This Blog is to help create a culture of collaboration and sharing in order to improve the teaching and learning of foreign languages. This is the foundation of the Open Education movement in language learning.
Congratulations to Dr. Gabriela Zapata of the Department of Hispanic Studies at Texas A&M University for receiving the Texas A&M University Libraries and the A&M Student Government Association (SGA) Open Education Champion award for her “compelling and significant positive impact in areas related to OERs or use of Texas A&M’s OAKTrust Institutional Repository”.
Dr. Zapata is currently working with a team of graduate and undergraduate students on Trayectos, a four-volume, open online textbook for beginning and intermediate second language learners of Spanish, with the support of COERLL.
We’d like to acknowledge Dr. Zapata for her generosity in sharing her work with so many people, and also thank Texas A&M Libraries and SGA for giving these awards to bring more visibility to open educational resources. We hope to see awards like this from more institutions in the future.
COERLL is lucky to work with many spectacular faculty, teachers, and students who put in extra hours to create resources and share them with others. We are very grateful for all of these people and their collaboration. You can find a partial list on our Language OER Network page.
Editor’s note: This is a guest blog post by Margherita Berti, a doctoral student in Second Language Acquisition and Teaching (SLAT) at the University of Arizona, and the creator of the open educational resource website Italian Open Education.
As the awareness about open educational resources, tools, and practices increases, instructors, researchers, and educational technologists are exploring innovative ways to promote language education. This is especially the case for Italian Open Education, a website that offers a collection of openly-licensed and free-to-use 360-degree virtual reality videos for Italian learners and teachers.
As a researcher and language educator, I chose to develop Italian Open Education to support the Open Education Movement and to supplement current foreign language textbooks with innovative and dynamic pedagogical materials. Today’s technological advances have made virtual reality extremely accessible, allowing language learners to be immersed in three-dimensional and seemingly real environments generated by the use of special electronic equipment (e.g., smartphones, viewers, headsets, etc.).
To create such resources, I first recorded 360-degree videos in Italian locations that represent everyday environments which students might encounter, however not critically reflect on, in the language textbook. Some examples include a plaza, a street, a coffee shop, a restaurant, a mall, etc. (permission to record the videos was granted by owners of inside spaces). After the recordings took place, I uploaded the videos to YouTube and licensed them under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 license. The Italian Open Education platform was then developed on WordPress, where all the 360-degree virtual reality videos are gathered and can be used freely.
The objective of this project is to offer new cutting-edge pedagogical resources which allow Italian language learners to be virtually placed in various Italian settings that might be inaccessible due to financial or geographical constraints. Since most students are not able to study abroad, the use of openly-licensed 360-degree virtual reality videos in the language classroom gives learners equal access to authentic environments representing the target country.
By sharing free-to-use, high-quality and innovative pedagogical materials with teachers and learners, I advocate for the Open Education Movement and aim to encourage administrators and language educators to implement new and dynamic open educational resources in their own language classrooms.
Margherita Berti is a doctoral student in Second Language Acquisition and Teaching (SLAT) at the University of Arizona and holds a master’s degree in Linguistics/Teaching English as a Second Language from Indiana State University. She teaches undergraduate Italian courses and has over three years of experience in language teaching at the university level in Italian, Spanish and ESL. Her research specialization resides at the intersection of intercultural competence, educational technology, and curriculum and L2 content development..
Photo credit: “Nahuala huipil” by Sergio Romero for “Chqe’tamaj le qach’ab’al K’iche’!”, licensed under
2019 is the International Year of Indigenous Languages, as established by UNESCO. The goal of this year is to increase support for, promotion of, and access to indigenous languages. UNESCO suggests that one approach to this goal is to “develop new and open educational resources to facilitate teaching and learning in indigenous languages”. (You can read the other suggestions on the program website.)
