Monday, 29 March 2010

Mobile learning with an ESL group

Up until now I've been detailing my experiences with a mobile ESL group made up of disparate volunteers from the university language school I work at. This has proved a little difficult at times because I don't know the students and I don't have any direct communication with them (except through email, Twitter and SMS). This doesn't really reflect the reality of teaching, ideally I would like to blend mobile learning with the in-class learning of my students.

So, next term I'm going to give one of my groups (one I've taught for a long time and feel very comfortable with) the option to have aspects of mobile learning as part of their course. I think most - if not all - of them will be amenable to it, most of them seem to use a variety of mobile devices fairly regularly.

I'm hoping that this will give me the chance to do something a little more real and structured with mobile learning and to really find ways to motivate and engage my students to learn both inside and outside the classroom. I'm starting to think of what kinds of things I can do with them and here are some of my initial thoughts based on my previous experiences and web research.

Twitter for backchannelling and notices

I set up a private Twitter group for my current group and it's proved very popular with a small but dedicated few. I post daily questions for them to respond to and daily expressions/words for them to guess the meaning of.

With my own group I plan to do the same but I hope it can feed directly into what we are doing in class; for example, I can post links to topics/material connected to what we've been studying in class, students can ask questions about words/grammar we've studied. It could also be a place to get informal feedback on the lessons ('what did you enjoy this week? etc).

Content delivered via SMS

Not all of the students followed the Twitter group regularly, though all of them signed up. After a while I actually started sending out my daily content via both Twitter and SMS and several of the students seemed to prefer the latter and responded more frequently. Maybe it was the 'intrusive' nature of SMS that meant they were more likely to look at the content (mainly vocab and a little grammar) and reply.

I think SMS would be a good way to send vocab lists to the class for revision or for them to look up as preparation for future lessons. I may also use as a way of getting regular feedback from them.

Using audio/recording functions on their phones

One thing that some of my students have done in the past is to use their phones dictaphone capabilities to record their regular weekly learning diaries and I want to encourage more of this as I think it's a great way for them to express themselves and a good way to practise pronunciation. I'm also going to use them in class to record them speaking to help them with pronunciation.

Let's see how they get on with these and then I'll experiment with other things if I feel it would help them.

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