This chapter explores aspects of portable handheld language learning that are likely to benefit many mobile assisted language learning (MALL) practitioners. Portable handheld language learning refers to mobile, virtual, and ubiquitous language learning mediated through mobile handheld devices. Currently, both computer assisted language learning (CALL) and MALL seem to dominate the act of language learning. Against this background the chapter first provides a brief review of CALL, highlighting CALL technologies helping mediate language learning. Second, it delineates features typifying e-Learning and contends that CALL is more closely linked to traditional e-Learning than MALL. Third, it provides empirical instances of MALL and argues that the future of language learning lies more with MALL and especially with pen assisted language learning (PALL) than with CALL. Finally, it maintains that an all-encompassing and multidimensional definition of mobile learning is necessary if MALL is to evolve into a mainstream virtual learning enterprise.
Call Technologies And Language Learning
CALL technologies (programs, applications, and platforms) are central to how language learning is mediated in CALL environments. Most of these technologies are determined largely by language learning approaches and methods and their attendant pedagogical and theoretical philosophies. That is, they tend to reflect the prevailing philosophies and the dominant pedagogical and learning paradigms determining how language learning ought to be mediated. However, these technologies also tend to shape and influence pedagogical and learning paradigms (Kern & Warschauer, 2000). Against this backdrop, this section of the chapter outlines some of the CALL technologies and the way in which they facilitate language learning. Modeled on the typology of CALL programs, applications, and platforms delineated by Warschauer (1996) and Kern & Warschauer (2000), these technologies are categorized into three divisions: mainframe computer technologies; PC technologies; and multimedia networked computer technologies.
Mainframe Computer Technologies
These are the first-generation CALL technologies related to the mainframe computer informed by the behaviorist approach to CALL—the view that language learning and acquisition entailed repetitive habit formation patterns. Most of them (e.g., the audio language laboratory and the PLATO system) viewed the computer as a tutor/taskmaster mediating language learning between the learner and materials. Some of the software programs they used included drill and practice programs, grammar and tutorial programs, and language testing instruments. One prominent feature of these programs was the provision of immediate positive and negative feedback to learners on the structural accuracy of their responses (Davies & Walker, 1999-2007; Kern & Warschauer, 2000; Warschauer, 1996).
According to these mainframe computer technologies, language learning is mediated through:
Repetitive drilling of the same material (e.g., grammar, vocabulary, spelling)
Pronunciation and reading activities
Constant error analysis
Listening to audio recordings of the target speech
Reading, speaking, and writing
Some of the drill programs included, among other things, the following: Advanced Grammar Series; Accelerated English; Firsthand Access; Reading Adventure 1 – ESL; Gapmaster; English Vocabulary; Typing Tutor; and Testmaster (Davies & Walker, 1999-2007; Warschauer, 1996; Warschauer & Healy, 1998).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Java 2 Platform, Micro Edition: A technology using Java tools and programming language to develop programs for use on mobile devices such as mobile phones and PDAs.
Multi-User Dungeons (MUDs): Types of real-time Internet conferences enabling users to send e-mails or to manipulate objects in an imaginary world.
FLY Pentop Computer: A FLY is a pen-driven computer manufactured by LeapFrog Enterprises Inc. It is fitted with a battery, a computer brain, a software cartridge, a loudspeaker, and a headphone, and uses FLY paper.
Really Simple Syndication (RSS): A method for distributing news headlines, alerts, reminders, or other related Web content that are available for feeding from an online publisher to Web users.
PlayStation Portable (PSP): Sony’s portable game console.
LeapPa: LeapFrog’s family of platforms (e.g., LittleTouch LeapPad, My First LeapPad, Classic LeapPad, LeapPad Plus Writing, and Quantum LeapPad) consisting of audio software cartridges and corresponding interactive books.
Wikis: Special Web pages that can be immediately edited by any Web reader. A typical example is Wikipedia, a vast, multilingual encyclopaedia written, edited, and updated by any reader.
Multi-User-Domains Object Oriented (MOOs): Virtual worlds designed for language learning.
High-Meaning Words: According to the NEARStar program, high-meaning words are concrete, image-rich, high-interest words such as mommy, daddy, cookie, juice, or names of siblings, favorite toys, or familiar concepts. High-frequency words are a small number of words (the 100 most frequently used words) in the English language (e.g., of/for/from; was/saw; on/no; there/then/them/their; and when/where/what/with) (http://coe.west.asu.edu/students/wduzan/new_one/hfw1.htm). Phonetically regular words are words with one-to-one letter-sound correspondences such as /bat/; /cat/; /fat/; /pat/; /sat/; and so forth, that mostly display a regular consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) combination. Critical word factor (CWF) is an index of the number of new unique words per 100 running words of text falling outside a designated group of high frequency and phonetically regular words.
Nintendo DS: Nintendo’s (Japanese manufacturer) dual-screen handheld game console featuring touch screen and microphone controls.
Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs): Small hybrid devices that combine a variety of computing functions such as a data organizer, a fax transmitter, e-mail, and a Web browser.