The development of a lesson is a familiar process, but planning from a MALL perspective was a new experience. I found that I was much more engaged in the process and focused on how the lesson could be either streamlined or enhanced with the inclusion of apps, programs, and different available technological functions and devices.
The lesson was developed for an adult English Language Learner class of mixed levels and different L1s. The objective of the lesson was to explore foods and traditions associated with the cultures of students in the class. Students were asked to share their favorite family recipe and to create a layout for a computer-generated class cookbook. Each page would contain a picture of the recipe, the story behind the recipe and the recipe itself (see Appendix A for lesson plan.) The language objective for the course centers on cooking verbs in the imperative form.
MALL Use in the Lesson
Poll Everywhere: fast mobile-friendly, embedded polls update in real time, multiple display choices (T/F, word cloud), submit responses by sending text messages. Group Me: works on nearly every phone and .com, possible to “like” messages, upload photos, video, and chat in individual or group. Google Images: possible to search and upload photos, images. Staplessbook.com: users create eight-page books that can be folded and cut, no tape/staples, students can create notes, picture books, or vocabulary booklets, seven different possible layouts (picture/text). iRecord: video and audio recording application.
Ecosystem Effect on Heritage Cookbook Lesson
Taking into consideration the six ecosystems allows the lesson designer to construct a well-developed lesson.
In this stage, the teacher focuses on thinking about learning as an experience and giving learners the necessary skills to acquire the lesson’s language objective. While there are many ways to facilitate acquisition, for purposes of this lesson, I focused on strategies that would work in a cooperative setting. A main part of my lesson was an interview activity, in which learners would practice using cooking verbs in the imperative form. I wanted students to interview each other and share their favorite family recipe, but I was concerned that acquisition may not occur if the discourse hit a wall due to partners not understanding a specific ingredient or cooking utensil. I thought this would be a good opportunity to give learners tools to negotiate meaning. I suggested they give each other effective feedback and utilize the internet, specifically google images or you tube.
As a teacher, I realize that I am required to wear many hats. MALL has the potential to make me a more effective teacher as I transition through different roles. From a pedagogical perspective, MALL is a win-win situation. MALL can make my life easier and provide a more engaging experience for the learners. A large part of a teacher’s role is administrative. If I can use technology to simplify grading, provide online, computer graded quizzes, and push reminders, I’m all for it. MALL provides an excellent opportunity for teachers to also provide reminders, feedback, and discussion opportunities. In this lesson, I used a chat app, GroupMe, to push a homework reminder. I also used Poll Everywhere to “hook” students into my lesson and provide them with instant feedback in the form of a word cloud.
Technology drives MALL. It is critical to take into consideration all the behind the scenes components and a teacher who expects to use MALL that does not understand basic technological vocabulary and functions would face difficulties. For purposes of my lesson, I plan to use mobile technology as well as portable devices. I also intend for students to utilize a voice app, an internet/wireless data plan, and their own SMS phone-based technology. If I expect my students to utilize this technology well, then I need to make certain that I understand it and am to troubleshoot, when necessary.
I have been fortunate in that I have worked in administratively supportive schools where funds have not driven decisions. From an institutional perspective MALL support hinges on buy-in whether from the teacher, learner, community, or most important, administrative leadership. The success of my lesson plan hinges on buy-in and if it were to fail or break-down, it would be because I did not receive support. For example, in my lesson, I ask students to use a recording app. If they refuse to download the app or worse, they forget their device (smartphone or personal computer), this would seriously affect my lesson. Towards the end of class, they are also asked to create a cookbook. Again lack of buy-in would turn a quality end product into a paper/pencil output that lacks cohesiveness and would definitely not be visually appealing.
Mobile learning technologies and applications can serve as tools for teaching language effectively and efficiently (Beatty, 2013). From a sociocultural perspective, MALL can have a positive impact on curriculum design. While each student will have a different identity and ideology connected to his/her phone, there is no doubt that an effective teacher can use these perceptions to his/her advantage. I do not anticipate that the target audience of my lesson would have as much of their identity intertwined with their mobile device as a young K12 student, but I do anticipate that they value their device. It would be my goal that I could equip them with the skills they need in order to use the target language, to actively seek it to make it their own language, and to make it part of their identity (Kukulska-Hulme, 2013). Providing lessons that add value to their purchase could increase motivation to participate. In the lesson, I incorporated the GroupME app. It would be my hope that this app would foster a sense of class community and would provide learners with multiple opportunities to engage in written and spoken discourse.
In the big picture, this is where I see the greatest impact of MALL. Throughout this class, we discovered opportunity after opportunity to use a device at its most basic level and still impact the four skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing. I like the practicality of MALL and its ability to enrich language learning through easy access to resources selected to suit individual interests or needs (Kukulska-Hulme, 2013). In my lesson, the constant use of MALL and the design of the activities facilitates the development of vocabulary, listening and writing skills, and also helps students advance their lexical and semantic understanding.
A closer look
MALL adds to the effectiveness of my lesson. I am not constrained by computer cords and am able to make my classroom mobile. I do not think that my interview activity would be as effective if students faced each other with an obtrusive screen in front of their faces. MALL allows students to become mobile and move out into the hallway or even outside to conduct the interview. Use of the mobile device also offers other positives to my lesson, as well. Students can give anonymous input, which I can use to immediately update my students. Other bonuses include sending students reminders and gives me the ability to chat with them as a group or individually. MALL also provides class arrangement flexibility and varied, engaging activities. The staplelessbook.com site also provides learners an easy way to technologically produce and publish a class cookbook they can keep forever.
To write that I am sold on MALL would be an understatement. Kumaradevdivelu (2003) encourages teachers to maximize learning opportunities. According to him, it is the teachers responsibility to “create the conditions necessary for learning to take place” (Kumaradevdivelu 2003, p. 44). This is exactly what I see as the greatest benefit of MALL. MALL engages both the teacher and the learner.
- Beatty, K. (2013). Beyond the classroom: Mobile learning the wider world. Monterey, CA: The International Research Foundation for English Language Education. Retrieved from http://www.tirfonline.org/english-in-the-workforce/mobile-assisted-language-learning, October 29, 2014.
- Kukulska-Hulme, A. (2013). Re-skilling language learners for a mobile world. Monterey, CA: The International Research Foundation for English Language Education. Retrieved from http://www.tirfonline.org/english-in-the-workforce/mobile-assisted-language-learning, November 4, 2014.
- Kumaravakevelu, B. (2003). Beyond Methods: Macrostrategies for Language Teaching. New Haven, CN: Yale University Press.