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)
Sharing opens up new possibilities

Sharing opens up new possibilities

Photo credit: flickr user Hoffnungsschimmer Creative Commons License

Here at COERLL we have always worked on projects with small teams of professors or teachers to create openly licensed language teaching materials (textbooks, activities, lessons, etc.) that we share with teachers. However, some of our new projects follow a different model: instead of giving teachers materials, we are asking teachers to share with us and with other teachers the in-class lessons or activities they have created, and to support each other in further developing and testing these materials.

To inspire people to start sharing, we created this infographic that shows all of the ways sharing can impact teachers, students, and the community, but I wanted to get a firsthand account of this impact from a teacher, so I asked Amy Lenord, a Spanish teacher, consultant, blogger, #langchat moderator, and 2015 Texas Foreign Language Association president. She helped me envision how that one simple act of sharing can be a catalyst for a whole set of other practices. Amy and many other bloggers have inspired me as they share their great ideas and successes right along with the ideas that didn’t quite work the way they wanted them to. This openness creates a forum for feedback and ideas from other teachers dealing with the same challenges.

Whether online or face-to-face, feedback from other teachers is part of a larger iterative process that “only works if you are willing and transparent”, as Amy says. A teacher who considers reactions from other teachers and integrates that into their work will probably also pay attention to reactions of students, going back to a lesson after it’s done to evaluate how it worked and figure out how to do it differently the next time. Amy talks about developing a lesson like it is a scientific process, albeit a creative one: hypothesizing about what will work, testing it out with students, observing results, consulting other teachers, making changes, and going back into the classroom with the students to teach and observe, starting the process all over again. As she puts it, “teaching is organic. I can’t teach the same way in two consecutive years”.

Amy Lenord claimed to not be a part of the open educational movement when we talked, but she exemplifies it in every way, by her willingness to tell others a story about what she is doing, to change her methods to fit her students’ needs, and to accept and give feedback as part of a community of teachers.

Of course, as a center for open educational resources, we will always provide resources that are licensed to be modified, copied, and shared. But, these resources are nothing without the process that a teacher will go through to make them effective, and the act of sharing can make this process even more rich.


If you are interested in collaborating with other teachers, you might want to check out the following resources:

  • Language Coaching by Amy Lenord, “just a Spanish teacher doing what she loves and hoping to inspire others to do the same.”
  • The TELL Collab is a two-day professional learning experience with collaborative sessions, presentations and resource sharing for both teachers and administrators
  • COERLL’s Heritage Spanish page is a place to share resources created or simply found by teachers who have experience with speakers of Spanish as a heritage language.
  • COERLL’s Foreign Languages and the Literary in the Everyday project gathers teachers to create and share classroom activities around the central theme of finding playful, non-conventional language in everyday texts like memes and graffiti.
  • Terri Nelson (California State University) has been creating Paris occupé, a role-playing-game to teach French language, history, and critical thinking. You can learn more in this webinar video. If you might be interested in testing the game, let us know at info@coerll.utexas.edu!