Photo by Milica Sekulic

Photo by Milica Sekulic

The International Research Foundation (TIRF) has recently published five papers on mobile assisted language learning (MALL), all freely available on the TIRF website.

Each of the papers is followed by a  discussion, which you can add to. Abstracts and links to the papers below – happy reading!



Beyond the Classroom: Mobile Learning the Wider World (Ken Beatty)

Mobile learning has extended opportunities for making teaching and learning available beyond the traditional classroom. Associated technologies, software programs, and internet access have enfranchised many students who previously had little access to quality teaching. However, a paradigm shift has occurred in which learners are turning to new mobile learning opportunities to supplant traditional teaching as virtual extensions of earlier self-help books, phrase books, and audio-based language learning programs. Audio translation apps, augmented reality, and just-in-time learning approaches are providing alternatives to those with neither access nor time to learn a language. This paper examines the theoretical underpinnings of a range of technologies and applications, contrasting them with the traditional classroom and imagining the future of mobile language teaching and learning and the impact it will have on policymakers, teachers, employers, and learners.

Re-skilling Language Learners for a Mobile World (Agnes Kukulska-Hulme)

Ubiquitous access to mobile phones and other portable devices means that language learning increasingly straddles classroom-based learning and learning outside the classroom, in virtual spaces and out in the world. We know from studies of emergent learner-led practices that foreign language study can be enriched through easy access to resources selected to suit individual interests or needs. Yet learners’ choices seem largely determined by what they happen to come across, rather than knowledge about which language skills are best improved through mobile learning. Existing mobile applications often fail to exploit connections between life and learning. This paper suggests which language skills can be enhanced through mobile learning and how learner-technology interaction supports that development, particularly opportunities for learners to extend or practice their communication with others. The paper also suggests that new skills may be required in relation to the next generation of wearable devices and increasingly instrumented, technology-rich surroundings where use of mobile technology integrates with other tools, resources, and social networks that continue to challenge traditional knowledge and skills.

Some Emerging Principles for Mobile-assisted Language Learning (Glenn Stockwell & Philip Hubbard)

The steadily increasing access to sophisticated but affordable portable technologies over the past several years has brought with it a body of research into using these technologies for learning in both formal and informal contexts. It is not surprising, then, that language teachers have also adopted mobile technologies into their individual teaching and learning contexts. This paper first examines recent studies from the mobile-assisted language learning (MALL) literature, exploring the issues that emerge from this body of research through a framework distinguishing physical, pedagogical, and psycho-social dimensions. Recognizing not only the contributions but also the limitations of existing MALL literature, it then identifies a number of findings from the closely allied fields of mobile learning (ML) and computer-assisted language learning (CALL) that can inform both research and practice in MALL. Drawing from all three sources (MALL, ML, and CALL), the paper proposes ten general principles to guide teachers, learners, administrators, employers, and other stakeholders in the challenge of effectively integrating mobile devices and tasks into language learning environments. The paper concludes with a case study showing how each of the principles described have been applied in an actual mobile language learning context.

Mobile Learning for Languages: Can the Past Speak to the Future? (John Traxler)

This paper explores the past decade of mobile learning projects, policies, research, and conceptualising and asks about its relevance to the future as it might apply to language learning. The paper provides a very broad categorization of mobile learning in order to identify pedagogic possibilities for language learning, but it moves on to ask about the changing nature and authority of language and learning. There are nevertheless practical lessons to be learnt.

And my own paper:
Designer Learning: The Teacher as Designer of Mobile-based Classroom Learning Experiences (Nicky Hockly)

This paper takes as its starting point Laurillard’s (2012) assertion that classroom practitioners need to become designers of effective learning experiences. It describes a small-scale classroom-based action research project carried out with two different levels of international EFL students studying in the UK, over a two-week period. Through the experience of implementing mobile-based communicative classroom tasks with these learners, six parameters for the effective design and sequencing of these tasks became apparent: (1) hardware, (2) mobility, (3) technological complexity, (4) linguistic/communicative competence, (5) type of MALL, and (6) educational /learning context. This paper describes the study and proposes these six parameters as key to designing effective mobile-based tasks for the communicative language classroom. It is hoped that these parameters may be applicable to other fields in education. Finally, areas of concern within the study are explored, suggestions are made for future classroom-based research, and the importance of teacher training is highlighted.

Blog posts related to my TIRF paper:


November 2013