Though Heman Sweatt is the historical figure most associated with integration at The University of Texas at Austin, the first Black graduate to benefit from Sweatt’s efforts is getting a notable space in the university’s digital repository.
Thanks to a heads up from John Wallingford, professor in Molecular Biosciences, the thesis of Oscar Leonard Thompson is now available online.
Thompson became UT’s first black graduate in January 1952.
Born in 1907 and raised in Rosebud, near Waco, Thompson had his college career at Paul Quinn College in Dallas delayed by the Great Depression and further interrupted after a stint serving for three years in the Pacific Theatre during World War II. When he returned after the war, he used the GI Bill to complete his degree at Paul Quinn, then attended Tillotson College in Austin, and graduated magna cum laude from Samuel Huston College in 1949.
After the Sweatt v. Painter decision effectively integrated UT, Thompson came to the university in September 1950 to pursue a master’s degree in zoology, with an emphasis on genetics. He was 45 when he became the university’s first black graduate, and became a research scientist at the Human Genetic Foundation assisting UT geneticist C.P. Oliver investigate sickle cell anemia.
A mere four months after Thompson graduated, John Chase – who has previously been mistakenly identified as the university’s first black graduate – earned his Master’s of Architecture.
In 1956, UT admitted its first black undergraduates, of which there were about 75.
Thompson died in 1962 at 55, when he was working on his Ph.D. and teaching at Tillotson College in Austin. UT flew its flags at half-mast.
In a bit of irony, Thompson’s wife Irene – whom he met through his research and who typed his thesis for him – lived in a house designed by John Chase in East Austin.
Dale J. Correa is the Middle Eastern Studies Librarian and History Coordinator for the UT Libraries, and she regularly teaches on research data/citation management for the humanities at The University of Texas at Austin.
Hannah Chapman Tripp serves as the Biosciences Librarian and has provided research help with a variety of citation management programs at The University of Texas at Austinand previous institutions.
Where Did My Data Go?
In Fall 2020, registered Mendeley users received a message via email titled “Improving Mendeley to Better Support Researchers,” regarding some intended updates to Mendeley’s service model. These changes included the removal of several Mendeley library features, including the Public Groups feature that allowed for large groups to share references and notes openly. These groups were particularly appealing to some scholars as they represented a method to share resources openly, publicly, and free of cost in both invited and open group settings (without a limit on membership to the group). Under the Public Groups umbrella, both the invite-only and the open groups were included in Mendeley’s feature-removal plans. Unfortunately, Mendeley’s email did not explicitly state the intention to delete the Public Groups from individual Mendeley users accounts with the coming update — which went into effect in March 2021, and meant that individual users found their locally-stored files from these groups deleted on their own machines.
Researchers who used this feature were somewhat unlikely to have encountered that email message or have read it through thoroughly. After all, many emails from services utilized by researchers contain information about updates, but much of it goes unread. And, of course, some email systems would automatically detect messages like this one as spam or junk, and so would send them directly to a folder that, unless checked, frequently goes unnoticed and unchecked.
As “announced,” Mendeley went ahead with the plan and began removing certain features, including Mendeley Feed, Mendeley Profiles and Mendeley Funding in December 2020. In March 2021, Mendeley began retiring Public Groups. It does not seem that there was further, specific communication regarding the Public Groups retirement in the lead-up to this change in March.
While we fully acknowledge the need for commercial companies to pivot priorities, continue development of what’s working and in some cases remove features that are less popular and see less return on investment, the awareness campaign for these changes clearly did not reach enough of the affected audience to warrant the deletion of features from an individual user’s Mendeley library. The failure of this important information to reach registered Mendeley users is evidenced by many, many, many reactions on Twitter from the scholarly community. While most scholars understand the need to make changes to a platform and continue to improve the services offered, they are also outraged at the lack of effective communication prior to deleting this feature.
