3. Mobile Assisted Language Learning

posted 3 May 2011, 19:48 by Xavier Pradheep Singh   [ updated 9 Jul 2011, 06:57 ]
K. E. Valarmathi
Assistant Professor
Annammal College of Education for Women, Thoothukudi
Email: vanam_nathi@yahoo.in

            Mobile learning is undergoing rapid evolution. Mobile phones can support many kinds of learning, including language learning. Mobile technologies offer numerous practical uses in language learning. A computer is better than a mobile phone for handling various types of information such as visual, sound, and textual information, but mobile phone is superior to a computer in portability. They can be just as easily utilized outside of the classroom as they can in it;learners can study or practice manageable chunks of information in any place on their own time, thereby taking advantage of their convenience.This article discusses the use of Mobile for learning a language. 
How to cite this article:
MLA (7th Edition)
Valarmathi, K. E. "Mobile assisted language learning." 
Journal of Technology for ELT. 1.2 (April 2011): n. pag. Web. (Date of Access).
MLA (6th Edition)
Valarmathi. K. E. "Mobile assisted language learning." Journal of of Technology for ELT 1.2 (April 2011): (Date of Access). <https://sites.google.com/site/journaloftechnologyforelt/archive/ april2011/mobileassistedlanguagelearning>

            Mobile devices play an increasing role in educational communications. Laptops and Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) are now supplemented by smart phones with internet connectivity. Mobile phone can create a better environment for language learning (with emphasis on learning English as a second and foreign language). Mobile learning environments might be faceto-face, distance, or online; further, they may be self-paced or calendar-based. One of the first projects using mobile phones in language learning was developed by the Stanford University learning lab in a Spanish learning program in 2001 (Brown, 2001).

Need of Mobile Assited Learning
            Mobile phones are already becoming much more than devices for transmitting the human voice wirelessly. Mobile phones already support a variety of data and multimedia features, most notably
  • Short messages and photography. 
  • Video photography and audio for playback of ringtones and music. 
  • Individual and interactive games and access to information (such as driving directions, travel information, and email). 

            Users can access information on fine wines, submit samples of music to find out the name of the song, artist, and record label, and submit pictures of famous buildings to access guidebook content. More traditional academic learning content is also being developed using these same capabilities.

            Mobile Assisted Language Learning (MALL) describes an approach to language learning that is assisted or enhanced through the use of a handheld mobile device. MALL is a subset of both Mobile Learning (m-learning) and Computer-assisted language learning (CALL). MALL is language learning using mobile devices such as:
  • Cell (mobile) phones (including the iPhone or iPad.) 
  • MP3 or MP4 players (e.g. iPods) 
  • Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) (e.g. Palm Pilot, Blackberry, etc)
            With MALL, students are able to access language learning materials and to communicate with their teachers and peers at anytime, anywhere.

Content creation systems
            SMS is the most rudimentary, allowing the transmission of simple text messages. MMS allows the integration of visual, audio, and text. Applications such as Java and Brew allow the creation of sophisticated content with art, animation, rich audio, and more.

            Within Java and Brew environments, a variety of proprietary technologies have emerged, including Flash movies and the EduMax format, a technology developed by a Chicago company to encode multimedia content in a format that is easy to create and easy to customize to many delivery platforms, including most models of mobile phones, as well as connected handhelds and laptop computers. An advantage of a solution such as EduMax is that a single step of encoding can be output to many devices.

Content delivery systems
            Currently, about a quarter of mobile phones world-wide are able to support multimedia applications. This number is expected to grow quickly, as newer mobile phone models penetrate markets. Carriers avidly support this growth, for they see content services as the most logical way to increase revenue.

Pedagogical Issues
            Mobile phone based curriculum demands effective and comfortable development of platform for teaching and learning along with sound instructional practices. Following issues have been identified for designing content of language learning through mobile phone.
  • Short and crispy sentences for understanding of grammar. 
  • Sentences showing common errors of English by India students 
  • Organization of the lesson content in a way that equally emphasizes both receptive and productive skills. 
  • Voice recordings for clear pronunciation and articulation of words. 
  • Recorded short stories for developing reading skills. 
  • Different levels of exercises for evaluating the language proficiency of the users. 
  • Automated evaluation of pronunciation and speaking 
  • Interactivity with the content via student’s responses. 
  • Effective learning using multimode applications. 
            As devices become smaller, modes of interaction other than keyboard and stylus are a necessity. 

Fig. 1.: Multi modes - touch screen, text and voice interaction 

Curriculum and pedagogy 
            Developing curriculum for mobile phones requires understanding of both the delivery platform and good instructional practices. At present, the technology supports mostly static, non-interactive content. Viewers can listen and view content, but not do much more. 

