpus, how do you find and use authentic videos in the classroom?  How can we make video corpora more accessible and useful for teachers and learners?

gilgRachael Gilg is the Project Manager and Lead Developer for COERLL’s Spanish in Texas Corpus project and the SpinTX Corpus-to-Classroom project. She has acted as project manager, designer, and developer on a diverse set of projects, including educational websites and online courses, video and interactive media, digital archives, and social/community websites.

“We’re Committed to Openness in Content Creation”

“We’re Committed to Openness in Content Creation”

From the editor: We had the opportunity to interview Scott Rapp, co-founder of the Instreamia language learning platform and the designer and instructor of a new first-year Spanish MOOC (4,762 students enrolled). Check back with Open Up to find out about Scott’s new Language Teaching MOOC for creating blended learning environments.

OU: How did you learn Spanish and what motivated you to create Instreamia?

SR:  My brother, Ryan, and I each spent two years abroad volunteering, Ryan went to Japan, and I went to Honduras. Learning Japanese and Spanish was a necessity.

Years later we were both working for Deloitte–Ryan in Japan and I in DC. We began discussing our strategies for learning languages, which was especially on Ryan’s mind as he had to do everything in Japanese, and he was also constantly being asked how he learned Japanese and recommendations for how they could learn English.

We decided that a well-indexed set of reference tools combined with natural language processing really took a lot of the tediousness out of learning a language. We gradually worked on building a product around RSS feeds and text-based sources when the “big idea” hit me like a ton of bricks: What if we could go beyond text-only sources, and focus our strategy on subtitled videos? Then we could integrate our powerful toolset into a video player! This led to other breakthrough innovations, like the dynamic exercises and adaptive learning with time-series depreciation that Instreamia includes today.

Originally called StudyStream, the Rapp brothers renamed their resource to Instreamia before rolling out their Spanish MOOC in January 2013.

OU: Why did you decide to make your courses open?

SR: Developing the Instreamia software, we wanted it to have a positive impact on the most people possible. We also recognized that many of the ideas for improvements and future developments would come from language learners and teachers, and that has proven true time and again. We still feel strongly that content development efforts by educators (including ourselves) are best made in Open Educational Resources. Our platform can’t work without excellent content, and obtaining and maintaining licensing for hundreds of videos, learning modules, dictionaries, and explanations would greatly undermine the scalability and versatility of our platform.

OU: But you are going to start charging a $99 registration fee? (Learn more.)

SR:  All the investment in Instreamia has been founders’ capital. Before quitting Deloitte, Ryan put away a substantial seed investment that he was able to live on for over a year while he began the development of Instreamia. I still work full-time, and work on Instreamia and the SpanishMOOC in my free time, and invest a portion of my salary to Instreamia.

We knew the time would come for us to change from an entirely free platform to having paid services or premium features. We want to stay true to our decision of making all the content free and open, and we will continue to publish all the materials we or any users create through Creative Commons.

OU: What were the factors behind the decision to charge the fee?

SR: During our initial offering of our Spanish MOOC, we realized the level of effort and commitment to our students (especially hand-grading assignments) could not be handled solely by volunteers. We were faced with a difficult decision: we could shut down the Spanish MOOC offering altogether, degrade the experience by excluding any teacher interaction, or … offer an improved course with paid TAs and graders, and charge a registration fee. We decided to add the fee, so we could offer a much improved learning experience.

OU: What are aspects of your courses that remain open?

