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Resources, tools, and training: Open educational practices for language teaching

Open educational practice: taking care in the design and creation of digital materials with a view to future sharing and repurposing, working towards a goal of sustainable development for (language) teachers.

I ran a workshop for language teachers at the University of Limerick covering a range of resources, tools, and networks to try and answer some of these questions.
  • How can teachers best select teaching and learning materials and adapt them to their own particular needs?
  • Which digital tools are most versatile, and how can they be integrated into learning activities?
  • And what can teachers do as their careers progress to try and keep up with technological innovation?

From open resources to open practices

We talked about the Paris Declaration on Open Educational Resources, and how open resources lead to open practices. My own epiphany about openness came when teaching a course on technology in language education to a group of teachers of several European languages. The course encouraged participants to share teaching resources publicly, and some of my students’ selections – for languages I don’t speak – were picked up by colleagues at other universities.

work that would otherwise be invisible or lost to the wider community once a course assignment is completed here can be recovered and exploited by others

Read the full paper

I used Google forms for a background questionnaire to gauge participants’ interests and knowledge, then we used Padlet to share open resources collected by myself and others using the curation platform Scoop.it. (See the resources.)

One of the difficulties in supporting language teachers in integrating technology is the vast array of digital tools at our disposal. Conventional wisdom suggests focusing on pedagogical objectives rather than the affordances of tools, so we looked at a task I used with one of my undergraduate EFL students: a story slam based on the Moth format.

A storytelling task

In my university EFL class, I used the open resources from the Moth website to set the task and provide examples for my students. I think this makes a decent task because it meets most of the criteria for task-based language teaching: it’s a real-world activity (target language speakers do it), there’s a clear outcome (a story that meets certain pre-determined standards), and learners have freedom in the language they choose to use.

There are also opportunities for reflection and collaboration, because the Moth also has a transcription system where volunteers can check and correct automatic transcriptions of existing stories. Students used the audio platform SoundCloud and Google forms to allow students to record their own stories as they performed in class, upload and safeguard their recordings, and share with the teacher. I used the canned response gadget in the Labs section of Gmail to provide individual feedback to students, together with a link to a blogpost with ideas for work on pronunciation. I tried to encourage reflection with a post-task activity where students were asked to react to this feedback.

Incidentally, as I prepared my introductory lesson for my students using a specific Moth story, I cleaned up the machine transcription of the story so that my students could analyse the storyteller’s technique and language. In so doing, I made my own small contribution to the Moth project by leaving a full, correct transcription for others to use (either native-speaking storytellers or L2 learners). This provides an argument for openness in itself, and one which also suggests another type of task where learners perform this transcription checking task themselves, to work on listening and writing skills.

Most of the links to the activities and tools for this storytelling task are here.

Playing safe and playing fair

Of course, open education also imposes some particular requirements on teachers and learners. It’s important to respect learners’ privacy and make sure we have permission to share their work. With adults this can often be done simply using the following suggestions:

  • ask learners to create their own accounts on free platforms
  • allow learners to choose pseudonyms if work is shared publicly
  • offer the chance to share only with specific individuals (e.g., the teacher) or a restricted group of learners
  • remind learners to hide or remove files, or delete their accounts once the course is completed.

Similarly, both teachers and learners need to respect the intellectual property of others. Gosia Kurek and Anna Skowron produced a very useful guide to help language teachers understand what can be shared and how, as part of the LangOER project. This guide also has up-to-date references to places to find images that can be used freely without attribution, for example.

Going further for language teachers

The last section of my presentation (see slides above) includes telecollaborative platforms and some reflection on my experience in teacher education in this area. We didn’t get that far in Limerick, but in the interests of openness it’s still there.

It was great to hear about work in languages at the University of Limerick with Catherine Jeanneau, including a French-language debating team (another real-world task) and a very active Facebook page.

And as a quick coda to the session, we looked at Plickers, a paper-based clicker app that allows learners to respond to multiple choice questions by holding up QR codes which the teacher records using the app on their phone. Results can be displayed in a browser at plickers.com and projected for the class to see. I like this tool for myself because I don’t always have internet access in class. For the secondary school teachers I train, it can be used in schools where pupils are not allowed to use phones in class. In Limerick, however, the teachers were working with adult learners who all had smartphones with wifi access: they showed me Kahoot, which offers similar opportunities for their teaching context.