            Using current capabilities, a variety of content can be developed for language learning, including: 
  • Short dialogs as conversational models. 
  • Read-alongs, recorded audio stories with the ability to follow along with the printed text while listening to develop both listening and reading skills. 
  • Picture dictionaries with illustrations of common objects and actions, plus audio playback of the new language and translations into users’ languages. 
  • Phrase books for travelers. 
  • Preparation for tests such as TOEFL and TOEIC. 
            Soon, however, a number of interactive features will become available, including: 
  • Ability to integrate a wider variety of media, including animation and short video. 
  • Ability to submit sound files for evaluation of pronunciation and speaking, including automated evaluation. 
  • Establishment of learner communities for interactive learning using shared tools and content. 
  • Ability to obtain location-specific content, using GPS technologies. 
            The development of new features of this technology should be guided of principles of good curriculum design and pedagogy for teaching English. New features need to support needs for: 
  • Greater interactivity with the content, through the ability to submit student responses. 
  • Access to teachers, librarians, and other learners. 
  • Ability to interact with other learners, including playing games, conversation, and project-based learning, preferably using the phones’ capabilities to take pictures, capture sound, and input text.
Developing Mobile Language Learning Class using games 
            For developing mobile language learning games J2ME and NetBeans software environment are used.
Architecture for Mobile language Class 

Fig.2: Architecture for mobile language class
  • The user interacts with the mobile phone to play interactive games for language learning. 
  • The server (web server) maintains the database for contents and exercises. 
  • Through web gateway user connects to web server for accessing contents and exercises. 
MALL – Using games 
            In this game the user will be shown synonyms and antonyms questions for vocabulary building one at a time and he has to type the answer in the provided text box. If the user answers correctly, next question will be displayed. There are few sets of the questions stored in the database each set contains five questions. These sets are organized on level-basis. The complexity of the levels increases as the user keeps on answering. If the user is not able to answer any question, the game is over and the user will be shown the solution. 

Fig. 3: Screen shot of WORD game. 

Match Game 
            The game consists of exercises on English Grammar. 
  • The first section includes a series of sentences, which do not follow correct sentence construction. 
    • With each word in a sentence a unique integer is attached. 
    • The user is required to arrange these integer values in a proper manner to match it with the correct sentence pattern. 
  • The second section includes sentences, which are grammatically incorrect. 
    • The user’s job is to select the integer with incorrect word/phrase. 
    • The pop-up window appears as soon as the user clicks the mobile button corresponding to integer. 
    • This pop-up window contains various options out of which the user has to choose one for correctness. 
  • At the end of the entire exercise, a feedback mechanism is generated. 

Trends in MALL 
            MALL is available through numerous devices including mobile phones, iPods, tablet PCs, hand-held computers, PDAs, MP3 players, Smartphones and more. MALL designers have begun to move away from merely copying to techniques that maximize the benefits of these new devices. The increasing number of possible delivery tools provide a wide-range of mobile language learning programs, from very-short tutorials to full courses. The number of people capable of producing MALL content is also on the rise, due largely to a combination of increased popularity, demand and the advent of content generation tools that simplify the programming process through the use of templates and macros. 

            MALL currently serves not only as a primary source of language education for students but also supports the retention and utilization of newly-acquired language skills. Through mobile participation in short exercises and tasks, learners are able to keep their linguistic talents. 

Collaborative Learning in MALL 
            Collaborative learning is a student-centered approach to learning where the instructor is more like a facilitator than a teacher. Collaborative learning encourages all involved to help support and motivate each other to achieve the learning goal. Because the collaborative learning is student-centered, it often succeeds in engaging the learner. 

            A language can be learned through collaborative learning with the use of mobile devices But mobile devices don’t actually drive the learning, learners do. The devices, be they phones, palm pilots or laptops, are used as tools, like a pencil or calculator, to accentuate or aid the learning process. Duke University's use of iPods in 2004 is an example of using collaborative learning in MALL. 

            Collaborating on mobile devices is dependent on the device. The following are examples of collaborative learning using mobile devices: 
  • Collaboration on a mobile phone can be achieved by asynchronous text messaging and instant messaging or a phone conversation. In each instance learning can take place but the phones serve only as the delivery method for that information. 
  • A tablet PC or a PDA can allow learners to collaborate on documents while at different locations, find information from multiple sources to build ideas with partners, and make information about learning activities portable and easily accessible. 

Applications of MALL 
            Portability-the small size and weight of mobile devices means they can be taken to different sites or moved around within a site. 
  • Social interactivity-data exchange and collaboration with other learners can happen face-to-face. 
  • Context sensitivity-mobile devices can both gather and respond to real or simulated data unique to the current location, environment and time. 
  • Connectivity-a shared network can be created by connecting mobile devices to data collection devices, other devices or to a common network. 
  • Individuality- activities can be customized for individual learners. 
            The most notable constraints for earlier MALL include poor sound and display quality coupled with very limited devices and download speeds. Newer integrated PDA devices have narrowed the gap with higher access speeds, larger screens, having functions and capacities similar to laptop computers 

            Mobile technique for language learning is effective and easy as the mobile device is quite a popular gadget; language learning through games generate interest and makes the process simple; mobile learning techniques involves the principle of ‘anytime anywhere’, which makes it available to the user as and when required. Mobile phone is one device that effectively utilizes time and the user is not bound by time constraints. A mobile language class supports a variety of learning styles in a timely and interactive fashion. It is a paradigm shift from e-learning to m-learning. The influence of technology on current academics is such that in near future the whole context of learning will come under single umbrella of m-learning.