Posted in EFL

Spontaneity and ‘Going Mobile’

Okay, here’s my second post!

If you’d like some more background information on why I’m writing these posts please have a look here.

Today I’m going to be looking at the book ‘Going Mobile’ by Nicky Hockly and Gavin Dudeney. Not the song ‘Going Mobile’ by the Who. However, I do recommend listening to this song while you read this blog.

Photo on 03-07-2015 at 15.02

(Hockly, N. Dudeney, G. Delta Publishing 2014)

My introduction to m-learning

I’m sure that every teacher at some point or another has had to tell a student to stop fiddling with their phone during a lesson, or had the sudden realisation that half your class are staring at something just out of sight under the desk and not listening to you or each other. To be honest I was initially very anti-mobile phone, finding them anti-social and distracting, not just in class but in life in general. Then bit by bit I started to notice the ways in which students of all ages were using them spontaneously in class.

In fact, I think I can remember the first time I actually took advantage of these ubiquitous devices. I was teaching a group of teachers in Naples who needed FCE to qualify for CLIL projects in state schools. Motivation was a key issue with this group due to the fact that the decision to study for this exam had been imposed on them. Adding to this, they came to my lessons after having taught all day in conditions that were less than perfect. I also remember that the lessons took place in a seemingly disused language lab from the 70s with a couple of old PCs squeezed in for good measure around the edges of the room.

Anyway, at the beginning of the lesson one of the teachers was showing a colleague some pictures of her family on her phone. After reminding the teacher that she should be speaking in English, I decided to get the others to do the same. The activity went on for a good twenty minutes with other students asking all sorts of questions. All I had to do was sit back, monitor and note down all the wonderful emerging language. The session was personalised, student-centred, communicative, motivating and I didn’t need to prepare a thing!

After this and many more experiences over the last few years, I finally succumbed to the desire for one of those lovely machines myself. And when I saw the book ‘Going Mobile’ on a stall at IATEFL in Manchester I just had to buy it. (I did haggle quite a bit though, and wait until the last day to get it a bit cheaper).

Going Mobile

To be honest I haven’t finished reading ‘Going Mobile’ yet, but I don’t think it’s the kind of book you do ever finish reading. Although it does start with some background and theory, it mainly consists of very practical ideas to try out in class.

Here is a quick overview of the book’s contents:

The book starts out by trying to define ‘mobile learning’ making reference to Mark Pegrum and his three categories for language learning. These are: learning with devices that are mobile, learning on the move, and finally linking real-world content with what is happening in the classroom.(Pegrum, M 2014)

One thing that is made clear from the outset is that there must always be a sound pedagogical aim behind the use of mobile devices in language lessons. This means that you also need to decide if what you are trying to do could be better achieved though the use of simple tools, such as pen and paper.(Hockly, N. Dudeney, G. 2014)

After discussing issues and possible solutions related to mobile phone use in class the authors recommend a selection of cross-platform app types. The book is then divided into activities with text, image, audio and video which increase in complexity as the book progresses. In fact, the penultimate chapter discusses some of the more advanced affordances of mobile technology, including QR codes, geolocation, soundscapes, geocaching and augmented reality. In the last chapter Hockly and Dudeney lay out a step by step ‘mobile learning implementation plan’ to introduce device use to your institution.

Normalisation

Here are a couple of simple examples of how my students are already using their phones in class, often without me asking them to.

  • Taking pictures of the board
  • Recording parts of the lesson
  • Checking something on google
  • Setting up Whatsapp groups with class to keep students informed on homework
  • Showing each other pictures of their holidays
  • filming a role-play

It almost feels as if this technology is already becoming normalised in language lessons, at least in my context. There are of course many issues to be considered, such as child protection, classroom management, privacy and many more. ‘Going mobile’ goes some way to solving these problems but it ultimately depends on you, your learners (their parents) and your school to find the right balance.

The future?

One of the most exciting aspects of mobile learning for me is the opportunity for spontaneous use in language lessons. I am a keen advocate of Dogme moments or lessons because they allow teachers to respond to what is happening in the students’ lives rather than prescribing lesson content.(Meddings, L and Thornbury, S 2009) Lessons that function in this way are far more relevant, motivating and personalised in general. That being said there is still a lot of disagreement on Dogme as an approach and it does depend on your context and experience. However, It seems to me that the advent and distribution of mobile devices have made this approach an even more viable option. Therefore, after mastering some of the activities from this book and others like it, I believe that combining m-learning with Dogme might allow teachers to more effectively engage learners by responding to their needs and interests as they emerge.

What do you think?

References

‘Going Mobile’ (Hockly, N. Dudeney, G. Delta Publishing 2014)

‘Dogme Teaching Unplugged’ (Meddings, L and Thornbury, S, Delta Publishing2009)

‘Mobile Learning Languages, Literacies and Cultures’ (Pegrum, M. Palgrave Macmillan 2014)

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