Not sure how to motivate your kids? Use their phones!

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????When I was going to school, mobile phones were a rare thing. Not every student had one and however surprising it sounds, it was only 6 years ago. In those days, teachers would get angry if students would look at their phones instead of concentrating on their textbooks. Nowadays almost everybody has a Smartphone, and teachers, who, I assume, were followers of learner-centered approach to teaching. found a way out. They decided that instead of prohibiting students from using their phones, they will actually make the students use their smartphones for learning purposes.

A lot has been written about the usefulness and effectiveness of MALL (Mobile Assisted Language Learning). There are hundreds of free APPs available on APP stores which can be used in EFL practice plus all the in-built functionalities that phones provide. The research has shown that MALL tools allow the learners to become more autonomous, they create more opportunities for collaboration and cooperation among students. Ali Sorayyaei Azar‘s research on “Learners’ Attitudes toward the Effectiveness of Mobile Assisted Language Learning (MALL) in L2 Listening Comprehension” in Iran, which aimed to investigate Iranian EFL learner’s attitudes toward the effectiveness of Mobile Assisted Language Learning on their Listening comprehension indicated, the experimental group receiving instruction through cell-phone based audiobooks outperformed the control group on their listening comprehension. Such studies are numerous and the reasons for these kinds of results also vary.

One very comprehensive research that summarizes most of the important points about MALL as well as talks about its disadvantages and pitfalls is John Traxler’s study “Mobile Learning for Languages: Can The Past Speak to the Future?”.

The study describes the advantages of MALL as “reaching out”, “enriching”, “learning from one another”, “theorizing and defining”, “enthusing and motivating” and “just in time”. I would highly recommend you to check out the paper if you want a profound literature analysis about MALL.

.As for the limitations and challenges of MALL, the author goes further than just discussing the small screen of the mobile devices and the readability issues. He raises the issues of sustainability, embedding and evidence. In terms of sustainability, Traxler talks about the ability of MALL APPs to “generate revenue or meet their costs and an understanding of their impact on human, economic, and social capital in relation to their various costs.” By embedding, he means how MALL is embedded in other learning systems and how it effects MALL’s efficacy. And the last limitation and challenge is, according to Traxler, the lack of evidence “that demonstrates relevance, significance, and impact.”

These limitations need to be addressed in order for Mobile Assisted Language learning to become absolutely effective for the language learners.  But before that I would recommend  using what mobile devices have to offer as their usefulness in the learning process is very obvious.

Digital Storytelling and Digital Video: Some Concerns

question3multiI was planning to write this post earlier but because of certain factors I have decided to leave it for later.

In my previous posts I have mostly talked about the positive sides of technology use in the classroom. All the technology tools discussed earlier were highlighted with their advantages. In this post, however, I have to talk about some of my concerns about digital storytelling and digital videos.

I adore storytelling, I may listen to a good storyteller for hours, I consider storytelling as a great tool to develop learners’ speaking and presentation skills, but when it comes to digitizing it, I have some issues with that. Even though the whole process of creating digital stories and videos is fun, engaging and exciting,  in order to assign your learners to create one, you have to make sure that all your learners have access to computers and know exactly how to use it. If we talk from the perspective of developing country teachers and learners, then we have to admit that this is not always the case. However “technologized” the world has become, there are still kids who don’t have the luxury of having computers or being taught how to use them.

My other concern is the time that the learners need to dedicate on preparing digital stories and videos and the training that has to go with it. For public school EFL classrooms, particularly in Armenia, which are governed by state educational policies, time restrictions and expected deliverables, it becomes highly impossible for a teacher to be able to use these tools in their teaching process.

These concerns and some others that I have are mostly related to the teaching context and I have to admit that if these tools are viewed from the perspective of a “technologically and digitally ideal” classroom, where all the learners are digital natives, and have computers and the curriculum is flexible enough for tools like digital storytelling and digital videos, then they become invaluable tools which target the needs of both the learners and the teacher.