Mobile Language Class: Language Learning through Mobile Gaming
Shalini Upadhyay, Nitin Upadhyay
This paper studies how mobile phone can create a better environment for language learning (with emphasis on learning English as a second and foreign language). It focuses specifically on the language skill sets by incorporating lesson on English grammar and vocabulary building. It provides users easy accessibility to deal with the problems of incorrect grammar/usage and wrong choice of words. A case survey is conducted which identifies how mobile phone can be effectively used in imparting language lessons to the students.
Keywords: m-learning, language learning, mobile computing.
Mobile devices have become pervasive objects as soon as people started using mobile phones, smart phones and PDAs on move “anywhere, anytime”. A paradigm shift has been identified from e-learning to m-learning (Upadhyay, 2006). In the recent years, with the shift from an instructional paradigm to a learner-oriented approach towards language learning/teaching and understanding the way person learn, is of crucial importance and is the key to educational improvement. Students seek different modes (text, voice, multimedia etc.,) to understand and comprehend. It is widely believed (Reid, 1987; Celcc-Murcia, 2001) that the different ways of how a learner takes in and processes information are collectively referred to as learning styles or learning preferences. It is believed that emerging wireless and mobile networks will provide new applications in mobile learning (Gayeski, 2002). To improve the effectiveness of students learning, teachers should provide content compatible to various modes with the ways through which learners like to learn the language. Interesting work has been done in suitable educational methodologies and related mobile technology, tools, languages and interfaces for special categories of learners (MobiLearn, 2001), architectures and specifications for m-learning platforms (Simon et, al., 2003; Kurbel and Hilker, 2002), services for learning (Atif , 2003; Simon et, al., 2003) and adaptation of e-learning to m- learning (Andronico, 2003; Trifonova and Ronchetti, 2004).
The present study is intended to investigate the language learning capabilities of engineering students belonging to the central part of India. Specifically, the study seeks answers to these questions regarding language learning via cell phones:
§ What are the learning mode preferences of Indian learners?
§ Are significant changes identified in development of language skills?
§ How and in what manner can language content be delivered to Indian learners?
§ Do cell phones make effective use of time in language learning?
Currently whatever curriculum for language learning is available supports mostly static and non-interactive content. However, mobile phone based curriculum demands effective and comfortable development of platform for teaching and learning along with sound instructional practices. The research on readability and comprehension with small screens (Duchnicky & Kolers, 1983; Dillon et, al. 1990) shows that even for very small displays of only a few lines of text, users can read and understand information well. Following issues have been identified for designing content of language learning through mobile phone.
§ Short and crispy sentences for understanding of grammar.
§ Sentences showing common errors of English by India students
§ Organization of the lesson content in a way that equally emphasizes both receptive and productive skills.
§ Voice recordings for clear pronunciation and articulation of words.
§ Recorded short stories for developing reading skills.
§ Different levels of exercises for evaluating the language proficiency of the users.
§ Automated evaluation of pronunciation and speaking
§ Interactivity with the content via student’s responses.
§ Effective learning using multimode applications.
As devices become smaller, modes of interaction other than keyboard and stylus are a necessity. Nonetheless, there is also evidence that to a certain point, the size of the display will impact on the users’ performance (Swierenga, 1990). In particular, small handheld devices like cell phones and PDAs serve many functions and contain sufficient processing power to handle a variety of tasks.
Figure 1. Multi modes: touch screen, text and voice interaction
The result of this question clearly indicates, Figure 5, 6, and 7, that the students selected different learning modes in different contexts. For example maximum number (%) favoured text while traveling in train or bus and at home. Voice interaction received maximum support by the users while walking and in the shopping mall as listening and speaking activity can go together with walking and shopping in the malls. Touch interaction got maximum favour in cinema halls, airport and public places where speaking is practically prohibited.
2) What do you prefer among the following – m-learning, e-learning and distance learning (d-learning)?
The students said since m-learning involves portable devices like cell phones, PDA, etc.
One can get any information anytime and anywhere.
The students said since the screens of the portable devices mentioned above is small it may not be as user friendly as the desktop PC’s. There could also be more network connectivity problem in m-learning than in e-learning.
The materials may not reach in time. There could be communication gap between the source and the receiver. It is also more expensive than the other two forms of learning.
The overall percentage of response is shown in figure 8.
3) Are the exercises having different levels effective for understanding rules of Grammar?
