Best of MERLOT: Award-Winning World Language Resources

Best of MERLOT: Award-Winning World Language Resources

In my last post, I blogged about the de rigueur French sites I share with my community college students through the Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT). In addition to these, I must mention that there are almost 2,500 World Languages materials in MERLOT, not just in French, but in Arabic, Chinese, ESL, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Portuguese, Spanish and many other languages. There are simulations, animations, blogs, word clouds, virtual art galleries and recording studios, tutorials, videos, webquests and worksheets. The cost is just a bit of your time.

One of the most effective ways to find the best of MERLOT is by exploring the recipients of our World Languages Editor’s Choice and MERLOT Classics Awards. The Classic Award winners are chosen among outstanding online resources designed to enhance teaching and learning. The Editor’s Choice Award is an honor bestowed on one excellent learning material among all the Classics Award winners. An easy way to peruse all the award-winning resources is to visit the About MERLOT Awards/Exemplary Materials page,  

Top 3 Editor’s Choice Recipients
  1. LangMedia consists of a collection of target language videos done by international students from the Five Colleges of Massachusetts in their home countries. Videos in languages from Arabic to Wolof are included with transcripts, images and realia. See videos of French as it is spoken in a variety of Francophone nations, Spanish in the Spanish-speaking world, etc. There is also a substantial Bangla/Bengali collection, Czech, Croatian and on through the alphabet of languages. In addition to the language videos, there are also CultureTalk series  that are coded for elementary, middle school and high school classes. These resources can enhance language courses anywhere or be used by prospective travelers to the regions.
  2. Ojalá que llueva café  is a timeless favorite of Spanish teachers and learners everywhere for its embedding of culture, grammar and structure. Completely in the target language, it not only contains a glossed reading of the popular song by Juan Luis Guerra, it features a beautiful photo gallery of the Dominican Republic and many exercises to teach the subjunctive in an engaging way. Author Barbara K. Nelson, went on to create many modules using a similar format in her five-star Spanish.language&culture site.
  3. Lingu@net Worldwide  (formerly Lingu@netEuropa) catalogues some 3,500 learning materials all geared toward learning languages. Linguanet Worldwide allows users to discern their learning styles, to find conversation partners and to locate resources to enhance their knowledge of the target language and culture. The resources it points to reach a wide and diverse potential audience: casual learners of languages in a variety of age groups, students of languages for professional or academic reasons and others.

I hope this tour of the best of MERLOT inspires Open Up readers to submit their own work to MERLOT World Languages and to comment upon what they find in our collections. For instance, what features do you want to see that are not already in MERLOT now?

LauraLaura Franklin teaches French online at the Extended Learning Institute, Northern Virginia Community College. She is one of the original Co-Editors of MERLOT World Languages. For information on becoming a MERLOT World Languages Peer Reviewer, contact Laura at

To find more OER for languages, see Open Up on Open Education Week.

What You Need to Know about Creative Commons

What You Need to Know about Creative Commons

From the editor: As the Open Education Week online event continues around the world (March 11-15), we’re giving you this quick tutorial on open licensing.

The goal of Creative Commons licensing is to facilitate a wide distribution of work online. The creator retains some rights, but understands that letting go of his/her work and ideas is the best way to let them grow. (See Set Them Free: How to Share Your Materials by Georges Detiveaux.)

About Creative Commons

All Creative Commons (CC) licenses allow non-commercial educators to use the materials for free as long as they credit the licensor. Most also allow for the remixing and modification of these resources. In addition to providing educators a legal way of finding media for their lessons, students can benefit by producing their own digital projects for credit and then sharing their work online under a CC license.

For those new to creative commons, start at  If you’re looking for ways to share your work online, check out the Licenses drop-down menu at the top to learn about and choose the right license for you. If you’re looking for resources, go to the Explore box and click Find CC-licensed works to access a metasearch utility. You can search some of the largest sites for different types of media, and you can restrict search results to those available under a Creative Commons license.

