Writing Resources That Give Students the Freedom to Explore

Writing Resources That Give Students the Freedom to Explore

“El aquelarre” by Francisco de Goya is in the Public Domain

When he began compiling his textbook anthology Leyendas y arquetipos del Romanticismo español, Robert Sanders knew that his students weren’t taking upper-level Spanish to become professors of Spanish literature. They were mostly minoring in Spanish with other career goals in mind. This sort of insight into students’ needs is what makes open resources authored by language instructors so valuable for modern education.

Leyendas y arquetipos is an openly-licensed introduction to nineteenth-century Spanish literature for intermediate university students of Spanish. Dr. Sanders chose the works of poetry, drama in verse, and short stories for their literary interest and the social importance of their themes. After piloting the book with students, he compiled vocabulary, historical, and cultural annotations to facilitate comprehension.

Dr. Sanders made many choices in compiling and writing the anthology to allow students the flexibility to pursue their own interests. He did not prioritize any one interpretation of the texts in the anthology. The discussion questions mention scholarly works as a jumping off point for analysis rather than a definitive interpretation. The author biographies in the anthology are short in order to encourage further investigation and richer discussion by students, and the book lists sources for further research, such as Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes, the Centro Virtual Cervantes of the Cervantes Institute, or the Biblioteca Digital Hispánica of the Spanish National Library. In his course, students have  even created their own multimedia take on a chosen work by creating fan fiction, graphic novels, film storyboards, and musical compositions.

The multimedia potential of the book is also reflected in the paintings, photographs from films, and other art that are as valuable as the texts in their potential to teach about literary and social movements of the time. The art provides a whole other avenue of exploration and analysis to students.

Dr. Sanders compiled the book himself with support from the Portland State University Library, which has supported the prolific creation of open textbooks (several of them for languages) in order to save students money and provide a customized learning experience. The book has a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license, which means that anyone can copy it, share it, and make modifications, as long as they give attribution to the author, maintain the same license, and do not make a profit off of it. With this in mind, what could you do with this book? Has it given you ideas about reading with your students? Tell us in the comments.

Learn more:

A Treasure Trove of Videos for Language Teaching

A Treasure Trove of Videos for Language Teaching

Photo credit: YouTube user Pefu & Lukyson Creative Commons License

From the editor: The following is a portion of a transcript from an interview with Dr. Christian Hilchey, which was originally published in COERLL’s newsletter. Dr. Hilchey explains how to search for and get inspired by openly licensed authentic videos.

We use films. We use songs. But oftentimes, we can’t share those because they are copyrighted. I started finding these excellent videos by conducting searches for open content on YouTube. I would go to YouTube and search for content under an open Creative Commons license. Unfortunately, some key words weren’t working for me at all.

Finally, the best key word that I stumbled upon was “vlogs” (video blogs). And then I combined the key word “vlog” with another word like “Christmas.” So, “vlog Christmas” or “vlog zoo” or “vlog vacation.” And I found that there were a lot of people posting vlogs and that they weren’t a one-off kind of thing. Typically, the kind of person who was posting a vlog was… writing several dozen about their personal experiences. So, what I found helpful was to go to specific users themselves to find the richest content. Once I found a good vlog series, I would search through it like an archive. It really was as simple as that. But the key was to find the right vlog. At that point, it was looking for patterns in the archive. What kinds of videos were they posting? How did they title their videos? So it was really about finding that rabbit hole that previously was unknown to me. But once I found it, I was amazed by all the good content and was able to mine it quite easily. It changed things for me overnight. I went from having no open video content to having a surplus of really excellent materials to choose from.

A lot of times, as educators, we are looking for really specific content. I think to find the “good stuff,” educators need to be more flexible. Instead of looking for something specific, it is better to find high quality content and then think about how to incorporate it into your lesson or materials. Actually, I think that my experience looking for open content reflects my experiences fifteen years ago that led me to learn Czech so successfully. These language-learning experiences with native speakers weren’t necessarily planned. They were experiences talking about things that I didn’t expect them to say or talk about. So what I have found is that being more open to what could be useful to the learner, what could be said, has allowed me as an educator to think outside the box and to say, “OK, I wasn’t planning on talking about this content in this particular way, but there is a lot here that I can use for the classroom.”

