Mobile Assisted Language Learning English Language Essay

Published:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

Problem Statement: The study of pronunciation had been a relatively neglected issue in the foreign/second language acquisition literature. Likewise, in classroom contexts, pronunciation has received less attention as compared to the other language components and skills with the belief that it is peripheral to successful communication. Yet, there is a recent revival of interest in pronunciation research.

The literature on foreign/second language acquisition highlights that in general in-class activities are not sufficient for effective language learning and that learners should also have input and output opportunities outside the classroom. This holds true for learning pronunciation as the literature suggests that just classroom instruction has a negligible impact on oral production of learners.

With their widespread use and their features such as mobility, localization, and personalization, mobile phones offer a great potential for out-of-class learning. Yet, there is scarce research on the use of mobile phones in language learning contexts nor any on using mobile phones to improve learners' pronunciation. This study is aimed to make a significant contribution to the literature in these respects.

Purpose of the Study: The major aim of this study was to investigate the potentials and effectiveness of using mobile phones in foreign language education. In particular, the effects of using multimedia messages via mobile phones for improving language learners' pronunciation of words were explored.

Methods: A mixed method approach involving both quantitative and qualitative components was employed in this study. The quantitative part of the study followed a pre-test/post-test quasi-experimental design. The qualitative part of the study included post-study semi-structured interviews with the students, and a questionnaire involving open ended items. The participants of this study were a group of students attending the English Preparatory School of an English-medium university in Turkey. There different groups were formed in order to investigate the comparative effectiveness of supplementary materials delivered through 3 different means: mobile phones, web pages, and handouts.

Results: Analyses of the quantitative data showed that using mobile phones had positive effects on students' pronunciation learning. The qualitative data collected through the questionnaire and the interviews supported this finding. All participants provided positive feedback about the mobile learning application used in this study.

Conclusions and Recommendations: This study extends the use of use mobile phones, which are already in use for communication and entertainment, to educational settings. The findings of the study pose crucial implications for foreign language teaching and learning.

Keywords: language learning, pronunciation, mobile phones, mobile learning, instructional technology, multimedia.

The study of pronunciation had been a relatively neglected issue in the foreign/second language acquisition literature. Likewise, in classroom contexts, pronunciation has received less attention as compared to the other language components and skills with the belief that it is peripheral to successful communication. Yet, there is a recent revival of interest in pronunciation research. (Jenkins, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004; Canagarajah, 2005). It has been recognized that acquiring pronunciation is crucial part of language learning (Dalton & Seidlhofer, 1994; Keys & Walker, 2002; McArthur, 2001) and that language learners need to have intelligible pronunciations to be able to express themselves more clearly in a variety of situations (Lowenberg, 2002; Levis, 2005; McArthur, 2001; McKay, 2002; Seidlhofer, 2004, 2005; Widdowson, 2003).

The literature on foreign/second language acquisition highlights that in general in-class activities are not sufficient for effective language learning and that learners should also have input and output opportunities outside the classroom. This holds true for learning pronunciation as well as the literature suggests that classroom instruction has a negligible impact on oral production of learners (Celce-Murcia, Brinton, & Goodwin, 1996). Thus, it is crucial that language learners are provided with input and practice opportunities outside the classroom in order improve their pronunciation. However, especially in English as a Foreign Language (EFL) settings, learners are not naturally exposed to the target language out of the class.

Use of technology in many areas of language teaching/learning has become widespread in recent years (Neri, Cucchiarini, Strik, & Boves, 2002; Nunan, 2005; Zhao, 2003). "However, one area that remains both problematic and contentious is that of oral language development," as Nunan (2005, p. 2) also acknowledges. Although technological advances presents vast amount of opportunities for improving learners' oral skills, it is a largely untapped resource for language learners. In terms of research, too, "this area is in its infancy" (Nunan, 2005, p. 3).

With their widespread use and their features such as mobility, localization, and personalization, mobile phones offer a great potential for out-of-class learning. Yet, there is scarce research on the use of mobile phones in language learning contexts nor any on using mobile phones to improve learners' pronunciation. This study is aimed to make a significant contribution to the literature in these respects.