Mendeley has acknowledged that there was not enough time or communication involved in this plan to remove features, and has since re-enabled the invite-only groups, a subset of the Public Groups, for a brief period of time so users can retrieve their data. It is a significant concern of many researchers that all of the content in the Open Groups (which was the other option under the Public Groups umbrella) is not going to be restored and that the data has been lost permanently. For many academics, this is a devastating realization, as years of research and references have been erased with deficient notice. Although Mendeley has apologized for the handling of these changes, the fact remains that some scholars — including those in the more vulnerable categories of PhD student, post-doc and non-tenured faculty — are left without vast quantities of their research.
Lessons Learned, Principles to Practice
While this is an unfortunate situation, we hope that some takeaways can be gained from the experience. For researchers, the importance of backups, knowing your product and an awareness of the fact that changes are quite likely, are a few of the points we hope to address.
Backing up research data is important, regardless of the type of data or original format. A best practice in data retention habits is the 3-2-1 rule, wherein three copies of research data are maintained, in two separate formats locally, and one copy offsite. Some researchers wrongly assumed that with Mendeley’s storage and syncing they were achieving at least a portion of this best practice; however, they learned in practice that when data is deleted from the Mendeley web version, that deletion can be synced down to any local copy of Mendeley connected to the web. In order to have the 3-2-1 rule appropriately in practice with Mendeley data, researchers must back up a copy of their data to an external hard drive location and an online cloud storage solution separate from Mendeley. What makes this situation trickier is that, starting in 2018, Mendeley began encrypting researchers’ local data folders, making it very difficult to access one’s own data when not using the Mendeley interface (although some researchers have identified workarounds to the encryption). What should be backed up, rather, is data exports from Mendeley in open file formats and PDFs, including notes, to ensure that researchers will be able to access, use, and rebuild their reference libraries if their Mendeley data itself becomes corrupt or a change in Mendeley services affects their access.
With RIS (Research Information Systems bibliographic citation file format) files and PDFs backed up to the local machine as well as to a back up option like UT’s Box, researchers would have the option to continue using Mendeley, or move their data to another citation management software such as Zotero or EndNote. For those who are continuing to use Mendeley, incorporating a backup system as described above is the recommended option for ensuring long term access to integral research references, notes, and files (particularly annotated PDFs).
Mendeley — owned by a for-profit company — will continue to optimize the most attractive, state-of-the-art, and revenue-generating features and functionality in their product. This process inevitably means refocusing efforts and making tough decisions about what features to no longer support. However, the realities of software changes and obsolescence are not confined to Mendeley or, for that matter, to for-profit companies. For example, the backups you made decades ago to a floppy disk are likely no longer retrievable due to hardware changes and potential software obsolescence.
So, whether you have lost your data with this change in Mendeley services or you are one of the lucky ones who was not relying so heavily on the free Public Groups features, we strongly recommend that you use a sensible back up system; back up in open formats from which you can easily retrieve your data no matter what system you’re using; and keep an eye on the crucial changes that come with software updates. We are here to assist with data and citation management best practices — please see the Research Organization with Citation Managers LibGuide for more information.
Much of the research being conducted at universities, colleges, and institutes around the world is written up by professors, graduate students, and research associates and published in toll-access (subscription) journals. Anyone lacking a subscription to that journal will not be able to access the articles published there. This creates a serious access problem for many people across the globe.
An alternative method of publishing, called Open Access, allows for anyone to read the results of research for free.
So, why should you care?
The short version:
expensive journals = less access to research results, especially for those outside of wealthy higher-ed institutions
less access = less research being done and/or research not happening quickly because of access barriers
UT Libraries cares deeply about the issue of access for all. For many years we’ve invested in open access publishing and infrastructure in an effort to help shift the scholarly publishing system to a more equitable form.
In celebration of Open Access Week 2020, we’d like to highlight some of the projects we’ve invested in and/or supported over the years. This support can take the form of financial contributions, technical support, content creation, and ongoing promotion and management. We encourage you to check out these open access projects and experience the wide range of disciplines and content types that they represent.
This is a newly-launched open access, peer-reviewed journal in mathematical analysis. One of the founding editors is a UT faculty member and UT Libraries financially supports this journal so that it is free for both readers and for authors.
