Schedule: 2009-09-10 (12:45 - 13:30)
Parallel Session 5 (Room A-31)
Title: An exploratory investigation into emergent practice in the use of mobile technologies for language learning and teaching
Authors: Lesley Shield, Agnes Kukulska-Hulme
Abstract: Mobile learning has often been defined in terms of its use of mobile technologies. A survey of publications in the field of mobile-assisted language learning (MALL) (Kukulska-Hulme & Shield 2008) revealed a distribution pattern for the use of mobile devices similar to that found by Pęcherzewska & Knot (2007) in their more general survey of the use of mobile devices in European-Union-funded projects; namely, mobile phones were the most frequently-used device followed by personal digital assistants and other handhelds while personal listening devices received slightly less attention. Although they offer a general indicator of trends in the use of mobile devices for
educational purposes, surveys of this sort provide a limited view of actual use in language learning and teaching. Yet the widespread ownership of mobile and wireless devices – already “a familiar part of the lives of most teachers and students” according to Facer five years ago (2004., p1) - means that learners and teachers are increasingly in a position to engage in activities motivated by their needs and circumstances, including those arising from greater mobility and travel (Kukulska-Hulme, Traxler & Pettit, 2007). This leads us to ask how mobile devices are actually used inside and outside the classroom, and in various flexible forms of learning.

Despite the growth in the number of publications in MALL, our informal discussions with practitioners and information gleaned from social networks such as Twitter suggest that what is published may not be typical of what happens in everyday practice. Our research therefore aims to uncover examples and patterns of use in language learning and teaching that are not currently visible in published literature. We hypothesize that much action research and innovation is unreported because it seems unremarkable to the practitioners involved; in other words, for such practitioners, the use of mobile devices for language learning and teaching has already become “normalised” (Bax 2003). Alternatively, they may not be part of a culture that encourages formal reporting or research in the use of technology for learning and teaching. Furthermore, integration of mobile devices into learning and teaching has been rather gradual as educators investigate how best to use them to support various kinds of learning.

This paper outlines the findings from an initial exploratory study to test the proposition that the use of mobile devices for language learning and teaching is greater than the literature might suggest. By carrying out an online survey to elicit practitioners’ (unpublished) accounts of emergent practices in the use of mobile devices in this area, we aimed to collect data that would (a) provide valuable insights into how representative the published body of literature is of the practice of innovators and early adopters using mobile devices for language learning and teaching; (b) shed light on the drivers towards (and barriers to) adoption; and (c) indicate areas worthy of further investigation. Findings from our research will be of interest to practitioners, researchers, and those who are seeking to understand processes of technology adoption in formal and informal settings.
Keywords: Mobile learning, technology adoption, emergent practice, innovation, social networks, online survey method
Main topic: Mobile Learning
Biodata: Lesley Shield, a freelance elearning consultant, has worked in CALL since the early 1990s. Her publications include a special issue of ReCALL about mobile assisted language learning (MALL). Her current research interests include MALL, innovative practice in elearning, online teacher training and development and the design of online learning materials. Agnes Kukulska-Hulme is Professor of Learning Technology and Communication at The Open University. She has been researching mobile learning since 2001 and leads several projects investigating learning technology and innovation. Her publications include books on mobile learning and research methods, and special issues of ReCALL and ALT-J on mobile learning.
Type of presentation Paper presentation
Paper category Research
Target educational sector Higher education
Language of delivery English
EU-funded project No