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Love is a stranger in an open car to tempt you in and drive you far away... toward OEP


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From the blog TOETOE (ˈtɔɪtɔɪ): Technology for Open English - Toying with Open E-resources

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Love is a stranger in an open car to tempt you in and drive you far away... toward OEP

  1. 1. Articles from TOETOE Technology for Open English Toying with Open E- resources (ˈtɔɪtɔɪ)Love is a stranger in an open car to tempt you in anddrive you far away … toward OEP2013-02-14 09:02:47 admin Tweet Share Share Love Is A Stranger by the Eurythmics. Image via the Eurythmics Sheet Music GalleryHappy Valentine’s Day!This post is about how I came to be seduced by open educational practices (OEP).TOETOE International blog seriesAfter a period of radio silence, I have prepared a new series of blog posts on OEP inELT based on my TOETOE International project with the University of Oxford, theUK Higher Education Academy (HEA) and the Joint Information Systems Committee(JISC). They will be released weekly from today leading up to my presentation at theOER13 Conference in Nottingham in April, Stories from the Open Frontier of English
  2. 2. Language Education Resources. These posts are a version of the case study I haveprepared for this project, FLAX Weaving with Oxford Open Educational Resources,which will be published by the HEA/JISC as an OER later this year.I have assembled these posts into ethnographic accounts (LeCompte & Schensul1999:17; Clifford 1990:51-52) to stop the clock as it were and to reorder the recentpast that has been observed and jotted down; to systematize, contextualize andassemble the activity of the TOETOE International project across seven differentcountries. They will be part narrative and part design dialectic, drawing on storiesand evaluations made by international stakeholders concerning the re-use of Oxfordcontent: Oxford-managed corpora (the British National Corpus aka BNC and theBritish Academic Written English corpus aka BAWE) and Oxford-created OER(podcast lectures and seminars, images, essays, ebooks) in combination with otheropen English-medium content. Moreover, these evaluation narratives will continue toinform the design of open source digital library software for developing flexible openEnglish language learning and teaching collections with the FLAX project (FlexibleLanguage Acquisition) at the University of Waikato in New Zealand.Thick descriptions (Geertz, 1973) will be presented from networked meetings,workshops, conference presentations and interviews with OER and ELTpractitioners for arriving at better understandings of the social acts and symbolsconnected with the international open education movement. As part of the reflexivewriting process, I have re-storied the stories of participating individuals andinstitutions, placing them in chronological sequence and providing causal linksamong ideas. Themes arising from the stories contain new metaphors for linkingunfamiliar phenomena from each country represented with familiar concepts forunderstanding OER in the international context. Topics introduced by this TOETOEInternational blog series include: emancipatory English, Do-It-Yourself (DIY) openEnglish language collections building, working OER into traditional ELT publications,and long-range planning for embedding OER and OEP within sustainable Englishlanguage education.What drives someone toward open educational practice?The reasons will be numerous but the one that stands out for me is the capacity towork across the international open education network, either in online or face-2-facemode. Working across disciplinary, technological and geographical boundaries, mycurrent practice seems very distant from the practice I was trained in all those yearsago when I did the Cambridge Dip.TEFLA (now the DELTA) in Seoul, Korea.Nonetheless, everything that I do now in my new open educational practice is verymuch informed by my past teaching practice in traditional classroom-basedEFL/ESL and EAP.There are vast changes happening across education globally and there is a growingneed for flexible and high quality open educational resources in English along withan expanded open infrastructure to support research, teaching, training, learningand curriculum development while English is the lingua franca in education,
