Using mobile apps for teaching ESL in higher education settings

Introduction

Technology is always emerging and evolving. New technologies always take over from the old ones. Currently, there is an increasing trend from the use of traditional technologies, such as desktop computers, towards the use of smartphones (Klimova, 2017). Over 90% of people in developed countries now own and use a mobile phone, while desktop computers enjoy only 40% popularity (Pew Research Center, 2017; Statistics 2016, As in Klimova, 2017).

Mobile technology in higher education has made a huge impact. Learning platforms enabled by computing technology, such as online learning, mobile learning, and distance education, provide evidence of the influence of technology in the classroom (Gan & Balakrishnan, 2017).

Mobile apps are one of the most significant and important uses of smartphones. The term “mobile” refers mostly to smartphones; while on the other hand, the term “app” is used as the abbreviated form of “application” (Ionita & Asan, 2016).

Sometimes, apps are free and you can download them for free, whereas others need to be paid for, usually at a low cost (Aguilor, 2017). Since I am teaching ESL in a higher education setting, I will be exploring my vision of the future classroom through mobile apps in the teaching of ESL in this article.

ESL and mobile apps or MALL

Like technology, language learning is always evolving, especially regarding the teaching of ESL/EFL. In the teaching of ESL, mobile-assisted language learning (MALL) is rapidly developing as one of the most applicable domains in technology-supported learning (Uzunboylu, Uzdamu, 2011; Saran, Seferoglu, and Cagiltary, 2012; as cited in Huseyin, 2014).

According to Li (2008, as cited in EKINCI, 2017) mobile-assisted language learning (MALL) focuses on the mobility of the learning practice and emphasizes the interaction between the learner and learning content, peers or instructors, which can improve effectiveness, flexibility, and convenience of learning. Furthermore, mobile-assisted language learning helps people to learn a language by using a mobile device (Miangah & Nezarat, 2012).

Mobile devices increase motivation, make the learning process more interesting and enjoyable, and help to improve the skills of the learners in a positive way (Chen & Hsu, 2008, as cited in Cavus & Ibrahim, 2016). Some other benefits of using mobile apps into an ESL classroom are that the mobile apps have a primary impact on the development of the four language skills, including testing.

These apps have quite a significant impact on the development and retention of students’ vocabulary (Wu, 2015a,b; as cited in Klimova, 2018). In addition, the language apps also enable students to adopt the practice to their level of knowledge by choosing between apps for beginners, intermediate or advanced learners, and the possibility to assess themselves and monitor their progress (Teodorescu, 2015, as cited in Klimova, 2018).

On the other hand, some of the limitations of the mobile apps in the teaching of ESL are: there is a lack of pedagogical justification while using these apps; sometimes there is a high cost for the device; a lack of human contact, etc (Klimova, 2018). Furthermore, sometimes these language learning apps often provide exercises that test the user without first providing instruction, or they provide only a very few examples of use. In addition, feedback on performance tends to be limited to a checkmark or a cross to indicate whether an answer is correct or incorrect (Rosell-Aguilar, 2017).

Today, there many mobile apps available that can be utilized in ESL classrooms. For example, some of them are Quizlet; Duolingo; English Launch Pad; Culips ESL Podcast; MyWordBook; Speaking pal English tutor; Voxy; Grammar up; English Listening & Speaking; and KAHOOT. Out of all of these ESL mobile apps, the one I use most frequently in my classes is KAHOOT.

Learning theory that supports the use of mobile apps in the teaching of ESL

One of the learning theories that supports the use of mobile apps in the teaching of ESL is constructivism. According to Reiser & Dempsey (2018), constructivist learning is more a matter of going from the inside out. The learner actively imposes organization and meaning on the surrounding environment and constructs knowledge in the process.

Therefore, in mobile app learning in an ESL classroom setting, the learner, through the use of different apps on mobile phones, creates or constructs the language learning process through that learning environment. According to Driscoll (2018), some of these learning environments should:

  • Engage learners in activities authentic to the discipline in which they are learning: Therefore, through mobile apps, ESL learners can get engaged in authentic language learning activities.
  • Provide for collaboration and opportunity to engage multiple perspectives on what is being learned: Here, through the use of mobile apps, ESL learners get lots of opportunities to collaborate with others, such as playing vocabulary games.
  • Support learners in setting their own goals and regulating their own learning: While learning language through mobile apps, ESL learners are mostly on their own.

Recommendations/conclusion

While exploring some of the mobile apps for my own ESL classes, I have come to the conclusion that there is much to be positive and optimistic about regarding this emerging technology. Therefore, I highly recommend using mobile apps as much as possible.

Since mobile apps are the future of ESL learning/teaching, try utilizing them in the classroom because instructors can enhance their students’ vocabulary skills, listening skills, and speaking skills. Mobile apps are very helpful in integrating meaningful cognitive thinking skills in second-language learners. Furthermore, mobile apps are very helpful in developing technological skills in language learners. They can enhance reading and writing skills as well.

References

Cavus, Nadire & Ibrahim, Dogan (2017) Learning English Using Children Stories in Mobile Devices, British Journal of Educational Technology, Vol. 48, No. 2, pp. 625-641

Driscoll, P. Marcy (2018). Psychological Foundations of Instructional Design, as in Reiser, A. Robert & Dempsey, V. John (2018) Trends & Issues in Instructional Design and Technology, 4th Edition, pp. 52- 60, Pearson, New York

EKINCI, Ecem & EKINCI, Mithat (2017) Perceptions of EFL Learners about using Mobile Applications for English Language Learning: A Case Study, International Journal of Language Academy, Vol. 5/5, pp. 175- 193

Gan, C. L & Balakrishnan (2017) Enhancing Classroom Interaction via IMMAP- An Interactive Mobile Messaging App, Telematics and Informatics, Vol. 34, pp. 20-243

Huseyin, Oz (2014) Prospective English Teachers’ Ownership and Usage of Mobile Devices M-Learning Tools, Procedia: Social and Behavioral Sciences, Vol. 141, pp- 1031-1041

IONITA, Mirela & ASAN, Doina (2016) Learning Foreign Languages by Using Mobile Apps Within Integrated Educational Platforms, The 12th International Scientific Conference ELearning and Software for Education, Bucharest, April 21-22, 2016 10.12753/2066-026X-16-100, pp. 115- 120

Klimova, Blanka (2018) Mobile Phones and/or Smart Phones and their Apps for Teaching English as a Foreign Language, Education Information Technology, Vol. 23, pp. 1091- 1099

Reiser, A. Robert & Dempsey, V. John (2018) Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology, 4th Edition, Chapter-6, Pearson, New York, NY

Rosell- Angiular, Fernando (2017) State of the App: A Taxonomy and Framework for Evaluating Language Learning Mobile Applications, Calico Journal, Vol. 34.2, pp. 243- 258