Among all technological devices available in our era, mobile technologies including mobile phones and pocket computers are the most popular ones, and they have an important place particularly in young people's lives. All over the world -except for Canada- the mobile phones outnumber the personal computers with 5 to 10 times the total number of mobile phones as compared to the number of personal computers (Prensky, 2005). This result is consistent with the research report published by Telecommunications Authority of the Republic of Turkey (Turkstat, 2006). According to this report, 83% of the 4322 households included in the study across Turkey have at least one mobile phone. On the other hand, only 18.5% of them have home computers.

As mentioned earlier, educational research highlights that in-class activities are not sufficient for effective learning and that exercise and practice activities should also be carried out outside the classroom (Koren, 1999). Although this consideration is expressed by many teachers, students do not put in adequate effort for studying outside the classroom. The most important reason for this could be learners' lack of intrinsic motivation to start studying. Significance of motivation for effective learning is expressed by many educators (e.g., Alessi & Trollip, 2001, Keller, 1987). The push aspect of mobile phone technology may break these motivational barriers to learning for many students, and it may free the learner from studying in front of a computer screen. By the push aspect, it is meant that the instructional materials are sent to the learners via mobile phones. In other words, a stimulus comes from an external source. While in cases where computer technology is used in education, students are required to access a computer for doing certain educational tasks which restricts the learning process to place, time and opportunity. As the student is required to be at a specific place at a specific time, learning process is considerably hindered. On the other hand, when mobile learning is used, the students are encouraged to study through materials they receive via multimedia or short messages independent of time and space, without opening the course book or lecture notes, without connecting to a web site or sitting in front of a computer or using educational software.

Mobile phones have great potential to provide supplemental practices for students outside the school. As Thornton and Houser (2004) stated, "mobile phones can help extend learner opportunities in meaningful ways" (p. 1). Yet, there is very little research on the use of mobile phones in language learning contexts. With this consideration, the major aim of this study was to investigate the potentials and effectiveness of using mobile phones in foreign language education. More specifically, the effects of using multimedia messages via mobile phones for improving language learners' pronunciation of words were explored.

This study is limited to only three classes (each consists of 8 students) in an English preparatory school of a private university in Ankara. Fraenkel and Wallen (2000) identified two main threats (population validity and ecological validity) related to generalizability of the experimental studies. The generalizations of the findings of this study were limited since convenience sampling was utilized in the present study. However, the findings of this study can be generalized to populations having the same characteristics described in the method part of the study. Moreover, the results of the present study can be generalized to classroom settings similar to this study since the treatments and the instruments were utilized in regular classroom settings.

Method

Design of the Study

A mixed method approach involving both quantitative and qualitative components was employed in this study as shown in Figure 1. The quantitative part of the study followed a pre-test/post-test quasi-experimental design. The treatment continued four weeks.

Results

Quantitative

Quantitative

Data Collection

Data Analysis

Qualitative

Qualitative

Combined Data interpretation

Data Analysis

Data Collection

QUANTITATIVE

QUALITATIVE

Pre-study questionnaire

(demographics, mobile phone and Internet use)

Pre-pronunciation test

Post- pronunciation test

Post-study semi-structured interview with students (in-depth information about usability, perception, satisfaction)

Log system (keeping information about the MMS delivery and web page connection patterns)

Instructional materials evaluation questionnaire involving open ended questions in order to learn participants' opinions, comments

Treatment Phase (4 weeks)

Figure 1. Visualization of the research design used in the study.

The researchers recorded the students' pronunciations by using digital voice recorder just before and after the treatment. A native rater and a nonnative instructor from the preparatory school evaluated the recordings according to the Educational Testing Service (1985) rubric displayed below:

0: Frequent phonemic errors and foreign stress and intonation patterns that cause the speaker to be unintelligible.

