Creating an OER for Turkish-language learning has made sharing my ideas, teaching materials and methodology possible!

Creating an OER for Turkish-language learning has made sharing my ideas, teaching materials and methodology possible!

Photo credit: flickr user Hansol Creative Commons License

Editors note: This post was written by COERLL partner Jeannette Okur, and originally published in Tex Libris, the blog from the libraries at the University of Texas at Austin, for a special Open Education Week series.

For a year and a half now, I have been designing and piloting an OER textbook and online curricular materials designed to bring adult learners of modern Turkish from the Intermediate-Mid/High to the Advanced Mid proficiency level. The textbook, titled Her Şey Bir Merhaba İle Başlar (Everything Begins With A Hello), will – hopefully – be available on the UT Center for Open Education Resources and Language Learning (COERLL) website in Fall 2019; and the complementary series of primarily auto-correct listening, viewing, reading and grammar exercises and quizzes will be made available on a public Canvas course site. This new set of OER materials is aligned with the ACTFL standards for Intermediate- and Advanced-level communicative skills and intercultural proficiency descriptors, and also reflects my department’s (and my personal) commitment to blended instruction and the flipped classroom model. I’ve now designed five thematic units that promote the following pedagogical goals:

  • Introduce the learner to culturally and socially significant phenomena in Turkey today.
  • Introduce the learner to various print, audio and audio-visual text types aimed at native Turkish audiences and guide them to use (and reflect on) the reading, listening and viewing comprehension strategies needed to understand these Advanced-level texts.
  • Engage the learner in active recognition and repeated practice of new vocabulary and grammar items.
  • Guide the learner through practice of oral and written discursive strategies specific to the Advanced proficiency level.
  • Balance the four communicative skills.
  • Balance seriousness and fun!

I’m excited about OER’s potential to transform students’ and teachers’ experiences with Less Commonly Taught Languages (LCTL) like Turkish. A readily accessible and modifiable OER for this level of Turkish language instruction, in particular, makes a whole lot of sense, because the for-profit textbook model is a non-starter! In other words, because no one can make a profit off of Turkish language teaching materials outside of Turkey; few of the teaching materials that U.S.-based Turkish language instructors design ever get published or shared. In fact, creating an OER for Turkish-language learning has made sharing my ideas, teaching materials and methodology possible!

I believe wholeheartedly that being able to share and modify OER teaching/learning materials via online platforms leads to collaboration among educators and eventually to better educational products and practices. I hope that other Turkish language educators, upon engaging with my OER materials, will learn a few small but important lessons from me, namely:

  • Adults learning Turkish need help practicing and learning vocabulary, not just grammar.
  • Identifying and discussing cultural differences/commonalities on the basis of actual socio-cultural phenomena captured in texts aimed at target culture audiences is key to increasing learners’ cultural proficiency, especially when those learners are not learning in the target culture.
  • The blended instruction/flipped classroom model really works because engagement with reading, listening and grammar materials at home gives learners more time to practice SPEAKING in class (or with a tutor).

I also look forward to learning from the colleagues and learners who engage with my materials in varied settings beyond the University of Texas at Austin.

Dr. Jeannette Okur has coordinated the Turkish Studies program at the University of Texas at Austin since 2010. Drawing upon extensive experience teaching not only Turkish, but also German and ESL, she continues to develop new curricular materials for Turkish language instruction at the Novice, Intermediate and Advanced proficiency levels.

Open Access at the Core of Materials Development for LCTLs

Open Access at the Core of Materials Development for LCTLs

Photo credit: Orlando Kelm

Editors note: This post was written by longtime COERLL partner Orlando Kelm, and originally published in Tex Libris, the blog from the libraries at the University of Texas at Austin, for a special Open Education Week series.

Open Access seems to be at the core of materials development for those of us who teach what is called LCTLs (less-commonly taught languages). In academic settings, publishing companies are less likely to take a chance on publishing materials where the market is small. There have been multiple occasions when I have been told by publishing companies something similar to, “If you could do this project for us in Spanish we would be interested, but unfortunately the market in Portuguese is not big enough to take on such a project.” Although it has been discouraging to hear such replies, it was also understandable.

However, in today’s world of innovative technologies, online, electronic, digital, social media, video and podcasts, Open Access pedagogical materials in foreign language, especially for the less-commonly taught languages, have provided a boon of opportunities. Here at the University of Texas at Austin, for example, the College of Liberal Arts (LAITS), the Center for Open Educational Resources and Language Learning (COERLL) and the Center for Global Business have all been supportive of our development of online and open access materials for those who want to learn Portuguese. COERLL helps maintain our BrazilPod site, where all our Portuguese materials are available for everyone, anytime, Open Access, and with Creative Commons license. Here’s the URL: https://coerll.utexas.edu/brazilpod/index.php.

