Education is a multifaceted domain that undergoes several changes. The dynamic nature of the processes involved in learning affects the students. In my school, one of the most notable proposals has been the introduction of cell phones in a classroom, to be used by both teachers and the pupils as learning material for English as Second Language (ESL) learners. Non-English speaking students in the school have increased over time. Resultantly, the need arises to integrate these learners and bring them up to speed to catch up with other learners who are native speakers of English. Ideally, this is an emerging trend in the education system as a mode of giving instructions to the learners. While the institution is going to implement the program, it is essential to scrutinize the merits and demerits of the change in the school.
About Mobile Based Language Learning (MALL)
Mobile Based Language Learning (MALL) entails the mechanism of students learning a language using enhancement of mobile gadgets. In view of (Begum, 2011), MALLP should be classified as a branch of m-learning where mobile technologies (MP3 or MP4 players, mobile phones or internet) are employed to facilitate language learning. When fully engaged in classrooms, MALL allows the teachers and the learners to access the materials for learning the English language (Begum, 2011). Aside from that MALL improves the communication among peers in the class and outside schools. It offers the use and retention of the acquired language skills and the prime source language education for the ESL learners.
In Bangladesh, learning English is deemed as a vital aspect for the non-English speakers. In fact, English enables the learner to be part of the globalization process (Begum, 2011). In light of this, the school has to develop modern and technological support that will facilitate the English as Second Language learning process. According to Begum (2011), the rapid growth in the wireless technology has seen mobile technology and several portable devices impacting on the teaching of various subjects worldwide. In that logic, language learning technologies have been developed to a mobilized, personalized and compact manner. Resultantly, the traditional forms of learning are transforming to electronic learning (E-learning). According to Akpan (2017), technology aims at improving the lives of human beings. The features of the mobile phones can be harnessed as adequate learning resources and teaching materials in schools. In fact, Akpan (2017) argues that almost all teachers and students in most high schools have more access to cell phones in schools than stationery. E-learning is worth implementation.
The application of cell phones in classrooms enables the learning process. According to Akpan (2017), the mobile learning (M-learning) helps in the elimination or reduction of the constraints of time that occur in the standard lessons. The idea is that the teachers and the learners are guaranteed the maximum or unlimited access to educational and academic purposes or information found on the internet (Akpan, 2017). The class is organized in a design that there are slow and fast learners. Akpon (2017) argues that these types of students will regulate their respective speeds when they use the mobile phones conveniently to gain information during the learning routine. With the existence of the short message service (SMS) and electronic mails (e-mails), teachers that are limited by time can provide information such as topics for discussion, research questions and assignments to the learners in time (Akpon, 2017). The whole concept responds to time constraint which is deemed as one of the challenges of the learning process.
MALL is essential because it terminates the constraint of space in the learning situation. Traditionally, the school and the classroom have been the learning environment. It implies that for the ESLs to gain more knowledge in English, they have to spend much of their time in school and closest to their language teachers. According to Akpan (2017), the sustainable educational goals risk being a mirage provided that the learning process takes place within the confinement of the school compound. By contrast, he argues that the opportunities of learning such as skills, knowledge, and information will be easily accessed by the non-English speakers if MALL is fully applied in the school (Akpun, 2017). The ESL students can take part in learning the English language not only in school but also at home which in turn improves the speed of their language acquisition.
Notably, learning is a social process that occurs through social interactions. For ESL students, the sociability of learning increases when MALL is employed in the classrooms. When the learners send SMSs among themselves or send voice calls to peers and colleagues on matters academic, they interact (Akpon, 2017). Additionally, the social association increases when the ESL learners contact experts regarding assignments or questions. Educators such as Jean Piaget have argued that the process of learning occurs best when there is sufficient interaction between the learners and the teachers or among the students (Froese et al., 2012). MALL enables the students to access knowledge easily, seek clarifications from teachers or peers, share and collaborate towards the improvement of education.
Reasons against MALL
Linguistic reasons have been cited that explains the limitations of MALL. According to Irina (2011), research indicates that learners spend the most time in texting compared to the time in reading when MALL is involved. As the learners share the knowledge and experiences among themselves, texting is the primary form of communication. However, this is a limitation especially in language learning because the students tend to employ shorthand in texting (Irina, 2011). Learners use abbreviations, ignore grammar and syntactic rules such as spelling and punctuations in their written communication using mobile devices for the interest of time. It is particularly detrimental to ESL learners who should acquire the knowledge about the rules of the very language that they are breaking (Irina, 2011). Texting and short handwritings penetrate into academic writings that indicate the absence of code-switch skills and the increasing preference for a non-standard form of a language (Froese et al., 2012). Mobile devices in the classroom are thus a tricky venture because of the inherent linguistic problems.
Pedagogical concerns have been raised regarding the implementation of MALL in schools. According to Irina (2011), learning styles and the educational needs of the learners must be recognized in line with the impact of technology on the lives of students. While the program introduces new ways of creation and dissemination of knowledge, it is faulted for the emergence of disruption in the learning environment (Irina, 2011). Regarding West (2013), interruptions inevitably prevent the concentration of the learners to the primary activity or task. Texting in the lessons establishes multitasking that leads to the limited or poor performance of the initial work (Irina, 2011). Cheating in assignments using mobile phones is a primary concern that comes with MALL.
While MALL has serious negative implications on learning such as the emergence of grammatical mistakes (shorthand and breaking of linguistic rules), disruptions in learning and increased cheating in tests, I cannot overlook its merits. In fact, the paper is convinced that the value of advantages of MALL supersedes the disadvantages. Through MALL, ESL learners have access to instant knowledge, the interactions that make learning effective increase and limitations to space and time of learning are eliminated. The most important thing about MALL is the ability to harness the learning activity into a social event that is characterized by interactions. Renowned philosophers and educators such as Plato, Aristotle, and Jean Piaget emphasized on making the learning environment as interactive as possible to enable sharing of ideas. The paper is convinced that MALL introduction for ESL learners in the school is long overdue.
In summation, as the school looks forward to implementing the Mobile Assisted Language Learning Program for the non-English speaking pupils, it is imperative that the administration studies the scope of this paper; the advantages and disadvantages of MALL. Every educational change requires scrutiny so that the implementer can acclimatize with the projected challenges. Besides, this document can help in appraising the program to ensure that it is successful.
Akpan, V. I. (2017). Cell Phones as Effective Learning Resource. Journal of Education, Society and Behavioural Science. 22(4): 1-8.
Begum, R. (2011). Prospect for cell phones as instructional tools in the EFL classroom: A case study of Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh. English Language Teaching, 4(1), 105.
Froese, A. D., Carpenter, C. N., Inman, D. A., Schooley, J. R., Barnes, R. B., Brecht, P. W., & Chacon, J. D. (2012). Effects of classroom cell phone use on expected and actual learning. College Student Journal, 46(2), 323-332.
Irina, A. (2012). A Cell Phone in the Classroom: A Friend or a Foe?. European Association for Computer-Assisted Language Learning (EUROCALL).
West, D. M. (2013). Mobile learning: Transforming education, engaging students, and improving outcomes. Brookings Policy Report, 1-7.