Why use mobile phones?

Bringing mobile phones into a language class can raise all sorts of challenges: privacy, distraction, tech failures, training needs, heightened inequality, among other concerns.  If they are so tricky to use, why should we use them at all? What makes it worth involving mobile phones in our language teaching and language learning?  Here is a list of responses from teacher-trainees.  A video and two presentations answering the question “Why MALL?” can be found after this list:

  • Return on the investment – teachers can potentially can get so much out of using a tool that learners already have.
  • Immediate benefits outweigh these potential problems, you can get answers more quickly, resolve disputes more quickly, get feedback more quickly, disseminate information more quickly
  • Be more democratic – learners are familiar with the technology, and if properly designed, can involve more learners
  • Learners are going to use phones anyway, why not give them something useful to do on the phone? Train them in how to learn using it beyond the classroom
  • Relevant for the learners – something they care about, and identify with
  • Every area of life and learning is moving into digital and mobile technologies
  • Abilities to capture learners’ production for formative assessment, and share it easily
  • Mobile phones can do almost anything that computers can do – if computers are good for education, why not phones?
  • They are inherently interactive (as opposed to books), and interaction is a great way to learn languages!
  • Learners need digital and multimodal literacies in today’s world, and mobile phones are a perfect tool for teaching these new literacies
  • Multimodality – camera, voice recorder, video recorder, keyboard, screen are all built into the phone. Learners practice all forms and modes of communication
  • Provides opportunities for different types of participation – learners can choose the forms of expression they feel comfortable with
  • Learning can happen anywhere, at anytime, over any length of time, with almost anyone
  • Promote social connectedness – makes a language which could seem distant and dead into a living, relational activity
  • Brings the entire world into a learner’s own hands – all of the potential opportunities for learning
  • Mobile phones can hold learners accountable because they produce documentation of learners’ input, interaction, production, and critical thinking