Groups on LanguageBox

We are continuing experiments with LanguageBox‘s new group functionality. Newcastle, Aston and UCL SSEES have set up groups and their tutors are busily uploading resources as part of their team. I’m pleased to see that some other LB users have gone ahead and set up groups too!

We put in this kind of function to help our FAVOR tutors to be clearly identified with their institutions, as we aim to get their work more recognised and valued both in their home institutions and beyond. Setting groups is also a good way to bring coherence to materials too.

Kate B

FAVOR at the ‘Sustaining a Global Society: Languages of the Wider World’ conference

The FAVOR project participated in a conference dedicated to community languages and languages of the wider world. The event, which took place on 29-30 March 2012 at SOAS, London, offered an exciting opportunity to academics and practitioners working in these fields to present their project and research outcomes to an audience of colleagues and specialists in the field. FAVOR had a dedicated space for showcasing the aims of the project which involved contributions from partner institutions, especially SOAS and UCL, as well as talks by some of the tutors whose teaching work the project supports. The two days were very successful and FAVOR raised a lot of interest among the participants! A big thank you to all the FAVOR people who took part in the event for their brilliant contributions and to the tutors who gave up their time to share knowledge and experience with the community!


Big meeting in London

Hi everyone, just a quick note before I go off on my Easter hols, at last! While all of our FAVOR partners are busy beavering away uploading and hopefully by now beginning to create new content, Kate and myself have been out and about meeting people from other projects and having some very interesting conversations about the bigger OER questions, some of which were raised during our recent trip to Newcastle – how do we make resources more visible, how do we deal with quality, what is the long term sustainability of OERs and so on. At a recent meeting in London (26th March) we enjoyed the experience of a Knowledge Café in which we got together in small groups to brainstorm some of the challenges and issues for our projects (and OER) then created discussion groups to talk them through in more detail. Good fun and a great way to meet people and share similar experiences/worries. The only drawback is that with this process you may not get to focus on your particular issue as it can get lost in the crowd. It was also a shame that we didn’t get the chance to say how well we were doing and spent too much time being serious and a bit gloomy, we must remember that sharing can be very rewarding and quite enjoyable. I hope you will all agree, if not now but at least by the end of the project.

Looking forward to catching up with everyone after the holidays.


The glorious North!

Ali Dickens and I had a great trip to Newcastle last week, to give some training and information to language tutors at Newcastle University for the FAVOR project.

The weather in Southampton was cold and drizzly, but the sun shone on us in Newcastle as we met with about 14 tutors of different languages. We started out talking about the project and why (we think) it is ‘good to share.’ The tutors had lots of concerns to raise about quality control, copyright and IPR, abuse of the comment/review system, and losing ownership of their works – and we did our best to answer them and communicate the excitement of the project.

Our experience using the repositories LanguageBox and HumBox, has been that quality is initially a big concern for teachers: quality of the materials on the site (are they interesting enough for me?) and quality of their own deposits (will people think they are good enough?). LanguageBox and HumBox are sites which have a particular take on this because they are avowedly practitioner sites to improve practice and encourage collaboration, not (necessarily) institutional/departmental showcases. We have found through user-testing that it is impossible to predict the value that OER users will find in a resource – it may be the content, it may be the pedagogical approach that the author has used, it may be an image on page 4 or a link on slide 6, or it may simply spark an idea which leads a user to create an entirely new work. All this really means that we can reassure our users: if your resources are good enough for your students (even in a partially finished form), then they are good enough for the community – and you’ll be surprised and pleased at where others’ perceive the ‘value’ of your teaching work. On a more practical note, both LanguageBox and HumBox are self-regulating communities and so there are no official moderators involved (although for FAVOR, we will check all of our resources for rights issues/clarity of metadata etc). A take-down policy, comments feature and clear preview screen all contribute to effective use and regulation of what you see on those sites.

Concerns about copyright and IPR are ever present with OER and we advise tutors how to reduce risks. Our advice is based on the excellent information in the OER infokit and on some work we did for a copyright helper on the Humbox site. As far as ownership of the materials goes, we emphasise that ‘archiving in plain view’ via open access actually preserves your link to the material and marks your ownership. And you don’t have to share EVERYTHING…a selection of work can speak, well, volumes! Lastly…abuse of comments? Our users are more interested in leaving and receiving constructive comments (where they are interested in leaving comments at all!) which is about right for a practitioner site of professionals sharing good practice and ideas…

We ended the day at Greggs, at the airport – a Greggs, at the airport!- buying Stotties to take home. Hmmm…

Kate B

FAVOR in open education week

Open Education Week here we are and where will FAVOR be? LLAS will be visiting our friends in the North to take word of open practice to language tutors in Newcastle.

On Wednesday 7th March, 11-4pm, Alison Dickens and I will be at Newcastle University running a fun-packed workshop for part-time language tutors. Fun, you ask? Yes…we’ll be covering:

– benefits and challenges of open sharing

– using our simple, user-friendly online space LanguageBox to help you negotiate your way to sharing

– how to use the LOC tool to create online interactive activities

What more fun could you ask for?

Looking forward to being in Newcastle again – will break out the Magpie shirt in honour and be looking for a stottie for lunch…

Kate B

Update on FAVOR activities

The FAVOR project team had a skype meeting yesterday to update each other on what we have been doing – and it all sounds very inspiring and exciting!

Most of the part-time/hourly-paid tutors are on board now and a wonderful range of languages are represented: Finnish, Hungarian, Latvian, Serbian, Slovak, Estonian, Ukrainian, French, German, Italian, Chinese, Arabic, English as a Foreign Language, Persian, Spanish, Japanese, Swahili, Amharic, Somali and Tigrinya. Tutors have begun sharing their resources through the LanguageBox, and we currently have at least 46 uploads! All are keen to undertake our planned training and begin the next phase of the project which will see the creation of new OERs for prospective university applicants.

The group noted that it has been difficult to get tutors together as they work such varied hours and so many are engaging with the project ‘at distance’ and independently. However, when they have been able to meet, the experience of sharing practice, working collaboratively on a joint project and simply getting to know colleagues that they rarely see has been immensely rewarding.

Many tutors have indicated that one of the key drivers in taking part in the project is to develop a community of practice for their particular language and to raise the profile of their work. LLAS is going to look into how we can develop the group and forum functions on the LanguageBox to assist this process (e.g. by allowing a private members discussion area for the review and commenting of test resources) and make independent working easier for the tutors.

The next month will see more resources uploaded onto LanguageBox and training sessions at Newcastle and UCL on good practice in publishing OERs, and the use of online authoring tools like LOC and Hot Potatoes. The FAVOR project will also be represented by Marta Jenkala (UCL) and Jo Eastlake (SOAS) at the conference: ‘Sustaining a Global Society: Languages of the wider world‘, on 29-30 March, 2012, at SOAS.

Kate B

Check out some of our resources

Tutors at each of our 5 partner universities are busily sorting through their materials to publish and share on the LanguageBox website and many have started uploading useful teaching materials.

Check out Richard Galletly, from Aston University, who is busily uploading screencapture videos demonstrating good practice in giving feedback to students: or Marta Jenkala’s introduction to Ukrainian

We have also recently installed a group function on the LanguageBox, which is at a fledgeling state! Aston are leading the way by uploading their resources as a group, and look out for more groups springing up over time as we experiment with this new function.

Kate B

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