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)

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.