References

Kurek, M. & Skowron, A. (2015). Going open with LangOER. PDF

Paris Declaration on Open Educational Resources PDF

Whyte, S. (2014). Bridging gaps : Using social media to develop techno-pedagogical competences in pre-service language teacher education. Recherche et pratiques pédagogiques en langues de spécialité – Cahiers de l’APLIUT, 33(2):143-169.

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OER and automatic language processing for language teachers

I signed up for an open course run by TELL-OP, an Erasmus+ strategic partnership, which seeks to exploit corpus expertise and digital affordances to encourage e-learning of languages. The website puts it thus:

TELL-OP is a Strategic Partnership that seeks to promote the take-up of innovative practices in European language learning (Data Driven Learning, DDL) by supporting personalised learning approaches that rely on the use of ICT & OER by bringing together the knowledge & expertise of European stakeholders in the fields of language education, corpus & applied linguistics, e-learning & knowledge engineering in order to promote cooperation & contribute to unleash the potential behind already available web 2.0 services to promote the personalized e-learning of languages in the contexts of higher & adult education, in particular, through mobile devices.

TELL-OP partners include these people and institutions, and – fittingly, I think – I found the course via Pascual Pérez-Paredes on Twitter.

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The course is taught by Dana Ruggiero (@Dana_Ruggiero) on Moodle and covers

  1. introduction and pronunciation
  2. vocabulary acquisition
  3. interaction
  4. writing skills
  5. reading skills

In a spirit of openness, and because the first assignment seems to cry out for what we used to call Web 2.0 tools, I’ll try to blog my course participation.

I am already behind.

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ITILT: Interactive Teaching In Language with Technologies

Abstract

iTILT, Interactive Teaching in Languages with Technology, is a professional development project to support interactive approaches to language teaching with classroom technologies.  The project builds on a previous project involving 44 teachers of 6 languages at 4 different educational levels in 7 countries, all using the IWB for language teaching. An open educational web resource was developed which includes over 250 video clips of IWB-mediated language teaching practice (http://itilt.eu); we also published a collective volume with case studies of IWB use in language education (Cutrim Schmid & Whyte, 2014) and a research monograph focusing on collaborative action research in a task-based framework (Whyte, 2015).

The new three year project moves beyond the IWB to focus on developing effective teaching and learning of second languages with a wider range of new and emerging interactive technologies (such as tablets, smartphones and video). It involves supporting teachers in task-based approaches to technology integration though observation, reflection and sharing via an online community of practice.

We will briefly present ways to exploit iTILT’s currently available resources in teacher education and continuing professional development (Koenraad et al., 2013) and report on the interim results of the new project, including examples of technology-mediated language tasks.

LPM Saarland: Links to slides, resources, and activities from webinar, 21 November 2016

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Shona Whyte, Université Nice Sophia Antipolis, France.
Ton Koenraad, TELLConsult, Netherlands

Outline

  1. iTILT: interactive technologies in language teaching itilt.eu

ITILT logo 600DPI RGB PNG

2.Task-based language teaching

  • Criteria for TBLT
  • ITILT video examples (video selfie exchange, video report, video communication)

3. ITILT 2: Interactive Teaching In Languages with Technology www.itilt2.eu

ITILTnewLOGOillu

 

 

 

 

LPM Saarland: Links to slides, resources, and activities from webinar, 21 November 2016, including

  • presentation slides
  • 90 minute webinar recording (Adobe Connect)
  • video feedback activities with participant input (Padlet)
  • links to participant background questionnaire (Google Forms – see below)

Top tools for learning 2016

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I recently responded to an online poll of educators’ tools for learning and saved my responses to kick off a class on learning technologies for language teachers.

These are my picks; here’s why. (They are all free.)

Getting started

LastPass

LastPass is a password manager that saves your passwords online and lets you access them from one master password (the *last pass*word you’ll need from now on). It can generate secure passwords, but I don’t risk this (if you have connectivity problems you can’t retrieve these from memory). Instead I create my own passwords with a keyword system and save them to LastPass.

I suggest this as my first tool for learning because it’s the obvious first hurdle to using almost any platform, tool, or application and I find until students or trainees are confident logging in and out of multiple sites it’s difficult to build up confidence or expertise.

An associated tool is Xmarks, which lets you synchronise bookmarks across browsers and devices, which I also find useful for moving between machines, though if you share computers it might not be so relevant.

Google apps

Once you have your password manager set up, my next recommendation is Google Drive, where you have e-mail (Gmail), online storage (Google Drive), online wordprocessing (Google Docs) and spreadsheets (Google Sheets), as well as Calendar, Slides, and Forms (for online surveys, questionnaires, and tests). Also worth a look are Sites for building your own websites or getting learners to do so, and Communities for working with groups.

