Mobile blogs in language learning...
Open Research Online The Open University���s repository of research publications and other research outputs Mobile blogs in language learning: making the most of informal and situated learning opportunities Journal Article How to cite: Comas-Quinn, Anna Mardomingo, Raquel and Valentine, Chris (2009). Mobile blogs in language learning: making the most of informal and situated learning opportunities. ReCALL, 21(1), pp. 96���112. For guidance on citations see FAQs. c 2009 European Association for Computer Assisted Language Learning Version: Accepted Manuscript Link(s) to article on publisher���s website: http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.1017/S0958344009000032 Copyright and Moral Rights for the articles on this site are retained by the individual authors and/or other copy- right owners. For more information on Open Research Online���s data policy on reuse of materials please consult the policies page. oro.open.ac.uk
1 Mobile blogs in language learning: making the most of informal and situated learning opportunities ANNA COMAS-QUINN Department of Languages, Faculty of Education and Languages, The Open University, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA, UK A.Comas-Quinn@open.ac.uk RAQUEL MARDOMINGO Department of Languages, Faculty of Education and Languages, The Open University, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA, UK R.Mardomingo@open.ac.uk CHRIS VALENTINE Centre for New Media, Knowledge Media Institute The Open University, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA, UK C.P.Valentine@open.ac.uk Abstract The application of mobile technologies to learning has the potential to facilitate the active participation of learners in the creation and delivery of content. They can also provide a powerful connection between a variety of formal and informal learning contexts and can
2 help to build a community of learners. However these versatile tools present challenges to educators and learners alike. The paper discusses the pedagogical challenges that result from the introduction of mobile technologies in language learning in the context of an intensive week of study abroad. We describe and evaluate a pilot project that uses mobile blogging to promote a constructivist, situated and informal learning experience of the foreign language and culture based on theories of active learning. We aim to encourage interaction and a sense of community among learners outside formal educational environments and in different locations as we ask them to engage with the foreign culture by capturing, sharing and reflecting on their experiences for their peers. Keywords: mobile learning, language learning, group blogs, user-generated content, informal learning, situated learning
3 1. Introduction New technologies have entered most aspects of our lives in the last two decades, and the resulting changes have progressively made their way into teaching and learning. Although initially these changes may have been practical, involving improvements such as clearer presentation of learning materials or better access to them, the more recent development of mobile technologies and better understanding and application of web technologies, particularly cognitive tools, is set to have a more profound effect on pedagogy. As Traxler (2007) claims ���mobile, personal and wireless devices are now radically transforming societal notions of discourse and knowledge, and are responsible for new forms of art, employment, language, commerce, deprivation, and crime, as well as learning���. Constructivist principles and situated learning assumptions are at the heart of most current work in mobile learning (Jonassen and Land, 2000). Therefore, most mobile learning projects adopt an activity-centred, learner-centred approach (Naismith, Lonsdale, Vavoula and Sharples, 2004), which has also become increasingly widespread in language learning (van Lier, 2007 Felix, 2005 Simina and Hamel, 2005). In section two of this article, we will start by looking at emerging theories of mobile learning, an area that has so far been under-researched as efforts seem to concentrate on exploring the practical uses of the technology in different contexts (some notable exceptions are Sharples, Taylor and Vavoula, 2005, and Sharples, Arnedillo S��nchez, Milrad and Vavoula, 2007). The issue of what makes mobile devices suitable to promote different
4 kinds of learning will also be examined. We will then review a range of approaches to learning that put the emphasis on the learner as active participant in the learning process, and will examine the basic concepts of some of the general theoretical principles that are often associated with mobile learning: constructivism, learner-centeredness, situated learning and informal learning. In section three, we will describe how we conceived, designed and piloted a mobile blogging task for language learners at The Open University, UK. The idea behind this project was to explore the potential of online tools to facilitate interaction and engagement in the collaborative construction of meaning within a community of learners, and the potential of mobile technologies to allow learners to engage informally and creatively with the culture in a particular location ��� in this case the town of Santiago de Compostela in Spain. In section four we examine the insights gained from piloting this task and reflect on the various issues that had an impact on the success of the pilot as well as the kind of learning it can promote. We believe that the limited data that was generated from piloting the design of this mobile learning task already points at certain issues that have implications for the design of materials in learning environments that incorporate new technologies. As designers of distance language learning materials, operating in a context in which the introduction of new technologies, including mobile technologies, is increasing, we acknowledge the challenges entailed by this rapidly changing learning