SAOA is a collection of open access materials for research and teaching about South Asia. The initial emphasis was on colonial-era materials, but current selection criteria include: value to research, utility for a broad population of users, uniqueness, at risk, and complementary to other resources.
This effort is supported by the Center for Research Libraries and over 25 member libraries, including UT.
“The Information Literacy Toolkit is a collection of resources that faculty and instructors can use to help plan or implement assignments in classes. These resources can help you scaffold research skills into your classes, think of new ways to assign research, and help you assess your students’ work.“
The toolkit was created and is maintained by the Teaching & Learning Services unit within UT Libraries (UTL), although others at UTL are free to contribute.
Content is licensed with a Creative Commons License Attribution Non-Commercial license.
This resource is a starting point for educators wishing to design instructional sessions that incorporate campus collections into final digital projects. Here you will find learning outcomes, things to consider before you begin planning, sample syllabi and assignments, assessment tools, recommended readings, and guidelines for copyright and fair use
This project was created by staff from UT Libraries, LLILAS Benson, and the Harry Ransom Center.
Content is licensed with a Creative Commons License Attribution Non-Commercial license.
The Portal provides access to some of the geospatial data from the UT Libraries collections. It’s also been configured to allow users to search raster and vector datasets from other universities that utilize the GeoBlacklight infrastructure.
All items contributed by UT Libraries are free to reuse.
LADI is a digital repository that provides access to thousands of items from the 1500s to the present. The repository has an emphasis on providing access to collections that document human rights issues and underrepresented communities.
This repository provides open, online access to the products of the University’s research and scholarship. It is hosted by the Texas Digital Library, a consortium of higher ed institutions in Texas that builds capacity for preserving, managing, and providing access to digital collections.
TDR is a platform for publishing and archiving datasets created by faculty, staff, and students at UT. It is hosted by the Texas Digital Library.
Copyright status of items varies, but most are licensed for reuse.
When we started documenting all the things we support, we found the list was longer than is feasible for a single post, so please see our Open Access blog and Twitter account for more examples of open access projects being supported by UT Libraries.
Because we believe that access to information is a fundamental right, UT Libraries will continue to prioritize support for open access publishing, open educational resources, and open data.
The publishing industry of Cuba experienced a seismic shift in 1959 when Fidel Castro won a revolutionary war against dictator Fulgencio Batista. With this change, underground and subversive media creators of the Batista era became an important part of the new socialist culture. This helped to mobilize the masses in support of the new Castro government and against U.S. capitalistic ideology.
Cuban Comics in the Digital Era examines the art and history of Cuban comics after the successful 1959 revolution, highlighting the creators, characters, heroes, and anti-heroes of Cuba. It also touches on the triumphs and failures of the publishing industry and how Cuban artists today struggle to keep the genre alive.
These materials are part of the Caridad Blanco Collection of Cuban Comic Books, acquired in 2018. Blanco, a Havana-based artist and curator, collected over 700 examples of stand-alone comics and newspaper supplements created between 1937 and 2018.
The Birth of Cuba’s
Key to the process of planning a new nationalistic government was the cementing of a new socialistic cultural identity in the minds of the Cuban populace. Radio, television, and print media (including comics) helped to mobilize the masses.
A new world opened up for the creators of comics, who now had the singular purpose of supporting their new government while still appealing to their readers. In this early era, many of these readers were children, who continued to consume U.S.-created comic books and the ideals that went with them.
Widespread suspicion held that beloved American comics were imperialistic indoctrination tools for Cuban children. In response, the new Cuban government began utilizing comics as a means to teach values that aligned with revolutionary doctrine.
Cuban-created comics replaced American ones on the shelves. These works appealed to highly literate youth. Mixing adventure, comedy, and the ideological tenets of the new government, they portrayed revolution as necessary and exciting, especially for the country’s youth.
This exhibition was curated by Digital Repository Specialist Gilbert Borrego and is part of his fall 2019 Capstone Experience course in partial fulfillment of his MSIS, School of Information, The University of Texas at Austin. In addition to the physical exhibition, Borrego curated a richly illustrated online exhibition.
