A Pledge for Open English

Princess Mary, Girl Guides, 1922 via Wikimedia Commons

Hey, I’m not even British but as part of Open Education Week – March 5-11 – I’ve just signed a pledge with the new UK-based Open Education SIG, an international special interest group with a UK flavour (not flavor:).

I attended a meeting held at the Open University in the UK at the end of February to discuss the future of open education in the UK. I am a teaching fellow with the Support Centre for Open Resources in Education (SCORE), one of about 400 people working in UK higher education who have been involved in government-funded open educational resources (OER) projects over the last three years. When we all made our applications for funding to the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) and the Higher Education Academy (HEA) in the UK we also made the usual commitment in our proposals to sustaining our OER projects after their funded lifetimes. So, what better way to reinforce this commitment than by signing a renewed pledge to Open Education? While the Cape Town Open Education Declaration has been picked up by many organisations around the world we thought it would be a good idea to re-mix this declaration to make it more personalised for the educational practitioner.

What does this all mean for English language teaching practitioners?

Frontrunners for technology-enhanced ELT, Russell Stannard and David Deubelbeiss, have also been pushing for more open educational resources and practices within ELT.

Recently, I posted a comment on Scott Thornbury’s A-Z of ELT blog regarding the issues of attribution, re-use and the making of derivative resources for teaching English based on original resources created by another author:

One of the things that interests me most about this post and the comments related to it is the issue of attribution to the original work on automaticity by Gatbonton and Segalowitz. Attribution is essential whether you’re sharing resources in closed teaching and learning environments (e.g. classrooms, password-protected virtual learning environments, workshop and continuing professional development spaces) or through publishing channels using copyright or copyleft licences (e.g. books, research articles, blogs, online forum discussions). There is obviously a great amount of sharing and attribution going on in this discussion and the blogging platform is an enabler for this activity.

What also interests me is the behaviour around resource enhancement. As Scott outlines in the example here, an original resource from a research article by Gatbonton and Segalowitz was re-formatted into a workshop by Stephen Gaies (presumably with attribution to Gatbonton and Segalowitz). This in turn inspired Scott to engage in further resource gathering to inform his teaching practice while applying the five criteria for automaticity, and this further informed the section on fluency in his book, How to Teach Grammar (presumably with attribution to Gaies but now he realises he should’ve included attribution to Gatbonton and Segalowitz). In its latest iteration we find the same criteria for automaticity here in his blog post containing more ideas on how to apply this approach in language learning and teaching from both Scott and his blogpost readers. This is a great example of resource enhancement via re-use and re-mixing, something which the creative commons suite of licences http://creativecommons.org/ allow materials developers and users to do while maintaining full legal attribution rights for the original developer as well as extended rights to the re-mixer of that resource to create new derivative resources.

Legally enabling others to openly re-mix your resources and publish new ones based on them was not possible back in 1988. Arguably, Gatbonton and Segalowitz’s paper with the original criteria on automaticity has stood the test of time because of its enhancement through sharing by Gaies and by the same criteria having been embedded in a further published iteration by Scott in How to Teach Grammar. Times have changed and there is a lot we can now do with digital capabilities for best practice in the use and re-use of resources with attribution still being at the core of the exchange between resource creation and consumption. Except that now with self-publishing and resource sharing platforms, including blogs, it’s a lot easier for all of us to be involved in the resource creation process and to receive attribution for our work in sharing. This coming week, March 5-10, is Open Education Week http://www.openeducationweek.org/ with many great resources on how to openly share your teaching and learning resources along with how to locate, re-use, re-mix and re-distribute with attribution those open educational resources created by others. Why not check it out and see how this activity can apply to ELT?

If you’re new to all of this and have any pesky questions about the business models behind open education, please check out Paul Stacey’s blog, Musings on the Edtech Frontier, with his most recent post on the Economics of Open. Information on what the different Creative Commons and Public Domain licences can be found at CreativeCommons.org.

publicdomain
Public Domain licence via Flickr
creativecommons
Creative Commons licence via Flickr
Attribution, Creative Commons licence
Attribution Creative Commons licence via Flickr
noncommercial
Non Commercial Creative Commons Licence via Flickr
sharealike
Share Alike Creative Commons Licence via Flickr
noderivatives
No Derivatives Creative Commons licence via Flickr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, why the interest in British resources for open English?

I’ve been coming in and out of the UK for the past 10 years with my work related to technology-enhanced ELT and EAP. Resources include not only those artifacts that we teach and learn with but also the vibrant communities that come together to share their understandings with peers through open channels of practice. BALEAP, formerly a British organisation (the British Association for Lecturers in English for Academic Purposes) but now with an outreach mandate to become the global forum for EAP practitioners, is such an informal community of practice. Members within BALEAP are actively making up for a deficit in formal EAP training by providing useful resources to both EAP teachers and learners via their website and through lively discussions relevant to current issues in EAP via their mailing list.

Because of my interest in corpus linguistics and data-driven language learning, I’ve also been working with exciting practitioners from the world of computer science, namely those working at the open source digital library software lab, Greenstone, at the University of Waikato in New Zealand, to help with the testing and promotion of their open English language project, FLAX (the Flexible Language Acquisition project). The FLAX team are building open corpora and open tools for text analysis using a combination of both open and proprietary content. A copyrighted reference corpus such as the British National Corpus (BNC) is enhanced within the FLAX project by being linked to different open reference corpora such as a Wikipedia and a Web-derived corpus (released by Google) as well as specialist corpora, including the copyrighted British Academic Written English (BAWE) corpus, developed by Nesi, Gardner, Thompson and Wickens between 2004-2007 and housed within the Oxford Text Archive (OTA).

Oxford University Computing Services (OUCS) manage the OTA along with jointly managing the BNC which is physically housed at the British Library. The OpenSpires project is also based at the OUCS and this is where Oxford podcasts have been made openly available through creative commons licences for use and re-use in learning and teaching beyond the brick-n-mortar that is Oxford’s UK campus. Try out the Credit Crunch and Global Recession OER that are based on an Oxford seminar series and have been enhanced with corpus-based text analysis resources. Or, make your own resources based on these same seminars to share with your own learning and teaching communities. In addition to being housed on the OUCS website these resources, along with many other creative commons-licensed resources from educational institutions around the world, can also be found on the Apple channel, iTunesU.

So, it seems there’s quite a bit going on with open English in the UK that’s worth engaging with, and maybe even making a commitment to sharing with open educational resources and practices.

A finale take-away

Check out FLAX’s new Learning Collocations collection where you can compare collocations for keyword searches and harvest useful phrases to embed into your writing, using the BAWE and the BNC along with corpora derived from Wikipedia and the Web. There are three training videos on how to use the Learning Collocations collection in FLAX available in the Training Videos section of this blog.

6 Comments

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  1. Thank you for this illuminating post, Alannah. I am not British nor anglosaxon either 😉 but I fully support this. We need to keep opening more and more resources but, more importantly, we need to integrate more and more people in the OER movement for all this to work.

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    • Thanks for your interest, Toni. Yes, I completely agree that the OER movement is hinged on communities working simultaneously at both global and local levels. I also think that well-resourced communities and institutions have a responsibility to open up and share their resources and practices with the wider world (often to unanticipated audiences who bring new value to the resources and practices) to prevent them from going stagnant. Resource discovery and resource enhancement are key to ensuring the life and value of resources are sustained.

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