1: Frequent phonemic errors and foreign stress and intonation patterns that cause the speaker to be occasionally unintelligible.

2: Some phonemic errors and foreign stress and intonation patterns, but speaker is intelligible.

3: Occasional nonnative pronunciation errors, but speaker is intelligible.

The qualitative part of the study included post-study semi-structured interviews with the students, and a questionnaire involving open ended questions. The data collected from the interviews and questionnaires were also compared with the log system data which included information about the MMS delivery and web page connection patterns. This comparison allowed the researchers to verify participants' responses and increased the reliability of results.

Participants

The participants of this study were 24 students attending the English Preparatory School of an English-medium university before they have started their studies in their departments. A purposeful sample of students was selected based on the data collected through a pre-study questionnaire. This survey instrument included items related to the demographic information about the students, their mobile phone ownership, their use of mobile phones and Internet in their daily life, etc. This instrument was distributed to all students at the beginning of the academic year.

There were three levels as beginner, elementary, and pre-intermediate at the English preparatory school. Only the elementary level was included in this study. Three different groups were formed in order to investigate the comparative effectiveness of supplementary materials delivered through 3 different means: mobile phones, web pages, and handouts. The mobile group was formed with the students who had multimedia message (MMS) supported mobile phones, and the web group was formed involving the students who had home computers connected to the Internet. There were 8 students in each group (See Table 1).

Table 1

Distributions of Participants by Gender.

Gender

Mobile

Handout

Web

Female

5

4

5

Male

3

4

3

Total

8

8

8

Research Questions

Does the mean change (mean difference between pre- and post-tests) in the pronunciation test scores differ among the three groups: mobile, web, and handout?

What are the students' perceptions of the use of the mobile phones in their pronunciation learning?

Procedures

The study was conducted during the Fall 2007 semester. The implementation phase continued for 4 weeks. Three different study modes (mobile, handout, and web) were used as a supplement to regular classroom instruction in order to explore the comparative effectiveness of supplementary materials delivered through 3 different means: mobile phones, web pages, and handouts in improving learners' pronunciation of words. Table 2 explains these three study modes.

Table 2

Study Modes Used in the Study

Study mode

Explanation

Mobile

Study materials were sent to participants' mobile phones as multimedia messages (MMS) on different times in a day.

Handout

Study materials were distributed to participants as colored handouts on each day. The instructor pronounced each word after distributing handouts.

Web

Study materials were published on a web page in each day.

Only registered participants can access these materials.

A total of 80 English words were included in the study. Twenty of them that students had generally difficulty in pronouncing were involved in the pronunciation test. Four words a day were delivered to the participants by using one of the modes that their group belongs to. Multimedia messages were sent during lecture breaks on school days with an hour time space between messages. The handouts including 4 words of the day were distributed after the first lecture session in the morning, and the same 4 words of the day were published on the Internet at 9:00 am. By its very nature the handout group could not access the words' pronunciations all the time. In order to minimize the effects of this weakness, the instructor pronounced all the words while distributing the handouts. Before and during the implementation, the participants were informed and encouraged about the importance of self-pronouncing the words by the instructors. The next section explains the nature of instructional materials used in the study in detail.

Nature of the Instructional Materials

The English words included in this study were selected from the contents of the regular classroom instruction since the aim of this study was to provide supplementary practice to regular classroom instruction. In this study, three types of instructional materials, namely, multimedia messages, web pages, and colored handouts were developed. The multimedia messages (MMS) in this study allowed students to see the definitions of words, example sentences, related pictures, and pronunciations as shown in Figure 2. The maximum size of MMS sent to subjects was 30 KB including the sound file. This indicates a small size that can be transferred to students' mobile phones in a short time (10-15 sec.), and students can store approximately 8.700 MMS in a 256 MB memory (1 MB=1024 KB). The 3 pictures shown in Figure 2 in order from left to right were saved as an animated picture file which pauses 8 seconds between the 3 pictures. The duration of pauses could be adjusted depending on the specific content of each message.