  3. 3. research and publishing. Indeed, the position of English as international linguafranca is wholly dependent on its use and ownership by non-native speakers ofEnglish (Graddol, 2006). However, the reality of a rapidly expanding global highereducation industry (UNESCO 2008), where open and online distance education arefast becoming major players because of affordances with educational technologies,has yet to trickle down into the workflow of English language teaching practitionersworking in traditional classroom-based education.In one of the learning technology forums I belong to someone was asking afterrecommended PhD programmes; someone else replied that whatever area you doyour PhD in you’d better be prepared to live and breathe your chosen PhD topic areafor many years to come if not your whole career. With my PhD I have begunidentifying flexible pathways for open educational resources and practices to beshared across traditional classroom-based and open online English languageeducation, but I expect that I will be continuing with this inquiry for quite some time tocome.Somewhere OvER the Rainbow – the myth about OER quality in languageresourcesI was only at the Open Education 2012 Conference in Vancouver for the first day,presenting The Great Beyond in English language resources, as I was flying out toBeijing the day after to catch the Global Local Computer Assisted LanguageLearning (GLoCALL) Conference. Before attending these conferences I had beenworking on a detailed TOETOE project blog post, Radio Ga Ga: Corpus-basedresources, you’ve yet to have your finest hour, which outlined the beginning of thisOER International project with Oxford for the development and promotion of opencorpus-based resources and practices in ELT.Not surprisingly, I was assigned to the Libraries and Languages presentation slot atOpenEd 2012 where the conference theme was Beyond Content. The presentersfrom the other project in this session, Developing Foreign Language Courses for theOpen Library Project, seemed to be fairly new to OER and raised issues aroundOER quality, stating that they needed to work with professional resource developersand publishers to produce what appeared to me to be fairly ordinary audiorecordings for target language items to be used in their project resources.Put simply, publishing language resources with a reputable publishing house doesnot always guarantee quality in the same way that publishing with an open licensedoes not always guarantee quality. The difference being that if you buy a coursebook and it turns out to be a lemon then you’re stuck with it – you either leave it onthe shelf or you spend hours developing supplementary resources to ‘fix’ it.However, if you subscribe to an open educational practice model for materialsdevelopment you can:Re-use an OER and if it doesn’t work for you then you’re free to:
  4. 4. Re-vise / re-purpose;Re-mix with other open (and proprietary content which you have cleared for use)and;Re-distribute through a variety of open and proprietary channels.These are the four Rs of OER (Wiley, 2009). A far cry from the materialsdevelopment method I learned on the Cambridge CELTA and DipTEFLA moduleswhich was to Select, Adapt, Reject and Supplement (SARS) course book materialsfrom leading ELT publishers (Graves, 2003).In addition to raising the point about quality with the other presenters in my OpenEducationa 2012 session in the Q&A, during the lunch break I discussed the on-going myth about OER quality with one of my SCORE colleagues from the UK,Chris Pegler. I have been a big fan of her Resource Reuse Card Game (embeddedbelow in Slideshare) from the ORIOLE project (Open Resources: Influence onLearners and Educators) to look at issues surrounding educational resource re-use,including the issue of quality. It turns out that I would be re-using her card game inworkshops in Korea, New Zealand and Vietnam as part of this project, and I will beincluding more findings from these interactions with the re-use card game inupcoming posts.ORIOLE is currently fielding survey responses to Investigating Sharing and Use ofOpen Resources and is particularly keen to hear from non-UK respondents.Resource reuse card game from orioleproject
  5. 5. Reinforcement of the myth surrounding OER quality was not what I was expectingto encounter at an open education conference but I do come across this a lot in thework I do with teacher training at ELT events. I have noticed a discernible patternwhereby a handful of language teachers will say that their role at their institution is todevelop resources (often single-handedly) for their programme(s), and where manymore teachers will openly declare that they do not consider themselves to besupported or encouraged to develop materials to share across their community ofpractice. Common claims for not developing and sharing resources beyondclassroom handouts include a deficit in technology training and a reliance on in-house materials or proprietary course books that have been selected and ordeveloped by programme managers. These are all valid reasons considering theseare all common practices.In many ways we are trained to consume and not to create resources, and at mostwe permit ourselves to adapt and supplement often irrespective of intellectualproperty rights, making it difficult to share beyond institutional and virtual learningenvironment walls. But can language practitioners and the training and professionalbodies that promote current ELT practice continue to shy away from an era ofubiquitous digital content and self-publishing platforms? Going through the motionswith course books is a killer so how are we going to support our creative license if allthat’s required of us is to consume