This lesson demonstrates how the affordances of MALL can be used in the context of an English for Specific Purposes (ESP) lesson. My decisions regarding the integration of MALL also reflect some of the challenges posed by these methods. In my lesson rationale I will discuss the choices I made and justify how I see MALL contributing to the effectiveness of the lesson.
In my planning process, I first considered the lesson’s setting. As this was designed to fit into a content-based course that currently exists, I had to deal with a few key constraints: the program’s philosophy of authentic materials use, the specific nature of the course objectives, and its short length of only four weeks. Since the designer of the course favors purely authentic materials, I must accept that the number of instances of the desired form or structure will likely be limited within the scope of one text. Also, in the case of an ESP course for biomedical researchers the range of authentic materials that are appropriate is narrower. Furthermore, the length of the course dictates that there is relatively little time to teach apps and deal with technology-related issues.
When it came to selecting mobile apps or tools, I wanted to ensure that the technology itself did not become the focus of the lesson or the course, rather I wanted to find where specific affordances could be exploited for specific reasons. For example, the use of PollEverywhere and a teacher-created website seemed the most sensible for this context primarily because they addressed the constraints I faced, allowing for the storage of polls and authentic materials that students could access on their mobile devices outside of class and even after the conclusion of the program.
I also looked at the how my strategies fit into the six ecosystems of MALL. From an acquisitional standpoint, they fit into a mostly communicative approach that is focused on noticing and the negotiation of meaning in authentic texts in the first two activities as well as the rehearsal of comprehensible output, especially in the last activity. Pedagogically, the tools support the assessment process because “the digital records generated in the process of e-learning and m-learning provide a basis for detailed, informative feedback” (Pegrum, 2014, p. 121). They also help create e a shared context for classroom interaction.
The choice of the target structure was in response to the linguistic ecosystem of intermediate students who may be capable of using a linguistic strategy like negation in everyday discourse but unable to use it in specialized or semi-specialized discourse. Related to this were the sociocultural issues related to the different expectations Japanese students face in American language classrooms and settings. The use of PollEverywhere as a response mechanism was directly related to the goal of lowering affective barriers for this particular group of students.
Moving outside of the classroom, these strategies fit well in the institutional ecosystem they find themselves in, requiring little to no financial resources, no additional infrastructure and easily demonstrated for a variety of institutional stakeholders. The constraints of the technological ecosystem however, in this case the screen size of mobile phones and input limitations, do need to be addressed. I agree with Burston (2014) who offers that “the use of images and sound” can help circumvent these constraints (p. 347), but I think that there is an additional, rather obvious workaround: use materials that can be broken into smaller units and only require responses of reasonable lengths considering the modality. Pegrum (2014) also mentions that “mobile phone users usually engage in short-form reading” (p. 141). This accounts for my selection of the short descriptions of medical innovations pulled from sources such as CNN and Fast Company along with my linking of YouTube videos produced by the Cleveland Clinic.
In terms of Puentedura’s (2011) SAMR model, this lesson does remain at the enhancement level with both substitution and augmentation but does indeed “enhance” the lesson, which is meaningful despite not being “transformational.” For example, in the activity involving PollEverywhere, the functional improvement is storage of responses. With a whiteboard, the traditional tool for making a list of target structures from a reading, the collective contributions are of the class are lost the moment the whiteboard is erased. Even if students were to copy their answers into their notes, attention is then on writing notes and not on their involvement in the discussion. In the activity that asks students to review the innovations I listed on the website, multimodality is added to what would traditionally be a monomodal activity with a simple handout. (All excellent points!)
I think it is important to note that even what some may consider “modest” integrations of MALL into the classroom or language learner’s life can be worth doing. Furthermore, it is probably the case that more is not necessarily better in the case of MALL. In this lesson, MALL allows students who are challenged by the communicative expectations of American classrooms the opportunity to participate in activities and offer responses they might not otherwise offer. Through the website, it gives students agency over their selection of material to which they will respond and provides access to content wherever a student has internet access.
While I agree with Burston (2014) that “MALL faces many challenges” in a rapidly changing educational environment, I see MALL as here to stay. It may look different in the next 5 years, but it is not going away. Teaching with MALL can be beneficial to teachers, students and administrators. What is most important is how the complexity of this proposition in considered and addressed. In this lesson I have shown that even in constrained contexts with pre-existing expectations MALL can enhance the student experience and enable teacher flexibility, all with limited institutional resources or involvement.
|Setting: 8 post-graduate biomedical researchers with low-intermediate level English proficiency enrolled in a 4-week intensive ESP program at a small graduate school in California.|
|Lesson Context: Students have been engaged in a unit exploring the language of negation in public discourse on scientific research (Laso, et al., 2013). The previous lesson explored various forms of confirmation.|
|Previous Lesson’s HW: Read excerpts from a White House briefing on the Ebola outbreak (~1 page). Write a list of words the speakers used in negation (give examples: don’t, won’t, etc.)|
|Time||What Ss are doing||What T is doing||Materials||What this activity accomplishes|
|5 mins||Students consider when it’s necessary to use the language of negation.||Introduce the concept of negation. Give 1-2 examples, including verbal auxiliaries. Describe situations in which the language of negation is appropriate or necessary (e.g. when explaining, when describing, when justifying, in questions, when refuting).||
||Activates vocabulary that students will use and be exposed to during the lesson.|
|5 mins||Read the assigned excerpt again with a partner. Add words or phrases to their notes if necessary and look for the various ways negation is constructed.||
||Copies of excerpts||Ss encouraged to notice.|
|3 mins||Review notes and text a list of the negations used in their excerpt.||
|3-5 mins||Discuss the textwall and identify what seems to be the strongest form of negation. Justify answers.||
||Gives Ss an opportunity to rehearse the use of the target forms.|
|20 mins||As a class, read the myths about the flu vaccine and related facts aloud. When called upon, provide a sentence that negates the myth. Write the sentence on the worksheet.||
||copies of Flu Vaccine Myth worksheet||Exposes Ss to a common medical discussion in the United States.
|20 mins||Visit http://brandonlambert87.wix.com/osaka-mobile-lessons
(soon to be www.mobilelanguagelessons.com) and explore medical innovations thought to be important in the near future. Then, in pairs, discuss an innovation that is likely or important as well as those that are unlikely or unimportant.
||Ss have mobile phones (with headphones?)
|HW for the following lesson:
Select another 3 innovations and write sentences confirming or negating the likelihood or importance of the innovation. Justify your response as much as possible.
The following lesson will explore the possibility spectrum and how that language can be used to hedge or strengthen confirmation and negation.
- Burston, Jack. (2014). MALL: the pedagogical challenges. Computer Assisted Language Learning 27(4), 344-357. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09588221.2014.914539
- Pegrum, Mark. (2014). Mobile Learning: Languages, Literacies and Cultures. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
- Puentedura, Ruben R. (2011). SAMR and TPCK in Action. Retrieved from http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/archives/2011/10/28/SAMR_TPCK_In_Action.pdf