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The XML project: digital literacy and learning design in a Spanish ab initio curriculum

This presentation will outline the findings of a small-scale project which is currently in progress, which seeks to enhance and explore aspects of digital literacy amongst a group of Spanish language students at a UK university. The Higher Education Academy-funded ‘XML project’ is being run in semester 2 of the 2013-14 academic year and it seeks to pilot a model for the student production of e-learning resources as part of a languages curriculum.
The primary aim of the project is to engage language students in the creation of online educational resources supporting the learning of Spanish language and content, as an assessed part of their studies. Students are being trained in the use of a free online authoring tool, called Xerte, and are using it to work collaboratively on the creation of interactive digital learning objects fusing knowledge and practice in language and culture. Training is being given in practical use of the tool, basic ideas around learning design and copyright for open resources. The intention of the project is to release student-produced learning objects as open educational resources where possible. The rationale for project work is to enhance student digital literacy and digital skills, encourage reflection on the students’ own learning process through creating learning activities for others, and offer a more innovative, interesting and collaborative approach to language teaching and learning.
Many language tutors teaching in UK universities use online tools and software as part of their teaching, but most do not encourage students to engage with the concept of creating their own learning/teaching resources. This is deeply relevant to a group of students of whom many will teach language during their year abroad, and others will go on to teach in schools or universities after graduation. In addition, the project aims to make student-participants local experts in using the Xerte tool, and give opportunities to cascade their knowledge to other students and staff: students involved in the project have the opportunity to expand, sustain and cascade their knowledge through the university’s internal digital champions’ network.
This presentation will outline the project’s aims and approach, and report on findings so far including the attitudes and experiences of the students involved. It will indicate how successful this kind of activity might be as an assessed task within a languages curriculum, and reveal the challenges and benefits experienced by the project team as they introduced a new technological tool alongside aspects of practical learning design and teaching into a language curriculum.


Kate Borthwick    
Modern Languages
University of Southampton
United Kingdom

Kate is a senior academic coordinator for elearning at the Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies (LLAS), University of Southampton. She is an experienced developer of online learning materials and an e-tutor and currently coordinates LLAS activity in relation to the use of technology in language teaching and learning, initiating and managing projects, devising and delivering training, and organising and running events, notably the Centre’s annual elearning symposium. She manages the development and training for the LOC tool (an online authoring tool developed at LLAS), and also manages two online teaching and learning repositories hosted by LLAS (LanguageBox and HumBox). She has a research interest in open educational resources (OER) and managed all of the Centre’s recent projects exploring Open Educational Practice (The HumBox Project 2009-10; Community Café 2010-2011; FAVOR 2011-2012, and OpenLIVES 2011-2013). She speaks regularly on the topic of open practice in language education at conferences and other events. She has a background in teaching English to international students across the globe and at universities in the UK.

Irina Nelson    
Modern Languages
University of Southampton
United Kingdom

Irina Nelson is senior lecturer in Spanish at the University of Southampton and Director of Undergraduate Admissions. She studied Hispanic Studies at King's College London. She has an MA in Latin American Studies from the Institute of Latin American Studies (llas) University of London and an MA in Translation Studies from the University of Westminster. She is a member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) and a professional translator for the Areas of Media, Sustainable Development and the Environment. She was involved in the JISC-funded OpenLIVES project which published research data and Open Learning Resources (OERs) documenting the experiences of Spanish migrants and exiles who left Spain during the Franco regime.


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