Take an early chapter in a first year program. You are probably teaching [students] to name items. So, the focus is on nouns. If you start to look around, you will notice that people are naming things in real life. So, for example, I found a lot of videos where people give tours of their homes. And during the tour, they name items: “This is my television. And this is a chair I bought at the flea market.” Utterly mundane but really useful for language learning. Another example of a really great video I stumbled upon was a trip to the zoo. A Czech family visits the zoo and they point out and name all the different animals. The content was interesting and fun and it was perfect for learning animal names. Again, this was not something I was planning. But when I found it, I knew that it could be the basis of a lesson. I hadn’t thought about taking my students on a trip to the zoo, but why not? There are some very large zoos in the Czech Republic! It is not normative or typical to discuss Czech zoos. But they certainly exist.

You do have to watch and to listen to these videos. Sometimes, I will immediately dismiss a clip because the audio is bad or the video is sub par. Although… the fact that someone isn’t looking perfectly into the camera and isn’t wearing a mike often makes the video more real. I am trying to balance the issues that come with lower production values with the advantages of extemporaneous content. I remember the textbooks I used when learning Czech and we would mock the videos: “Don’t these actors sound silly!” Whereas, in these videos, the people don’t sound silly, they just sound real.

To learn more about vlogs:

Christian Hilchey is a lecturer in the Department of Slavic and Eurasian Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, and the author of “Reality Czech”, a full curriculum of open language materials for introductory Czech.

Engage and Explore

Engage and Explore

Photo credit: flickr user UrbanPromise Creative Commons License

From the editor: We asked master Spanish teacher and teacher trainer Rose Potter to create some activities that use COERLL’s resources to engage students and satisfy state and national standards for language learning. She created these five simple but effective activities, and describes her approach below.

As a young teacher in the 80’s, I often called upon images of Sra. Hartley, my high school Spanish teacher, to guide me through lesson planning. Upbeat, funny and highly energetic, we laughed and sang our way through the ALM drill and kill methodology of the 1960’s. Today, when training pre-service teachers, I understand that their default approach to teaching is the model they experienced. Because their teachers were also learners in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s their methodology may reflect that era – or, that of their teachers, products of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s teacher training. Over time, Madeline Hunter’s “anticipatory set” became “priming activity”, “warm-ups”, “bell-ringer review” and more. However, the methodology did not always keep pace. Instead, students often receive a mini-worksheet at the start of class. They are expected to sit quietly and respond to discrete point items while the teacher takes roll and prepares to teach. This century’s students have trouble doing exactly that. The expected quiet time may become a class management challenge.

Today’s LOTE (languages other than English) educators recognize that “warm-up” means preparing the eyes, ears and, most importantly, the mouth. Get them talking! Today’s term “engagement” goes beyond a writing or viewing task, it requires active participation on the part of the students. The steps are not complex: grab their attention, pose a simple task that requires interpersonal communication, use the task to build skills for more complex tasks. That’s it. You will see these steps incorporated into the five engagement activities I designed using COERLL’s materials. As you review then consider the simplicity of each step.

  • Engagement: this can be through an image or video projected on the screen that students see as they enter.
  • Interpersonal task: Pose a question to get them thinking before class begins. Ask your partner/another student: “Have you ever…? Do you like… Do you think… Compare what you see to…”
  • Build skills: The questions may contain unfamiliar cognates or verb constructs that make sense in context but are new to students. Keep it simple, but allow them the opportunity to discover the new learning through practice. Learning vocabulary and grammar as a function of communication makes it real for students.

The engagement is the first step of an inquiry-based, constructivist approach to learning, the 5E’s lesson plan model. Engage, explore, explain, elaborate and evaluate. For my students, I’ve added a 6th E, Exit Plan, to assure that they close the lesson. Since using this plan with my LOTE students, I’ve seen an enormous increase in the potential for engagement.