And Much More …

In addition to the Creative Commons website, you can also search for resources on the internet by specific media. Most of the sites I list below allow you to narrow the results to those with CC licenses. Some of these sites are part of the Creative Commons metasearch mentioned above, although I have found that searching for resources on the individual sites lets you search with greater granularity. 


  • ccMixter  – Music collection, great for podcast introductions and video backgrounds.
  • freeSound – Sounds, especially background sounds for digital productions. For example, a digital story about Spain can include the sounds of the subway in Madrid.
  • Macaulay Library – Sounds of nature, note they have their own terms of use.


  • Youtube – It isn’t obvious how to narrow your selection to Creative Commons videos. Do a general search first, and then choose Creative Commons by clicking on the Filters tool under the search field.
  • Vimeo – Similar to YouTube, you have to do a general search first, and then click the Show Advanced Filters button to select a Creative Commons license.


  • Flickr – This photo sharing site was one of the original driving engines for the popularity of creative commons resources. Many government agencies and museums host their collections there, which makes it odd that you have to do a general search first then click the Advanced Search link before you can select the Creative Commons checkbox at the bottom.
  • 500px – A rival photo sharing site.  You search by specific Creative Commons licenses, which may be a positive or negative.
  • Realia Project – Their image collection is much smaller, but if you’re not looking for something specific it can be a good place for ideas. They don’t have a specific license, but allow non-commercial use to educators.

In addition, there are many public domain resources that are freely available for use, usually because the works were created by the government or their copyright has expired. Many public domain resources can be found at the Internet Archive.  (Even if you aren’t looking for anything specific, the Wayback Machine is worth a look.)

If you have other resources, please include them in the comments below.

ProfileToddBryantTodd Bryant (@MixxerSite or @bryantt) is a liaison to the foreign language departments for the Academic Technology group at Dickinson College and an adjunct German instructor. He created The Mixxer to help connect language students with native speakers. His interests include the immersive effect of games in service of foreign language learning, such as the use of World of Warcraft to teach German.

For more information on  searching Creative Commons, see COERLL’s infographic How to Search for Openly Licensed Educational Resources.

Open Up on Open Education Week

Open Up on Open Education Week

Are you new to the concept of open education? Do you need a crash course on the lingo, the collective mission, and what’s available out there for educators and learners? You’re in luck.

March 11-15 is Open Education Week. A week-long online festival where “more than 100 universities, colleges, schools and organizations from all over the world come together to showcase what they’re doing to make education more open, free, and available to everyone.” The goal of Open Education Week is to raise awareness about free and open educational opportunities.

Check out COERLL‘s contributions to the Resources section:


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.

ACTFL Innovates: Think Outside the Book

ACTFL Innovates: Think Outside the Book

What language educator has not had the uneasy feeling that despite following requisite lesson plans, district curriculum guides, or state frameworks, there must be a better way to facilitate world language learning?

What Is ACTFL Innovates?

Last summer, a small cadre of teachers and a few other critical friends, fueled by that very unease coupled with the desire for openness in collaboration and innovation, led to the beginning of a very informal ACTFL initiative known as ACTFL Innovates. The group has expanded to include a growing number of interested language teachers. Envisioned as an informal, collaborative group of professionals who would commit to sharing resources, ideas, failures, and success, the group has followed a path on a cycle that is common to many startups: namely, initial excitement and enthusiasm, early experimentation, outside pressures and distractions, and waning engagement by participants.

However, it’s essential to view this as part of a cycle, not a one-way trip. As language professionals from all levels, we need a wide variety of environments where we can feel free to question, share resources, engage, experiment, encourage, warn, analyze, and dream. ACTFL Innovates is not unique in that. Many of our colleagues have opened up other avenues for this as well, such as #langchat on Thursday evenings, and various other twitter streams.

Why Another Initiative?

The short answer is that ACTFL Innovates is an opportunity for those who feel like the current structure of “clearly articulated curricula” and the accompanying grades we assign students are false proxies for language learning.