Picture 1

Picture 2

Picture 3

Audio

Dictionary definition

Example sentence

Visual representation

Pronunciation

robbery (noun)

the crime of stealing money or other things from a bank, shop etc.

"He committed three petrol station robberies in two days."

Figure 2. An example MMS used in the study.

The web pages and handouts were developed by using the same content used in the MMS. Figure 3 shows a screenshot from the web application, and Figure 4 shows an example handout used in the study.

Figure 3. A screenshot from the web application used in the study

Figure 4. An example handout used in the study.

Findings and Results

In this section, first the results of the analyses of the data obtained via open-ended questions related to the multimedia message usage patterns will be presented. This will be followed by results of the statistical analyses of the scores on the pre and post tests. Finally, the interview results will be provided.

Results of the Questionnaire on the MMS Usage

All of the subjects (n=8) in mobile group reported that they read all the multimedia messages that were sent throughout the study. Moreover, all of them stated that they read the messages more than once. Seventy five percent of the participants reported that they listened to the pronunciations more than twice. The average number of times that students listened to pronunciations is 3.62. In addition, a great majority of the students (87.5%) reported that they saved the multimedia messages on their phones for future use. These findings suggest that the multimedia messages encouraged the students to repeat the study materials.

It was one of the aims of this study to find the most suitable scheduling for MMS delivery. Students were sent four multimedia messages in a day on lecture breaks with an hour time space between messages. Students' responses to the questionnaire indicated that the most suitable number of MMS to be sent in a day is four (see Table 3).

Table 3

Distribution of Participants' Responses on the Implementation

n

%

Have you read the multimedia messages that were sent throughout the study?

Yes

8

100

No

0

0

On an average, how many times did you read each MMS throughout the study?

1

0

0

2

2

25

3

2

25

4

2

25

More than 4

2

25

Did you save the multimedia messages in your mobile phone?

Yes

7

87.5

No (Due to insufficient memory)

1

12.5

What do you think about the number of 4 MMS sent in a day?

Few

1

12.5

Enough

6

75

Much

1

12.5

What do you think about an hour time space between multimedia messages?

Short

1

12.5

Enough

7

87.5

Long

0

0

A great majority of the participants (75%) found four multimedia messages in a day just right, 12.5% of them found it to be few, and 12.5% of them found it too much. Similarly, subjects reported that an hour time space is the most suitable interval between messages. 87.5% of the participants reported that an hour time space is enough, 12.5% of them found it to be short, and none of them found it too long. To sum up, the results of the questionnaire indicate that participants made use of the study materials that were sent as multimedia messages via mobile phones and they found the scheduling used in the study to be appropriate for them.

Pronunciation Gain

As stated in the methods section, students' pronunciations were rated according to the Educational Testing Service (1985) criteria. Figure 5 shows a screenshot from the MS Excel spreadsheet used by the raters also presenting the English words included in the study. Table 4 shows the average scores and standard deviations of pre- and post-tests, and gain scores for each group of students studying identical materials via three different means: mobile MMS, handout, and web.

Figure 5. A screenshot from a MS Excel spreadsheet used by the raters

The gain scores (average difference between post- and pre-tests) are 11.94, 6.81, and 6.81 for mobile, handout, and web groups respectively. The results indicate that mobile groups performed better than handout and web groups as illustrated in Figure 6.

Table 4

Means and Standard Deviations of the Pre-test, Post-test, and Gain Scores

Group

Pre-test*

Post-test*

Gain**

Mean

SD

Mean

SD

Mean

SD

Mobile (n=8)

29.19

8.99

41.13

8.29

11.94

2.90

Handout (n=8)

30.88

3.23

37.69

3.27

6.81

4.46

Web (n=8)

31.50

5.79

38.31

3.80

6.81

3.71

* Maximum score that can be obtained from the test was 60.

** Gain is the average difference between post- and pre-tests.

Figure 6. Comparison of mean scores on pronunciation test.

