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.

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.

Hillary Clinton’s Legacy for Open Education

Hillary Clinton’s Legacy for Open Education

Just days before ending her term as U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton announced the Open Book Project, an initiative to expand access to free, high-quality open educational resources.

The first Open Book Project will focus on Arabic-language open educational resources (OER) and the translation of existing OER into Arabic. They plan to disseminate the resources free of charge through a partnership with the Arab League.

On the larger backdrop of open education, the initiative:

  • offers training and support to governments, educators, and students to put existing resources to use and develop their own, and
  • raises awareness of the potential of open educational resources and promotes uptake of online learning materials.

We in the OER language learning community will be eager to see how the initiative develops in the area of collaboration and creating a sustainable model that can be duplicated for other languages and areas of the world. The U.S. government brings technical expertise to the table and the Arab league countries bring content expertise. This is a model for global education.

If we agree that sustainability of open education depends on finding reciprocal relationships — mutual benefit — between those involved, what projects can we dream of that would feature international collaborators? What does U.S. higher education have to offer the developing world and what do they have to give U.S. higher ed?

Talent is universal, but opportunity is not.
— Form Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

Open Ed Isn’t Just about Free — It’s about Community

Open Ed Isn’t Just about Free — It’s about Community

Late last year, Pearson announced its plans to launch Project Blue Sky, a portal for building your own digital textbook by choosing from a menu of for-profit Pearson resources along with as a selection of open educational resources (OER). The announcement set off a firestorm of comments in the educational blogosphere about

  • whether companies should utilize free materials for profit,
  • the intentions of the publisher,
  • doubts on whether the resource will make a difference.

Here we’d like to focus our conversation on one aspect of open education which we see missing on the preview site: the facilitation of collaboration amongst end-users (teachers and students).

Particularly in language learning, educators acknowledge the powerful impact collaborative environments have on students. Technology offers new ways for this to happen. Ask any student who has created a video project to share on YouTube or recorded a podcast segment to post on a class blog site. When learners get connected to other learners, language improves. In the same way, when educators collaborate by sharing resources and teaching methods, both the resources and practices improve exponentially.

Finding free resources online is only the first step. In order for open resources to obtain the level of reliability and sophistication textbook publishers claim they lack, forums for collaboration are absolutely necessary. Purveyors of OER understand this is where quality control happens, along with standard peer-review processes.

Several non-profit open language portals (MERLOT, Connexions) offer the kind of modular, teacher-created resource that Project Blue Sky is presenting; however, they include the built-in system for end-users to easily collaborate, remix, and re-present resources for public use. All of this is in service of facilitating on-going improvements and modifications to make a resource best serve individual classroom needs.

So what are your thoughts on the topic: Why is it important for teachers (and students) to have hands-on, immediate, and on-going involvement in the creation of online language resources?