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Island Voices MOOT

People sometimes ask what kind of project Island Voices is. There’s no one simple answer to that question, as there are various ways of thinking about it. Here’s a new one for 2019, which actually raises another question for our followers. Any answers or comments welcome!

You’ve heard of the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). Well, Island Voices, while being a fundamentally educational online project, doesn’t do “courses”. We don’t take anyone step by step from A all the way to Z in a pre-determined order. The learning we aim to help is “resource-based” – we put material online for anyone to browse or sample or use in any way they see fit. That means it’s up to the learner to think about and shape their own learning path. This can seem scary or off-putting for some, particularly in the beginning stages of language learning, while others may find it liberating and empowering, especially when they’ve already got past the preliminary steps. Obviously, we would hope that we can help move folk from the first camp into the second.

Also, while we started out from a language teaching perspective, our interest is wider than simply helping people to learn Gaelic, or English (or any other language), irrespective of how they might subsequently use it. We’ve always tried to present the “bits of language” that we place online in the real-life context of the community in which they were recorded. We try to recognise, record, and represent the social factors at play which influence the linguistic decisions people make when a range of different language choices is at hand. That’s partly why, alongside the several pages of video and audio clips plus transcripts on our site, there’s an additional page for research and reports which attempt to tease out some of the wider issues, for example around bilingualism or biliteracy, which are not necessarily immediately clear if you’re approaching from a different or narrower language background or perspective. This may mean re-thinking some pretty fundamental concepts, even around what we understand by a term such as “language” or “languages”. These are questions which may be quite as meaningful for language teachers or mentors (and perhaps planners and policy makers) as for learners themselves.

Further, we do not claim some higher teacher’s authority that pours knowledge into the “empty vessel” heads of our visitors/followers/learners. We can never present a more than partial picture of the communicative community on which we focus. We make no promises not to leave you with as many questions as you started with – perhaps more – though we’d hope some at least will be newly formulated!

So, instead of trying to think of Island Voices as some kind of “course”, perhaps a more appropriate model might be a “teach-in” – which is “practical, participatory, and oriented toward action” and where “discussion and questions from the audience are welcome”. Wikipedia tells us that this concept has a radical political background. Well, that’s no disqualification! In a current UK climate in which language teaching of any kind (including of English!) is making difficult headway, and support for bi- or multi-lingualism is struggling to gain traction, we may be well advised to open ourselves up to more lateral thinking, and to be prepared to consider outwardly counter-intuitive solutions. And the Hebrides may be as good a place to start as any, perhaps better than most!

So let’s forget about an Island Voices MOOC. What we offer is a “Multilingual (or perhaps Massive/Medium-sized/Mini) Open Online Teach-in” – the Island Voices MOOT! Etymonline tells us the word has a long history connoting free assembly to discuss community affairs. What could be more appropriate, especially when you consider the Gaelic word Mòd stems from the same root, and was long ago used to denote a parliament or congress, dating from the Lordship of the Isles!

Our source materials, to which we shall continue to add, are already placed before you on WordPress, Clilstore, and YouTube, and we know that plenty of folk have already put them to good use without further prompting. Hopefully, our Facebook and Twitter channels will keep on pulling in new visitors too. But here’s the question: should we also aim to create a new “teach-in” space? This could be a dedicated online forum where MOOT participants can raise questions and debate points around language learning and language use, informed by their interactions with, and reactions to, Island Voices materials of all kinds – video, audio, transcripts, articles, papers etc. Or is the comment facility we already have on WordPress adequate as it stands? Is there a danger a new forum would detract from other online fora and/or Facebook discussion groups? Comments here please (or on Facebook/Twitter)!

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Categories: CALL, Community, Research
  1. Nìall Beag
    27/01/2019 at 7:09 pm

    I’d love to see http://www.foramnagaidhlig.net/foram getting more use.

    It was a great resource before Facebook syphoned off the user base to a less constructive and less flexible format. I’m pretty sure GunChleoc would be happy to add specific Island Voices boards if that was what you felt was needed.

    • Gordon Wells
      27/01/2019 at 8:08 pm

      Good points, and thanks for the link. That might well be a way forward for Gaelic-specific topics. The loss of activity to Facebook groups is an issue though, isn’t it? Is there a way to draw people back, perhaps by posting links to the forum on FB?

  2. GunChleoc
    06/02/2019 at 3:41 pm

    Bhiodh fàilte chridheil oirbh gu dearbh!

    • Gordon Wells
      07/02/2019 at 10:09 am

      Taing mhòr! Chì sinn a bheil ùidh aig daoine ann. An dàrna rud, ‘s e gu bheil Guthan nan Eilean a’ gabhail gnothach ri cànanan eile, a bharrachd air a’ Ghàidhlig. ‘S dòcha nach biodh cuspairean mar sin cho iomchaidh air Fòram na Gàidhlig?

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