In order to understand whether the differences are statistically significant or not, one-way ANOVA was conducted. The ANOVA was significant, F (2, 21) = 5.000, p = .017 (see Table 5). The strength of relationship between treatment and gain scores, as assessed by Eta Squared, was strong, with the treatment factor accounting for 32% of the variance of the dependent variable.

Table 5

The Results of ANOVA Analysis Concerning Each Group's Gain Scores

ANOVA

Gain Scores

(Post-test - Pre-test)

Sum of Squares

df

Mean

Square

F

Sig.

Eta Squared

Between Groups

140.083

2

70.042

5.000

.017

.323

Within Groups

294.156

21

14.007

Total

434.240

23

Because the overall ANOVA was significant, follow-up test was conducted to evaluate pair-wise differences among the means as shown in Table 6. Because the variances among the three groups were not significantly different according to the Levene's test of homogeneity of variance (p=.218), Tukey HSD test was conducted for the post-hoc comparisons. Tukey HSD test showed that there was a statistically significant mean difference between mobile and the other two groups with a p value smaller than .05 (p=.032). On the other hand, there was not a statistically significant mean difference between handout and web groups with a p value 1.000 greater than .05.

Table 6

The Results of Homogeneity of Variance Test and Post-Hoc Comparisons

Levene's Test of Equality of Error Variances

Gain scores (Post-test - Pre-test) on pronunciation test

F

df1

df2

Sig.

1.638

2

21

.218

Multiple Comparisons

Dependent Variable: Gain scores (Post-test - Pre-test)

(I) Group

(J) Group

Mean Difference (I-J)

Std. Error

Sig.

95% Confidence Interval

Lower Bound

Upper Bound

Mobile

Handout

5.1250(*)

1.87133

.032

.4082

9.8418

Web

5.1250(*)

1.87133

.032

.4082

9.8418

Handout

Mobile

-5.1250(*)

1.87133

.032

-9.8418

-.4082

Web

.0000

1.87133

1.000

-4.7168

4.7168

Web

Mobile

-5,1250(*)

1.87133

.032

-9.8418

-.4082

Handout

.0000

1.87133

1.000

-4.7168

4.7168

* The mean difference is significant at the .05 level.

To sum up, the results suggest that students who were sent multimedia messages studied supplementary materials more than students who studied the web- and paper-based materials and this frequent supplementary study helped to better pronunciation of words. The findings of the study suggest that sending multimedia messages via mobile phones uses the push aspect of mobile technology, and encourages regular study. Therefore, the delivery of foreign language pronunciation study materials as multimedia messages via mobile phones may lead to better learning. Interestingly, gain scores on pronunciation tests are the same for handout and web groups. Although web group students had chances to access pronunciations via Internet at any time, their performance is the same with handout groups who had no chances to access pronunciation audios outside the classroom. This result suggests that using web pages for pronunciation learning does not encourage regular study and therefore does not lead to better performance that can be achieved through traditional ways like handouts and -classroom activities.

Interview Results

The interview questions were aimed to gather in depth opinions of the students about their mobile learning experience. The researchers conducted interviews with six students in the mobile group. The qualitative data collected through the interviews were analyzed to obtain the perceptions of students about the use of mobile phones for pronunciation learning, and to get students' suggestions concerning the improvement of the features used in the study. According to the results of the collected data, students believed that the use of mobile phones for pronunciation learning is very effective. The participants reported several positive aspects of the treatment in the interviews.

With the first question, the students were asked whether they studied the materials that were sent via mobile multimedia messages or not. All students (n=6) stated that they studied the materials. These statements were in parallel with the results of the questionnaire analysis and the log data. All of the students provided positive feedback about the mobile learning application used in this study. The students stated that they enjoyed the instructional materials sent to their mobile phones during the study. Most (n=5) of the students stated that it would be better if they were always supported with instructional materials via mobile phones like the ones they used during the experiment.