Gilbert Borrego is currently the Institutional Repository Specialist for Texas ScholarWorks at UT Libraries. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in anthropology from Stanford University and will soon complete his master’s in Information Studies at UT Austin. He is passionate about archives, libraries, museums, metadata, and history.
If you’ve spent much time in the past decade or so traveling in Texas, you might have noticed the increasing ubiquity of wind farms cropping up along spartan stretches of highway across the state. If a new project involving a fellowship recipient in residence at the Libraries holds any promise, you might soon see more solar panels along your travels, as well.
Last August, the university welcomed a new Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) fellow, Emily Beagle, who spent the fall splitting time between the Research Support & Digital Initiatives at the Libraries and the Webber Energy Group in the Mechanical Engineering Department. Beagle was one of a group of four cohorts in a Data Curation for Energy Economics track for CLIR who are working at various energy institutes and libraries across the country. Beagle’s specific project work throughout the fall related to a renewable energy project funded through The Ray (at The Ray C. Anderson Foundation in Georgia) — one that could potentially bring solar power generation to those long stretches of Texas highway.
The Ray began as a project specific to an 18-mile stretch of I-85 southwest of Atlanta as an exploration of ways “to create a regenerative highway ecosystem” through a reconsideration of the land and communities surrounding our collective highway system. The Ray has already deployed several pilot technology projects along the route including solar-powered vehicle charging, a tire safety check station and solar-paved highways, and the component of the project tasked to the Webber Group was to investigate the placement of solar photovoltaic panels along the right-of-ways nationwide to provide additional energy to the power grid. To do so, the group had to consider the over 45,000 miles of roadways that make up the U.S. interstate network.
Narrowing the scope down to a manageable sampling required the research group to come up with some exclusionary criteria, removing swaths from consideration like protected areas (e.g. National Parks and Forests), and focusing on locations close to existing transmission lines, adjacent spaces that are large enough to accommodate development, and locations near exits to make them easy for maintenance access. This allowed them to use existing environmental data for the available space to determine where voltaic clusters would be most efficient and effective.
The Webber Group’s work on The Ray project began in March before Beagle arrived, but that worked out well for her contribution to the project, which involved the development of a data management plan, prepping data for sharing and preservation in repositories like Texas ScholarWorks, and validating reproducibility in findings. She has worked closely with Libraries colleagues to develop and implement the data plans for the group, while also providing ongoing assessment of the process and the effectiveness of Libraries’ tools and resources as an embedded member of the project team.
Working throughout the fall, the group was able to create a report for the foundation in December, and develop an online tool — the Solar Potential Map — that shows the best options for locating panel installations along roadways across the U.S. With the potential for a significant national infrastructure investment under discussion, components conceptualized through a project like The Ray could eventually become a reality. The Ray has already piloted one cluster of solar panels along I-85, and now they have the data to support an expansion of the idea on a much larger scale.
Beagle will continue her stint as a CLIR fellow through the spring, coordinating with her peers in Mechanical Engineering to supervise graduate student work on data-intensive research projects and use that interface to inform and develop data management resources and services at the Libraries. She’ll also using the knowledge she’s gained from the fellowship residence to co-teach workshops for other researchers on campus.
She isn’t the first CLIR fellow the Libraries have hosted — there are currently two Postdoctoral Fellows for Data Curation in Latin American and Latina/o Studies at the Benson Latin American Collection: Edward Shore (continuing from 2017) is overseeing a project to preserve and digitize rare historical documentation on quilombos, communities organized by fugitive slaves in colonial Brazil, and Jennifer Isasi (2018) is working with Benson Digital Scholarship Coordinator Albert A. Palacios to contribute to collections as data efforts, educational resources and digital scholarship initiatives at LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections. And 2017 fellow at the Benson, Hannah Alpert-Abrams, recently completed her term working to develop the repository and interface for the digital Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional, a collection of records relating to the national police of Guatemala. 2013 CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow for Data Curation in Medieval Studies Ece Turnator took part in a collaborative bid between the Libraries, the English Department and research units on campus — including the Texas Advanced Computing Center — to create a global gateway to all the digital resources currently available on the Middle Ages, the Global Middle Ages Project (G-MAP).
