Language open education brings teachers around the country to UT

Rajya Atluri

Language teachers from around the country gathered at UT on Monday to learn about open education through the Teaching Effectiveness for Language Learning Collab event.

The three-day collaborative event welcomed over 60 people and emphasized increasing teaching effectiveness and producing Open Educational Resources, free teaching materials that can be reused or repurposed. Teachers participated in small group work, listened to speakers, watched and discussed videos of classroom teaching and did icebreaker activities during the event.

Carl Blyth, director of the Center for Open Educational Resources and Learning Language, said online materials make education more affordable and accessible for everyone.  The center hosted this year’s TELL Collab, and Blyth said he thinks TELL is a perfect example of open education.

“The main idea is to have a group of language educators come together to develop do-it-yourself projects,” Blyth, a UT French linguistics associate professor, said. “There are lots of problems out there, and we want to come together and support each other to find solutions to those problems.”

Deirdre Guerrero, Spanish teacher at Boerne Samuel V. Champion High School in Boerne, Texas, and a participant of the TELL Collab, said she makes it a point to stay in touch with other educators she meets.

“The foundation of this program is so solid and in a framework that approaches language learning the way I have learned and truly believe works the best,” Guerrero said.

TELL Collab speaker Thomas Sauer said there are no attendees at the event, only participants.

“At the end of any kind of (professional development) for new (language) teachers I always told them… ‘I only have one thing I’m going to hold you accountable for as a new teacher, and it’s actually all teachers,’” Sauer said. ‘“Your kids should leave your class loving learning another language and everything you do should be able to get kids to that point.’”

Blyth said one of the biggest problems is making affordable teaching materials, which is why the TELL Collab is seeking to help educators to collaborate and build digital tools that can then be disseminated to larger groups. COERLL licenses the materials with an open license rather than a traditional copyright license which gives users the rights to change and update materials.

“We make materials that are used all over the world, and that’s great because it’s become prohibitively expensive to produce educational materials,” Blythe said. “Students that have never been able to afford it now can have access to these cutting edge materials.”

Based on copyright, creative commons licenses allow creators to reserve certain rights but not others, which can be critical in open education.

“Creative commons is not just for teachers—it’s for musicians, it’s for journalists it’s for anybody who produces something,” Blyth said. “It’s kind of a new idea, but it’s really this new era of the internet which is this digital era where people are putting things together because it’s so easy to pull things together, and then it’s very easy to share it and disseminate it.”