This site contains a number of videos, podcasts, exercises, transcripts, translations, and a number of other materials. We have seen how users, both teachers and private learners, have integrated, modified and added these materials to the study of Portuguese. Some access the materials online, others embed content into exercises and quizzes, others create ancillary activities for organized courses. Open Access has revolutionized the way that learners of LCTLs share materials and expose learners to content.

It also seems a bit ironic when we think of the initial rejection from publishing companies. If they were to approach us today to publish in traditional formats, chances are that we would react by saying, “Thanks, but our ability to share with Open Access works for us better than the traditional publication methods.”

Orlando Kelm was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada but raised in Salt Lake City, Utah. He earned his Ph.D. in Hispanic Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley in 1989 and then went straight to the University of Texas at Austin, where he has been ever since.

Explore Open Education Week 2014

Explore Open Education Week 2014

The third annual Open Education Week celebration is underway this week, March 10th – 15th. The event is organized by the Open CourseWare Consortium, and serves as an opportunity for the global community of open education practitioners, educators, and creators to raise awareness about the movement and demonstrate the impact open resources and open practices have on teaching and learning throughout the world.

The Open Education Week website acts as landing page for a wide variety of events, resources, and other information about Open Education.  Spend a bit of time on the site to find an events taking place around the world, including free online webinars, locally hosted events, conferences, and even online discussions and forums.

Here is a taste of the webinars happening this week that may be of interest to foreign language educators:

March 10, 2014
eMundus: Open education, open online courses and virtual mobility

March 11, 2014
Opening Up Together: Forming an Open Educational Resources Collaborative

March 13, 2014
Resources for Teaching English as a Second Language

March 14, 2014
Sustainability in OER for less used languages

Over the next week (and beyond), we are eager to begin uncovering all the amazing resources within the Open Education Week website. We certainly encourage you to do the same and look forward to hearing from you about your participation in Open Education Week – especially about which resources you found helpful or inspirational.

Visit http://www.openeducationweek.org for more information about the week and events happening in your area.

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.

The Mixxer Launches Spanish and English Language MOOCs

The Mixxer Launches Spanish and English Language MOOCs

In January, Todd Bryant shared his plans to begin developing online courses using his language exchange website, The Mixxer. (See MOOCs + Learning Networks = The Mixxer.)  He is happy to announce the first offerings from this project:

Free Language Learning MOOCs from The Mixxer

Todd curated a variety of open resources to build these courses. The English learning content came from BBC’s Big City Small World,Voice of America’s Learning English and grammar material through Purdue University’s OWL reference site.

For the Spanish lessons, he drew from Practica Español, a joint venture of Instituto Cervantes, EFE and Fundación de la Lengue Española. Other lessons came from Professor Barbara Kuczun Nelson’s “Spanish Language and Culture” site at Colby College. COERLL’s “Spanish Proficiency Exercises” and Bowdoin College’s “Spanish Grammar” site provide additional references and exercises.

Todd will be presenting these MOOCs at the 2013 New Media Consortium‘s summer conference on June 7. Congratulations to Todd for having his project selected as one of six “Big Ideas” for the Emerging Leaders Competition. We thank him for creating this open educational resource for the language learning public and wish him the best of luck!

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.

Language Knowmads Wanted

Language Knowmads Wanted

We found a kindred thinker in education futurologist, John Moravec at the University of Minnesota — take a look at his vision for Society 3.0 (that’s us!). Moravec describes members of Society 3.0 as agents of:

  • change
  • globalization
  • innovation fueled by knowmads (“nomadic knowledge workers”)

Sound familiar? A key aspect of Society 3.0 involves online open access, crowd sourcing that promotes sharing, remixing, and capitalizing on new ideas. We know that much of this happens through online communities — where knowmads gather in virtual spaces to push ideas into reality.

Pages from COERLL-Newsletter-Spring-2013In COERLL’s Spring 2013 newsletter, we share what we’re doing to nurture Society 3.0’s language communities.

First, we’re launching eComma, a web application and resources for social reading — where groups of users annotate the same text together.

Also, COERLL’s SpinTX Corpus-to-Classroom Project aims to create a self-sustaining community of linguists, technologists, and Spanish language educations collaborating on a video-based website for teaching Spanish.

And check out the facebook language communities we moderate: COERLL, Francais interactif, Deutisch im Blick, Brazilpod, Spanish in Texas.

Finally, this. Us. Here. At Open Up, we want to connect with other language learning  knowmads looking for ways to accelerate change toward open education. So please get in touch with us with your ideas for sharing, remixing, and capitalizing on open language resources. Join the conversation!

For more about fostering language learning communities, see MOOCs + Learning Networks = The Mixxer by Todd Bryant.

“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.

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 lfranklin@nvcc.edu.

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