Reflections on finding French digital education resources

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In October, EdTech Hub and Learning Equality put out a call to find French educational resources with the aim of making these resources more accessible to Francophone learners not connected to the internet. This post by Vahid Masrour, Learning Equality’s Curriculum Operations Specialist, highlights observations and recommendations from this process. He shares further details on Learning Equality’s blog site.

Last month, we kicked off a campaign to crowdsource digital education resources in French. We have now reviewed more than 50 resources, assessing them for alignment with classroom needs, technical feasibility for sharing without the internet, and their potential to contribute to a well-rounded library of French digital resources.

We looked for the following elements to support learners who do not have consistent access to the internet and who may be located in low-resource or time-strapped contexts:

  • Potential for easy adaptation in classrooms: We were looking for materials which could correspond to what teachers need to teach, that do not rely heavily on internet connectivity (such as courses with discussion rooms), and which are not behind paywalls or required subscriptions and logins.
  • Potential for at-home, self-guided learning: Given the current pandemic, we were looking for materials that empower students to approach new topics and continue to develop their skills and curiosity on their own.
  • Equitable perspectives: We aimed to find materials that go beyond historic bias and promote awareness of equity, including on a gender and country basis. 
  • Open or permissive licensing: Explicit Creative Commons licenses or ‘Special Permissions’ licenses make it possible to share relevant materials widely. 
Observations on the landscape of French digital learning resources 

As an organisation focused on understanding the use of open educational resources, Learning Equality is deeply familiar with the landscape of digital resources available globally which are primarily in English. But going into this most recent scoping exercise, we were less familiar with the availability of digital content across the French-speaking world. We aimed to learn more about where dynamic conversations, creation efforts, and possible opportunities for the future are taking place. These are our five takeaways. 

  1. Making content accessible: many resources have copyright restrictions

Many of the French language publications submitted, even when available for free, are usually bound by explicit copyrights. We did notice that some public service websites (such as Edubase) and non-profit organisations (La Main à la pâte) are adopting an open license approach, which might indicate a slow change towards opting out of copyright by default. 

  1. Barriers to using digital resources about the arts in settings without internet access

Resources that are not created for educational purposes, but are nonetheless important learning tools (e.g., visual arts, primary sources, varied media), are almost always subject to copyright, particularly in the Francophone world. Given the shift to digital learning during the pandemic, how can we ensure that these resources can still reach learners — -or how can we support the creation of new ones which could?

  1. Strong presence of resources for the humanities and social sciences

We were pleased to see how humanities and social sciences materials were submitted, as they are often neglected in digital learning interventions. We received more recommendations in the general cultural knowledge category than in the academic subjects or any other type of skills. This includes the Citoyennes series, a set of case studies of notable women in history from all over the world, as well as materials focusing on Human Rights and ethics (‘Introduction aux droits de l’homme’, ‘Le Bien, le Juste, l’Utile. Introduction aux éthiques philosophiques’).

  1. Repositories and portals: a prevalent trend 

Repositories and portals may have great materials, but may not be suitable for offline use. Case in point: TV5 Monde’s Apprendre le français, which integrates news and current affairs videos and lessons to learn French and a variety of language skills. While highly pertinent, it is impractical for contexts with no connectivity to retrieve such content on a regular basis. Another trend is the use of websites as repositories of links to the actual resources, such as Edubase, a database with links to over 12,000 lesson plans, classroom activities, and other educational materials; and APRELIA, an African Open Educational Resources portal. The limitation, in this case, is that while the portals may have Creative Commons licensing, the actual resources that the portals link to may use a variety of licenses, making it more difficult to use in different settings.

  1. Gaps in vocational training and history

There were few resources related to vocational training and we’d like to uncover more. These would include vocational training and workforce preparation materials that cover technical skills as well as preparation in local industries such as agriculture, public health, and civil or community services. 

We also noticed a dearth of openly sharable materials focused on history. One can hope that by supporting more diverse voices in creating such materials, digital education can have the additional benefit of moving past colonial history and providing a richer and more common understanding of our shared human history to learners around the world.

Using these resources without internet 

We’re excited to start making new content sources for use in Kolibri, our offline-first, open-source learning platform to support learning in environments with limited or no internet connectivity. With the support of the EdTech Hub, we’re beginning the process of making the following resources available to these learners:

SésamathCreated by an association of maths teachers, this website covers maths exercises for all of secondary education, along with key explanations of maths operations to strengthen maths skills.
Citoyennes + Citoyennes du mondeBooks of short, readable case studies presenting profiles of women who have contributed to social progress and environmental awareness around the world. In the classroom, the historical figures could be used both as exemplars based on their endeavours and as text to develop French language skills.
Français interactifA complete source of content for learning French as a second language, complete with grammar lessons, tools, and interactive exercises. Since many students learn French as a second language, this set of resources supports independent study as well as guided explorations through practical examples.
FabriqueRELProvides some OER, including teaching maths through traditional games. 
Our next steps

Finally, it’s not too late to share other resources in French that may meet these considerations. Reach out with any comments or resource recommendations to the Learning Equality curriculum team:

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