“The CLIR program has been of great value to the Libraries by allowing us access to trained scholars and researchers with perspectives informed by current trends in the interrelationship between libraries and community stakeholders,” says Vice Provost Lorraine Haricombe. “Their presence provides an opportunity to bridge between unit-level research and scholarship and library resources and services, and to use that bridge to improve and elevatewhat we do.”
The CLIR Postdoctoral Fellowship Program offers recent Ph.D. graduates the chance to help develop research tools, resources, and services while exploring new career opportunities. Host institutions benefit from fellows’ field-specific expertise by gaining insights into their collections’ potential uses and users, scholarly information behaviors and current teaching and learning practices within particular disciplines.
Beagle says the fellowship experience so far has played out as advertised, but in unexpected ways.
“Being split between Engineering and the Libraries, I was expecting that my duties for both would be very different and not have much overlap,” she says. “But I have been pleasantly surprised at how much I have been able to collaborate between the two groups and how much work in one area has informed a project in the other.”
“It has been very rewarding to work with the Webber Energy Group, UT Libraries and The Ray on a project with real world applicability. I hope to someday see solar panels along the interstate and be able to think ‘I was a part of that.’”
In a project to capture a discrete collection at one of the university’s CSUs, faculty and staff from the Jackson School of Geosciences and the College of Natural Sciences worked with UT Libraries staff to get a collection of over 6000 letters added to Texas ScholarWorks, the university’s digital repository.
The letters are to and from Henryk Bronislaw Stenzel, a faculty member in the Department of Geology from 1948-54 who was a notable authority in the field of Tertiary stratigraphy and paleontology, representing a partial record of a career that spanned over 50 years.
The letters cover subject matter both professional and personal, and provide insight into Stenzel’s methodology, specific projects and relationships with his peers both here and abroad.
Stenzel was born in Poland in 1899, and attended Schlesische Freidrich Wilhelms University in Breslau beginning in 1918, where he majored in paleontology and geology with a minor in physics and mathematics. He received his doctorate in 1922, with a concentration on petrofabrics under the supervision of noted German geologist Hans Cloos.
Stenzel emigrated to the U.S. in 1925, and after being denied a position in petrology at Texas A&M, changed his specialization to Tertiary stratigraphy and paleontology to secure a second opening at the university. He taught there until 1934, when he joined the Texas Bureau of Economic Geology, a research unit at the University of Texas at Austin, and took his faculty position at UT in 1948.
Over the course of his career, Dr. Stenzel had 92 works published on petrology, paleontology and stratigraphy of the Lower Tertiary of the Gulf Coast. His most well known publications include the 1949 work Successful speciation in paleontology: The case of the oysters of the Sellaeformis stock (adaptations of species) and the 1971 work: Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology (Oysters).
His collection of letters and exchanges have been digitized and stored for viewing on Texas ScholarWorks. Each file has a PDF view of the original letter as well as metadata, including keywords and dates of the original correspondence, if noted.
This effort was advanced by the late Ann Molineux, a curator for the Texas Natural History Collections, who developed much of the metadata for this project, and Gilbert Borrego, who provided support and guidance for the technical processes.
“Illuminating Explorations” – This series of digital exhibits is designed to promote and celebrate UT Libraries collections in small-scale form. The exhibits will highlight unique materials to elevate awareness of a broad range of content. “Illuminating Explorations” will be created and released over time, with the intent of encouraging use of featured and related items, both digital and analog, in support of new inquiries, discoveries, enjoyment and further exploration.
As the holiday season quickly approaches, many in the Latinx community are gearing up to celebrate both Christmas as well as Las Posadas. A lesser known celebratory act performed during the holiday season are the plays known as pastorelas. Pastorelas can be traced back to the 16th Century when Franciscan monks leveraged the strong artistic culture of the Mexica people in Tenochtitlan to evangelize them by incorporating Christian ideals into their performance tradition.