Since we at COERLL focus on open educational resources (OER) for language learning, we are happy to see when OER are suggested as a way to support a movement. Open Creative Commons licenses, an essential aspect of all OER, make it easier for people to access and share important information in their community and with the world, while ensuring authors are always credited for their work. This will not be a solution that suits everyone, but there are many indigenous language teachers and organizations who have chosen to make their resources available under a Creative Commons license. The list below is just a sample. Thank you to the authors of these resources for sharing their valuable knowledge.
Please share other openly-licensed indigenous language materials in the comments!
Na vosa vakaviti – A Fijian language children’s activity book of word searches, colouring pages, and stories published by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Licensed under a CC BY-NC license.
Iñupiat Language Community site – Lessons, activities, and additional resources for the Iñupiat language developed by Chelsey Zibell at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Licensed under a CC BY license.
Studies in Diversity Linguistics – A book series published by Language Science Press on individual less-widely studied languages (primarily reference grammars). The chief editor is Martin Haspelmath. Licensed under a CC BY license.
Chqe’tamaj le qach’ab’al K’iche’! – A multimedia K’iche’ curriculum in English and Spanish, comprised of 40 lessons developed by Sergio Romero, Ignacio Carvajal, Juan Manuel Tahay Tzaj, Mareike Sattler, et. al. with the support of LLILAS and COERLL at the University of Texas at Austin. Licensed under a CC BY license.
Te reo Māori pukapuka mahi – A free downloadable Māori language activity book for kids published by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Licensed under a CC BY-NC license.
Language faculty and graduate students supported by LLILAS and COERLL at the University of Texas at Austin are in the process of planning materials for beginning language learners of Nahuatl. Stay tuned to the blog for updates!
Gagana Sāmoa Tusi o gāluega fa‘atino – A Sāmoan language activity book of word searches, coloring pages, and stories for kids, published by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Licensed under a CC BY-NC license.
SENĆOŦEN Classified Word List – A list of over 3300 SENĆOŦEN words and sound files by Dr. Timothy Montler et. al. Licensed under a CC BY-NC-SA license.
General Indigenous Language Studies
Language Learning Assessment Tool – A guide for adult learners of Indigenous languages to self-assess their learning and progress written by Dr. Onowa McIvor and Dr. Peter Jacobs of NEȾOLṈEW̱, the Indigenous Language Research Network. Licensed under a CC BY-NC-SA license.
What other openly licensed indigenous language materials do you recommend?
March 4-8, 2019 is Open Education Week, an international event to build awareness of open education and show its impact on teaching and learning. Open education encompasses resources, tools and practices that employ a framework of open sharing to improve educational access and effectiveness.* Read below to learn how to get involved during Open Ed Week.
COERLL Launches OER Guide for Language Teachers
This Open Ed Week, we are launching Introduction to OER for Language Teachers, a series of modules on topics related to creating and using open educational resources and practices. We developed this guide based on our conversations with teachers about open educational resources (OER) and practices (OEP) over the years. We hope these modules will help teachers who are interested in open education, especially pertaining to the use of Creative Commons licenses to share materials and ideas.
If you are already a user or creator of OER, or are planning on becoming one, please take a look at the guide, and let us know what you think!
Attend our Open Ed Week Collaborative Webinar
On March 6 at 1pm CST, COERLL will host a webinar where participants will break into groups to work on a task related to different aspects of OER: searching, licensing, remixing, creating, and sharing. All participants will come together at the end to share what they worked on and to find out how to continue their journey as open educators.
Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits available for teachers who attend the whole webinar. Register here.
Language OER Network is in full swing
Last year during Open Education Week, we launched the Language OER Network (LOERN), a showcase of teachers and students who are using, creating, and promoting open educational resources.
We’ve been thrilled to give digital badges to all of the people featured on LOERN: 82 faculty, teachers, librarians, undergraduate and graduate students from 50 different K-12 schools, community colleges and higher ed institutions, representing American Sign Language, Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, K’iche’, Koine Greek, Korean, Linguistics, Persian, Portuguese, Spanglish, Spanish, and Yoruba.
COERLL recently became a supporting organization of #GoOpen, an initiative of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology which supports states, districts and educators using openly licensed educational materials to transform teaching and learning.
