Can teachers and students learn together?

The formal or traditional approach to language learning is that the instructor helps students learn/gain knowledge about the language. Integration of technology in learning environments has not only enhanced the language learning process but has also enabled instructors to learn and acquire knowledge in various dimensions. A study carried by Park & Slater (2014) investigated whether teacher and students learn together using mobile phones.

can-students-and-teachers-learn-togetherResearch Findings

This American research from 2014 looks at the ways EFL teachers and students use mobile phones, how they envisage harnessing mobile technology for language learning and the advantages and drawbacks they assume will accompany MALL activities for skills acquisition.

The study consisted of a needs analysis in the form of an on-line questionnaire, which incorporated both open-ended and closed questions for reliability. This was completed by 23 ESL teachers and 76 students. It was accompanied by semi-structured interviews with four ESL teachers and four ESL students on an EAP course. The authors contend that previous MALL research has shown that technology can be used for comprehensible input, negotiation of meaning and learner output but they wanted to chart the potential both groups could see for MALL when studying the four main skills. The suggestions from teachers and learners were then classified for future use.

Implications for practice

The results of this research demonstrate that students use the majority of the functions on their devices while the teachers use their phones more conventionally. Interestingly, the teachers were keener (89%) to use MALL than the learners (59%); this is perhaps because the learners already use phones for language acquisition.  Another variable was that learners wanted to use mobile devices for writing, followed by listening/speaking and finally reading whereas the teachers ranked listening/speaking first. In general, students’ ideas for using MALL were more wide ranging and more informal, for example listening to music, SMS, chatting and social networking. As regards speaking skills, the students could see the potential of recording videos of themselves using target language. For writing activities, teachers suggested listening to lectures and compiling informal/formal emails. In terms of reading activities, both mentioned news and novels although the learners also wanted course related reading materials whereas the teachers imagined MALL being useful for homework.

The conclusions drawn are that EFL teachers are eager to use MALL but uncertain how to do so. The resultant list of potential tasks to ensure skills acquisition within MALL is useful for such teachers. However, the main finding is that teachers should be asking learners how they use their mobile phones, thereby taking advantage of this technology in an authentic way. By doing so, learners’ real life experiences using mobile devices would inform pedagogy in a task-based, technology-enhanced learning and teaching environment. Using MALL for task-based teaching and learning could eventually enable students to use language more effectively on their mobiles outside class, for work and study purposes.

Park, M. & Slater, T. (2014) A typology of tasks for mobile-assisted language learning: Recommendations from a small-scale needs analysis. TESL CANADA JOURNAL/REVUE TESL DU CANADA (31), 93-115, Special Issue 8