and regurgitate ready-made ELT skills meals inthe form of generic course books? Hopefully the question of bringing languageteachers to the realization of their central role as materials developers will be one ofthe topics on the table at the Materials Development Association (MATSDA)University of Liverpool Conference which I will be attending in April directly after theIATEFL Conference Liverpool 2013.Less yak and more hack! : rapid prototyping of resources …it became clear to me that every technology is based upon what I call the orchestration of phenomena, natural effects working together. If you look at any new technology as a whole symphony orchestra of working phenomena, it becomes a huge wonder. I have a sense of wonder far, far greater than I had before. As human beings, we’re using these things unthinkingly every day—it’s like having magic carpets at our disposal, and we have no idea how they fly. Let me add one last thing. I’m an enthusiast about technology, but I am also suspicious of it and what it’s doing to us. It intrudes in our lives, it causes us problems such as climate change, and it’s taken away a lot of our deep connection with nature. But at the same time it’s an incredible wonder. (Interview with W. Brian Arthur, author of The Nature of Technology)Unless you know what’s at your disposal technologically-speaking and unless youknow how to bring resources together, mindful of their affordances and theirlimitations, then to the untrained eye technological innovation can seem like puregenius. But it’s probably more the case of working through problem solving
  6. 6. scenarios step by step, pulling together an ever increasing swag bag of techgoodies to create solutions for the moment until the next thing comes along….andso the cycle continues. This can feel very overwhelming to the individual teacherwho would like to be better at using technology and this is why Russell Stannard’sTeacher Training Videos (TTV) is such a big hit among language teachers withbringing what’s out there from the wide world of web-based language resources toteachers.We now have the technology to flip the course book, the classroom and even highereducation with the massive explosion in MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses)entering the traditional university world with for-profit providers such as Udacity,Coursera and FutureLearn. However, the point I would like to add to this is thatresource developers such as those whose web-based language technologies arefeatured on TTV need feedback on what does and does not work in practice. This iswhere language teachers can come squarely into the technology equation and learnfar more from evaluating and contributing to the development of resources than theywould ever pick up at any teacher training continuing professional developmentsession on technology. It dawned on me during my Masters in Edtech and ELT atManchester University that I wasn’t going to learn much from talking abouttechnology; instead I ended up going directly to the source itself by working withopen source software (OSS) developers at the FLAX project.Hackfests with OSS developers and OER book sprints (see an example of a mathsbook sprint here) with educators are two rapid prototyping methods for creatingcode and educational resources. There is no time for hesitancy or hierarchy, yousimply work and learn with others to devise shared goals and to bring all that youcan to the creation process; to come up with rapid prototypes to share back to thewider community to re-use, re-purpose, re-mix and re-distribute as OER. Byattending two Mozilla Drumbeat festivals in Barcelona and London I got to observeand participate in early discussions for the rapid prototyping of Open Badges foreducational assessment and Mozilla Popcorn for creating interactive online videos.Mozilla Drumbeat Festivals since2010 – Learning, Freedom and theWeb via Flickr
  7. 7. The Mozilla Drumbeat Hackfest inBarcelona 2010 via FlickrWhile back in New Zealand late last year with the FLAX project team at theGreenstone digital library lab at Waikato, every week I would participate in developermeetings with the computer scientists behind the project and one other Englishlanguage teacher from the Chinese Open University who is also basing her PhDresearch on the FLAX project. Well-versed in natural language processing andresearch on current web-based search behaviour, the computer scientists behindthe interface designs of the FLAX collections and activities were adept at exploitingavailable linguistic resources for the development of simple-to-use languagelearning collections and OSS text analysis tools. I soon picked up what thelimitations of the different technologies and resources were. The focus of thesemeetings was to develop rapid prototype resources for envisioning and discussinghow they could work across different language learning scenarios. I was able toobserve and contribute to many iterations of the resources currently underdevelopment and I will be bringing these resources to the fore of future blog posts inthis series.
