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Editor’s Note: Anita Pincas has written a timely article on an investigation into mobile phones. Researchers have recently given more attention to mobile technology due to it’s potential national and international educational and business uses. Pincas’s discussion highlights how mobile phones can be effectively used by tourists at the 2004 summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. 


Using Mobile Phone Support for Use of Greek
During the Olympic Games 2004
(The Inlet Project)

Anita Pincas


The INLET project (Lingua) will demonstrate techniques for promoting immediately contextualized introductory Greek language at the Olympic Games in 2004. This paper will review implications for language learning motivation as well as more general underlying principles for ubiquitous just-in-time knowledge approaches involving SMS messaging including an SMS searchable database.

Keywords: Greek, Olympic games, language support, motivation, ubiquitous, just-in-time, SMS

Project overview

The project was granted under the Socrates Programme Lingua 1, entitled INLET – Introducing Language Enhancement Techniques. Technically, it is relatively straightforward. Tourists coming to Greece for the Olympic Games will receive:


leaflets at airports, hotels, and sports venues explaining the language help available


some useful Greek phrases on the leaflets


a mini disc with the same information as on the leaflets


phone number to register their interest


SMS messages sent regularly to their mobile phone with useful phrases


facility to request and receive SMS translations from or into Greek

Educational aspects of INLET

Features of ubiquitous support

The parameters of the project fit with generally agreed principles for ubiquitous support such as






Multi-device delivery



  User management

Physical limitations

Psychological limitations

Some sample application categories are

Sample Applications



Performance support

Language learning


Online mentoring


INLET adds another application to the list, namely Information Supply. We can consider the output of the project under two headings of (a) Information Supply, where we will find it links with Performance support, and (b) Language learning, though we would revise this to “Language supply”. There are different factors to consider under each.

INLET Information Supply

INLET recognizes the common fact that people on the move need information in three ways, ie in different spaces, in different areas of life, and at many different times (McLean 2003). But this does not necessarily follow an m-learning paradigm where the ultimate assumption a transformation of learning styles (Vavoula and Sharples 2002). In that paradigm, the principal pedagogical considerations to be taken into account would be (Singh 2003) 


Urgency of learning need


Initiative of knowledge acquisition


Mobility of learning setting


Interactivity of learning process


Situatedness of instructional activities


Integration of instructional content.

But we revise this list to fit information supply, without assumptions of learning on the part of the user:


Urgency of information need


Initiative information acquisition


Mobility of setting


Interactivity of process


Situatedness of needs


Integration of content

Chen and colleagues (Chen et al 2002) noted four trends in mobile applications. The first is from courseware to performance-ware such as the stand-alone learning content model needs to transform to a context-driven, task-sensitive, performance-support model. In our model, there is performance, but not necessarily learning. The second is from instructional design to performance-based design, where compiling content and courses transforms into job, task, activity, and business application context analysis. Our model is based on activity and application context analysis. The third is from course management to business workflow where business workflow and processes become the delivery platform for mobile learning and performance support. Our model is towards activity flow and performance support. The fourth is from mouse-and-click to pen-and-voice interface, which our model clearly follows. These are exemplified in relation to language provision in the next section.

INLET language provision

Given the well-known current obstacles of limited memory storage, small screens, and intermittent connectivity (Vavoula and Sharples 2002), we agree with the recommendations by (McLean 2003) that any initiative must either improve on existing practices or do something that cannot be done using existing technologies and practices, and that there should be no attempt to provide a total solution to any learning program. Thus, in considering the language question for tourists at the Athens Olympic Games, it was clear that learning even elementary Greek would not take place in a period of one to three weeks. Clearly, it was linguistic performance activity of some kind that tourists would require. We therefore considered which were likely to be the most useful linguistic activities a tourist normally wished to perform, and then, which would be most useful to our specific sub-set of tourists.

An inspection of a typical pocket Berlitz dictionary and phrase book for travelers, shows 2500 dictionary items, 7 pages of basic grammar and pronunciation, and 140 pages of phrases in the categories: arrival, hotel, eating out, traveling around, sightseeing, relaxing, making friends, shopping, money, post office, and doctor. This is clearly more than information supply; it is an aid to learning as well as just-in-time performance support.

To follow our goals meant that we needed to select a small sub-set of the categories. There was no ready research information to guide that selection. We therefore used our judgment that the following categories of words and phrases would fulfill the most urgent Greek language needs for a tourist spending only a few days in the country.


Basics: greetings and other polite phrases, naming, numbers, and words like come, need, know, help, wait, have, like, want, is, am, are, very, passport.


Where: Where is, here, there, right, left, in, to etc., by taxi, bus, subway, train, on foot, street, etc.


When: now, later, today, tomorrow, What is the time?, days of the week, etc.


Olympic Sports: Olympic Games, Archery, Athletics, Fencing etc.


Buying: money, credit card, How much? Expensive, cheap, sales, buy, I would like, etc.

Our languages are, Greek, English, German, and Slovenian, based on the perception that English is the world’s lingua franca, and the other two were languages of a prior existing partnership but also covered a range of people likely to attend the Games.

We feel that our language choices supply information in terms of the categories listed above. Clearly there would be a strong situatedness of all the needs we cover, with an urgency for the Greek language information in the specific situation, which would vary according to the mobility of setting. The way our system is designed, some of the dictionary items are supplied to the mobile users by SMS on a regular basis several times every day. Others are available by request so that users take the initiative in acquiring the information through the mobile interactivity process, in which the users themselves integrate the situation and the information content.

