In this blog piece, Upendra Ghimire from Nepal discusses on the some practical ideas of using mobile in English language learning whereas Thinh Le from Vietnam shares his teaching experiences in using technology from blended learning to fully online.
Mobile in English language learning
The new millennium has come up with various scientific inventions and technological developments. As soon as the 21st century began, the world experienced the rapid evolution of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and the maximum use of those technologies in business, education and other fields. The various information technologies such as computer, tablet, mobile, television and other smart devices have been fundamental things in academic, business and personal life of growing generation people. More than just the digital devices, web 2.0 technologies have shifted the way of communicating information with each other from one part of the world to another. Nepal is also one of the fast-developing countries in ICTs. Among different smart devices, the mobile phone is the most portable digital device readily available for reasonable prices in Nepal. The early August 2016 record shows that 95 percent of the total population of the country have telecommunication access. The number of internet subscribers crossed 50.11 percent of the total population. Mobiles have gradual influence in English language development in Nepal. The use of English language to access and record the information on the devices has continuous influence in English language development in Nepal. Thus, the mobile can be a potential digital device to teach and learn English. In this article, I am trying to suggest some advantages of mobile in English language learning.
Mobile assisted language learning (MALL): There are several pedagogical reasons of considering the mobile in second language classroom. Kukulska-Hulme and Traxler (2005) elucidate why smart mobiles are comparatively more useful devices to learn the English language. They explain that these smart devices are relatively cheap in price and increasingly powerful to support teaching and learning the English language.
Nowadays the children are familiar with various types of smart mobiles. They use the devices, play with them and enjoy playing with different apps on the devices. The technology has provided them with an opportunity of learning several things beyond the classroom teaching and learning.
Some practical ideas to use mobile phones:
- Pronunciation practice: Pronunciation is the beauty of speaking and one of the aspects of language. Therefore, we focus on this aspect of language in language teaching classroom to develop communicative competency. The smart features of mobile can be supportive to develop pronunciation skills of English language. The learners can record their voice, listen to their record and native speaker’s voice, and practise consistently to improve their pronunciation. The English language learners can use English dictionary app to practice vocabulary, open YouTube to watch English language videos and practice English speaking. Besides, the students can watch television channels such as BBC, CNN and more on their mobile sets to improve English pronunciation.
- Capturing class notes by using the mobile camera: The learners can use mobiles to capture the pictures and record the audio-visual materials. These features can support English language learners to develop their listening, speaking, reading and writing skills.
- Downloading Materials: Smart mobiles can work like computers to download digital files, save web information and read them in flexible time. For instance, mobile with internet access provides an opportunity for downloading e-books, journals, software, games and useful apps for learning English.
- Using note features: Note application on smart mobiles can be helpful to write various notes of meetings, classroom lecture, textbook or personal interaction.
- Using mobile games to develop critical thinking skills: Various mobile games such as crossword puzzle, Scrabble, hanging man, vocabulary and so on can support the English language learners to improve their English with entertainment.
Problems encountered by ELT practitioners while using mobile:
- Lack of internet access
- Privacy issue
- Noisy classroom
- Monitoring individual students
- Requirement of highly-skilled teachers
Mobile as a portable smart device can support English language learners to improve their English and the teachers to involve students in language practice. It is a relatively cheap and powerful digital tool useful to practice the English language in the classroom as well as personal life. However, it requires the teachers to have high-level skills to purposefully use in classroom teaching.
Kukulskal- Hulme, A, & J. Traxler eds.2005. Mobile Learning : A hand book for educators and trainers. London: Routledge.
Introduction to Digital Tools for Teaching and Learning Online
In this entry, some digital tools are introduced first. Then I will share my teaching experiences in using technology from blended learning to fully online.
There are a variety of digital tools that you can use to teach English. Here are some digital tools that I have experienced and found them quite convenient and effective to use. First, it is important to set up a learning management system where you can stimulate your students’ interactions with you and their peers. This can be closed Facebook group or Edmodo. Then questions relating to your post can motivate students’ interaction online. If you want to make videos explaining the lesson, PowerPoint can be a useful tool because it is very easy to use and you can have good quality videos. After that, these videos should be uploaded to the learning management systems with guided questions for students to watch and do their work before the online interaction. To have online interactions with students, Zoom and Skype can be very useful tools for you. Both of them allow group call in which you can have interactions with many students at the same time. Besides, you can share your screen while you are calling your students, so you can explain the lessons easily. It enables you to do all kinds of teaching. For collaborative writing, I think Google Docs is magnificent. Just create a link to a Gmail account and let your students join in the game page so that they can write together under your supervisions and their peers.
I would like to share my experiences about using technology from blended learning to fully online class. I used to teach a group of students in Vietnam. They are hard-working, active and highly motived to learn English for communication. They were in grade 10 and lived in the remote area where there was no linguistic environment outside the classroom. Besides, it was really hard for them to find a good language centre to study English. In addition, high school teachers in Vietnam mainly focused on grammar. Therefore, these students were unable to communicate after 8 years learning English at school. They wished to learn English for communication, so I opened tutorial classes for them. However, we did not have enough time in the class, so I decided to set up a closed Facebook group to give them some extensive practices especially listening and speaking. I used all authentic materials from YouTube or British Council Broadcast to upload on the closed Facebook group and designed some tasks for them to do online. When one student uploaded his/her work in the group, other students started commenting, which created many discussions and stimulated their critical thinking. In the class, I gave them feedback about the homework they did. That saved us a lot of time in the class, so we could have more discussions in the class. Unfortunately, I had to go to New Zealand to do my PhD, and I could not help them anymore. However, they still wished me to help them improve English. That motivates me to carry out fully online teaching.
Here are my experiences in teaching online classes. My students and I have great online discussions. I set up a group of students on Edmodo by inviting them through emails. Then I post the tasks which can be written, audio, video posts. I can create these materials, or I sometimes use authentic materials online. More importantly, I create activities with the tasks so that my students can do when they watch the videos or read the post. The tasks can be multiple choice questions, open-ended questions, or free writing. Through Edmodo, I just set up a deadline so that my students know when they have to finish their tasks. For multiple questions, Edmodo even marks my students’ work, and I can see the results easily. To engage more students to have more discussions online, I ask my students to comment on at least two other people’s posts. Therefore, after the post, it is really interesting with all asynchronous discussions online. During the online meeting with my students, I can give them some feedback and have more conversations with them via Skype. If I have my students’ works, I usually put them on Google Docs and give them feedback so that all my students can see them carefully. Please try all these digital tools for your teaching and share your experiences.
Upendra Ghimire teaches English at Gramin Adarsha Multiple campus, Nepaltar, Kathamndu.
Thinh Le is a lecturer of English at Vietnam Banking Academy, Phu Yen Branch, Vietnam and he is also a PhD Candidate in College of Education, Health and Human Development, University of Canterbury, New Zealand.