Historically, pastorelas have told the story of how Satan attempted to thwart the travels of the shepherds following the Star of Bethlehem in search of the baby Jesus. While pastorelas have maintained the general premise of good vs. evil, the roles of what constitutes both the good and the evil have changed to encompass contemporary issues that have faced the Latinx communities. Immigration, racism, politics, and a plethora of other topics have been incorporated into pastorelas to transmit opinions and ideas to audiences, both religious and secular.
Please visit the digital exhibit to see the beautiful illustrations in “el Triunfo” as well as some of the other spectacular rare books available to view from the Benson Collection. Also, peruse Zayas’ entire book, which has been digitized and can be viewed at Texas ScholarWorks.
Gilbert Borrego is the Digital Repository Specialist for Texas ScholarWorks, UT’s institutional repository (IR).
Texas ScholarWorks (formerly the University of Texas Digital Repository) went into production in September 2008. Texas ScholarWorks (TSW) was created to provide open, online access to the products of the University’s research and scholarship, preserve these works for future generations, promote new models of scholarly communication and deepen community understanding of the value of higher education. In honor of our first 10 years, we’d like to share some samples of the kinds of important work being shared in TSW.
Dance professor, Yacov Sharir, has donated his archive of videos and documents related to performances, rehearsals, workshops and events that span his four decade career at UT. UT Libraries digitized the contents of this collection and worked with Dr. Sharir, Beth Kerr, and Katie Van Winkle to describe the materials. The resulting collection in TSW is a treasure trove of information about the dance community in Austin.
UT Communications professor, Robert Hopper (1945-1998), recorded thousands of hours of everyday conversations between people over the phone, in recorded messages, and in person. Approximately 200 hours of those recordings, and their associated transcripts, are available in TSW. This is a unique collection for those who study spoken language.
Waller Creek, a tributary of the Colorado River, goes through the UT campus and is a focus of research for people at UT and in the Austin community. In an effort to improve the efficiency of finding information about Waller Creek, researchers have chosen to use Texas ScholarWorks as an archive for the publications, data, maps, images and class projects about the creek.
Before his death in 2006, club owner and Austin music scene icon Clifford Antone brought his vast knowledge of music — more specifically the blues and rock and roll — to the Forty Acres for a lecture series hosted by the Department of Sociology called “The History of the Blues According to Clifford Antone.” The series of lectures was recorded and resides both in the collection of the Fine Arts Library and online at Texas ScholarWorks.
The process of making content available in TSW is a team project and has been from the start. The launch of TSW was the work of Project Institutional Repository Implementation (IRI) which started in early 2008. Over the course of approximately one year, the Project IRI team contributed 4,505 hours of work towards the launch and promotion of TSW. At the conclusion of the project in January 2009 there were 5,961 items in TSW. Today we have over 58,000 items. You can find documentation from Project IRI in TSW.
Many thanks to the Project IRI team, current UT Libraries staff working on TSW, and our partners at Texas Digital Library.
With the generous support of the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies and the Center for European Studies I was recently able to travel to Frankfurt and Prague to attend the Frankfurt Book Fair and purchase books for the UT Libraries’ collections. In addition to meeting with vendors and participating in the international community of librarians, booksellers, and publishers at the book fair, I collected materials that continued to grow the UT Libraries’ collection of European zines and artists’ books.
The Frankfurt Book Fair is the world’s largest book fair, and has been held for more than 500 years. The fair consistently has over 7,000 publishers represented, and attracts visitors from all over the world. Each year a country is chosen as the fair’s guest of honor; this year’s guest was France. As such, there was a particularly strong focus on French culture, writers, and publishers, with the aim of highlighting and promoting France’s literary culture to the world.
The book fair offered many opportunities to learn about and participate in the international library and publishing communities. I was able to participate in meet-ups of other librarians, visit with vendors, and view lectures on new technologies on the vanguard of the library and publishing worlds. In addition to attending the book fair itself, I was able to participate in the New Directions for Libraries, Scholars, and Partnerships Symposium organized by the Center for Research Libraries (CRL), in part due to a competitive stipend I received from the funds of the Collaborative Initiative for French Language Collections (CIFNAL) and the German-North American Resources Partnership (GNARP). The symposium was held at the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, or German National Library, also in Frankfurt.