Figure 9 shows the overall percentage of response.
These students found the exercises on understanding rules of grammar to be effective because in mobile screen voluminous discussion on the rules of grammar could not be discussed and only most accurate and precise information regarding grammar could be given in short sentences along with relevant and interesting exercises. In this process learning becomes effective.
These students wanted to have elaborate discussion on the basic rules of grammar, which seems to be a cumbersome process in mobile application.
Can’t say: 24%
This lot of students got confused. They were used to traditional modes of instruction and were apprehensive about the use of mobile devices as substitutes to traditional modes. However, they could also foresee that sooner or later technology would have its say in every sphere of life.
4) To what extent word game is useful in improving vocabulary.
a. basic level
b. moderate level
c. advanced level
The overall percentage of response is shown in figure 10.
basic level: 13%
These students voted for the basic level as they already had sound language background and possessed good word power. These students were incidentally aspirants preparing for various MBA programmes across the country.
moderate level: 67%
These students selected the moderate level and expressed their desire for more levels before reaching the advanced level.
Advanced level: 20%
Remaining students found the vocabulary content of advanced level as they lacked good language skills.
5) Language teaching and learning through mobile learning environment is
a. effective and easy
b. complex and effective
c. easy but not effective
Figure 11 shows the overall percentage of response.
Effective and easy: 82%
The students said language learning is effective and easy: Students could learn language anytime anywhere. This gives the freedom of language learning and helps them to overcome the behavioural constraints such as shyness, nervousness and lack of confidence, which arise due to poor language skills. Since mobile phones is the most attractive and popular gadget among students they found language learning easy and effective through simple gaming techniques.
Complex and effective: 18%
This group of students found language learning to be complex due to constraints of small screen and resolution. They found viewing inconvenient and straining. However, they still felt that language teaching and learning through mobile e-learning environment was effective due to the fact that mobile devices do not come under the constraints of time and distance. Hence they could learn language as and when they felt like doing so.
6) Did you find Mobile Language class effective?
The overall percentage of response is shown in figure 12.
A remarkable result is the outcome of this question in which maximum students favoured for the effectiveness of the language content.
no: 3% and partly: 2%
These students upheld the view that the proper mechanism of feedback and interaction could not be generated through a mobile device. Moreover it also lacked that personal and informal; touch which is very much prevalent in face-to-face communication.
It may be inferred from the above discussion that Indian students found mobile technique for language learning effective and easy as the mobile device is quite a popular gadget; language learning through games generate interest and makes the process simple; mobile learning techniques involves the principle of ‘anytime anywhere’, which makes it available to the user as and when required. It is also observed that since students lacking language skills suffer from behavioural complexes such as shyness, hesitation and nervousness, they could easily overcome these complexes, as mobile language class did not involve participation of a teacher and other students. How the language contexts can be delivered to Indian students should be based on the pedagogical issues identified in the paper. It should be noted that the mobile phone is one device that effectively utilizes time and the user is not bound by time constraints. A mobile language class supports a variety of learning styles in a timely and interactive fashion. It is a paradigm shift from e-learning to m-learning. The influence of technology on current academics is such that in near future the whole context of learning will come under single umbrella of m-learning.
The research is undergoing to implement the various modalities such as touch and voice interactions to make the mobile language class more effective. The results of this research will be reported in subsequent publications.
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Dr. Shalini Upadhyay is a Lecturer in the Languages Group at BITS-PILANI GOA CAMPUS. She holds a Ph.D. in English Literature. She is a reviewer of various international journals of repute which includes Interdisciplinary Journal of Knowledge and Learning Objects, USA, Interdisciplinary Journal of Doctoral Studies, USA, InfoLit Book, Informing Science Institute, UK. She is an active member of Association for Business Communication, USA. Her areas of interest includes: Business Communication, Soft Skills, Pedagogical Issues in Instructional Technology, Non-verbal communication, Technical Communication and Personality Development
Nitin Upadhyay is an acknowledged teacher and prolific writer. He is currently working as Faculty in the Department of Computer Science and Information Systems, BITS, PILANI-GOA Campus. He has created a definite niche for himself in the field if Computer Science by contributing eight books. His research and creative zeal has enabled him to contribute research papers for journals and conferences. He is involved with a number of internationally acclaimed journals and professional bodies in the capacity of editor/reviewer/member.
Computer Science & Information Systems Group
Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS)
NH-17B Bypass Road