How can open education empower minority languages?

The seminar “Open Education in Minority Languages: Chances and Perspectices” organized on the 7-8 of October 2015, had a the central theme to “get a grasp” on how minority languages can make use of the fast developing field of Open Education. The seminar was organized in the framework of the LangOER project and was hosted by the Fryske Akademy (home of the Mercator Research Centre).

All seminar highlights and presentations are gathered on the seminar’s Padlet page.

Summary

The seminar offered interesting perspectives on open education, as it brought together experts of the field of open education with minority language representatives. The fact that (most) of minority languages have limited or no access to open educational resources, urged the participants, speakers and the consortium partners, to come up with practical and creative solutions on how to empower the ” smaller languages”. The challenges often encountered by minority languages are a lack of financial and/or political support.

Importance for regional and minority languages to adopt Open Educational Resources and Practices

During the seminar, a presentation was given by Giulia Torresin and Katerina Zourou, (Web2Learn, Greece). This presentation highlighted that “the adoption of OER/OEP is much more pressing for smaller languages, which have very limited digital presence, threatening linguistic diversity and cultural diversity on a global scale”.

OER initiatives presented during the seminar

During the seminar, several initiatives were presented to inspire participants, representing various languages in Europe:

  • Photodentro (Sofia Papadimitriou, Greek Ministry of Education)
  • Wikiwijs (Robert Schuwer, chair Special Interest Group on Open Education, Netherlands)
  • NDLA (Christer Gundersen,Nordic Digital Learning Arena)
  • OER Wales (Deborah Baff, University of Wales)

Examples of challenges encountered by smaller languages:

  • Manx (Isle of Man): This language is recently being taught on a few schools again, however due to the lack of written publications in the Manx language, teachers are often challnged by the fact that they have to create their own material.
  •  Arbëresh (Southern Italy): Arbëresh is spoken in Southern Italy in the regions of Abruzzi, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Molise, Apulia and Sicily. With almost no written tradition of the language, it is a challenge to keep the language ‘vital”.

Hence, OER’s could be very valuable for these language. This also stressed the need for more OER’s which can easily be adjusted to a specific context or language ( see also the ‘Travel Well Criteria of European Schoolnet“, What makes some educational resources more useful for different cultural and linguistic contexts).

OER policy for Regional and Minority Languages

During practical sessions organized during the seminar, participants were invited to share ideas on how they see the future of their language with regards to OER in 2025 and also what the role of policy could be in this respect. The outcomes of the discussion or gathered on the seminar’s Padlet Wall.

Solutions

One solution to further engage the smaller communities is to use a bottum-up approach, with true community driven engagement. A good examples is to refer to the ExplOERer project, which focuses on the: value of design of national OER repositories of small languages in creating user engagement, through social networking and game mechanics, as a means of OER expansion and appropriation. Also, to facilitate further OER uptake by smaller languages, it is important that more OERs are produced by the “bigger” languages, that are easier to use for different cultural and linguistic contexts.

On the blog of Alastair Creelman (Partner of the LangOER project, Linnaeus University), you can find more solutions discussed during the seminar, on how minority language communities can be empowered by use of open educational resources and practices.

 

 

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