Terra Minolli’s lesson

MALL in a Backpacking Lesson Plan

Unlike computer-assisted language learning (CALL), mobile devices allow students to work anywhere – inside or outside the classroom, enhancing their language learning experience. I chose to incorporate mobile-assisted language learning (MALL) into a two-hour lesson preparing students (18 and older) to embark on a backpacking trip. At some point in their lives, students will have to buy their own gear and pack their own backpack, requiring research and comparative skills via the Web. Thus, incorporating MALL was a logical choice and a realistic stepping-stone towards learner autonomy.

MALL in the Lesson

To promote communication, this lesson incorporated MALL using Instagram, Polleverywhere, Google Goggles and lingua.ly. As students were advanced in level, I eschewed grammar and focused instead on target vocabulary.

World Wide Web

Students use the Web to learn vocabulary words presented in class by (a) online research, (b) connecting visual representations to words and (c) noticing how words are used in various contexts. According to the Involvement Load hypothesis, the harder a student searches, the more likely he or she is to remember vocabulary words (Pegrum, 2014). I did not want students memorizing words in isolation, so I incorporated mobile devices to help students learn words in realistic contexts. Since the Web contains limitless contextualized data and visual representations, students can negotiate for meaning, linking words to images.


In conjunction with using a search engine to learn new vocabulary words, students posted annotated pictures on a class Instagram page. Each group posted one picture for each vocabulary item on the list. This required students to compare and contrast different types of gear and justify why they chose to post the items they did. Instagram provides a common ground for shared information and facilitates target language use through meaningful contextualized group and plenary discussions (Pegrum, 2014). This was important for the final activity as students could use the Instagram postings as a resource in designing their packing lists.

Polleverywhere & Google Goggles

I used Polleverywhere and Google Goggles for creative and communicative purposes. Students texted ideal backpack weights to Polleveryhwere to quickly establish a class consensus on weight limits. This response system provides synchronous information that is anonymous, free, and requires no Internet connection. Google Goggles is an image-based search app that searches images rather than text to provide users with information (Google, 2014). I used this app to set the scene for the activity, establishing a context for students making their backpacking list. I believe this app is a creative way to motivate student participation in an activity, saving time and requiring students to negotiate for meaning as they design their packing lists accordingly.


I used this app for creative purposes for students to (a) create and test themselves using flashcards, (b) save as a PDF for later reference, and (c) read class vocabulary in contextual prose. Although students encountered these vocabulary words through similar tasks in class, this assignment requires them to focus on meaning at the discourse level, rather than at the word level. Lingua.ly shows students how vocabulary is used in real life contexts, leading to acquisition (Kukulska-hulme, 2013).

Interaction of MALL and the Six Ecosystems

There are six ecosystems that can affect the effectiveness of MALL in the classroom: linguistic, inquisitional, pedagogical, technological, institutional, and sociocultural. All of these must be considered before incorporating mobile devices into a lesson. This lesson is mobile – it is not restricted to the context of a specific country. Therefore, incorporating MALL into a curriculum would have to be negotiated with each stakeholder (institutional and sociocultural ecosystem). Thus, I focused this lesson on language learning activities that would be purposeful, meaningful and realistic to the students. Realism helps institutions realize that MALL can enhance, rather than hinder, education.

The linguistic and technological ecosystems are deeply embedded throughout the lesson through Internet searches, Instagram, Polleverywhere and Google Goggles. Technology is incorporated into nearly every stage, utilizing mobile devices for reconstructing interlanguages (acquisitional ecosystem) and producing discourse (linguistic ecosystem) through a student-centered learning environment (pedagogical ecosystem). In this lesson MALL promotes inter and intrapersonal communication through real life communicative backpacking activities.


Although technology has limitations, using it in the classroom requires students to collaborate, negotiate for meaning, and learn language through nontraditional mediums. MALL, alongside the six ecosystems, connects classroom pedagogy to real life tasks that are bound to enhance a students’ life. MALL and CALL heighten students’ senses as they connect locally and globally. Without it, the lesson would be less creative and meaningful. Students’ access to information would be limited, making vocabulary acquisition harder as they would have to rely on limited discourse examples. The biggest caveat with not incorporating mobile devices into this lesson would be an inaccurate and unrealistic reflection of how individuals collectively prepare and research for a backpacking trip.


Google. (2014). Google goggles (Version 1.9.4) [Mobile Application]. Mountain View, CA.

Kukulska-hulme, A. (2013). Re-skilling language learners for a mobile world. Retrieved October 01, 2014, from http://www.tirfonline.org/english-in-the- workforce/mobile-assisted-language-learning/re-skilling-language-learners-for-a-mobile-world/

Pegrum, M. (2014). Mobile learning: languages, literacies and cultures. (F. Dervin, L. Noelle-Marie, & K. Zourou, Eds.). New York, New York: Palgrave Macmillan.




  • 2 hours

Student background

  • 10 – 12 students
  • Upper Intermediate – Advanced

Age range:       18 + years old

Setting:             N/A


English in the Mountains


What items are essential to pack for the Mountains?