  8. 8. Networking Open Tertiary Writing Resources from Alannah FitzgeraldI also had a chance to present my work at the Tertiary Writers Network Colloquiumwhich was hosted by the Department of Education at Waikato. This was a greatopportunity to share open practices in EAP with a non UK-based audience workingmainly in Australasia and in the US. I highlighted some of the OEP going on with theEAP community online using social networking technologies such as Twitter, blogs,Slideshare, YouTube and so on for reflection on the different types of networks weare and are not plugging into. EFL/ESL has been employing these technologies forlonger for sharing ideas and resources in general ELT but there is more that couldbe done with connecting teachers to resources development projects, either throughthe OSS community or through working with traditional ELT publishers for creatingmore effective resource evaluation channels that would help teachers learn moreabout technology.This would involve the development of resources to engage potential end-users,namely language teachers and students, in the research and development cycle oftechnology for ELT. In the field of educational technology we refer to this approachas design-based research which Terry Anderson, professor and Canada researchchair in distance education, has referred to as action research on steroids (2007).Anderson’s analogy is a useful one as most language teachers are familiar withaction research, which shares many of the same principles as design-basedresearch.Pragmatism is central to both approaches, often employing mixed methods ofinquiry to arrive at tangible solutions to educational problems. Normally within action
  9. 9. research cycles it is individual teaching practitioners who carry out classroomteaching interventions to observe, record and reflect on the impact of theseinterventions over time with the aim of informing and improving teaching practice(Reason & Bradbury, 2007). However, within design-based research cycles,emphasis is more commonly placed on educational practitioners working incollaboration with research and design teams (Anderson & Shuttuck, 2012).Returning to EAP the question remains as to how much can we learn about EAP bytalking about it? Quite a bit and I’m all for sharing views about what EAP is as it triesto define itself. What I would like to see beyond yak and competency frameworkslike the one from BALEAP that came out in 2008, however, is more in the way ofteaching and learning resources from EAP practitioners and evaluations on whatworks. At this point in time, we’re not yet collaborating with resources developmentpractices across our EAP contexts in any sustainable way. It would be great if wecould clone more Andy Gillettes of the Using English for Academic Purposes(UEfAP) website, successfully bringing together genre and corpus-basedapproaches to EAP resources development. However, it would be even better ifinstead of creating EAP resources that are open gratis (free to access like UEfAP)we were developing EAP resources that are open libre (free to re-use, re-vise, re-mix and re-distribute), for scaling collaborative open educational resources andpractices in EAP as well as in the wider ELT community.ReferencesAnderson, T. & Shattuck, J. (2012) Design-Based Research: A Decade of Progress inEducation Research. Educational Researcher, Vol 41(1): 16-25Clifford, J. (1990). Notes on (field)notes. In R. Sanjek (ed.), Fieldnotes: The makings ofanthropology (pp. 47–70). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Fitzgerald, A. (In press). FLAX Weaving with Oxford Open Educational Resources. OpenEducational Resources International Case Study. Commissioned by the Higher EducationAcademy (HEA) and the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), United Kingdom.Geertz, C. (1973). The interpretation of cultures: selected essays. New York: Basic Books.Graddol. D. (2006). English Next – why English as a global language may mean the end of‘English as a Foreign Language’. The British Council: The English Company.Graves, K, 2003. “Coursebooks.” In D. Nunan (Ed.) Practical English Language Teaching. NewYork: McGraw-Hill.LeCompte, M. & Schensul, J. (1999). Analyzing and interpreting ethnographic data. California:AltaMira Press.Reason, P. & Bradbury, H. (2007) Handbook of Action Research, 2nd Edition. London: Sage.Ross, G. (no date). An Interview with W. Brian Arthur. In American Scientist, On theBookshelf. Retrieved from
  10. 10. Wiley, D. & Gurrell, S. (2009). A decade of development…Open Learning: The Journal ofOpen, Distance and e-Learning. Vol 24 (1), pp.11-21.UNESCO (2008). Education For All. Global Monitoring Report 2008. United Nations EducationScientific Cultural Organisation. Retrieved from Tweet Share ShareThe Love is a stranger in an open car to tempt you in and drive you far away …toward OEP by Alannah Fitzgerald, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensedunder a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Terms and conditionsbeyond the scope of this license may be available at