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Going Mobile: Time will tell


cover with border2To celebrate the recent publication of our new book Going Mobile (co-authored with Gavin Dudeney), we’re sharing a number of activities you can try out with your students, to get them using mobile devices as part of the their language learning. The first activity we shared (Addicted!) required no devices at all in class. The second activity (Twitter celebrities) encouraged students to start using the ‘text’ function of their mobile phones with Twitter. Here we move on to an activity called ‘Time will tell’, and it gets students creating photo collage ‘time capsules’ by using the camera function of  their mobile devices.


If you decide to try this activity with your students, I’d love to hear about their reactions, in the Comments box below…

Nicky Hockly
The Consultants-E
January 2015

Going Mobile: Twitter celebrities

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To celebrate the recent publication of our new book Going Mobile (co-authored with Gavin Dudeney), we’re sharing a number of activities you can try out with your students, to get them using mobile devices as part of the their language learning. Last week’s activity (Addicted!) required no devices at all in class. This activity encourages students to start using the ‘text’ function of their mobile phones with Twitter.

I got the idea for this activity from an intermediate student I was teaching as part of an action research BYOD project (more on that here). The students only seemed to use translations apps on their phones as a regular part of their language learning (I asked and they all claimed to use nothing else). But after class one day, one of my students (aged 25) proudly showed me a tweet from David Guetta  (a famous DJ), whose tweets he avidly followed. Clearly this student didn’t think that following a person who tweeted in English (and French) had anything to do with ‘learning English’. This activity comes from that moment with my student… [click on the images below to make them bigger]



If you decide to try this activity with your students, I’d love to hear their reactions (let me know in the Comments box below)!

Nicky Hockly
The Consultants-E
January 2015

New year, new book: Going Mobile

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A new year and a new book. Although published last month (December 2014), the print copies of my new book Going Mobile (co-written with Gavin Dudeney) arrived on my doorstep a few days ago. For me, it’s the perfect New Year gift to finally see the book in print (it’s also available as an e-book).

To celebrate, I’m going to share some activities from the book in a series of blog posts over the coming weeks. Here’s the first.

This simple activity gets learners thinking about and discussing mobile phone addiction – a very real phenomenon these days. To carry out this activity you and your learners don’t need any technology at all in the classroom, so it’s a good place to start if you want a slow and gentle introduction to the use of hand-held devices (or if the use of mobile devices is prohibited in your institution – we talk about that in the book too).

If you can show videos in your classroom though, you could start off the class by first showing your students this well-known video made (ironically) by a telecom company in Thailand. The strapline of the video is ‘Disconnect to connect’. It very effectively introduces the idea of phone addiction and the social costs.

Then move on to the activity outlined below:

addicted1 addicted2

If you try this activity with your students, do let me know how it goes (in the Comments box below)!

Nicky Hockly
The Consultants-E
January 2015

Teaching with mobile devices: FAQs

There is a good reason for my 3 month blogging hiatus. Since January, work has taken me to Chile for 2 weeks, Egypt for a week, India for 3 weeks, and Moscow for a week. And then the TESOL US conference in Portland followed immediately by the IATEFL conference in Harrogate, UK – another 2 weeks of longhaul flights, international airports and jetlag. All of these trips have involved training and conference talks/plenaries on the topic of education and technology. And especially on the use of mobile devices in language teaching.

During my talk at the recent IATEFL Harrogate conference, called ‘Teaching with mobile devices: Choices and challenges’ (see the video recording here), the audience used their mobile devices to send in questions via Poll Everywere. There were several questions which I’m asked regularly by teachers. I’ve chosen 4 questions to answer here.

Question 1:


If you don’t plan to let students use their mobile devices (constructively!) in class, you’re swimming against the tide. You will spend a lot of time and effort trying to ban or confiscate the devices, when you could be using them to your advantage. So much better to put an implementation plan in place, get your stakeholders on board (admin, school directors, other teachers, parents,…) , and have the devices support the learning aims in your classes through good task design and effective classroom management. Here’s a 10 step implementation plan suggested by my colleague Gavin Dudeney and I in our forthcoming book, Going Mobile:


[download a sample from the book]

Question 2:




Some schools invest in class sets of tablet computers to get around this issue. Some schools use a ‘hybrid’ model, where students can choose to use their own devices or to use a school-owned device if they prefer. Institutions that have tried this out find that students often prefer to use their own devices (such as a feature phone) even if these are less sophisticated than the school devices, because the sense of ownership is so strong with one’s own device. Of course, using a range of devices and operating systems (iOS, Android, Windows, Blackberry…) means ensuring that you use generic or cross-platform apps where necessary, and that task design takes this range of devices into account (see the links at the bottom of this post to activities that work with a range of devices and operating systems at the same time).

Question 3:




This is arguably the area that teachers feel most insecure about. There are a number of things to keep in mind here. There are the purely technical issues such as devices not working or not connecting to the school wifi. And there are also logistical issues involved is having class sets, such as who keeps the school’s class sets of devices charged up, or who chooses and downloads the apps onto the school devices. A few suggestions:

  • Your school needs someone tech-savvy enough to deal with things like the wifi routers, or general tech issues.
  • Some schools have students themselves acting as digital leaders, even at primary school level. Look at this inspiring example.
  • Teachers need to be au fait and confident with the devices themselves. Schools that implement mobile devices well often have ongoing professional development for their teachers. For example, listen to Carla Arena in Brazil talking about how her school started using tablets in classes.