It’s for those of us who ask:

  • Can students learn languages by reading foreign language transcripts of TED Talks about a subject they are interested in?
  • Can OER language resources be accessed and effectively used by students according to interest with little regard for appropriate “level”?
  • Would a math teacher be willing to accept evidence of learning from a student who mastered a concept by using non-English resources? (See How Khan Academy Is Going Global.)

Who knows? Would you, as a world languages teacher, be willing to accept a student-constructed evidence portfolio centered on skate-boarding, or rocket launching , or kite-flying in place of that Level I, Unit 5 lesson on “shopping in a foreign market”?

For those searching for a safe place to discuss innovative ideas like these, ACTFL Innovates may be one step in an important journey. I look forward to hearing from you.

T WelchTom Welch is an independent consultant and has witnessed, participated in, and advocated for the explosion of opportunities for learning unbound by traditional limits of time or place. He is a founding member of ACTFL Innovates. He has been a high school French teacher and principal, and once designed an online Mandarin course for high schools in Kentucky.


To read more about collaborating with other language educators, read Making Collaboration Easier by Carl Blyth.

Use Your Cognitive Surplus to Improve Foreign Language Education

Use Your Cognitive Surplus to Improve Foreign Language Education

When I read the book Cognitive Surplus by Clay Shirky, a writer and  media studies professor at NYU, I thought of the foreign language educator. Check out Shirky’s TEDTalk on the subject:

Clay Shirky’s TEDTalk: How Cognitive Surplus Will Change the World

Shirky argues that modern life has resulted in unprecedented amounts of leisure time. And today, thanks to the Internet, people are choosing to use their free time to collaborate in new and exciting ways. Here’s an excerpt from the book cover:

For the first time, people are embracing new media that allow them to pool their efforts at vanishingly low cost. The results of this aggregated effort range from mind-expanding reference tools like Wikipedia to life-saving Web sites like, which allows Kenyans to report acts of violence in real time. Cognitive Surplus explores what’s possible  when people unite to use their intellect, energy, and time for the greater good.

His claim is that the Internet is turning consumers into producers. But is this true of language teachers?

Despite Shirky’s enthusiasm, teachers still view themselves as consumers of pedagogical products. And yet, teachers produce pedagogical content all the time: lesson plans, quizzes, worksheets, activities and so on. The problem is that teachers denigrate their materials as amateurish or unprofessional. Because of this pervasive attitude, they rarely share their local materials with other teachers.

Shirky argues that all forms of digital production–from LOLcats to Wikipedia–have an important role to play in Internet culture. So, here is the point: every educational product, no matter how humble, is the result of a creative impulse that has the potential to benefit others.

To participate in the Open Education Movement, you don’t need to be a professional textbook author. But you do need to realize that sharing your materials is a powerful act of intellectual generosity.

Your thoughts?

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.

To read more about sharing your educational creations, read Set Them Free: How to Share Your Materials by Georges Detiveaux. 

Also, March 11-15 is Open Education Week — raising awareness of the open education movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide. We’ll be participating and sharing the links with you.

Set Them Free: How to Share Your Materials

Set Them Free: How to Share Your Materials

Here’s something that happened a couple semesters ago. At the beginning of class one day, I noticed a pile of handouts on the teacher’s desk left by one of my colleagues. I glanced at the handouts as my students were filing into the room. I realized I knew them. Not my students–the handouts.

Francais interactifThey were exercises, quizzes, PowerPoints, and tests I had created to supplement the open French textbook I use (COERLL’s Français interactif). You see, I still can’t help but feel these are somehow my children. I used to have such a helicopter-mom approach to these babies. I would nurse my creations into something to be proud of, protect them, hold them close to me, and never let them out of my sight.

Today, all of our sections of French use this text. I have come to the decision to share just about everything I make for my own class with my colleagues. Here’s how it happened for me.

1. Share on Your Terms

I started by sending an email to my colleagues explaining the materials I had created, indicating whether students could keep a copy of the materials (no, in the case of tests), and pointing out any peculiarities to edit and customize for their own purposes. For instance, taking my name off the materials or substituting their own classroom stories in place of mine.

