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 However, the texts and interface of this program were outdated.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.
This 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.
Aline 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.
John 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.