To see more examples of the 5Es in action, take a look at the following resources:

Rose Potter is an Assistant Clinical Professor of LOTE Education for the UTeach-Liberal Arts Program at the University of Texas, as well as a teacher, writer, consultant, and mentor.

Become part of a language teaching community!

Become part of a language teaching community!

This Open Education Week (March 27-31, 2017), we’re highlighting the importance of participating in a community. Working with other language teachers can help you grow professionally and give you new ideas for reaching your students.  Read below for some vibrant communities you can be a part of. And remember: collaboration is easier when you put a Creative Commons license on your rubrics, activities, lessons, and other creations. This ensures that other community members can use your work more easily, while always acknowledging you as the author.

#langchat

#Langchat is a Twitter hashtag for all world language teachers to use in tweets to discuss anything regarding language teaching. Thousands of teachers use it daily to exchange information, get support and find new ideas to use in their classrooms. It is also used for 1 hour twice-weekly Q&A style Twitter chat. Discussion topics are suggested by/voted on by language teachers. The chats are Thursday 5pmPT and Saturday at 7amPT (the same topic for both chats).

FLTeach

The Foreign Language Teaching Forum is an integrated service for FL teachers, dedicated to encouraging communication, sharing, and collaboration at all levels. Our broad discussion topic is foreign language teaching methods for any level of instruction in all languages. Specific areas of discussion include school/college articulation, training of student teachers, classroom activities, curriculum, and syllabus design. Students in teacher training programs, teachers both new and experienced, administrators, and other professionals interested in any aspect of foreign language teaching are invited to participate in our discussions.

The basic premise of the list is that as professional Foreign Language teachers we are all in this together and are here to help one another. The moderators expect all participation in FLTEACH to be supportive and collegial and to follow the basic rules of good Netiquette.

  • Find out more about connecting with FLTEACH through #flteach on Twitter, on Facebook, in the listerv.

COERLL heritage Spanish community

The COERLL Heritage Spanish community is a space for instructors (K-12 and higher education) who want to collaborate, share and communicate with others about the teaching and learning of Spanish as a heritage language. On our website you can find and share resources such as articles, program profiles, classroom activities, event information, sylllabi, information on current affairs, etc. We also have a Heritage Spanish Café, which is an online forum where you can start conversations with other instructors about topics or questions relevant to the community. We would love for you to be a part of our heritage Spanish community.

COERLL FLLITE community

COERLL’s Foreign Languages and the Literary in the Everyday (FLLITE) group is for language teachers who would like to improve their students’ reading skills through the use of authentic texts of everyday genres, including memes, poems, blogs, and images.

Deutsch im Blick Facebook page

The Deutsch im Blick Online community focuses on connecting learners and teachers of German by sharing content; whether it is a fun meme or an article about cultural differences, learning or teaching material. On Facebook, you can connect and interact via likes, comments or direct messages to DiB. In addition, teachers can join the DiB google group and quizlet classes, to share teaching material. Here, you can also get in touch if you have questions or comments about the DiB material. Our overall goal is to create a fun space to promote learning and teaching all about the German language and culture.

Français interactif Facebook community

The Français Interactif Facebook group is a unique community of francophiles, francophones, avid language learners and teachers. Originally created in 2011 as a support group for users of the University of Texas at Austin’s Open Educational Resource (OER), Français Interactif (FI), our fanbase is now spread over six continents and nearly 300,000 strong. Followers will delight in daily provocative posts that share, introduce and discuss various cultural and linguistic aspects of French-speaking cultures around the world. Those who want to engage more actively with the FI community will find vibrant multilingual discussion happening on our wall and in the comment section of our posts. Want to share a resource? Have a question on the group? Experiencing a problem with the FI OER ? Reach out to our moderator via PM, and she will point you in the right direction.

  • Join us for la biggest francophone fête on la planète!

