Kangas and Prometheus

I just made a project visit to SOAS to talk to FAVOR tutors there about their work and we had a fantastic and productive afternoon (once we’d got past the strict guards in the SOAS library!).

Check out Wambui Wa-Ngatho’s Swahili interest group and join up if you have an interest in Swahili. Wambui has uploaded a great resource about Kangas – she uses the images of these traditional East African scarves to teach language. SOAS have set up their own ‘Horn of Africa languages’ group and will be sharing their resources as part of this group.

Also discovered that two tutors, Wambui and Berhane, had been involved in filming Ridley Scott’s latest effort, ‘Prometheus.’ They played language tutors, but apparently scenes which involved them were cut, and we can only hear their voices! Look out for them in the credits though…they said that Sir Ridley was a very nice man “We chatted like we’d known each other for years!” said Berhane.

Kate Borthwick


OERs in Languages

I have just taken part in a great event at UCLAN – part of the HEA/OER seminar series, ‘OERs in Languages,’ and organised by Michael Thomas. The day started out with a comprehensive and interesting overview of the OER landscape by Jonathan Darby, Academic Director of SCORE, at the OU. He noted that engaging with OER can increase student recruitment and reduce costs, but we are still at an early stage in widespread adoption of open practice: “…while it is something of a fragile bloom right now Open Education has the potential to play a significant part in higher education institutions pursuing their missions.”

I followed on to talk about OER and staff/professional development. You can find my slides on HumBox or LanguageBox. I talked about how languages- and humanities- community OER projects have led to an understanding of “how engaging with open practice is a valuable staff development activity in its own right, and can lead to professional development in explicit ways (through the demonstration of impact of work on an external audience or reflection on resource-creation for open sharing) and more subtle ways (through reflection, collaboration, review and interaction with fellow-sharer-practitioners).”

I mentioned learnings from HumBox and FAVOR and was tremendously pleased when one member of the audience indicated she wanted to implement a mini-FAVOR project in her own institution, using the ideas behind the project, and using the LanguageBox and its new ‘group’ feature. I’ve offered to help where we can and I look forward to seeing FAVOR ripples spreading beyond the project.

After lunch, Miguel Arrebola, from the University of Portsmouth entertained us with wonderful examples of how his Spanish students are engaging with open practice. He talked about early work, in which students created online grammar activities, shared them online, then peer-reviewed them via comments’ features; and also current work on the JISC OpenLIVES project. This project is a collaboration between 3 different institutions and Miguel has been using primary research data collected and openly published by Dr Alicia Pozo-Gutierrez, at the University of Southampton, to get his students to create interactive magazines. All of their work will become OERs. See project participants, work and outputs from the OpenLIVES group on HumBox. He notes that getting students involved in open practice improves digital literacy and is very motivating for them (and him!).

The day closed with Tita Beaven, from the OU, talking about OERs and teaching quality. In a thought-provoking session, she talked about the OU’s extensive experience of open practice with its language educators using the LORO repository. She noted that “OER projects seem to trigger considerable reflection on the part of users and that enhances educational quality.”  This is borne out by her experience with OU tutors, who see “the main benefit of [engagement with LORO] as the enhancement of teaching quality,” with many tutors reporting that they used LORO to standardise their practice and ensure the comparability of the student experience, as well as to avoid reinventing the wheel and so give them freedom to develop other areas of teaching.

It seems clear that language teachers have played an important role in engaging with open practice across a range of institutions, and in piloting web-repositories that are actively used today for community sharing (HumBox, LORO, LanguageBox are all based on ePrints and were initially developed based on continous feedback from the language-educator community). The great news is that language teachers are still active in all areas of open practice and are making important contributions to our understanding of how ‘openness’ can benefit higher education in real and tangible ways.

Kate Borthwick

And…special thanks to the HEA and Michael Thomas for organising Friday’s event. Southampton will be hosting another seminar in the HEA series on 29th June: Open Educational Resources as a vehicle for digital literacy in the humanities. I look forward to seeing you there!