Going Mobile, Going Further!

What happens to “learning” if we add the word “mobile” to it? The increasing and rapidly developing use of mobile technology by English language learners is an unquestionable aspect of today’s classroom. However, the attitude EFL teachers develop towards the use of mobile devices as an aid for language teaching varies greatly.

The unique benefits of mobile learning for EFL teachers include the ability to brigde formal and informal learning, which for language learners may be realized through supplementary out-of-classroom practice, translation support when communicating with target language speakers and the capture of difficulties and discoveries which can be instantly shared as well as being brought back into the classroom. Mobile learning can deliver, supplement and extend formal language learning; or it can be the primary way for learners to explore a target language informally and direct their own development through immediacy of encounter and challenge within a social setting. We still miss sufficient explicit connection between these two modes of learning, one of which is mainly formal and the other informal. Consequently, there are missed opportunities in terms of mutual benefit: formal education remains somewhat detached from rapid socio-technological change, and informal learning is frequently sidelined or ignored when it could be used as a resource and a way to discover more about evolving personal and social motivations for learning.

One example of how mobile devices can bridge formal and informal learning is through instant-messaging applications. Both synchronous and asynchronous activities can be developed for language practice outside the classroom. For example, in a discussion group on Whatsapp, students can discuss short videos, practice vocabulary with picture collages, share recent news, create captions and punch lines for memes, and take turns to create a multimodal story. Teachers can also create applications specifically to practice new vocabulary and grammar to support classroom learning.

Digital and mobile media are changing and extending language use to new environments as well as creating opportunities  to learn in different ways. Mobile technology enables us to get physically closer to social contexts of language use which will ultimately influence the ways that language is used and learned. Therefore, let us incorporate mobile learning into our EFL lessons and literatlly “have the world in our hands”.

Anderson Maia

Anderson Maia is currently the dean of a campus at Universidade Federal do Pará and a PhD in TESOL candidate at Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais. He was the academic manager at Centro Cultural Brasil Estados Unidos for 6 years, an adjunct TESOL professor at private colleges for several years, and has been an English language educator for 15 years in both Brazil and North Carolina, USA. He holds a degree in English and an MA in TESOL from Greensboro College, USA.

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