I was worried my colleagues would think I was being too strict with my “rules.” Then I envisioned my poor colleagues trying to use my materials just as they are, without editing them to suit their particular classes. Inevitably, they would run into some issue with the materials in the middle of class that would leave everyone dumbfounded. Some inside joke only my students and I would understand. Unconventional grammatical structures, terms, or expressions I had added in response to my students’ questions. These were pitfalls that I was pointing out, and that was fine.

2. Let Go

I suppose it’s in our nature to worry about our creations. I do care about these materials I have created and decided to share. Yes, my heartstrings are tugged when I see an old quiz of mine abandoned on the teacher’s desk. But I have to accept that these materials will take on a life of their own once out of my hands and that I’m contributing to something larger than just my own classroom.

3. Realize the Mutual Benefit of Openness

Fortunately, I happen to teach at a place where other people share their materials with me. I can decide if I like them, if they apply to my class and learners, and how I might adapt them. Through all of this, I get the chance to evaluate and revise my own teaching.

I guess that makes up for the fact that my own materials are no longer on lock-down here in the digital nest of my hard drive. We open educators can take comfort in knowing that our “children” will continue to function in some context once out of our hands. That they will get changed, misunderstood, edited, abandoned, praised, or rejected is just part of the process. It’s how they grow up.

Do you have these concerns about sharing your personally created materials? How much do you share with colleagues or teaching assistants? What instructions, if any, do you give when you share? Are there rules about what they can do with what you share? When your colleagues share with you, how do you decide what to do with those materials? I’d like to hear how you share.

georgesGeorges Detiveaux is Manager of Instructional Technology & Adjunct Support in the Teaching & Learning Center and French instructor in the Department of World Languages at Lone Star College-CyFair in Cypress, TX. He is also president of the South Central Association for Language Learning Technology (SOCALLT).

To read more about sharing and remixing OER for your own use, see 10 French Resources for Students Anywhere by Laura Franklin.

Got Textbooks? From This Century?

Got Textbooks? From This Century?

The second edition of the Spanish textbook, ¡Dime! Uno (McDougal Littell, shown below), was published in 1997. Is this your Spanish text?

Dime Uno

In this video post, Joshua Thoms speaks directly to language educators, asking: How do we equip our next generation of language teachers with updated and effective textbook resources? Can OER be the answer?

We’ll leave you with these questions to ponder:

  1. Do student teachers trained at your institution have the necessary materials and tools when carrying out their foreign language (FL) student teaching experience(s)? Is this something that should concern us in higher ed?
  2. Should there be a more targeted effort by members of the FL technology community to provide OER resources (i.e., FL materials, textbooks, tools) to teachers at the secondary level? If so, how can this be done? Is it being done?

HeadShot_OpenUp_ThomsJoshua J. Thoms is an Assistant Professor of Spanish and Applied Linguistics at Utah State University. His research interests include the role of classroom discourse in L2 learning and teaching, computer-mediated language learning, and issues related to foreign language textbooks/materials.


To read more about teaching a FL with OER, see Why I Love and Hate My Spanish MOOC by Fernando Rubio.

10 French Resources for Students Anywhere

10 French Resources for Students Anywhere

When I first started teaching French, I certainly could not have envisioned that all my classes would be held online, that my students might be in Hong Kong, deployed in Afghanistan, or figure-skating outside of Paris — all actively pursuing their Associate degrees from Northern Virginia Community College. But this is the case.

What my students have in common are their computers and tablets, microphones and mobile devices. Our landscape is radically different because we have Skype, our Learning Management System (LMS) with its discussion board and external links, and more recently, a free and open communication tool called Google Hangout! Now we can chat and share screens and assignments in real time or later on. For reference material, we start with Google and all kinds of Wikimedia, in addition to our college library website.

This is the open world I always hoped for — to bring education to the many and to make a dent in the divide between the “haves” and the “have nots.” And never in this world has it been more necessary.