CALICO

CALICO, the Computer-Assisted Language Instruction Consortium is an international organization dedicated to research and development in the use of computer technology in language learning: computer-assisted language learning (CALL). CALICO began mainly as a group of people interested in using and producing technology-based materials for second/foreign language teaching. After more than 25 years of growth and experience, CALICO now includes language educators, programmers, technicians, web page designers, CALL developers, CALL practitioners, and second language acquisition researchers–anyone interested in exploring the use of technology for language teaching and learning.

 

Do you know of any more communities for language teachers? Let us know what they are and how to get connected in the comments! And for more information on open licenses, see the Creative Commons website

Searching for open authentic resources online

Searching for open authentic resources online

Image credit: COERLL Creative Commons License

Authentic resources are essential for language teaching and when they are open – by carrying a Creative Commons or other open license, as opposed to a copyright – they present even more opportunities. On a practical level, if anything you do with copyrighted material ever leaves the walls of your classroom, you could potentially get in legal trouble. But in addition to that, if you ever share the lessons you create using authentic resources with colleagues, your use of openly licensed materials will allow them to make their own modifications and copies of your work.

We recently surveyed some language teachers and faculty about their techniques for searching for authentic resources, and most of their great ideas revolved around copyrighted materials. This makes perfect sense: copyright is pervasive, and materials with a copyright are easier to find and often more polished. But we hope that little by little, authors and creators will learn to change how they use outside sources and publish their own work, with licenses that give credit to the author and access to all.

Sometimes it is harder to find content with open licenses when searching with very specific search terms or specific topics in mind. Even copyrighted materials can be hard to find when you have a very specific resource in mind. As Rachel Preston, a French teacher in Austin pointed out,

Being flexible on search terms and going into my searches with an open mind often help me find resources that I would not have conceived of that are relevant and interesting.

If you let go of some of your requirements, a video or a text that seems to have no topical relation to what you’re doing in class can still be useful and interesting, with the right scaffolding. Christian Hilchey has some interesting tips on this in his interview in our newsletter. (In case you do want to narrow down your options quickly, Rose Potter suggests, “Always include the language, city or country in your search. For example, if you are looking for a sample of jai alai include, ‘jai alai basque Spain’ or you may end up with images from… around the world.”)

Another important aspect to finding open authentic resources is other people. It probably seems obvious that other teachers can help via social media, word of mouth, professional organizations, or blogs. But librarians may also be able to help; even without language knowledge they should understand licensing and online resources. You can also enlist students to search for resources. It teaches them digital citizenship, gives you an idea of what they’re interested in, and generates a whole stash of materials in a short period of time.

And of course if the internet doesn’t give you what you’re looking for, the outside world might have more realia than expected. Marcelo Fuentes, a grad student at the University of Minnesota, suggests,

I would encourage educators to use more materials obtained by themselves. You don’t need to travel: you can find materials in other languages in practically any city. Those pictures of graffiti, menus, brochures, etc., have a story, a connection to you, and because of that they will be much more interesting for your students than most things you can find online.

Or, you can follow German teacher Anke Sanders’ advice and get creative to make your own pictures, audio, or video. If you do make your own creations, remember that putting a license on them will allow others to benefit!

If you do need to use copyrighted materials (which includes anything with a ©, AND anything not labeled with a license), make sure you know the rules of fair use, and if you are having trouble staying within those boundaries, it is legal for you to link to copyrighted resources from your lessons, as long as the resource itself isn’t included in your creation. It can even be a good idea to try contacting the copyright owner for permission to use their content.

Whether it is an article about hot air balloons in Québec, a website about being green in Costa Rica, a video about the whistling language of the Canary islands, a video of middle school students talking about their vacation plans in French, or a video about traditional medicine in Spanish, there is a wealth of knowledge out there! Read more about ideas for searching in our newsletter article and please add any ideas for openly licensed authentic resources in the comments below.