In other words, we fulfill the main goals of just-in-time learning even though we do not assume users will necessarily retain the information as language knowledge. Nonetheless, we are offering information availability any time any place, and also information on demand. And, finally, the users themselves determine whether and how they will engage in developing short-term skills learning when they attempt to understand or say the Greek items.

Why language provision by SMS?

The system as described actually provides what a book does. So the question arises: Why develop our system rather than assume tourists could buy their own pocket books?

First, we could not assume they would come with helpful books, so leaflets with some useful Greek phrases to be picked up at airports, hotels, and sports venues would fulfill a need. Second, for those with minidisk players, we offer the sounds of the language as well as the written form. Third, the SMS messages sent regularly to their mobile phone with useful phrases would be a constant reminder of the real possibility of communicating - even minimally - with members of the local community. Fourth, we incorporated items that are more targeted than a standard tourist pocket book would be. Fifth, even though learning Greek is not a goal we expect in a tourist to the Olympic Games, all our messages could be saved by the users and therefore re-used as often as needed, and perhaps ultimately learned.

However, perhaps the strongest motivation for the project was not to fulfill the needs of the Olympic Games traveler, but the needs of Greece as a minority language state within the European Union. We recognize the now limited interest in other languages, and that we are dealing with people with very low motivation to learn that language. Why, then, should they use any Greek at all? Our answer is that we want them to “feel” a connection to Greece and its people. For Greeks, this has to be linked to the language, even though there are many people who are deeply interested in Greek language and culture, especially of Ancient Greece, with no knowledge of or interest in the language. But, we feel that by enabling visitors to say and understand at least some very minimal, basic words, a rapport with Greek people might be established in ways that would not happen just by using English. This is what we often call phatic communication; it doesn’t really convey anything informative (facts), but it establishes an emotional bond.

We need to motivate them to make the effort to try to use Greek, and, as we all know, a small effort is usually more likely to be undertaken than a bigger one, especially if it attracts attention by being in some way unusual or unexpected. People are less likely to reject an offer if it is easy to cope with and it doesn’t cost anything. The INLET project design meets these requirements.

It has never been done before in quite this way. People with mobiles may have learned to receive unsolicited advertising SMS messages, or messages from their connection provider, but not free material that would be of genuine use to them [though some of the advertisements are useful, i.e. where the nearest car park is]. It is therefore likely to arouse some curiosity. It is easy to cope with even while the user may be doing other things while traveling with distracting things going on, and therefore with lower concentration. The SMS messages will be short – no more than 160 characters. Use of the minidisc is also quite simple for anyone who has a minidisc walkman. Finally, registering the phone number and opening incoming SMS messages is not difficult and will be free.

I did a small but international survey to discover whether people would want the help we will have on offer, and the results are perhaps surprising and disappointing. I asked over 200 of my students- who are all mature adults studying in the Online Education and Training course at the University of London. By definition, being on this course, these students were all ICT literate people, and had chosen to become even more so. Yet, fully half of them said they did not want to receive our SMS help. One was very violently opposed, claiming he could learn the language better in a person-to-person way in the taverns, playing cards and drinking ouzo with the village Greeks. He misunderstood our goals, which were not to teach the language. We are not discouraged by such responses to a questionnaire that is asking a hypothetical question out of context. We believe that the same people would respond quite differently if asked while actually in Greece.

This of course remains to be discovered at the time of writing this paper. As we all know, there are many factors that could skew our statistics. We will be collecting the numbers of people who register, who use the service, who ask for more, who use the dictionary, and we will try to get some kind of evaluative response from users if possible.

Overall, this project points to contemporary uses of ubiquitous technology that are highly likely to impact upon more learning and teaching methods as palm devices are integrated with internet-connected mobile phones and supplied with fold-away keyboards.


Chen Y S, Kao T C, Sheu J P, and Chang C Y (2002) A Mobile Scaffolding-Aid-Based Bird-Watching Learning system in M Milrad, H U Hoppe and Kinshuk (Eds), IEEE International Workshop on Wireless and Mobile Technologies in Education (pp 152 - 156). Los Alimatos, USA: IEEE Computer Society. 

Epic Company (2003) http://www.epic.co.uk/content/resources/white_papers/m-learning.htm

McLean N. (2003) The M-Learning Paradigm: an Overview Mobilearn http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ltg/reports/mlearning.rtf 

Singh H (2003) Leveraging Mobile and Wireless Internet http://www.learningcircuits.com/2003/sep2003/singh.htm

Vavoula G. N. and Sharples M. (2002). KleOS: A Personal, Mobile, Knowledge and Learning Organisation System in M Milrad, HU Hoppe and Kinshuk (Eds), op cit.

About the Author

Anita Pincus Photo

Anita Pincas is Senior Lecturer in Education, Institute of Education, University of London, Visiting Fellow, University of Westminster, and former Director of Pedagogy for the Virtual Learning Development Trust. She has taught online and written about her methods for over fifteen years, having been a user of the internet for educational purposes since 1988. She initiated and ran the world's first online MA TESOL with over 200 graduates, and in 1992 established the international Online Education and Training course that has grown into a worldwide multilingual qualification with almost 2000 graduates to date. Personal Web page:


Online Education and Training: http://www.ioe.ac.uk/english/OET.htm.


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