Reflections on AAAL 2014

Reflections on AAAL 2014

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With a record-setting 1,600 attendees from 60+ countries, this year’s AAAL Conference was the biggest and most diverse in its history. COERLL was pleased to host a colloquium during the conference, which was organized by Joshua Thoms (Utah State University) titled “Open Educational Resources (OER) and Foreign Language (FL) Education: Investigating the Effects of OER on FL Learning and Teaching.” Despite the 8am time slot on the last day, the colloquium was well attended by a mix of academics, government officials and administrators. The purpose of the colloquium was to discuss questions about the impact of OER on foreign language education in the US: How should we frame the research questions? How can we compare different OER? How can we share findings in a way that benefits the open education movement?

In my presentation, I framed the OER movement in terms of its shared goals and values. Unfortunately, foreign language teachers conflate OER with all online resources. So, in my talk, I made it clear that OER are defined by their open license that explicitly gives rights to end users, the so-called Four Rs: the right to reuse, the right to redistribute, the right to revise and the right to remix. These rights enable teachers to adapt pedagogical materials to their own classrooms and teaching practices. But do they take advantage of these affordances? That is an important question that calls for further study.

The other presentations, all empirical studies, sketched out the beginnings of an exciting OER research agenda. Fernando Rubio (University of Utah) discussed his experiences teaching a Spanish pronunciation MOOC with 500 students. Rubio measured levels of interaction (learner-to-learner, learner-to-teacher, learner-to-pedagogical content) in three different environments: hybrid, online and MOOC. Rubio found that the inclusion of OER promoted strong levels of learner-content interaction. High levels of all three forms of interaction were not likely and, according to Rubio, not necessarily desirable. Rubio showed that high levels of one type of interaction resulted in efficient learning experiences even when the other two types were present at low levels.

Amy Rossomondo (University of Kansas) discussed the results of her study that sought to determine the learning outcomes of intermediate Spanish students who used Acceso, a Spanish language OER developed by Rossomondo and her colleagues. Based on oral exam data, Rossomondo found evidence for statistically significant gains in grammar and vocabulary. However, she noted that measuring progress in interactional strategies and dispositional learning was problematic based on the rubric she and her colleagues were using. She called for the development of more granular rubrics for better assessment of those learning outcomes.

The last presentation by Joshua Thoms and Becky Thoms (Utah State University) summarized the findings of their recent national survey of 155 foreign language program directors (LPDs). According to their survey, 33% of the directors were familiar with the concept of OER, an encouraging figure. However, a smaller percentage of the directors were aware of open licenses or the services offered by their campus libraries to help find OER and vet their quality. As possible solutions, the Thoms’ suggested that LPDs become more familiar with the work of reference librarians who are key allies in the open education movement.

The colloquium ended with remarks by Steven Thorne (Portland State University) who emphasized the complex relationships between modular OER and users who construct their own learning networks in open online environments. Thanks to everyone who took part in this historic colloquium on the empirical study of the impact of OER on foreign language learning. Let’s hope that it inspires further research in this area.

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.

Investigating the Effects of OER on Foreign Language Learning and Teaching at AAAL

Investigating the Effects of OER on Foreign Language Learning and Teaching at AAAL

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This weekend, the 2014 American Association for Applied Linguistics (AAAL) Conference begins in beautiful Portland, OR. Center Director Carl Blyth will co-host a panel with Joshua Thoms of Utah State University, which will focus on Open Educational Resources in the Foreign Language context. Steven T … [Continue reading...]

Explore Open Education Week 2014

Explore Open Education Week 2014

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The third annual Open Education Week celebration is underway this week, March 10th - 15th. The event is organized by the Open CourseWare Consortium, and serves as an opportunity for the global community of open education practitioners, educators, and creators to raise awareness about the movement … [Continue reading...]

LOTE Institute 2014

LOTE Institute 2014

Languages Other Than English Institute 2014

Last week, COERLL had the pleasure of being invited by the Region XIII Education Service Center to present on our work at the Languages Other Than English Institute 2014, held here in Austin, TX. This year, the Institute focused on "Celebrating Our Global Learners," with sessions like Culturally R … [Continue reading...]

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The Tipping Point: Language Learning for a Changed World

The Tipping Point

Way back at the end of November, you may have heard that the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) held its annual convention for more than 5000 foreign language educators in the sprawling southern city of Orlando, Florida. With the temptations of SeaWorld, Universal Studios, … [Continue reading...]

Meet Us At the ACTFL Digital Badge Booth!

Meet Us At the ACTFL Digital Badge Booth!

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The ACTFL 2013 Convention Network is growing -- more than 450 attendees have signed up to earn a digital badge for engaging and sharing professional interests with the foreign language community. How can you join in? Go to the ACTFL Digital Badges site and click Become a Convention Networker to sign … [Continue reading...]