Some authentic resource recommendations from the language teaching community

Creative Commons licensed authentic resources

  • CC Search allows you to search multiple websites for open content, depending on whether you are looking for audio, video, images, or text
  • Wikis, such as Wikicommons
  • Public domain image repositories such as http://www.publicdomainpictures.net and Pexels
  • You can search specifically for open content on Google and YouTube. Learn more in our newsletter article.
  • COERLL materials are all Creative Commons licensed and available for 15 languages

Copyrighted authentic resources

  • Corpora, such as the collection from BYU
  • Using the search term “infografía” plus a Spanish word or phrase (this idea comes from Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell – see her blog for more authentic resources tips)
  • Notes in Spanish offers authentic conversations between a Spanish woman and her English husband… Some of the podcasts are a bit outdated, but many contain cultural themes/topics that are still relevant today. Students like listening to the conversations as it represents natural conversation between a native Spanish speaker and a non-native speaker. I like them because they expose my students to the Castilian accent while also serving as a springboard for culturally (and linguistically/grammatically) oriented conversations to emerge in my class.” – Joshua Thoms (Utah State University)
  • Several teachers recommended tourism sites, such as http://www.rendez-vous.tv/, recommended by Nancy Guilloteau (University of Texas at Austin)
Student authored textbooks… in the language classroom?

Student authored textbooks… in the language classroom?

As more language teachers discuss ditching the textbook, the open education community is discussing another way to address outdated, incomplete, and impersonal books: student authored textbooks. When a teacher asks their students to write their own textbook, the teacher is a guide for actively learning and collaborating students, rather than a transmitter of knowledge to passive students. There are some great examples of instructors who have already tried this described briefly below. They are all from higher ed, and not all are language related… but please read on, there may be some ideas here you could use!

Most student authored textbook projects begin with a simple platform, such as Pressbooks (which is WordPress-based), or a wiki of some kind. A class may adapt a book or create a whole new one. For example, Robin DeRosa from Plymouth State University created an Open Anthology of Earlier American Literature with her students, based off of an existing anthology students were paying money for, even though most of the literary readings were in the public domain. David Wiley took the openly licensed textbook Project Management From Simple to Complex, and his students adapted it into a book about project management for their field: Project Management for Instructional Designers. Dr. Lixun Wang’s class created a linguistics textbook from scratch.

In Dr. Wang’s class, students worked in groups to research and write each chapter. For classes adapting an existing book, most of the work lies in modifying content and creating supplementary materials. For example, David Wiley’s students replaced the general project management examples with instructional design examples, added comprehension questions to the end of each chapter, linked to expert interview videos they created, aligned the text to project management certification exams, created glossaries, and replaced copyright images with Creative Commons images. Both Wiley’s and Wang’s students presented their work as they created it. Robin DeRosa’s class added introductions to each anthology reading, as well as short films, discussion questions, and assignments. As Dr. DeRosa points out, students are the ideal textbook authors…

“Unlike many other scholarly materials, textbooks are primarily designed to be accessible to students– to new scholars in a particular academic area or sub-specialty.  Students are the perfect people to help create textbooks, since they are the most keenly tuned in to what other students will need in order to engage with the material in meaningful ways.”

Creating a textbook is not only collaborative and creative; it can also be a lesson in digital citizenship. As Jennifer Kidd, Patrick O’Shea, and Peter Baker wrote in the Chronicle of Higher Education, such vast amounts of knowledge are available on the internet that students now have a greater capacity to find up-to-date information, and writing textbooks helps them assess the usefulness and reliability of this information.

Drs. Wiley, Wang, and DeRosa all report that their students were more engaged when they had the responsibility of creating their own text and taking charge of their own learning. Dr. Wang points out that students leave class after creating a textbook as more autonomous lifelong learners, because they are more aware of the teaching and learning process.

Based on these examples, which address different students and different disciplines, how would a language teacher go about creating a textbook with their students? What would the result look like? Is this an opportunity to provide communicative language teaching in a way that mainstream textbooks don’t always do? Is this only possible in higher ed, or could K-12 students do it too, if not to teach the language itself, perhaps to teach culture or literature? Please respond in the comments below!

By the way, all of COERLL’s materials have open licenses, and most of the licenses allow users to make modifications to the content, so if you ever use Français interactif, Brazilpod, SpinTX, or any of our other materials in your class, they could be the basis for a new student authored textbook!


