Mobile based environment for foreign language learning: Application usage scenarios

May 22, 2016 by

1. Introduction
In our previous articles we presented a high level definition for a mobile based system for foreign language learning [1], as well as use case and sequence diagrams for the proposed system [2], which tries to bring into the foreign language teaching, the principles of active learning methodology introduced by the English scholar R.W. Revans [3].

In this article, we present two characteristic scenarios, which provide an insight into the core system’s functionalities and the tools that it can provide to foreign language teachers and students, giving them the ability to overcome the limits imposed by the traditional physical classroom and connect with other students, having similar interests, all over the world while participating in collaborating learning activities.

2. Scenarios
2.1. Students Introductions
As the academic year was about to end, Letitia, a primary school English teacher, from Spain and Maarten, also a primary school English teacher, from Netherlands, were discussing about the opportunity to have an online meeting with their fifth graders. The application was already used with great excitement by other teachers in their school, and Maarten though that it was a good idea, to get their students of A1 level online in order to get to know each other by introducing themselves. Letitia found the idea great, but she suggested that, in addition to the students’ introduction, each student could show off their favorite toys to each other, something that Maarten agreed to.

So, as a first step, after registering as teachers in the system, they created their classes and joined them in a group, so that they could have online meetings together, and instructed their students how to install the application in their mobile phones or tablets.

The two teachers, wanted to make sure that their students, knew the required vocabulary, in order to describe their toys, so they created a group assignment, in which every student could upload up to three photographs of their favorite toys. Having each student’s favorite toys photographs, they then created a glossary web page in which they add the uploaded photographs, along with a couple short phrases describing the toys (“This is my ball”, “This is my bicycle”, etc.) and a sound file with the pronunciation of each of these phrases.
After a couple of offline, traditional classroom, lectures in order to get the students familiar with the vocabulary and its usage, the two teachers, after deciding along with their student the best time of the meeting, created the online meeting and added all the students to it.

During the meeting the teachers instructed the students how to enable their mobile devices’ cameras and microphones (which was just a click of a button) and then enabled the students’ microphone one a time, having each student introduce himself and then showing the other students his favorite toys. The meeting was a great success and the students were really excited as, until now, they haven’t though that they have so many commons with kids living in a different country.

After the meeting, the teachers created a new assignment for their students, asking them to write a few sentences about who they met during the meeting and also what toys they liked most. The students would have access to the meeting’s recording and also to the glossary web page that was created before the meeting.

The two teachers also decided to allow the student’s parents to access to the meeting’s recording. They thought that it could provide a good marketing material for their schools and they were right. The student’s parents were impressed that their kids could participate in a discussion with other kids, after just a year of English teaching.

2.2. A virtual visit to museums
Gabriel, a 17 years old boy from France, was for many years interesting in Greek history and especially the classical period and have already visited the Louvre museum several times in order to see the Greek exhibits. In his English classroom (C2 level) he has met, in previous teacher guided online meetings, Nikos, a 17 years old boy from Greece, and Eleni, a 16 years old girl also from Greece, who were also learning English (C2 level) and who both shared the same interest about the Greek classical period with Gabriel.

Gabriel wanted for many years to visit Acropolis and the Acropolis museum in Athens, but so far he didn’t have the chance to do so. He thought that it could be a good idea to ask Nikos and Eleni to have a virtual tour. Nikos and Eleni where excited about the idea, as at the same time Gabriel could provide to them a virtual in Louvre museum, so they asked their teacher if they could have an online meeting for this. Their teachers agreed, but in addition to that they asked their students to write a wiki article about the Greek classical period. The three students agreed to that and setup an online meeting. Their teachers after approving the meeting, created a new project in the application, added the three students in it and also setup a wiki page for that project. Later they could move this wiki page to their schools’ public wiki.

Gabriel thought that it would be great if Simon, a 17 years old boy from England, who Gabriel met last year in a students’ exchange program, could join the meeting, as Simon could provide them a virtual tour to the Parthenon marbles, located in the British museum, and asked his teacher about this. His teacher, after consulting Simon’s and the other students’ teachers and parents agreed to this, so Simon installed the application in his mobile phone and registered to the system. Gabriel’s teacher approved his registration and added him in the project with the rest of the students.

Everything was setup up! At the meeting’s time every student was at his place: Gabriel inside Louvre’s museum, in front of the famous Aphrodite of Milos statues, taking photos that he could later use in the project’s wiki. Simon was already in Room 18, where the Parthenon marbles are kept and also taking photos and short videos with his mobile. Nikos was in the Acropolis, while at the same time Eleni was inside the Acropolis museum. After a short small talk about their day so far, and the introduction of Simon made by Gabriel to Nikos and Eleni, they started by asking Nikos go them through the various buildings in the Acropolis. Simon, has asked one of the museums guides to provide them some additional information about the history of the marbles and with the help of Nikos’ camera to show them their original location. Finally, they went through the exhibits in both Louvre and Acropolis museums through Gabriel’s and Eleni’s cameras respectively. They didn’t realize how fast 5 hours have past!

In order to organize their work, the four students asked their teachers to create a new forum for their project, in which they could upload any photos and videos they had from their visits in the museums and Acropolis as well as links to other material found on the internet. Later, they would arrange for additional online meetings in order to discuss the material and decide about the content to include in their project’s wiki page.

3. Conclusion – Next Steps
As we showed, the proposed system, can play a key role in a modern foreign language teaching classroom, providing new collaborative and interaction tools and connecting students with similar interests all over the world.

The applicability of such scenarios, needs of course to be verified outside of the lab, in real world conditions with real teachers and students. Such an evaluation will help us to pinpoint unforeseen issues, having to do either with the interaction of the users with the system, or technological limitations.

4. References
[1] Salatas, J. A proposal for developing a mobile based environment to help children learning a foreign language. ICT Research Blog. Retrieved July 28, 2014.
[2] Salatas, J. Mobile based environment for foreign language learning: Use cases and sequence diagrams. ICT Research Blog. Retrieved February 25, 2015.
[3] Weltman, D. (2007). A Comparison of Traditional and Active Learning Methods: An Empirical Investigation Utilizing a Linear Mixed Model. PhD Thesis. The University of Texas at Arlington, Texas.

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