Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Contextualizing a MALL: Practice Design and Evaluation

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Contextualizing a MALL: Practice Design and Evaluation

Article excerpt

Introduction

Many see mobile learning as the next generation of learning (Sharples, 2000). Mobile technologies applied to language learning include PDAs, multimedia cellular phones, MP3 players, and digital dictionaries (Zhao, 2005). The appeal and benefits of these mobile or handheld devices supporting mobile assisted language learning (MALL) appear to be their portability, the ability to play and record audio, and cost efficiency as compared to that of a laptop or desktop PC (Wishart, 2008). Some researchers claim that the portability and accessibility of mobile devices can allow language learners to access learning materials and to communicate with teachers and peers with less time and space constraints (Chinnery, 2006; Nah et al., 2008; Rosell-Aguilar, 2007).

As communication has always been a central pillar of language learning, the technical aspect of communicative mobile technology has become increasingly able to support communication pedagogy in recent years. Specifically, MALLs support language learning in different language areas such as vocabulary learning (Cavus & Ibrahim, 2009) as well as pronunciation practice (Ducate & Lomicka, 2009). Some researchers have also drawn attention to the four language skills; for example, writing ability (Morita, 2003), and English listening skills (Edirisingha et al., 2007). These studies have adopted the wireless delivery mechanism of SMS and handheld functionalities of video and audio recording, as well as the playback of mobile devices to help learners practice specific types of second language skills. In general, these adopted applications, because of the mature development of wireless technology and ICT devices, do not require much technical support, aside from uses in business domains. Language learning in respect to MALL focuses on practicing specific elements of knowledge and skills rather than using language merely as a means of communication.

Another area of MALL studies has explored the advantages of mobile technologies. These features include personal, situated, authentic, spontaneous, informal, and continuous access, as well as unhindered interaction across diverse contexts (Kukulska-Hume, 2009). For example, previous studies have examined a mobile peer-assisted learning system for a collaborative early English as a Foreign Language (EFL) reading program (Lan et al., 2007), a personalized intelligent m-learning system for supporting effective English reading (Chen & Hsu, 2008), and several theme-based m-learning activities improving contextual language learning experiences (Tan & Liu, 2004). MALL designs in these studies have emphasized innovative learning features of mobile devices, but all of them must customize mobile technologies. Although these researchers have proposed advanced MALLs, their designs and implementations require too much technical knowledge and too many demands that are not affordable for most language teachers. To apply MALL to real pedagogic situations, the main purpose of this study is to explore how teachers can adopt mobile technologies without too much technical burden, while enhancing target language acquisition to motivate learners.

Because communication in a target language is crucial to second language acquisition, language teachers must provide learners purposeful contexts where they can engage in authentic interaction. Among various versions of communicative language teaching, task-based instruction has become a concrete realization for developing target language through meaningful communication (Littlewood, 2004). With the communicative applications of advanced mobile technologies, mobile devices thus provide a platform for various communicative tasks. This study employed mobile technologies to design task-based language instruction, whose design and implementation must be affordable to language teachers. The instructional design used mobile technologies to support MALL in technically simple ways associated with sophisticated pedagogies. …

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