The #GoOpen network consists of 96 launch districts and 23 ambassador districts, spread across 33 states. Launch districts identify a district open educational resources (OER) strategy team, commit to replace at least one textbook with openly-licensed educational materials in the next year, and document and share their implementation process. Ambassador districts mentor launch districts as they design and implement their OER strategy, and share the openly licensed materials they’ve created.
Supporting organizations (COERLL, Council of Chief State School Officers, Creative Commons USA, Digital Promise, Library of Congress, New America, and The Learning Accelerator) attend regular calls, contribute updates on new activities or resources relevant to #GoOpen states and districts to the monthly #GoOpen Newsletter, and spread awareness about the #GoOpen initiative to schools and districts.
If your school district is considering adopting or creating OER, we recommend you read the clear list of steps laid out in the #GoOpen district launch packet. And, consider committing to being a #GoOpen district. You’ll have lots of support from many others who have gone through the same process.
For our part, COERLL has pledged to…
Advise school districts whose language departments are interested in creating, adapting, adopting, or sharing OER
Advocate for more OER adoption and #GoOpen participation in Texas
Award digital badges to validate and promote the stories of language departments in #GoOpen districts who have used OER, through COERLL’s Language OER Network and other communication channels
Develop and share an FAQ guide for language departments interested in going open (which we will publish soon!)
Megan Schacht from Parkway Schools, a #GoOpen district, presented in one of our webinars about the Modern and Classical Languages department’s work with OER, and we are looking forward to seeing what other collaborations will be possible from being part of #GoOpen.
Photo credit: “Group” by Pixabay user Geralt, Public Domain
Almost a year ago, COERLL launched the Language OER Network, a website that features teachers, students, and staff who are using, creating, and promoting OER. Featured educators receive a badge and are listed on the website under different categories of work: OER Teacher, OER Creator, OER Reviewer, and OER Ambassador. The lists of featured people are growing in every category except one: OER Reviewer.
We encourage teachers to review the free materials they access online, especially if those materials are open educational resources (OER). (We define OER here as any material for teaching and learning that has an open license.) Since OER are self-published, people who use them don’t always know how or if they were reviewed. There is not always a guarantee OER will be high quality.
Many authors of open materials take great care in having their materials vetted: they may work on teams, ask colleagues to proofread, go through a formal review process, or test the materials many times with students before publication. However, not everyone has the time or resources to go through this process. This is where peers can be very helpful in reviewing each others’ content after it has been published.
OER repositories like MERLOT and OER Commons, or even other platforms for sharing copyrighted materials like Teachers Pay Teachers, offer ways to review materials. Often, a user can give a star rating and write a comment. Other platforms have a more involved and formal peer review process. For example, the Open Textbook Library at the University of Minnesota has faculty review open textbooks based on a specified set of criteria, resulting in a comprehensive, multi-paragraph review.
We recommend that rather than simply rating an OER with a number of stars and giving a generic response like “great activity”, teachers write a little bit about how they used the materials, how the students reacted, and what specific features worked or did not work.
Reviews help add legitimacy to materials posted online, where anyone with an internet connection can publish something. A review can:
help teachers sift through a mountain of content to find what is high quality
provide useful feedback to content authors
offer a forum for teachers to express gratitude to their colleagues for sharing their work
ideally, encourage teachers to talk to each other about ideas for teaching and to participate in a community.
Trayectos: A Multiliteracies Approach to Collegiate Spanishis a collection of performance-based OER for beginning and intermediate second language learners of Spanish, developed by Texas A&M faculty and graduate students using the Learning by Design approach.
COERLL provides teacher development through workshops and online communities, where participants’ own work is published for other teachers to use.
Texas Coalition for Heritage Spanish (TeCHS)is a platform for members to share data and pedagogical resources, collaborate on best practices, connect with community organizations, and advocate for Spanish heritage language teaching.
Games2Teach Collaboratoriesare interactive workshops where teachers play technology-mediated games, learn how game design principles promote language acquisition, and learn to implement games in their classrooms. Based on work by CASLS and CERCLL.
