Kathryn Murphy-Judy
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-141-6.ch008
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Students studying abroad already don’t leave home without their mobile devices—phones, MP3 players, netbooks, laptops. The potential for m-learning for these device-toting learners holds great promise that can easily be capitalized upon by the savvy teacher. Learners studying abroad who are outfitted with m-learning devices which include well-chosen Web 2.0 resources derive immediate and long range benefits. Furthermore, when organized to communicate with learners back home, the travelers help create a transnational community of practice that shares the wealth of the experiential learning. This chapter takes a tour of mobile learning technologies and techniques that enhance and extend the study abroad experience far beyond the reach of a small group fortunate enough to travel. As has long been the case with CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning) and TELL (Technology Enhanced Language Learning), and now with MALL (Mobile Assisted Language Learning), experts note that well-chosen resources, along with carefully structured and planned activities, enhance various aspects of language acquisition and social interaction. After the literature review, this chapter considers lessons gleaned from the author’s trails, trials, and errors across a range of technologies and borders. It ends with suggestions for ways to optimize iStudyAbroad today and tomorrow.
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We are poised at the on-ramp for a thrilling m-learning adventure that couples anytime, anywhere mobility with active, experiential learning along individualized, social, or mixed pathways. Mediated learning on the road, whether to local sites of linguistic and cultural interest or as an integral part of a study abroad (SA) experience, extends and deepens the impact for those who travel and, if well mapped out, for those back home as well. The convergence of Web 2.0 (a.k.a. the social web) with mobile devices affords foreign language learners and teachers exciting opportunities both on and off the planned itinerary.

The utility of mobile devices for study abroad programs is multiple. Fingertip communication can both minimize risks and create opportunities across the full range of study abroad aspects, including finances, transportation, safety, and, of course, education and communication. For example, timely access to information resources may help defray certain costs: access to restaurant prices, ticket availability, and transportation schedules can provide powerful money- and time-saving opportunities. Safety and health problems, too, are more easily resolved with instantaneous information and access. In this chapter, however, the focus is pedagogical. Already, devices like cell phones connect learners abroad with both L1 and L2 communities also abroad. Families and friends back home make sure that travelers have a cell phone or some option that allows a reasonable amount of communication. Yet, when the experience instantly connects learners abroad with learners back home, the learning advantages for everyone can increase dramatically. By charting these initial inroads of m-learning into the realm of study abroad, this chapter will help instructors learn how to implement iStudyAbroad projects, by providing:

  • a review of the literature on study abroad (SA) and mobile devices for second language learning and acquisition while abroad;

  • a discussion of possible integrations of iStudyAbroad based mainly on the author’s technology-enhanced study abroad programs; and

  • solutions and workarounds for some of the issues, as well as future directions.


Review Of The Literature

Literature abounds on study abroad (SA) best practices for second language learning and acquisition (SARG, 2005). It is generally agreed that the more learners immerse themselves in the target language and culture, the more they learn about the language, culture and themselves, and the more linguistic and cultural skills they acquire (Dufon & Churchill, 2006). The ‘ugly truth’ is, as Kinginger (2008) acknowledges, “while SA is certainly a productive context for language learning, its outcomes are neither as dramatic nor as equally distributed among students as one might hope they would be.” Addressing the study abroad context, Barron (2003) proposes to increase sociopragmatics, that is, the development of socially appropriate speech strategies (the development of which appears to surpass pragmalinguistics, that is, those structural variations chosen for specific discursive effect) by having learners engage in ethnographic projects while immersed in the target culture. She also prescribes pre-departure and post-return seminars for the mutual benefit of upcoming SA students and returning students. Although she does not mention CALL, TELL, or MALL, both of her interventions -- the ethnographic projects and the student exchanges are ripe for technological mediations, with MALL, perhaps, being most appropriate during a study abroad program.

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