Academic journal article Journal of Adult Education

Enhancing ESL Vocabulary Development through the Use of Mobile Technology

Academic journal article Journal of Adult Education

Enhancing ESL Vocabulary Development through the Use of Mobile Technology

Article excerpt

Abstract

Applications, or apps, that are available for both smart phones and tablets can be an effective tool for promoting vocabulary development among adult learners in English as a second language programs. An app is a software program for a mobile phone or computer operating system. Examples of such apps are provided along with practical recommendations for their use by teachers and students.

Introduction

Adult learners in English as a second language (ESL) programs across the United States range in age from 19 to well into their retirement years. They have varied interests, abilities, goals and aspirations. They come from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds and possess a wide range of educational, work, and life experiences (Burt, Peyton, & Adams, 2003; National Center for ESL Literacy Education, 2002). Although they are learning to speak, listen, read, and write English, these adult students bring a wealth of background knowledge and experience to the ESL classroom.

In most cases, adult students attend ESL classes with the aim of improving their lives as employees, family members, and individuals (National Center for ESL Literacy Education, 2003). As they interact daily in work, family, and social settings, they must be able to communicate effectively in spoken and written English. Increasingly, much of that interaction takes place via technology. Employers, schools, neighborhood associations, and even family members now routinely communicate critical, time-sensitive information first electronically-with other forms of correspondence taking more of a back seat.

Like native speakers of English, today's adult ESL students must learn to navigate new technologies in order to fully participate in the prevalent technological discourse community (Fox & Fleischer, 2002). To this end, Ball (2011), Larsen-Freeman and Andersen (2011 ), and others (e.g., Hopey, 1999; Warschauer & Meskill, 2000) recommend that ESL teachers incorporate current technology into ESL teaching and learning. Ball (2011), drawing on a thorough review of the literature, describes a number of benefits of technology use in adult ESL teaching and learning. Examples include (a) opportunities for increased learner autonomy and student choice, (b) transferability of skills to other areas of life (including work), (c) increased student engage- ment/motivation, (d) immediate, precise feed-back, and (e) ease of tracking progress toward the individual's self-selected goals.

Technology is rapidly changing with today's innovations soon becoming outdated; however, it is clear that teachers and students must begin with current technology and continue to build upon their knowledge as technological advances unfold. Two popular forms of current technology which can be highly beneficial for ESL students are smart phones (such as the iPhone by Apple or the android Samsung Galaxy) and tablets (such as the Google Nexus or Apple's iPad). Many students already own or have access to one (or more) of these mobile devices, and those who do not may find it a worthwhile investment.

A key feature of both smart phones and tablets is the availability of applications, or apps, many of which can be downloaded for free or at little cost. Simply put, an app is a software program for a mobile phone or computer operating system (American Dialect Society, 2011). Most users of smart phones and tablets quickly learn how to use apps - sometimes even receiving instruction on how to do so at the time of purchase.

A second important feature of smart phones and tablets is their portability, which makes it possible for users to access apps while "on the go" or while engaged in a specific learning task. Because of these features, mobile devices can be highly effective tools for use in language teaching and learning. One domain of ESL teaching and learning where the use of mobile devices can be particularly powerful is the area of vocabulary development. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.