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TOETOE International: FLAX Weaving with Oxford Open Education Resources


This case study has been assembled into an ethnographic account (LeCompte & Schensul 1999:17; Clifford 1990:51-52) to stop the clock as it were and to reorder the recent past that has been observed and jotted down; to systematize, contextualize and assemble the activity of the TOETOE International project (tɔɪtɔɪ: Technology for Open English – Toying with Open E-resources) with the University of Oxford across seven different countries over a period of four months. It is part narrative and part design dialectic, drawing on stories and evaluations made by international stakeholders concerning the re-use of Oxford content: Oxford-managed corpora (large text and audio-visual resource collections) and Oxford-created open educational resources (OER). Moreover, these evaluation narratives continue to inform the design of open-source digital library software for developing flexible open English language learning and teaching collections with the FLAX project (Flexible Language Acquisition flax.nzdl.org) at the University of Waikato in New Zealand.

Thick descriptions (Geertz, 1973) are presented from networked meetings, workshops, conference presentations and interviews with OER and English Language Teaching (ELT) professionals for arriving at better understandings of the social acts and symbols connected with the international open education movement. As part of the reflexive writing process for this case study, and as both researcher and project manager, I have re-storied the stories of participating individuals and institutions, placing them in chronological sequence and providing causal links among ideas. Themes arising from the stories in this project are introduced here as section headers, containing new metaphors for linking unfamiliar phenomena in each country represented with familiar concepts for understanding OER in the international context. Topics introduced by this case study include: emancipatory English, Do-It-Yourself (DIY) open English language collections building, working OER into traditional ELT publications, and long-range planning for embedding OER and open educational practices (OEP) within a sustainable English language education ecology.

The primary goal of the TOETOE International project has been to demonstrate and to promote how Oxford research and teaching content has been effectively mined using approaches from corpus linguistics for the development of powerful yet simple open data-driven language teaching and learning resources for uses in English for Academic Purposes (EAP) and in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL). Alongside open approaches for translating and promoting the findability of metadata that can potentially link English-medium OER at Oxford with international audiences, as has been evidenced in a further Oxford OER International case study in this UK OER International series, TOETOE International is alternatively focused on those international stakeholders who wish to teach and learn English through the Oxford content presented in this case study. Open data from Wikipedia that have been linked to the British Academic Written English (BAWE) corpus, which is managed by the Oxford Text Archive, will be demonstrated as open language collections in FLAX with accompanying training videos. Likewise, open-source software (OSS) from the FLAX project for creating open language collections that reuse OER will be shared through this case study, once again demonstrating through training videos how Oxford lectures and talks from the OpenSpires project can be re-purposed for English language education.

The research methodology presented in this case study is centred on design-based research following on from earlier TOETOE project work for developing OER for EAP with Durham University during my SCORE Fellowship project with the Open University’s Support Centre for Open Resources in Education (SCORE). The focus of this research with international stakeholders has involved resource demonstrations and focus-group discussions with English language teachers and publishers on their perceptions of the efficacy of the Oxford-based resources within the FLAX system. In the context of this TOETOE International project, observations and reflections will also be presented from meetings held at the University of Waikato’s Department of Computer Science on web-based language resource planning, design, development and evaluation. In particular, the section on open educational practices in this case study will highlight issues for the re-use of Oxford content and the development of derivative resources with the FLAX OSS. This section will also emphasise concerns related to ELT practitioner competencies for employing technology in their teaching and in developing teaching and learning resources.

Benefits for the Higher Education sector identified by this case study include the flexible OSS from the FLAX project for linguistically enhancing English-medium OER for English language education. In particular, this project has demonstrated the efficacy of the FLAX OSS for building language collections by reusing, remixing and re-distributing Oxford University content. A further advantage bestowed by this project is the window that has been opened onto the global open education network for sharing best practice for engaging with international stakeholders.

A broader definition for OER will also be presented in this case study, one which is inclusive of the OSS developed by the FLAX project for prising open research corpora managed by the Oxford Text Archive. Project outputs will be studded throughout this case study in the form of workshop and conference presentation slides, audio-visual recordings and photographs taken on site in overseas contexts. Training videos on how to use the FLAX OSS with Oxford content will also guide readers through the functions of new teacher and learner interfaces for building interactive DIY language collections with re-purposed Oxford Creative Commons podcast content.

Most of the section themes covered in this case study also appear on the TOETOE project blog (http://www.alannahfitzgerald.org) for open commentary with further details and data, which have been hyperlinked herein to section headings. Further insights from this ongoing project were disseminated at the OER13 conference in Nottingham in March 2013.

This extract is from a case study by Alannah Fitzgerald, published online at https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/system/files/hub/download/toetoe_international_flax_weaving_with_o.pdf under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.