The symposium further allowed me to meet with and forge relationships with an international community of librarians, scholars, and publishers. Presenters at the symposium included librarians and researchers from Harvard, the Newberry Library, various German universities, and the Bibliotheque Nationale de France, as well as representatives from prominent European publishers. As the European Studies Librarian in PCL, being able to hear presentations from such a broad swath of perspectives was very informative and relevant to my subject areas, and I look forward to continuing to foster a sense of community and collaboration with these colleagues.
In Prague, I visited bookstores and acquired materials with the aim of improving our collection of European artists’ books and zines. The materials I bought will be made available in the Fine Arts Library special collections, and complement similar materials I acquired in Russia while on an acquisitions trip last year. Many of these books are unique to UT Austin’s holdings, meaning they are not available in any other academic libraries.
This trip allowed me the opportunity to represent UT Austin internationally to a diverse group of colleagues and industries, and I’m grateful that I was able to serve in such a capacity. I look forward to continuing to build both our distinctive holdings and our relationships with colleagues in the library and publishing worlds.
March 5-9 is Open Education Week Throughout the week, guest contributors will present their perspectives on the value of open education to research, teaching and learning at The University of Texas at Austin. Today’s installment is provided byJeannette Okur, Lecturer, Middle Eastern Studies.
For a year and a half now, I have been designing and piloting an OER textbook and online curricular materials designed to bring adult learners of modern Turkish from the Intermediate-Mid/High to the Advanced Mid proficiency level. The textbook, titled Her Şey Bir Merhaba İle Başlar (Everything Begins With A Hello), will – hopefully – be available on the UT Center for Open Education Resources and Language Learning (COERLL) website in Fall 2019; and the complementary series of primarily auto-correct listening, viewing, reading and grammar exercises and quizzes will be made available on a public Canvas course site. This new set of OER materials is aligned with the ACTFL standards for Intermediate- and Advanced-level communicative skills and intercultural proficiency descriptors, and also reflects my department’s (and my personal) commitment to blended instruction and the flipped classroom model. I’ve now designed five thematic units that promote the following pedagogical goals:
Introduce the learner to culturally and socially significant phenomena in Turkey today.
Introduce the learner to various print, audio and audio-visual text types aimed at native Turkish audiences and guide them to use (and reflect on) the reading, listening and viewing comprehension strategies needed to understand these Advanced-level texts.
Engage the learner in active recognition and repeated practice of new vocabulary and grammar items.
Guide the learner through practice of oral and written discursive strategies specific to the Advanced proficiency level.
Balance the four communicative skills.
Balance seriousness and fun!
I’m excited about OER’s potential to transform students’ and teachers’ experiences with Less Commonly Taught Languages (LCTL) like Turkish. A readily accessible and modifiable OER for this level of Turkish language instruction, in particular, makes a whole lot of sense, because the for-profit textbook model is a non-starter! In other words, because no one can make a profit off of Turkish language teaching materials outside of Turkey; few of the teaching materials that U.S.-based Turkish language instructors design ever get published or shared. In fact, creating an OER for Turkish-language learning has made sharing my ideas, teaching materials and methodology possible!
I believe wholeheartedly that being able to share and modify OER teaching/learning materials via online platforms leads to collaboration among educators and eventually to better educational products and practices. I hope that other Turkish language educators, upon engaging with my OER materials, will learn a few small but important lessons from me, namely:
Adults learning Turkish need help practicing and learning vocabulary, not just grammar.
Identifying and discussing cultural differences/commonalities on the basis of actual socio-cultural phenomena captured in texts aimed at target culture audiences is key to increasing learners’ cultural proficiency, especially when those learners are not learning in the target culture.
The blended instruction/flipped classroom model really works because engagement with reading, listening and grammar materials at home gives learners more time to practice SPEAKING in class (or with a tutor).
I also look forward to learning from the colleagues and learners who engage with my materials in varied settings beyond the University of Texas at Austin.