I find these work well for planning my teaching, administration (attendance, grades), giving feedback on student writing (Docs), or collecting links to sound files, for example (Forms). We have run telecollaborative projects on G-Drive, using a private folder to save student-teacher video selfies, with sub-folders for class tandems to share their learners’ productions and prepare collaborative papers and presentations.

If you have multiple Google accounts it’s worth associating one account with one browser (work gmail on Firefox, home gmail on Chrome, for example) to avoid problems signing in and out. I have never found the offline functionality anything close to effective, so only for use with good internet connectivity.

Writing and feedback

Google Docs

As noted, Google docs is useful for your own writing, but also for use with learners. They can edit their own documents, prepare translations in groups, or submit work for evaluation and you can set access to private (sign-in), public (no sign-in) or an intermediate option with files accessible via link (no sign-in).

I find the Docs interface (there is also one for Sheets, etc) less easily navigable than Drive. Also be aware that you need a computer for full functionality – on smartphones and tablets comments are not accessible, for example.

Evernote

Evernote is very useful for taking notes offline and saving all sorts of bits and pieces which you can tag and sort into Notebooks or leave unorganised to search. The search function is great and it works offline. There’s an app for your phone but the free version limits the number of devices you can connect.

Collaboration and sharing

Dropbox

After Google apps perhaps the single most useful tool, Dropbox lets you save files and synchronise across devices. I use it to save teaching materials (slides, handouts) but also for collaborative research writing with colleagues in other countries. Accessible offline, syncs in the background, usable like a drive or folder on your own computer.

One thing to be careful about: the default drag and drop which copies a file from one drive to another in other circumstances moves the file on Dropbox. So if you download a file from a shared folder you delete that file for others. Doesn’t work well on an external drive; you must save your local version on your local hard drive.

Weebly

This free website platform lets you make your own website with images, media, and other links very easily and intuitively. It has the advantages over Google sites of a) letting you create classes with your students’ names and e-mails, and b) making comments on pages easy to see.

Audio and video

VideoLAN

For language teachers, you need the digital audio player VLC, which plays any format you can imagine.

SoundCloud

This open platform is a good place to share audio files, which you or your learners can upload and save privately, share to a select audience, or open to the world. With adult learners you can outsource the recording (smartphones), uploading (SoundCloud), and sharing (Google Forms) so you can focus on the feedback.

Social media

Twitter

I use the microblogging site to find and communicate useful resources for teaching (educator blogs, tools, pedagogical resources) and research (conference and journal calls for papers, new publications).

Scoop.it

I save the references in my tweets to curated sites to help keep track, though the service for the free version of Scoop.it has fallen off and it may not be worth starting there now.

Low-tech classroom teaching

Finally, special mention for technology you can use in class without technology: with Plickers, learners hold up paper cards to answer pre-set or spontaneous multiple choice quizzes, and the teacher records them via smartphone.

Beyond powerpoint: tools for novice language teachers

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My colleague in our technology in language education course, Bianka Fuchs

What kind of digital tools appeal to student teachers of foreign languages? Masters students in education in France, that is, pre-service primary and secondary school teachers, are expected to use technology in their classes during teaching placements. Often, however, opportunities are limited by technology provision in schools, and by uptake by the practitioners who act as tutors to our students. This means that implementing technology in the foreign language class may not go much beyond Powerpoint, with the teacher showing a slide presentation from the single class computer via a videoprojector.

Following a course on using audio-visual resources in the language classroom, Masters students in language education working with English, German and Spanish were asked to implement classroom activities with their learners and I was interested to see what kind of other applications these new teachers decided to use.  Here are the top ten selections, all free, cross-platform sites, often with mobile applications. Only the first is my own suggestion, in response to numerous accounts of difficulties getting pupils started on webquests; the others are student selections, many finding favour with student teachers of all three languages in focus.

Top ten applications

  1. Bitly: link shortener
    https://bitly.com
  2. Bitstrips: cartoon creation app
    https://www.bitstrips.com/
  3. Phrase it: add speech bubbles to photos
    http://phrase.it/
  4. Pons: bilingual dictionaries (DE, EN, ES, FR)
    http://en.pons.com/translate
  5. Popplet: mindmapping
    http://popplet.com
  6. Tellegami: animated video app
    https://tellagami.com/
  7. Vocaroo: voice recording
    http://vocaroo.com/
  8. Voicethread: collaborative multimedia presentation
    https://voicethread.com/
  9. Subtitle Workshop: open source video subtitling tool
    http://subworkshop.sourceforge.net/
  10. SoundCloud: audio recording and sharing
    https://soundcloud.com/

The teachers also of course used slides, and collaborative tools for working together amongst themselves. Here are some that came up frequently:

Slides

Collaboration

Teaching resources

The course, YouTube You Teach, was designed as part of the EU project SoNetTE, which has just ended.