Case studies of student authored textbooks:

  • Robin DeRosa on the Open Anthology of Early American Literature
  • Lixun Wang on the Introduction to Linguistics Wikibook (includes ideas about peer assessment)
  • David Wiley on Project Management for Instructional Designers
  • David Wesch on his students’ collaborative research paper.

 

OER: Flexible materials for flexible learners

OER: Flexible materials for flexible learners

Photo credit: flickr user Daniel Garcia Neto Creative Commons License

From the editor: We recently heard from Bret Chernoff, an independent learner who has been using various Portuguese learning products on COERLL’s Brazilpod portal. Bret shows how a flexible language learner can use open educational resources (OER) to fit their needs and their abilities. How a learner or a teacher uses educational materials is just as important as the materials themselves! Here’s what Bret shared with us.

Before Portuguese I had the classic “high school Spanish” experience, which taught grammar and test-taking well. I had two University of Washington (UW) quarters of Spanish and then began 8 years of Korean, beginning at the UW and then in South Korea. I am a C1 in Korean and a low A2 in Spanish.

I started Portuguese in April 2014 with popular language programs such as Michel Thomas, Living Language and Assimil. My experience with Spanish facilitated the initial learning of grammar, and a very close Brazilian friend of mine helped with actualizing the grammar in conversations.

In June I found Brazilpod – what a discovery! I jumped right into Tá Falado and beamed in on the pronunciation rules, first within the entire episode, and then isolating the dialogues and shadowing (more on shadowing) them in my car during my commute and on walks around my neighborhood, consciously focusing on the pronunciation highlighted in the episode. I then did the same with the Tá Falado grammar series.

Next was Conversa Brasileira, although it was above my level. It was so innovative I couldn’t resist. I watched each episode in the following manner:

1 – PT subtitles
2 – PT subtitles with notes
3 – PT subtitles
4 – EN subtitles
5 – PT subtitles

I achieved a Gestalt effect through this method, understanding the flow of the conversation without knowing every phrase or word by heart. By internalizing the melody and rhythm of how Brazilians speak I was able to have more spontaneous interactions with Brazilians I met in my daily life, because I was not thrown off by their cadence and intonation. This is a strong advantage of Brazilpod’s material – it is not hermetically sealed in a studio recording, but breathes with authenticity. I was also able to make inferences of meaning in conversations I would have without knowing all the words.

Soon after, Língua da gente became my go-to listening practice during my commute. The commentary on the grammar alone demands multiple listens, and the dialogues are good slices of real Portuguese. I shadowed these as well during my commute and while walking around my neighborhood. I created a playlist of all the dialogues from the elementary and intermediate episodes and shadowed them routinely until I started to memorize them. By doing this I was able to imitate more accurately intonation and pronunciation, and words started to truly sink in.

Nowadays I use ClicaBrasil to great effect, especially in tandem with a native speaker. Brazilpod has such a wealth of material and should be a true cornerstone of Portuguese self-study. That being said, study material can only take one so far, and the true magic of good study material shows itself with a native speaker. Friends like Cassio, Rodrigo, Vitor, Sanchaine, Junha, Pedro, Emmanuel, and my lifelong friend Alessandra, they brought to life the Portuguese language in my life. I can’t thank them enough for that. And I guess I can extend the same gratitude to Orlando, Vivian, and everyone at UT Austin for making high quality open-source material ripe for studying. Obrigadão!

portuguesebret_resizeBret Chernoff  is an avid language learner and music artist. He is one of the principal songwriters in the Seattle band Colorworks.

David Wiley’s Remix Hypothesis: using OER to rethink teaching

David Wiley’s Remix Hypothesis: using OER to rethink teaching

David Wiley, Chief Academic Officer of Lumen Learning and OER advocate, spoke at the University of Texas to kick off the Year of Open, a series of events sponsored by the UT Libraries and the Center for Learning Sciences. Wiley is well known in Open Education circles for his “5 R’s” framework of OER (reuse, revise, remix, redistribute, and retain).