Since 2000, I have been an editor of the Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT). A pioneer in the Open Educational Resource (OER) movement,  MERLOT constitutes a one-stop site for educators who need to design a robust learning environment for their students.

Today, I want to share a few of my top tools for studying French with MERLOT. My students use and like these resources. The materials are easy to find and free, as an OER should be:

Laura’s Top 10 French Resources (Les Incontournables)

To access the following sites, click on the links or go to and enter the boldfaced titles in the search field.

  1. Francais interactifWhen my students need a concise example of language in context, Tex’s French Grammarjust one component of Francais Interactif, provides brief and humorous dialogues to illustrate structure points, bref. Complements what students learn in my course. Includes an excellently moderated Facebook page which my students visit for extra credit. Students from around the globe interact and share great video and music.
  2. LangMedia Foreign Language Media ArchiveDirect access to culture and language through short student-produced videos with target language transcripts, realia, and language by country index. Editor’s Choice Winner!
  3. COERLL: Interactive multimedia learning materials in a variety of languages including LCTLS, many with five-star peer reviews in MERLOT. User-friendly and impeccably designed.
  4. REALIA Project: Language faculty provide target language realia online for educational use by instructors and students. Every picture tells a story leading to target language instruction.
  5. Today’s Front Pages: Target language newspapers with a pdf to the front page and links to the online version. Great for all levels and languages.
  6. Lexiquefle: Quick and easy target language vocabulary modules from Thierry Perrot. Online students get to hear a different accent than mine!
  7. Forvo: The largest pronunciation guide in the world. Users verify the pronunciation of words they are learning.
  8. BonPatron: A grammar corrector that finds spelling errors and grammar mistakes in French.
  9. ISL Collective Fiches FLE Gratuites: Quick access to French worksheets for students who like to learn that way.
  10. French Listening Resources: From Jennie Wagner, because you cannot get enough listening texts when you study online.

What kinds of resources do you think are essential to making your online class a more complete learning environment for your students? I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

LauraLaura Franklin teaches French online at the Extended Learning Institute, Northern Virginia Community College. She is one of the original Co-Editors of MERLOT World Languages. For information on becoming a MERLOT World Languages Peer Reviewer, contact Laura at

To read more about teaching languages using free OER, see Why I Love and Hate My Spanish MOOC by Fernando Rubio.

A Public School District Attempts to Own Teachers’ And Students’ Work

A Public School District Attempts to Own Teachers’ And Students’ Work

Any grassroots movement will soon run into opposition. And Open Education is no different. Still, I was shocked when I read about a new proposal from the Prince George’s County (Maryland) Board of Education to copyright the intellectual property of its teachers and students.

Open Education Faces Opposition

As reported by the Washington Post on Feb. 2, 2013,  an Apple presentation about empowering teachers to create their own materials with iPad technology threatened the Maryland-area School Board’s sense of curricular control and triggered the draconian proposal:

Board Chair Verjeana M. Jacobs (District 5) said she and Vice Chair Carolyn M. Boston (District 6) attended an Apple presentation and learned how teachers can use apps to create new curricula. The proposal was designed to make it clear who owns teacher-developed curricula created while using apps on iPads that are school property, Jacobs said.

The Washington Post article noted that it is not unusual for a company or a college to hold some of the rights to an employee’s work. But this proposal is different.

…the Prince George’s policy goes a step further by saying that work created for the school by employees during their own time and using their own materials is the school system’s property.

Try Creative Commons

Not surprisingly, the legal status of the proposal has been challenged. Somebody needs to tell the Prince George’s County School Board about Creative Commons open licenses, a new form of copyright that permits the sharing of content while protecting the rights of all stakeholders: the school system, the teachers and the students.

Whatever the outcome, the proposal is clearly an affront to the educational value of openness. And that’s a shame, because the open sharing of ideas is pretty much the essence of education.

As the OER movement continues to grow, there will be more efforts to oppose openness. I’m interested to hear your thoughts on this development. 

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.

To read more about the Open Education approach, check out Making Collaboration Easier also by Carl Blyth.