Using Mobile Phones for Teaching, Learning and Assessing Irish in Ireland: Processes, Benefits and Challenges

Using Mobile Phones for Teaching, Learning and Assessing Irish in Ireland: Processes, Benefits and Challenges

Katrina A. Keogh (National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, Ireland)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-849-0.ch013
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Abstract

This chapter outlines the processes, benefits and challenges of two pilot projects which investigated the integration of mobile phones into the teaching, learning and assessment of Irish in post-primary schools in Ireland. Existing literature examining the status of Irish in Ireland and previous research into the use of mobile phones for teaching and learning languages are described. Findings from the two pilot projects indicate that mobile phones can help to promote the increased use of oral language skills, can increase student motivation and enjoyment for the task at hand and increase students’ competency in the language being taught. Mobile phones also proved successful in providing opportunities for students’ oral language practice and self-assessment and teachers’ formative and summative assessment of students’ language skills.
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1. Introduction

“I think using mobile phones to teach teenagers Irish is a good idea because most teenagers are always stuck to their phone and they couldn’t live without it…”

(School student aged 14)

Most schools in Ireland have a policy that states that students’ mobile phones must be powered off during lessons, study periods and any learning-centred activity such as field trips. Some schools do not allow students to carry mobile phones in school. For students, school is not a phone-friendly environment.

Yet is it clear how engaged students become when they are using their mobile phones to send a text message to a friend, check whether they are busy on Saturday or to check their email; how at ease they are with this technology and how it is seamlessly integrated into their day to day lives; resulting in the perception that they couldn’t live without it. Also consider the number of students who own a mobile phone, versus the information and communications technology (ICT) facilities available in schools. If we consider mobile phones to have the potential of a mini-computer (Prensky, 2004), and that the majority of students carry a mobile phone in their pocket, the possibilities for seamlessly integrating ICT into education become more attainable.

In 2007, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) started to investigate whether mobile phones had a place in school and attempted to harness students’ interest in and use of mobile phones by initiating a pilot project investigating the use of mobile phones for teaching, learning and assessing Irish. The integration of mobile phones had the additional benefit of enabling Irish to be spoken outside of the classroom. The project was grounded in a request from the Minister for Education and Science, to investigate ways to integrate ICT into the teaching and learning of Irish, with the particular focus of increasing the communicative use of Irish. Irish is a compulsory subject for students in post-primary schools, but one, which evidence suggests, they have little enthusiasm for (Smyth, Dunne, McCoy & Darmody, 2006). The premise of the project then was to match the most desirable technology with the most undesirable subject.

The initial pilot project examined the use of mobile phones for vocabulary SMS delivery and oral practice and assessment through a phone-based question and answer system. Sixty nine students and their three teachers participated in this phase of work, named the MALL project – Mobile-Assisted Language Learning. The NCCA worked in partnership with the National Centre for Technology in Education1 for this phase of work.

The MALL pilot project was extended the following year to include a third use of mobile phones – student voice to voice chat, a mobile phone feature rarely used in Mobile-Assisted Language Learning (Kukulska-Hulme & Shield, 2008). The participating cohort also increased to 368 students, 16 teachers and six schools - three in Northern Ireland and three in the Republic of Ireland. This second phase of work was referred to as the FÓN project, which stands for Foghlaim Ón Nuatheicneolaíocht, or learning through new technology.2 Both phases of work included an associated online interface, where teachers administered the mobile interface and content, accessed student recordings and provided feedback to students on their recordings. The second phase of work added an online interface for students, where they could access their recordings and any associated teacher feedback. A further project partner worked with NCCA and NCTE on the FÓN project – Foras na Gaeilge.3

This chapter examines the background, design, implementation and evaluation findings from both pilot projects, with particular emphasis on the impact of the integration of the technology from the students’ and teachers’ perspectives. Evaluation questions focussed on whether student competency and motivation increased through using mobile phones for learning and practising Irish and the effectiveness of this technology for teachers in facilitating oral language practice, and formative and summative assessment.

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