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.

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.

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.

Remix TED Resources to Teach English Around the World

Remix TED Resources to Teach English Around the World

A few days ago a friend of mine who also teaches in Italy asked me whether I could help her look for materials she could share with the foreign language teachers at the school. They wanted to remix the materials and turn them into Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) resources.

As a teacher of English as a foreign language to university students majoring in a variety of subjects, I find TED Talks extremely useful to provide authentic listening on a variety of topics ranging from technology, entertainment and design to economics, biology and the role of women in the world, to mention but a few. Now TED offers these other sites:

  • TEDyouth  Videos from the TEDyouth conferences could certainly be used with secondary school pupils.
  • TEDx  The advent of TEDx — independently organised TED-like events in the whole world — has also extended the languages of the talks beyond English. This is good news for teachers of other languages.
  • TED-Ed  A different but related source of materials that we looked at are the lessons included in the TED-Ed website. These are OER which are designed to teach a variety of subjects. Most are more suitable to secondary than tertiary education and, although they are not designed to teach English as a foreign language, they could easily be transformed into resources for CLIL). In any case, the exceptional opportunity provided within the website – “flipping” the lesson, in other words, adapting it to a different context – makes such adaptations to the foreign language classroom particularly easy to share. A key element in this is, of course, the Creative Commons Licence of the resources.

Here’s one TED-Ed lesson that my friend particularly liked: “How folding paper can get you to the Moon.”

Not only is this an intriguing math story, and a stimulating way to introduce the concept of exponential growth, but in terms of  language teaching, it offers authentic examples of  conditional sentences. The fact that the author, Adrian Paenza, is not a native English speaker makes this lesson particularly appropriate.

My friend and I welcome your help in recommending other open educational resources which are appropriate for CLIL, especially in languages other than English. Thanks!

Ana1Ana Beaven is a teacher of English as a foreign language at CILTA, the University of Bologna language Centre. In 2012 she organised the Eurocall CMC & Teacher Education SIGs Annual Workshop on the subject of “Learning through Sharing: Open Resources, Open Practices, Open Communication.”