Foreign Languages & the Literary in The Everyday (FLLITE), a project with CERCLL,aids instructors in designing their own literacy-based lessons that focus on the poetics of everyday language (letters, YouTube videos, etc.).
Juntos: The Heritage Spanish Lesson Projectis a series of proficiency-based lessons related to personal life, college tasks, career readiness, and civic participation for Heritage Spanish learners in grades 6-12.
Recorridos: AP Spanish Literature Anthologyis a multi-volume anthology series of Hispanic literature for AP and other advanced students. Each textbook includes reading activities and glosses, historical and cultural information, and assessments.
Less Commonly Taught Languages
Her ŞeybirMerhabaileBaşlar (Everything Begins with a Hello) is an open-source, online curriculum for Intermediate-Mid Turkish students. Learners use language to investigate, explain and reflect on contemporary Turks’ socio-cultural practices and products.
OER for Teaching and Learning Nahuatl aims to develop 30 units of online Huasteca Nahuatl multimedia learning materials for speakers of Spanish and English.
Reality Czech: A Course in Contemporary Czech Language and Culture is an online curriculum for beginning and intermediate language students. Modules follow a sequence of pre-class, in-class, and post-class activities ideal for a flipped classroom.
Two projects will add to COERLL’s existing Portuguese materials. Brazilpod Teacher’s Guide and Lesson Index helps users integrate media from the Brazilpod website into their teaching and learning. For the intermediate course ClicaBrasil, COERLL will provide a printed textbook to accompany the online videos and readings.
COERLL also provides consultation about open pedagogical design to project teams supervised by other grant-funded entities.
Outreach and dissemination
COERLL connects to teachers through newsletters, blogs, and social media. We support teachers’ work by offering stipends for materials creation as part of the Collaborators Program, and by awarding digital badges in the Language OER Network (LOERN). At the University of Texas, COERLL and other Title VI entities will reach out to students and instructors through More Than A Skill events about language learning as an ethical act.
COERLL’s main publications will be the fully-refereed online journal Language Learning & Technology,co-sponsored by the National Foreign Language Resource Center and Center for Language & Technology (both at University of Hawai’i), and “Open Education and Foreign Language Learning and Teaching”, an openly-licensed book of case studies.
Editors note: This is a guest blog post by Lina Gomaa, Arabic Instructor in the Department of World Languages and Literatures at Portland State University, about the Creative Commons-licensed textbook she wrote, From MSA to CA: A Beginner’s Guide for Transitioning into Colloquial Arabic.
At Portland State University (PSU), the Arabic program is designed to teach Modern Standard Arabic ( MSA) for at least one year, after which the students can learn Colloquial Arabic (CA). Because of how the Arabic program at PSU is designed (similar to many programs in the USA), the importance of this book arises. This transition can be challenging for some students. The book targets students in NM (Novice Mid) who have studied Arabic for a year or more and aims to help them advance to IL (Intermediate Low) according to the Oral Proficiency Interview standards by ACTFL, the American Council on The Teaching of Foreign Languages.
This book documents answers to questions from students in CA classes. Its goal is to transition students smoothly from MSA to CA, giving them confidence to explore both varieties while reaching the NH (Novice High) or IL level, navigate predictable social situations in CA, and utilize their previous knowledge in MSA to learn CA. The content and structure are based on my teaching experience and as an ACTFL OPI interviewer to assist students in their quest to speak CA with native speakers with relative ease.
The material, organization, topics and translations are based on comments, suggestions and ideas which students shared with me during teaching colloquial Arabic and Modern Standard Arabic. While creating the book, I wanted it to be a reference for students to “get a feel” for MSA and CA similarities and differences. This book introduces the Cairene Egyptian dialect; however, it also explains commonly used expressions in the Levant (Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Israel). The goal is to introduce students to more varieties, allowing them to choose which dialect to specialize in and still be able to communicate with Arabic speakers. Although this book does not introduce Gulf dialects, many of the expressions and terms are frequently used in most of the Arab world, and many are derived from MSA I aim that this book will benefit students of Arabic at PSU and elsewhere, reduce their textbook expenses, and help them improve their CA speaking.
