Benefits of Mobile-Assisted
Language Learning Tools
Extempore activities fit within what the field of foreign language pedagogy calls Mobile-Assisted Language Learning (MALL) tasks, a subset of the broader area of Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC). The use of MALL tasks – and CMC in general – in the foreign language classroom has proved beneficial for learners in two important ways: it promotes learners’ language development, including oral proficiency, and it can reduce anxiety, consequently increasing motivation and positive attitudes towards learning.
Early studies on the use of CMC tasks in the foreign language classroom established a positive relationship between the use of these tasks and language development (Abrams, 2003; Beauvois 1997; Blake, 2000; Kost, 2004; Payne & Whitney, 2002). Research that examines the curricular integration of CMC oral tasks, both synchronous and asynchronous, reveals students’ gains in areas of oral proficiency, such as comprehensibility and fluency (Dunn, 2012), as well as amount of output (Gromik, 2012; Yanguas & Flores, 2014), pragmatic competence (Sykes, 2005), and pronunciation (Anaraki, 2009).
Research also shows that learners who are given supplemental spoken practice outside of the classroom using their computers or mobile devices usually outperform learners in the control groups in oral proficiency measures (Al-Jarf, 2012; Anaraki, 2009; Hsu, Wang & Comac, 2008; Yang, Lai & Chu, 2005). When compared to oral tasks completed in a computer lab setting, Kesseler (2010) observed that recordings submitted with an audio mobile device scored better in different speaking fluency measures (namely, pausing, rate of speech, utterance length and volume) than those recorded in the computer lab.
MALL has been shown to reduce anxiety in the foreign language classroom. Unlike students using computers in the audio lab, participants using mobile devices in Kessler’s (2010) study reported less self-consciousness and anxiety when completing the speaking tasks. In addition to reduced speaking anxiety, research also shows that learners, especially younger ones, exhibit positive attitudes towards the use of mobile-assisted language learning tasks (Ally, Tin & Woodburn, 2011; Al-Shehri, 2011; Belanger, 2005; Yanguas & Flores, 2014) and those attitudes often result in increased motivation to produce more language (Yanguas & Flores, 2014)..
A number of studies have also examined how learners perceive the benefits of MALL technology integration for their own learning. In general, students who are asked about the effectiveness of MALL technology report improvement of their learning (Abdous, Camarena & Facer, 2009; Ally, Tin & Woodburn, 2011; Amer, 2010; Cooney & Keogh, 2007; Facer, Abdous & Camarena, 2009; Gromik, 2012; Sun, 2009) and greater autonomy, that is, the technology helps students feel more in charge of their own learning (Al-Jarf, 2012; Palfreyman, 2012).
Research on the use of mobile-assisted language learning tools is a relatively new and rapidly growing field. The primary pedagogical implications that we can derive from this incipient body of knowledge is that making mobile applications, such as Extempore, a part of the learning process is generally well received by students; it results in increased practice; and, therefore, it promotes language development.
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