SR: Our technology and code-base is not open-source. It’s proprietary and has a patent pending. But we’re committed to openness in content creation. Here’s how teachers, graders, and even advanced learners can contribute to each of our content categories:

  • Native-Content Subtitled Audio/Videos – These are either user-created (under CC), Instreamia-created (under CC), or they are used with permission from YouTube. Teachers can write text, record audio, and translate the transcript through Instreamia’s Video Editor.
  • Instructional Videos – These are videos we make available on our YouTube Channel (under CC). Any teacher can contribute by creating their own YouTube channel and embedding their videos on the Instreamia Lesson Creator.
  • Lessons – These are either user-created (under CC), or Instreamia-created (under CC). Teachers can write text, embed Instructional Videos, and create exercises based on the Native-Content library.
  • Grammar Explanations –  These are lessons with special indexing, so that teachers and graders can direct their students to them. For example, typing @gustar anywhere in a lesson or comment would create a link to the Gustar grammar explanation.
  • Dictionary Entries – Every word has audio pronunciation (Forvo, not CC), definitions (Princeton’s WordNet, free license), and multilingual relations, or translations (Instreamia, CC). When a user notices a word with an inaccurate or missing translation, he/she can edit it, so our users are making our translations better all the time.

As a community we can make and maintain content that frees us from using archaic textbooks. (See “Got Textbooks? From This Century?”) Together as a group of educators, we can provide a better learning experience without having to license content. This will make teaching languages more scalable and affordable, and it will allow for rapidly-evolving curricula.

OU: Do you have any questions for our readers?

SR: We have so much to say and to discuss, and we’d love to hear comments from you!

  • How would your classroom change if a computer were able to assign and grade homework based on each individual student’s needs?
  • What methods have you found to make students fall in love with the subject matter

Scott RappScott Rapp is professor of SpanishMOOC, an open initiative to teach Spanish to large groups of people online. He is also the co-founder of the adaptive language learning platform Instreamia, which enables blended teaching by dynamically creating interactive lessons based on native content.

5 Reasons You Should Pay Attention to Augmented Reality Interactive Storytelling

5 Reasons You Should Pay Attention to Augmented Reality Interactive Storytelling

As we contemplate open access and innovation, it is impossible to ignore the potential offered by ARIS (Augmented Reality Interactive Storytelling System).  Designed and maintained by an amazing group of people, centered at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, ARIS is not only a great tool, but a project that is gaining international notoriety. Here is my list of five reasons why the language learning community should pay attention.

1. Place-Based, Augmented Reality (AR) is Ideal for Many Areas of Language Learning

As language educators, we often discuss the value of study abroad, service learning, and community interaction as beneficial for language learning.  AR allows us to design interactive experiences, enhanced by mobile devices, to either create place-based interactions. The same way we might explore restaurants in a neighborhood using YELP, learners can explore (and hopefully expand) their surroundings via place-relevant resources. Check out our first project in this area, Mentira (with Chris Holden, UNM).

2. The NOTEBOOK

Real time, geo-tagged, user-created data that can be made available to others within a public or restricted space and turned into game elements … Wow! Students can collect and share their language learning experiences (e.g., conversations, images, videos) for any number of reasons.  Most recently we worked with a professor of colonial literature to make the themes in her course come alive on campus.  Nothing like giving Sor Juana a tour of campus!

3. Potential for Student and Teacher Design and Building

The ARIS editor is designed for non-programmers and has an extensive documentation system and active discussion group always willing to offer help.  This means your students can be up and running in a matter of a few hours. Design and creation have a great deal of potential as learning tools as well, which makes this feature great on multiple levels.

4. Innovative Funding Model

People contribute as they can to build different needed features, server space, etc. Also, the code is open to those wishing to work with it. ARIS success is a key model in terms of sustainable projects.

5. Free to Use

This is a key feature for many educational contexts.

Whenever I think about the ARIS project, I am always amazed at its sustainability and growth over the past five years.  Let’s keep thinking about ways to facilitate this type of innovation while keeping it free for users? What can we do to enhance the ARIS features most useful for language learning?

Julie M. Sykes (Ph.D., Minnesota) is an Assistant Professor of Hispanic Linguistics. Her research focuses on the use of digital games for language acquisition. Sykes’ recent projects include the design, implementation, and evaluation of Croquelandia (a synthetic immersive gaming environment for learning pragmatics) as well as the use of place-based, augmented reality mobile games (Mentira) to engage language learners in a variety of non-institutional contexts.