I also hope that the dialogues (recorded by PSU students of Arabic) will be enjoyable for learners and provide successful examples for others to follow.
The book is published on the PSU library page and the website of the Center for Open Education at the University of Minnesota. It has been downloaded over 1,000 times and counting all over the world by different universities, institutions, business and governmental bodies.
Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post from Sarah Le Pichon, an Assistant French Instructor at the University of Texas at Austin, on the topic of inclusive pedagogies. Students, administrators, and faculty here at UT are developing inclusive policies and practices. If your institution is considering the same changes, we hope the following information will help.
We also saw a clear link to open educational resources in Sarah’s advice: inclusive teaching requires adapting or adding on to your curriculum to address your students’ varying identities, and these changes are easier with a curriculum composed of openly licensed materials that can be adapted based on individual needs.
Language pedagogy most often focuses on linguistic theory and the most successful modes of language learning. Discussions of inclusivity, however, are crucial to successful language pedagogy; in fact, language learning and teaching are largely about coming in contact with different populations and broadening our world view. More importantly, instructors must remember that students cannot leave their identities at the door when they enter our classrooms, and we must therefore adopt pedagogical practices that acknowledge and welcome all populations and identities. Inclusive pedagogies aim to outline implementable practices that encourage open and welcoming learning environments for all populations and identities.
Remember: These techniques work differently depending on where you are in your career, as well as on the teaching context and your own teaching ethos or style. Use techniques you feel comfortable with; hold off on ones you don’t.
Welcoming Trans- & Gender Non-Conforming Students into our Language Classrooms
Trans- and gender non-conforming students may feel particular anxiety in entering a language classroom, where partner work abounds and where, most often, gender pronouns and gender agreements are addressed on a consistent basis. Language classrooms must finds ways to welcome trans- and gender non-conforming students, and aim to minimize anxiety that might hold students back from learning a language. We should not, however, assume that any individual is ready to or wants to share their gender identity with the classroom or their partner. This means that instructors should be prepared and trained to have conversations with trans- and gender non-conforming students, and work together to establish the best course of action for them in the classroom.
Make Room for Your Students:
Distribute notecards the first day of class that ask for the student’s name as it appears on the registrar, their preferred name, and their pronouns. Present yourself to your students using this model as you distribute the notecards, for example: “My name is Sarah Le Pichon, and I go by Sarah. My pronouns are she/her/hers. You are welcome to leave your pronouns section blank, or if you would like to discuss further, you can indicate that on your notecard as well.”
Follow your students’ lead: Have a conversation with your trans- and gender non-conforming students about how they would like for you to proceed in the classroom and with their peers.
Offer options: For example, give them the option to stick with a single partner they feel comfortable with for the semester, rather than switching partners, thereby avoiding unnecessary misgenderings, or repeated requests.
Know Your Information:
Know your gender-neutral pronoun information. If you feel like it is complicated, go over it and practice using those pronouns and making those agreements until it comes to you more easily.
Do research on how trans- and gender non-conforming issues are addressed in the language and various cultures you teach. These conversations might be very different from one country to another, even if those countries share a language. Acknowledge the different ways in which this conversation is being held across different cultures. Many languages also have several different options for non-binary individuals; research these different linguistic possibilities, and offer your students options.
Provide students with accessible and clear information, and diverse resources: show them blogs, videos, articles, etc. from trans- and gender non-conforming individuals who speak the language you teach.
Representation: Race and Diversity
Cultural discussions that address matters such as race are crucial to an inclusive language classroom. Think about and practice methods to properly and confidently mediate discussions on these complex cultural topics so that you feel more comfortable and knowledgeable when addressing these in the classroom, while providing authentic resources that allow a diverse set of voices to be heard.
Rethink Your Texts:
Diversify your texts! Think and rethink your material every semester. Find authentic online material that makes your students feel represented, including blogs, videos, articles, etc. from various identity groups.
