Plunge into a text with social reading

Plunge into a text with social reading

Photo credit (left): flickr user Jake Macabre Creative Commons License
Photo credit (middle): COERLL Creative Commons License
Photo credit (right): Deutsche Fototek Creative Commons License

COERLL recently made the social reading tool eComma available for users of Learning Management Systems (LMS). In eComma, a group of students can annotate the same text together and share their annotations with each other in the form of comments, tags, and word clouds. Students’ natural capacity for socializing online is put to good use with social reading, as they learn from each other, uncover the multiple layers of meaning in a text, and reflect deeply on their reading. But how does a teacher set this process of learning and reflection in motion?

There are a lot of options for using eComma with your class, and how you choose to use it depends on what your goal is. Here are some possible goals for reading, and ideas for how to meet them:

  • Introduce a new grammar concept: Provide students a grammatically rich text to read in eComma before coming to class. Ask them to comment on words they don’t understand, to make observations about certain parts of speech, and to make guesses about grammar rules, all while responding to each other’s comments and questions. In this way, they learn from each other as they form patterns, solve problems, and build hypotheses. (This inductive technique was developed by Alex Lorenz from The University of Texas at Austin.)
  • Raise awareness of cultural constructs: Lead students through a series of steps to build awareness of their assumptions about the L2 culture and language. They begin by “red flagging” a text based on anything that stands out. Through comments to each other and further research, they discover where they may have been misconstruing a text, and finally formulate a modified interpretation of the reading based on research and peer feedback. (This process was developed by Joanna Luks, as described here in more detail.)
  • Guide students in identifying key information in the text: Kara Parker of Creative Language Class uses highlighters and paper instead of eComma, but the same ideas can apply in eComma… ask students to identify “who”, “where”, “when” and “action taking place” in the text. Then, they can use this information as a basis for a summary of the text, in paragraphs or tweets. (Read more here.)
  • Show how tenses convey meaning: Ask students to label verb tenses to bring their attention to the differences in how the tenses are used.

These are only just a few ways of using eComma, and any of them could be done asynchronously as homework, or synchronously in the classroom, where students can see each other’s comments popping up in real time.

You can also make use of certain strategies to ensure your students are engaging with each other and with the text. For example, require each student to respond to at least one comment from a fellow classmate, ask them to find patterns in what their peers are commenting on, ask them to make comparisons, or assign them each a role in reading and annotating the text. (For example, each student highlights a different grammatical structure.)

We hope you will find a way of using eComma that works best for you and your language class! If you do, we’d love to hear about it in the comments below… your ideas could be valuable for other teachers.


For further reading:

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.

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)

Papiers-Mâchés, a New OER forFrench Writing

Papiers-Mâchés, a New OER for
French Writing

Some years ago, we found that our French majors here at NYU were not writing at the level we had hoped for. This led us to reexamine how we incorporated writing throughout our program.

We  decided to try Gammes d’écritures (CNDP fr), a French writing software program. Our students made amazing progress, and they truly enjoyed working with the software that allowed them to progress at their own rhythm. However, the texts and interface of this program were outdated. We felt its method of instruction could be modernized into a more comprehensive tutorial format.

We also felt strongly that our program should be an open resource, not only because our language teachers had been benefiting from open resources for years and this was a way to “give back,” but also because we knew that our program could provide a model to our university (and others) of how open resource language programs can be inventive and engaging.

At a time when numerous colleges and universities understand open education as merely the process of having lectures videotaped and delivered on line, we envisioned a course that fosters and channels analytical and independent thinking.

papiers machesThis is how Papiers-Mâchés was born.

Although Papiers-Mâchés uses simple tools, its consistent method of detailed annotations and suggestions is efficient for systematizing and extending the work conducted in the classroom. It provides personalized interactive instruction that challenges and encourages students at each step of the writing process – from questions of vocabulary choice and grammatical structure to elements of organization – until they are satisfied by their own response.

We also seized another opportunity: having students collaborating with the material. All through the experimental phase of the program, numerous students of the advanced module offered their best work either as models to accompany certain activities, or as examples now displayed in the third section of the program. Similar to the “knowledge ecosystem” Jonathan Perkins envisions in the context of graduate studies (see Why Foreign Language Grad Programs Should Care About OER), this collaborative element is a fundamental feature of Papiers-Mâchés that allows students to take an active role in creating and perpetuating an online learning community.