Easy listening: getting started with audio in the language classroom

GareSudLanguage teachers generally need to work with audio in the language classroom. We often want to play recordings of people speaking the target language, perhaps to allow learners to hear samples of native speaker performances, or alternatively to listen to their own target language production.

Over time, language teachers have moved from gramophone records, reel-to-reel tapes, cassette tapes, CDs and DVDs (and CD- and DVD-roms) to digital files on computers and other devices. Each form has its advantages and drawbacks. With digital files the advantage is ease of copying and transporting, while the problem is usually file format compatibility and interoperability, that is, files that cannot be copied, edited or read by one programme, application, device or another.

There is no straightforward solution to suit all contexts, but we can imagine

1. using a fixed classroom computer (usually with internet)
2. using your own laptop computer, tablet or other mobile device (with or without internet).

And we would like to be able to

1. play audio files
2. make and/or edit audio recordings
3. share our files.

Audio playback

For playing all kinds of audio and video files, perhaps the best solution is VLC.
http://www.videolan.org/

It’s a small programme which you can download and install quickly and easily, with no plug-ins or set-up required. It actually has a wide range of functions and features, but you can use it to play any CD, DVD or digital audio file by using only the simplest of these (open, play).

You can install VLC on your laptop computer. If you’re using the class computer you will probably need administrator rights, or you’ll have to persuade the administrator to install it for you.

Audio recording and editing

Teachers often want to make changes to an audio recording before using it in class. Perhaps you need only a small portion of a long recordings, want to cut out a difficult section which might discourage your learners, or string together a series of very short snippets of speech.

And of course you might want to make your own recording, or to record your learners.

A good free solution here is Audacity
http://audacity.sourceforge.net/

Like VLC, Audacity is a complex application with powerful functions, but again language teachers can use only the simplest editing tools to select, highlight, delete and save portions of files.

Setting up Audacity is slightly more complicated than VLC because its native format (= the type of file Audacity produces by default) can only be read by Audacity itself. You will want to make files in other formats that can be shared more easily, such as mp3.

To save an Audacity file in mp3 format, you need to install an extra piece of software called a LAME encoder. Here is a link to download the LAME encoder with instructions for installation. Fortunately you only need to do this once.

Again, you can install Audacity on your own computer or the class computer if you have administrator rights.

These solutions assume that you can either install programmes on the class computer ahead of time, or that you bring them on your own machine. The advantage of your own computer is obviously that you have control over what is there at all times; the downside may be connecting the the internet in class. The class computer ought to be connected, but you won’t have such good access before lessons and may not be able to negotiate the installation of the programmes you need.

A third solution is to use web-based tools and platforms which can be accessed from any device. This has the advantage of being accessible from the class computer online without the need to install any programmes (though it’s always worth checking that the sites you need will load and work correctly on a particular computer).

Online audio

You can use SoundCloud to make audio recordings and share them online.
https://soundcloud.com/

You can upload recordings that you have made elsewhere, for example using Audacity on your computer, or on your smartphone or voice recorder.  You can also record directly on SoundCloud.  Files can be played back on SoundCloud, and the SoundCloud player can also be embedded on other sites, such as your class blog, for example.  And SoundCloud also has a comment feature which allows you or your learners to add text to an audio file (e.g., answer comprehension questions, give feedback).

And finally, a few places to look for ideas to exploit these tools for teaching and learning English:

Going further with audio tools and resources

Digital tools

Richard Byrne Creating and sharing audio recordings
Russell Stannard Audio tools for language teachers

Accents of English

Dialects archive http://www.dialectsarchive.com/france-11
VOICE http://www.univie.ac.at/voice/

Teaching listening and pronunciation

How speakers use emphasis to convey meaning: http://www.speechinaction.org/teacher-education/evidence/
Micro-listening (Mura Nava) http://eflnotes.wordpress.com/2014/09/26/easy-micro-listenings/
Transition listening (Sandy Millin) http://sandymillin.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/iatefl2014/
English as a lingua franca listening ELF pronunciation

Listening resources

Students’ choice http://sco.lt/98svL7
More places to listen http://www.scoop.it/t/learning-technologies-for-efl?tag=listening