To get the audience to think about the broader benefits of OER, Wiley discussed his “Remix Hypothesis.” In brief, the “Remix Hypothesis” states that changes in student outcomes occurring in conjunction with OER adoption correlate positively with three faculty practices:

  • “replace” — substituting a text or a book for another
  • “realign” — finding ways to “mix and match” materials, using some open materials mixed with closed materials
  • “rethink” — thinking about what you can do with open resources that you couldn’t do before, essentially rethinking teaching methods

Replacing has the smallest impact, whereas realigning has a medium impact. The most profound impact comes from rethinking, because it’s not just about adding new materials but rather inventing new teaching practices and getting students and teachers to do things they have never done before. Details about the Remix Hypothesis can be found on Wiley’s blog, but in general, the hypothesis boils down to this: Open Educational Resources, unlike most closed materials, foster deep reflection about teaching and learning.

In one of his examples, Wiley talked about a class he taught in which students rewrote a textbook together. This required more than a simple change in textbook, it was a new way of teaching the class. As a consequence, the students had a real sense of pride in doing good work. For example, Wiley noted that his students invested more time and effort into the class because they knew others would see their work.

Another example of OER fostering a rethinking of pedagogical practice comes from Joanna Luks’ COERLL project, the open French textbook Le littéraire dans le quotidien (The Literary in the Everyday), which she uses to teach French in ways that go beyond the conventional. Joanna wanted to change her students’ habits by giving them a grading rubric and asking them to do extensive peer reviews of each other’s work before handing in their final products. By building these practices into her own OER, Joanna was able to engage her students in ways that she found lacking in commercial materials.

Most people cite cost savings and updated materials as the major benefits of OER. But according to Wiley’s “Remix Hypothesis,” the greatest promise of OER lies in helping teachers and learners to rethink their own educational practices.

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)

Ecologies of Knowledge: The Role of Libraries and Librarians in the OER Movement

Ecologies of Knowledge: The Role of Libraries and Librarians in the OER Movement

Our presentation at this year’s AAAL conference highlighted several findings from a survey distributed to 155 university-level language program directors (LPDs). The study provides a snapshot of the progress of open education in the field of language learning in the United States. In one section of the survey, we asked LPDs questions about whether or not they had considered the library as a resource to support development and use of open educational resources (OER) in their foreign language (FL) programs. Seventy-three percent of respondents indicated that they had not considered the university library as a resource. This particular finding underscores the need for increased collaboration between LPDs and their institution’s library/librarians. This unique cross-disciplinary relationship will be key to the ongoing proliferation and incorporation of OER materials and tools in FL education.

University libraries are, at their very core, diverse knowledge ecosystems that provide a wide range of services and materials to the university at large. With respect to FL education, librarians can be vital partners in the process of encouraging FL faculty to incorporate OER in their courses. These information professionals excel in areas of evaluation, location, and organization, and each of these topics represents an area critical to the widespread adoption of OER. We have only scratched the surface of the potential of OER and the benefits of collaboration between librarians and the disciplines. Some interesting examples are out there: UMass Amherst Libraries; Open Textbook Library (University of Minnesota); PDX Open (Portland State University); and Open Course Library (Washington Community & Technical College). However, as you see in these examples, foreign languages are underrepresented. The bright side of this is that we are at a moment of exciting opportunity and potential.

Successful libraries are always evaluating the services they provide and asking what they can do to better serve their constituents—students, faculty, and staff, and in our current environment a crucial part of the answer to that question for all of these user groups is “embrace open!” This is a common thread within the OER movement in that it is, at some level, about improving the learning experience for students. We all know about the economic reasons for embracing OER, but the benefits of OER go far beyond the economics. Open educational resources can add authenticity and vitality to the foreign language classroom and create an environment where both students and faculty are more engaged participants.

 

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Becky Thoms is the Scholarly Communication and Copyright Librarian at Merrill-Cazier Library at Utah State University. She manages USU’s Institutional Repository and provides education and outreach services related to intellectual property, scholarly communication, and all things open.

 

 

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Joshua 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.