A couple of weeks ago Antonio Martínez-Arboleda came over from the School of Modern Languages and Cultures at the University of Leeds to talk about his work getting students to engage in oral history projects there. Antonio has done a lot of work on OER (Open Educational Resources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_educational_resources), including the HumBox (http://humbox.ac.uk/) repository of teaching materials in Humanities and is committed to sharing the resources produced as part of his teaching and research, as can be seen from his university profile here.

The oral history teaching initiative he told us about it part of a bigger project that he’s involved in, OpenLIVES (http://openlives.wordpress.com/), a collaboration between the universities of Leeds, Southampton and Portsmouth, which gathered oral history data from Spanish migrants to England from the 1930s to the 1950s. Other members of the OpenLIVES project have investigated the various ways in which these recordings can be used to teach students about Spanish language, culture, history, as well as issues relating to identity, migration and the Spanish diaspora of the mid-twentieth-century. One of the most exciting things about what Antonio has done at Leeds, however, is his effort to develop the oral history approach so that students gather data themselves, thus developing their skills in asking questions in Spanish, editing audio footage and creating a documentary, at the same time as improving their understanding of ethical issues, Spanish history, culture and migration. All of this is framed academically by requiring students to engage with research literature and create a report before the oral history and documentary making element of the module begins.

It seems to me that by engaging in this kind of activity the students develop a broader range of research and ‘life skills’ – including emotional intelligence and a reflection of their role as producers of knowledge within society – than would be possible in a module that asks them to consume the research and oral history outputs of others. I hope that others can learn from Antonio’s approach (shared via OER means so easily accessible – see the links above and below!) and apply it in their own teaching, in modern languages, history and beyond.

Other OER repositories:

Merlot: http://www.merlot.org/merlot/index.htm

Connexions: http://cnx.org/

JORUM: http://www.jorum.ac.uk/

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