We are thrilled to join the OER community with Papiers-Mâchés. We hope that our program will prove to be an exciting addition to upper-intermediate and advanced level French courses. Since it lends itself for both in-class use and individualized homework, teachers will find a variety of ways to incorporate it into their lessons.

Sign up online and try it with your students, adapt it for your classroom, envision it for another language and send us your suggestions so we can continue to make it a better program that serves the needs of the OER community. Today more than ever, facilitating the acquisition of languages other than English will help diversify the linguistic landscape of online education, open the horizon to a greater variety of resources and thus reduce the danger of the imposition of one global language and culture.

AlineAline Baehler, Senior Language Lecturer, Department of French, NYU. Major Interests: 20th-Century French Literature; second-language acquisition; computer-assisted language learning. Co-creator of Papiers-Mâchés.

 

 

JohnJohn Moran, Clinical Associate Professor of French; Director of Undergraduate Studies & Director of Language Programs, Department of French, NYU. Major Interests: Foreign language methodology and pedagogy; historical linguistics; Old French language and literature; phonetics. Co-creator of Papiers-Mâchés.

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.

Improving the Recipe for Effective Language Learning

Improving the Recipe for Effective Language Learning

Fernando Rubio checks back in with us after finishing his first year teaching a Spanish MOOC.

I ended my previous post inviting you to think about the role of MOOCs and the intersection between teaching and certification.

The conversation that has been going on since my last post has been just as polarized as it was before. MOOCs have recently been called a new form of colonialism because they are an attempt to address the demand for higher education by some of the top universities in the U.S. They have also been touted as a disruptive game changer if MOOC providers can create the right recipe that combines free access and credit. Let’s take a look at some offerings from MOOC providers.

Fremium Model

MOOC2Degree is a result of a number of universities teaming up with online course developers Academic Partnerships. Students receive the first course in an online degree program as a free MOOC in hopes that they will then pay tuition to complete the degree through regular online coursework. This is simply a version of the freemium model that we all know and love.

User-Centered Model

Outside the U.S., as part of the UK’s Open University, Futurelearn has thrown its hat in the ring by promising a for-credit MOOC-like experience without the drop-out rates and plagiarism problems of a MOOC. As they say, “it would be a shame to deliver that on a platform and infrastructure that was powered on another continent.” (Did anyone mention neocolonialism?)

Blended MOOCs

I am writing this blog post as I read the New York Times’ front page story on how San Jose State has “outsourced” to Udacity some of the mentoring for its basic math courses. The article includes this interesting quote from a higher education officer at the Gates Foundation: “2013 is about blending MOOCs into college courses where there is additional support, and students get credit.” This quote gives me the perfect segue into the point that I want to make today.

My main concern is still the same it was when I started teaching my MOOC — What can MOOCs teach us about learning and how can they create a more effective learning environment? And perhaps blending MOOCs into regular for credit (either online or face-to-face) courses is the way to take advantage of what the two formats can offer. My next challenge, for Fall ’13, is a blended course on Spanish Applied Linguistics that will combine 50% face-to-face instruction and 50% MOOC. For-credit students will participate in both formats and will hopefully benefit form the opportunity to interact with a large number of students who will be following the free and open MOOC component of the course. I will keep you posted!

In the meantime, please send your thoughts on developments in the world of MOOC language learning. 

Fernando RubioFernando Rubio is Co-director of the University of Utah’s Second Language Teaching and Research Center (L2TReC) and Associate Professor of Spanish Linguistics.  His research focuses on the acquisition of Spanish as a second language and on the intersection of language learning and technology.

Why Foreign Language Grad Programs Should Care About OER

Why Foreign Language Grad Programs Should Care About OER

Discussions about the future of OER often seem to center on issues of promotion and tenure and on finding viable business models for  for large-scale projects. While these are certainly issues for which solutions need to be found, our desire to institutionalize and commodify OER must not crowd out consideration of the pedagogical opportunities that OER can provide to graduate programs.

