I teach a pronunciation and speaking class for intermediate/upper-intermediate students at the language centre of the University of Sheffield. They'd requested some individual feedback on their pronunciation and some ideas about how to work on them. So this is what I did..
- Took them to the computer room and checked that they were all signed up for Edmodo (a microblogging site specifically for private groups/classes). I then sent them a document outlining various steps they could go through during the lesson.
- First off, I got them to look at a short extract I printed out for them and got them to practise saying it a couple of times to themselves.
- They then used Audacity (voice recording software) to record themselves saying the short text and then sent it to me via Edmodo.
Just as an aside, I'm liking Edmodo more and more each day. Just as an example; when the students sent their recordings to me, it immediately showed up as a set of media controls I could use to listen to their recording. See:
- Obviously they were all working at different speeds, some were able to use the software quite comfortably while others needed some support, so I spent some monitoring and helping those who were struggling a little.
- As the recordings came in, I started to listen to them and jot down notes about what pronunciation problems individual students were having (both at the sound/word level), then went to speak to them individually to talk through the notes I made.
- Once I was sure they understood, I pointed them to various websites/software to work on their pronunciation. For example, this Cambridge one is helpful for individual sounds, and I like this one for showing the mouth and tongue position. We also have Sky pronunciation software installed on all the computers, so some of them went there as well. If there were any particular words they were having problems with, I pointed them toward the online MacMillan dictionary where they could listen to their pronunciation.
- I managed to listen to all the students initial recordings (bar one, who was having some problems with the recording software) and give them brief feedback and pointers to which websites/software to look at. And they had a fair chunk of time to work on their pronunciation and all of them were very engaged in the process.
- The next step was for them to re-record the initial text they read and see if they could improve based on the pronunciation work they had been doing. There wasn't really time for this in class, so I asked them to do it outside of class and send it to me. Quite a few of them said they didn't have computers or if they did they didn't have headphones/mics at home, so I pointed them towards the voice recording functions on their mobile phones and explained how record and then send (email, MMS or via Edmodo).
- Not long after the lesson, I received most of the recordings and have been listening to them to see the differences (and luckily there are some).
What I think this lesson does show is that mobile learning can serve as an enhancement to other types of learning, and in this case really helped those students without the necessary equipment to do the task. And mobile learning doesn't have to be a discrete thing, it can be blended easily into your daily lessons as a way for students to do work at home or on the move. The problem is that - like elearning or CALL - mobile learning sounds like an 'entity', something we 'do' that is somehow separate or different from normal learning, where in fact often it is simply providing the learners with access to the same content (listenings, readings, exercises etc) but with more flexibility over when and where they receive and use it.