Almost all of the participants stated that the content itself and the organization of the content, especially audio-visual representations of words were very effective for retention of pronunciation of words. Two students voiced their ideas as follows:

The audio component in the multimedia messages together with the visual representations were very effective in helping us learn pronunciation of words accurately

Because the content was delivered via multimedia messages to my cellular phone, I was able to learn how to pronounce words correctly and easily. The messages remained accessible on my phone and in my memory.

As another advantage of this treatment, one of the students stated,

I had the chance of repeating the content as many times as I wanted and this was an advantage of using mobile phones when compared with the other methods

All of the participants indicated that they did not face with any difficulties while using the mobile learning application and that it was easy-to-use since they were used to using SMS and MMS in their daily lives.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Mobile phone learning is a young discipline that is gaining more and more attention because of its promises for education (Chinnery, 2006; Kiernan & Aizawa, 2004; Thornton, & Houser, 2004). On the other hand, some people have still serious doubts to adopt mobile devices into learning environments. They think that the user interface of mobile devices is quite limited and cannot display information-rich content in a useful way. We believe that this is not a significant constraint for today's technology considering the explosive development of the Information and Communication technologies. The processing and storage capabilities of mobile devices have improved for the last five years, and this resulted in high voice and graphic quality, and ease of use. This study showed that carefully designed instructional materials for mobile devices can display information-rich content such as visual representations, textual information, audio, animations, etc.

The results suggest that students who were sent multimedia messages studied supplementary materials more than students who studied the web- and paper-based materials and this frequent supplementary study helped to better pronunciation of words. Moreover, findings obtained from the interview data indicated that students believed that the use of mobile phones for pronunciation learning is very effective.

The results of this study indicate that majority of the students own and frequently use mobile phones in their lives. This study extends the use of mobile phones, which are already used for communication and entertainment, to education. The results of this study suggest that using mobile phones in educational settings may help learners be more motivated and might make it possible to overcome the difficulties teachers or parents experience in order to make learners start studying. The findings of the study suggest that sending multimedia messages via mobile phones uses the push aspect of mobile technology, and encourages regular study. Therefore, the delivery of foreign language vocabulary study materials as multimedia messages via mobile phones may lead to better pronunciation of words.

Furthermore, learners might be able to use any previously wasted time (on the bus, on their way back and to school) on learning languages with the chance of repeating the mobile content as many times as they want conveniently as the words would be at their finger tips on their mobile phones. The results of this study suggest that learners can improve their pronunciation on their own with the use of mobile phones and the implications of this study point to a possible new pedagogy.

New opportunities and exciting prospects afforded by innovative technologies are unfolding in teaching pronunciation. More research to enhance our knowledge of the nature of pronunciation and to inform us on alternative ways to improved pronunciation is called for. English language teachers, material writers, and researchers should juggle around with these new developments in pronunciation teaching/learning and redefine their teaching, assessment and research priorities in the light of these new prospects.

Writing Services

Essay Writing
Service

Find out how the very best essay writing service can help you accomplish more and achieve higher marks today.

Assignment Writing Service

From complicated assignments to tricky tasks, our experts can tackle virtually any question thrown at them.

Dissertation Writing Service

A dissertation (also known as a thesis or research project) is probably the most important piece of work for any student! From full dissertations to individual chapters, we’re on hand to support you.

Coursework Writing Service

Our expert qualified writers can help you get your coursework right first time, every time.

Dissertation Proposal Service

The first step to completing a dissertation is to create a proposal that talks about what you wish to do. Our experts can design suitable methodologies - perfect to help you get started with a dissertation.

Report Writing
Service

Reports for any audience. Perfectly structured, professionally written, and tailored to suit your exact requirements.

Essay Skeleton Answer Service

If you’re just looking for some help to get started on an essay, our outline service provides you with a perfect essay plan.

Marking & Proofreading Service

Not sure if your work is hitting the mark? Struggling to get feedback from your lecturer? Our premium marking service was created just for you - get the feedback you deserve now.

Exam Revision
Service

Exams can be one of the most stressful experiences you’ll ever have! Revision is key, and we’re here to help. With custom created revision notes and exam answers, you’ll never feel underprepared again.