A Mobile Device and Online System with Contextual Familiarity and Its Effects on English Learning on Campus

Article excerpt

Introduction

It is currently necessary for students to learn English if they hope to engage international persons or companies in their future careers. The goal of this research is thus to design a system to facilitate university students' communications in English, not only in class, but also on campus in their daily lives.

One factor affecting language learning is learning motivation. Krashen (1983) said that high learning motivation would work both to lower anxiety as well as eliminate barriers and that a hunger for knowledge would make success easier. How to design good activities to enhance motivation is thus very important. In addition, interaction with others is a good method for learning a language (Brown, 2001; Wu, 1992). For example, we can learn from teachers and peers in interactive activities, and our language ability can be enhanced by asking questions face to face. Language learning can also benefit from real-life situations, which can also help build the pragmatic, cultural, and linguistic components of L2 competence in an integrated manner (Li, 1984). CLT (communicative language teaching) emphasizes that language should be practiced in real-life situations and with authentic language input, creative language output, and through more listening and speaking (Penner, 1995; Rao, 2002; Sun & Cheng, 2002). In short, everyone should ideally develop their language abilities from real life.

Most people now have a mobile device, most often a mobile phone, in both developed and developing countries. We can make use of the ubiquity of such devices to learn anytime and anywhere (Sharples, 2000). One can also approach and explore learning contexts independently using mobile devices, thus leading to the possibility of developing new learning methods. For example, individuals could download educational contents into a local database on their mobile device and access the data directly, giving them greater levels of freedom. Moreover, mobile devices offer multimedia services, and a wide variety of interesting and engaging applications have already been developed for them, such as PIM (Personal Information Management), GPS and games.

English is often taught using uninteresting topics in a relatively passive classroom context, which can have adverse effects on both students' levels of interest and achievement. In this research, we focus oon a scenario in which Englis learning occurs in a context that is both familiar and interesting to students, i.e., the university campus and its neighborhood. Moreover, students can choose learning topics and forms of presentation that are both more enjoyable and meaningful to them. This system not only enhances learning motivation but also helps the students to learn useful, realistic English. Our system, named StudentPartner, combines a map of the campus with the GPS functions in mobile devices to support two-stage campus-based English learning activities. Moreover, students working with this system can share English messages with each other and collaborate in learning.

The purpose of the research is the following:

1. To investigate the perceived acceptance of our system and its activities, including usefulness, playfulness, interestingness and usability.

2. To study the relationship between system usage, English presentation, and learning achievement.

3. To find the relationship between system usage on the Internet and in the mobile environment.

Literature Review

Mobile Devices

Klopfer and Squire (2008) indicate that mobile devices share some specific features: (a) portability, as handhelds can be taken to different locations; (b) social interactivity, as they can be used to collaborate with other people; (c) context sensitivity, as handhelds can be used to gather real or simulated data related to particular locations; (d) connectivity, as they enable connection to data collection devices, other mobile devices, and to a network; (e) individuality, as they can provide scaffolding to meet personal needs and to undertake investigations of specific situations. …