September 3, 2011

m-learning - 1 simple idea

Here is a very simple idea on how to use your students' mobile devices for language learning:

I was teaching a group of advanced-level teenagers in Brazil, in a regular school classroom, with no internet connection, no computer, no projector, no interactive boards, etc. I was about to start the new grammar topic, the different uses of WISH and HOPE, when it dawned upon me that I didn't need any technology because students had a lot of technology right in their pockets.

I asked students if they had either an ipod (or any other mp3 player with a "search" function) or a smartphone with internet connection, and it turned out that all of them had one or the other - and if a few hadn't, they could have worked in pairs or trios. I drew a line in the middle of our chalkboard and wrote WISH on one side and HOPE on the other side, and I asked students to do the following

"If you have a smartphone with internet connection, search for song titles that contain the word WISH or the word HOPE. As you find song titles, come and write them on the chalkboard."

"If you have an ipod, search for the songs that you have on your device with the words WISH or HOPE, and them on the board."

The result was a chalk board filled with many song titles, all of them written by students, based on the songs they carry on their mp3 players or on their internet search. Even better was the fact that everything I needed to exaplain about WISH and HOPE was illustrated on the board, such as using WISH and HOPE as a verb and as a noun, the unreal/regretting aspect of WISH and the probabilistic aspect of HOPE, the fact that we usually use simple past or past perfect after WISH and present or future after HOPE, etc.

Instead of lecturing about this grammar topic, we worked with elicitation based on student-centered song titles. Besides, students were excited about being allowed to use their electronic devices in class!

The following video is an ironic and sarcastic criticism to the dependency teenagers have on mobile devices and on being connected to friends on various social networking platforms all the time, but it is also a picture of our current reality, especially when teaching teenagers, so it's about time we took advantage of it, right?