Digital Humanities and CALL

We are in an age in which graduate programs are thinking about alternatives to the dissertation and Digital Humanists are calling for project-based scholarship for graduate students. Work on OER can facilitate this new kind of graduate training, creating a focus for discussions of content as well as curricular design, and providing hands-on experience in issues of CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning) for a generation of teachers who will be expected to work increasingly in online and hybrid formats.

Creating a Knowledge Ecosystem

Rather than focusing exclusively on single-author articles and monographs, couldn’t graduate students also collaborate on materials for classroom use? Think of the vast array of materials that such an army of graduate students could produce, and the praise it might garner from legislators seeking to lower the cost of higher education. Think about the “knowledge ecosystem” that this small change could help create, and the ripple effects that a cohort so young could have over time. (See Making Collaboration Easier to watch Rich Baraniuk talk more about the knowledge ecosystem.)

What do you think? Could embracing Open Access and technological literacy as integral parts of graduate studies better prepare both the future professoriate and the growing number of alternative academics being produced by our graduate programs?

Jon perkinsJonathan Perkins is the Director of the Ermal Garinger Academic Resource Center at the University of Kansas. His research interests include Computer Assisted Language Learning, instructional technology and faculty development.

COERLL @ SOCALLT

COERLL @ SOCALLT

We had a notable presence at this year’s SOCALLT conference (South Central Association for Language Learning Technology). Language educators from Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and New Mexico gathered to talk all things edu-tech. So we took this opportunity to unveil some of COERLL’s new or updated open online language learning resources and get some f2f feedback.

COERLL Presentations on New or Improved OER
  • Web developer Rachael Gilg and corpus developer Arthur Wendorf gave a hands-on workshop for the new SpinTX beta release site of the Spanish in Texas corpus.
  • COERLL director Carl Blyth gave a workshop demonstrating eComma, a web application and resources for social reading — groups of users annotating the same text together. He also gave a talk on called, “The Literary in the  Everyday: An OER for Creating Literacy Activities” — priming the public for this upcoming open resource.
  • Karen Kelton and Nancy Guilloteau (of Francais interactif fame) gave a talk and demonstration of their new French OER — Enhancing French Skills.

Attendees were surprised and excited that all of our materials were open — available for the public to use, remix and share. People were curious about how we manage to create our menu of language learning resources — our answer to this is that open materials are created in community: in communities of dedicated language educators and scholars, students, technologists, programmers, web developers and end users who all have a stake in the game. Created for the people, by the people.

For those of you who were with us at SOCALLT, let us know what new idea, practice or tool you are excited about trying out in your teaching. What inspired you?

If you’re coming to the IALLT conference in June, please come see us at our SpinTX and eComma presentations. And we’ll be in Hawaii at the CALICO conference, so come by our booth and check out our presentations!

 

Give Us Some Credit!

Give Us Some Credit!

It’s an exciting time. We’re seeing the next phase of open education happening: progress toward accreditation for open online learning. We thought we’d share the latest news in this welcome trend.

  • Academic Partnerships + MOOC2Degree  Academic Partnerships, representing online learning for some 40 U.S. universities, is launching the MOOC2Degree program. This online degree option is meant to attract students to full degree programs.
  • Coursera + UCB, UCI, Duke & U of Penn  Coursera and four top universities are piloting a system of awarding university credit equivalency for its online courses.
  • Udacity + San Jose State  MOOCs purveyor Udacity partnered with San Jose State University to offer academic credit for a few of its courses.
  • EdX + Stanford  Standford has teamed up with EdX in the effort to open up its online courses to a wider audience. It’s not clear what sort of credit learners receive, but courses are taught by Stanford professors (via interactive video) and include formative and summative assessments.
  • MOOCs + Georgia State  The university is working on granting credit for MOOCs coursework from other institutions.
  • COERLL + LARC  Right here on the language learning home front, COERLL is collaborating with sister language resource center LARC at San Diego State University to develop a badge system for professional development based on an open platform. In the works is a curriculum for COERLL’s Spanish Proficiency Training and Foreign Language Teaching Methods, both open educational resources.

What are you thoughts on awarding credit for open online learning? What should we be aware of as we go forward? For example, credited courses are rarely free — Coursera users  can expect to pay up to $200 for credit, for instance. But what is this compared to university tuitions?

To read more on the topic, see Why I Love and Hate My Spanish MOOC by Fernando Rubio.

“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.