Eliminate any exclusionary language: make sure none of your material stereotypes, mocks, or in any other way targets an identity group.
Create an Open Environment:
Have open conversations with your students about how these conversations are being had in the various countries in which your language is spoken.
Acknowledge gaps in knowledge, and your own experience/privilege; this is especially important if you yourself are not a part of the identity group you are discussing.
Providing Resources and Working Beyond the Classroom
While not all of us have the opportunity to rethink our materials and texts, we all have the opportunity to provide our students with adequate resources. There are always ways you can create an inclusive syllabus, and small ways you can diversify the material you present to your students.
Be Prepared with Referrals:
Know the resources your students need, and provide specifics (counseling and mental health services, services for students with disabilities, behavioral concerns advice line, student emergency services, Ombuds Office, etc.), including phone numbers and/or e-mail addresses. Add these to your syllabus and/or course site.
Seek Other Input:
Let other voices be heard by providing outside/online resources (blogs, YouTube videos, etc…). Create a weekly newsletter that links to all of the resources you’ve studied or discussed that week.
If you feel comfortable doing so, talk to your supervisor about inclusive materials and additions.
— Sarah Le Pichon is a PhD student in French Studies working on non-conforming individuals and identity negotiations in the nineteenth century. She has taught French at various levels, from pre-k to higher-education classrooms, since 2013. She now leads Trauma-Informed Teaching workshops for staff and faculty in addition to working as a French instructor at UT Austin. Sarah also creates inclusivity workshops for various groups on campus. Most recently, she was invited to speak at the Faculty Innovation Center’s Inclusive Teaching and Learning Symposium. She does not claim to be an expert on any topic, except for the Harry Potter series.
Editor’s Note: Guest blogger Julie Ward edited an anthology of Hispanic literature with her students, elevating the role that the students played in the class, and proving that the pedagogical affordances of openness are just as important as the low costs most often associated with openness.
I initially had the idea to work on OER because of the wonderful OER librarians at my campus. Their initiative to promote the adoption and creation of OER on campus inspired me to propose a project for my Introduction to Hispanic Literature and Culture course, a third-year Spanish course required for Spanish majors.
The course generally relies on fairly expensive and large anthologies. I thought that if I assigned texts that were in the public domain, and asked students to choose one particular text to study and prepare for inclusion in an online, open-access anthology, the Antología abierta de literatura hispana, they would have a richer research experience and really get to understand what literary studies are about.
This project would also give them the chance to practice their writing in Spanish, and to write for a much larger audience than a traditional classroom paper provides. Students knew that they had the option of submitting their work for inclusion in an open-access anthology, and that anyone with internet access around the world could potentially read their work. This fact motivated them to do their best and to consider their audience.
Finally, I was happy that students had the chance to create something that could help other students. Their results of their hard work over the course of the semester are visible and useful. The learning experience doesn´t stop at the end of the semester, but is shared with others. It is also a lasting example of their skills that they could highlight in the future.
My goal in leading students to create their own textbook was to help them learn the tools of literary research and give them an audience beyond the classroom or the campus. In small groups, students chose one of the texts studied in our Introduction to Hispanic Literature and Culture course and created a critical edition, complete with introductory information about the author, time period, and literary context; footnotes annotating various aspects of the text itself; and a bibliography for further study.
With the help of two undergraduate research assistants, I uploaded the results into Pressbooks, where it is downloadable and accessible in many formats. Now the first edition of the anthology is available for students of Hispanic literature, and I am working on a second edition, with the help of the Rebus Community, that incorporates critical editions made by students at other institutions.
My goal is for the AALH to continue expanding and become a go-to, open-access resource for anyone who wants to know more about Hispanic literature and culture.
Julie Ward joined the faculty of the University of Oklahoma in 2014 as Assistant Professor of 20th- and 21st-Century Latin American Literature. She holds a PhD in Hispanic Languages and Literatures from the University of California, Berkeley (2013). Her current research focuses on the representation of the real in contemporary Latin America.