Edited by Joyce and Moon
What do you think about mobile phones? Do you use it for communication and entertainment, or does it facilitate you in other fields too? The use of technologies in education and training is far from new. This blog post discusses the emerging MALL by using the article of Chinnery, G.M (2006).
As technologies keep on evolving, their propensity starts to shrink in size. Portable media like mobile phones, MP4, iPods are now social staples. Mobile learning, or m-learning, is a burgeoning segment of the e-learning movement.
Mobile Assisted Language Learning has been an unavoidable trend in education. Though scholars emphasize putting the learner before technology and oppose “technology-driven pedagogy” (Salaberry, 2001), technologies like mobile or otherwise can be instrumental in language learning. Three MALL applications—using cell phones, personal digital assistants, and portable digital audio players—are illustrated next.
Since their inception, the dimensions of cell phones have waned as their abilities have waxed. Phones share common features in having Internet access, voice-messaging, SMS text-messaging, cameras, and even video-recording, which enable communicative language practice, access to authentic content, and task completion.
Stanford Learning Lab (Brown, 2001) used voice and email in cell phones to explore their use in the Spanish study. Statistics from vocabulary quizzes and performance in live talking indicated that mobile phones were effective for automated voice vocabulary lessons and spoken language. Also, feedback from students showed that cell phones’ tiny screen sizes were helpful in review and practice in convenient ways.
An innovative project centering on providing vocabulary instruction by SMS (Thornton and Houser, 2003; 2005) in a Japanese University showed that the SMS students learned over twice the number of vocabulary words as the Web students. Also, the attitudes of SMS students were changed and the students were highly motivated. Thus, cell phones, as a form of push media, promote frequent rehearsal and spaced study, and utilize recycled vocabulary. Mobile phones are also regarded as useful language learning tools in task-based learning (Kiernan and Aizawa, 2004).
Mobile learning engages new kinds of learners in a time and place of their preference (Godwin-Jones, 2005; Kadyte, 2004; Kukulska-Hulme, 2005). For instance, moblogging, an amalgam of mobile learning and weblogging, offers the potential to expound language creation and collaborative activities by removing time and place boundaries, and adding authentic and personal visual content.
The essential motivating factors in mobile language learning are portability, convenience and immediacy. While the applications of cell phones have typically been pedagogic in nature, they have also been used for practical or administrative matters, such as simplified and flexible student-teacher communications and referrals to related websites and other up-to-date instructional resources (Levy & Kennedy, 2005).
Personal digital assistants (PDAs) are more associated with m-learning than cell phones. One of the main functions of PDAs in language learning is to serve as a translator. Myers (2000) made numerous observations to evaluate the gains of Chinese learners of English using handheld translators. One of the observations is that students quickly improved their spelling with the help of the translator.
More elaborate language learning software programs have been created for PDAs. Garcia Cabrere (2002), for example, evaluated a business Spanish course developed for smart-phones, exercises，encompassing video clips and a glossary. Students in the course were reported to be particularly motivated and impressed by the video and multimedia functions.
PDAs provide other uses including Internet and wireless access. Therefore, file-sharing between teachers and students and amongst students themselves becomes available. What’s more, handwriting appears as a standard feature of these devices. However, Beatty (2003) believes that the ability to accommodate voice recognition plays an important role in the future success of PDAs.
Digital audio files (e.g., MP3s) provide high-quality sound in a compressed format. The most renowned one is Apple’s iPod, the latest version of which provides audio functionality as well as video.
Other applications of Apple’s iPod in language learning have been explored. For example, iPods were used by students in a Spanish class to submit audio assignments and respond to verbal quizzes. What’s more, a Turkish class used iPods to listen to authentic materials such as the news and poems, and to the instructor’s translations (Belanger, 2005).
Apple’s iPod has also developed a new form of media called podcasting, a portmanteau that combines iPod and broadcasting. Audio blogs or podcasts are downloadable broadcasts with RSS (really simple syndication) feeds that allow listeners to subscribe. Podcasting has already been widely utilized in language learning, both to access authentic materials and to record them. For instance, Englishcaster provides a series of podcasts which were specifically created for English language learners.
Benefits and Challenges
Mobile technologies obviously provide numerous practical uses in language learning. One of the benefits of mobile technologies is that they’re less expensive than standard equipment, such as PCs. The portability of mobile media is another advantage. In addition, learners can study or practice manageable amounts of information in any place on their own time, which makes learning convenient for learners. Ultimately, these benefits indicate that MALL has the potential to expand social inclusion in language learning.
Notwithstanding its benefits, MALL also poses challenges. For instance, inherent in the portability of mobile media are limited audiovisual quality, smaller screen sizes, virtual keyboarding and and limited battery. What’s more, the availability can be limited. The costs for educational institutions to purchase them en masse may be staggering. Other potential drawbacks include limited message lengths, limited nonverbal communications and potentially limited social interaction. While mobile technologies are developing, their output is moving from verbal to visual, which is obviously a disadvantage for language learning (Colpaert, 2004). Connection problems can also be a concern; web-based language learners might have limited online connection times, or they may not have access at all.
- Have you ever experienced MALL? How effective was it?
- Will you integrate it into language teaching and in what form would you use it?
- What do you think of the three MALL applications mentioned above? Can you think of any other examples?