Students will be able to:

  • Research and identify different backpacking objects
  • Compare and contrast backpacking gear
  • Compose written justification for essential items to bring on a backpacking trip
  • Determine items that are not essential to bring on a backpacking trip
  • Orally share packing lists through group presentations

Language Objective

Students will be able to:

  • Design a packing list using vocabulary specific to backpacking

Materials and equipment

Materials:         Appendix A – G

Equipment:      Whiteboard, computer, projector, mobile phones, Internet


1 minute Materials: N/A



Greet Ss, review goals and the day’s schedule

15 minutes Introduction: Raising Awareness Materials: Internet, PowerPoint presentation with photos of mountains and famous hikes



1.      Ss name mountains they know around the world (i.e. Mt. Everest, Mt. Whitney, Mt. Fuji, Kilimanjaro, Annapurna)

2.      Focus Ss’ attention to hikes. Have Ss name famous hikes they know of around the world (i.e. JMT, PCT, El Camino Santiago, Fitz Roy). Ask what people do on hikes and how long people go on hikes for.

If Ss don’t know of any hikes, return to “mountains” and ask Ss why people go to the mountains.

3.      Ask Ss what things people bring with them to the mountains

4.      Ss then share any experience they have had in the mountains.

5.      Watch a Vimeo video (Vimeo video link below) that shows an individual’s journey through the Wind River Range, WY. (Video time: .00 -1.20).

6.      Follow up on the Vimeo video, asking what types of things this man brought with him. Ask if they are ready to embark on this type of journey.


7.      Explain that they are going to design a backpacking packing list in groups of 2-3 people. But before they design the trip they have to learn backpacking gear vocabulary.

25 minutes Identifying & Comparing Backpacking Gear Materials: Cell phones, Internet, Handout (Appendix A)



1.      Ss get into groups of 2 or 3. Explain that this will be the group they will go on a backpacking trip with

2.      T tells Ss that each group will get a set of vocabulary words. Their job is to do research about the gear on their list. Ss choose an image of the gear, upload it to Instagram using “#BackpackingGear” and annotate it with (a) gear name, (b) a brief description and, (c) why they chose this particular item compared to others.

3.      T models task, using the vocabulary word “sleeping bag.” … Look at different sleeping bags online (synthetic, mummy, treated down). Choose a mummy bag. Take the image of the mummy bag and upload it to Instagram using “#BackpackingGear.” Annotate with the name “sleeping bag,” a description (weight, type, synthetic/down) and why you chose this one.

4.      T writes useful websites on board.



5.      T now hands out backpacking vocabulary words (Appendix A) to each group

6.      Ss take out their cell phones and begin task

5 minutes Review Materials: Overhead projector, computer



1.      T reviews Instagram inputs on projector, giving Ss opportunities to ask questions

7 minutes Cloud activity: Setting a weight limit Materials: Internet, Ss cell phones



1.      Ss answer the following question “What is an ideal weight to carry on a backpacking trip?” by texting 22333  + initiating the message with the number 895579.

2.      T logs in to http://www.polleverywhere.com/ so Ss can see each others answers in a word cloud

3.      Follow up responses by having Ss justify their answers

4.      Use the most inputted number to set the weight limit for their trip.

10 minutes BREAK  
20 minutes Apply new vocabulary to create a backpacking packing list Materials: Handout (Appendix B – Appendix G)



1.      T passes out a picture of a different mountain (unnamed) to each group (Appendix B – Appendix G). See mountain names below

2.      Ss use “Google Goggles” to take a photo of the picture and identify the place. This is the place they will plan their backpacking trip

3.      Ss decide when and how long they will go backpacking

4.      With the weight limit in mind, groups make a packing list presentation (the old-fashion way), including quantities, of things they will bring on their trip.  Ss use vocabulary from the previous activity and anything else from their own searches.


Appendices: B = Moraine Lake, Canada; C= Torres Del Paine, Chile Patagonia; D = Grand Teton, WY; E = Matterhorn, Switzerland; F = Prusik Peak, WA; G = Cinque Torri, Italia

20 minutes Tell & Justify lists to the class Materials: projector, computer, internet



1.      Ss present their packing list, justifying the things their group chose to bring

2.      Ss not presenting write down 1 thing they would not bring from the group’s list, justifying their reasoning. This is Ss exit ticket

3.      T complements group presentations

3 minutes Closing / HW Materials: N/A



1.      Lesson summary – review if time permits by asking Ss which items would be essential to bring on a trip and which items would be a luxury to bring.

2.      Assign HW – Ss input all vocabulary words from todays lesson into lingua.ly  app to create flashcards. Using the same app Ss (a) review the vocabulary using the flashcards, (b) export the list as a PDF for later use, (c) choose one article containing vocabulary words from the inputted list to read

3.      Collect Ss exit ticket

Appendix A – Gear List

  1. Backpack
  2. SteriPen
  3. Sleeping pad
  4. Tent
  5. Bivy sack
  6. Stuff sack/compression sack
  7. Nalgene bottle
  8. Sleeping bag
  9. Topographic map
  10. Compass
  11. Headlamp
  12. First-aid kit
  13. Pocket knife
  14. Water purification tablets
  15. Bear canister
  16. Backpacking stove
  17. Gas canister
  18. Ice axe
  19. Crampons
  20. Freeze dried food