Question 4:




A good question. Probably THE question, in fact. It all depends on what we mean by benefits. And it also depends on what we get students to do with mobile devices and what we understand by mobile learning. For example: there is some solid research (via Paul Nation et al) that shows that the use of vocabulary apps such as flashcards can increase vocabulary retention and acquisition. But this is one very specific use of mobile devices, and most probably takes place outside of the classroom as self-study work. My own experience of using a BYOD (bring your own device) approach with students in the UK showed definite improvements in motivation- and one can argue that this is key to any learning. But given the number of factors involved in learning a language, it’s difficult to ‘prove’ that the use of a specific device improves learning. But benefits in terms of interest, motivation, and the opportunity to improve students’ mobile literacy (such as learning to use QR codes, or understanding geolocation or augmented reality) – yes.

Thanks again to those in the workshop who submitted questions – and if you have any questions yourself about using mobile devices in class, please add them to the Comment box below.

Nicky Hockly
The Consultants-E
April 2014

Mobile-based activities that work with a range of devices:


5 Cool things I learned about in 2013

Photo by Creativity103

Photo by Creativity103

Of course I learned a lot more than five things in 2013, but here are five that I especially like:

1 The quantified self movement

When a non-techy friend visiting me from London showed up wearing a FitBit earlier this year, it struck me that the self- quantified movement has gone mainstream. Gadgets that measure sports performance have been around for many years – my triathlete partner has been using a Garmin watch since I met him- but for the rest of us, these devices seemed irrelevant. But now you can track your eating habits, sleeping habits, how many steps you take a day, and even your moods, on a daily basis via your smartphone. I’ve been experimenting with the first three via a number of apps this year, which has been revealing. The main benefit is raising awareness of one’s habits, the first step in trying to change some of them (mine: eat less chocolate, do more regular exercise, sleep more). The downside concerns privacy (who has access to this data, and what can/will be done with it?).  More on the quantified self here, and here (includes recommended apps to try out).

2 Wearable technology (that I might actually wear)

Despite Diane von Furstenberg’s much-hyped 2012 New York Fashion Show with models wearing Google Glass, one wonders how much uptake this particular wearable technology will have. Apart from not coming cheap, Glass is still clunky-looking and potentially excessively intrusive. Do I really want my social media stream in front of my eyes all day long (yes, I know there’s an off button)? Do I want to be looking at a view and be able to name each of those hills via a Glass augmented reality overlay every time I take a hike? Well, not really, especially if I look like a Glasshole in the process (Wired magazine’s terminology, not mine), not to mention the privacy issues (again). Maybe if Glass was in the form of contact lenses… But more affordable and selling well is wearable technology like smart watches that mirror your smartphone screen, for example the crowd-funded Pebble. Yes please, Santa!

3 Japanese hologram pop stars

I’m a little late to the party on this one, and only heard about the Japanese virtual pop star Hatsune Miku via a Wired magazine article earlier this year. As in many things strange and technological, Japan is well ahead of the game, and Hatsune has been around since 2007. I was reminded of Hatsune again this week via Stephen Downes  linking to this Daily Mail article. Strange but true.

4 AR (augmented reality) markers

Although I’ve known about, used (and blogged about) augmented reality for a while, I still hadn’t got around to creating any AR myself. A recent AR experiment had me turning the cover of our 2013 book Digital Literacies (co-written with Gavin Dudeney and Mark Pegrum) into an AR marker, using Layar. See if the marker works for you (it should!) by doing the following:
  • Download Layar (free) to your tablet or smartphone
  • Grab your copy of Digital Literacies (what, you don’t have it? Ok, use the cover image on Amazon - first click on it to make it larger)
  • Open Layar on your mobile device and scan the cover
  • A video will pop up. Click the play button and watch the video
  • Voilà, now you know a bit more about digital literacies!
To come: a blog post on how to get your students creating AR markers for book reviews as part of a Book fair at your school.

Note: I used the free version of Layar to create this AR maker (it has ads). Another app that enables you to create AR markers is Junaio/Metaio.

5 The Fair list

And finally, a shout out for The Fair List, which encourages gender balance for speakers at English language teaching (ELT) events in the UK. Launched by colleague Tessa Woodward in April 2013, it aims to raise awareness of the often quite astounding gender imbalance in plenary speakers at ELT events, which frequently have many more male plenary or panel speakers than female. This is especially odd in a profession so overwhelmingly practised by women. As a regular speaker at conferences myself , I see that The Fair List could be applied to contexts beyond the UK. And they have their work cut out. Two days ago I attended a conference here in Spain – of the five plenary speakers, exactly none were women. Let’s see if the language teaching profession internationally can do better in 2014.


I hope you’ve all had a fruitful and fulfilling 2013, and please feel free to share anything you’ve learned about in 2013, in the Comments section below… Happy 2014!

Nicky Hockly
The Consultants-E
December 2013