Archive for December, 2018

With the integration of mobile devices into our daily lives, there have been considerations about how to make use of them in educational terms. In reply to this need, a new field has emerged. In their 2008 paper, Kukulska-Hulme and Shield define Mobile Assisted Language Learning (MALL) as “formal or informal learning mediated via handheld devices and potentially anytime, anywhere.” The writers assert that MALL makes learners take the responsibility of their own learning as they determine the content and the medium of instruction, rather than being the receiver of information in a teacher-led course. They stress that there is a shift in the concept of mobile learning; from portability of devices to mobility of learners (Sharples, 2006).

The writers list mobile phones, MP3/MP4 players, Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) and palmtop computers as mobile devices that are generally used in field research.  They divide the approaches to MALL into two main categories depending on their focus; content-related and design-related approaches. Content related studies tend to offer data about course material development whereas design related studies focus more on independent learning, which can very well be informal. The former approach uses mobile devices as the medium for the distribution of teaching materials in contrast to the latter. In design related approach, the core is interaction with other parties such as other learners or tutors.

Most MALL studies employ mobile phones as the medium. Such studies include the works of Pecherzewska and Knot, 2007;  Andrews, 2003; Levy & Kennedy, 2005; McNicol, 2005; Norbrook & Scott, 2003; Pincas, 2004; Norbrook & Scott; 2003, Levy & Kennedy, 2005; McNicol, 2005 and Stockwell (2007).  Because of some advantages they offer like learner familiarity to medium and favorability of them by students, mobile phones are used more than other forms of mobile devices. Little attention has been paid to the facilitation of oral production through mobile phone use, though.  Exceptional studies which try to employ oral interaction are Dias 2002a,2002b; Stanford University Tomorrow’s Professor Listserv, 2002 and Irish as a Second Language lessons reported by Cooney& Keogh, 2007.  These studies also had their limitations , namely, Dias’ study being  text based only whereas the later ones being too difficult to schedule because of the need to make the learners and the tutors interact during a specific time period.

There are also other studies that used handheld computers, tablet PCs, MP3 players and digital voice recorders. For example, Samuel’s 2003 study shows that handheld computers can be used to make learners produce and reflect on each other’s work. Lan et al. (2007:137) state that they set up a network enabling learners to reach a certain point in tests and then be able to help others as a tutor. The learners could listen to and assess each other’s work through Skype connections. These examples show that the chances to teach through mobile devices are infinite.

While designing MALL activities, teachers/ researchers should pay attention to the general principles of the field: mobility, portability, learner needs and practicality issues. “Anytime, anywhere” is the core of this approach as the most important benefit of using mobile devices is their portability and practicality, independent from constraints like the time and place of learning. In the contemporary world, individuals are so busy that they might need to learn a language while they do many other things such as working or commuting. Thornton and Houser (2005, p.218) state that most students suffer from a lack of instruction time in class and the researchers say they believe  MALL is a good opportunity to increase exposure.

In their 2012 paper titled Mobile-Assisted Language Learning, Miangah and Nezarat suggest the integration of video and voice chat feature into MALL so that teachers can provide material to the learners in addition to giving them feedback interactively. This provision has already become reality in recent years, which shows the rapid changes happening in the field.

No matter what medium they use or which skill they aim to teach, meaningful, cost effective, cooperative, learner-specific instruction is what MALL studies thrive for. There is a lot of room for improvement in the field as the language learning/teaching processes are undergoing constant change. MALL activities can help learners use multimedia and allow them to make information their own by reshaping it.