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AppAdvisor

AppAdvisor: Providing Educators with Advice on


Mobile Language Acquisition Applications
Laura Hall, Sarah Irwin-Gibson, Lilian Lee, Oliver Lesum and Evelyn Welsh
Professor Chelsey Hauge
ETEC 510
February 15, 2015

AppAdvisor

AppAdvisor: Providing Educators with Advice on


Mobile Language Acquisition Applications
Key Framework
The field of education is constantly evolving. As the world around us grows and
changes, so must the information taught in the classroom. The information, platform of
instruction and way that material is being delivered must be continuously modified to
support new ways to create individualized and authentic learning opportunities for
students. This calls for new methods of instruction to help guide students in their ability
to process information and aid in their construction of knowledge. With the influence of
mobile technologies, a drastic shift in terms of creative power, ownership, and authorship
has surfaced. Winston Churchills famous quote, History is written by the victors, no
longer applies, as individuals across the globe have access and the ability to contribute to
form a collective history (Winston Churchill Quotes).
The push towards technology has not gone unrecognized within the education
system. Yet, in many areas, teachers and students alike have been left without proper
resources, information or tools in order to implement and use new technologies in their
lesson designs and in their delivery. With cutbacks to preparatory time, collaboration
time, and the stripping of funding for professional development, many educators find it
challenging to create dynamic and engaging lessons for students incorporating
technology. As Nakamura (2007) states, the Internet is the largest participatory mass
medium in use today, and as such, it should be used equitably and to its fullest potential
across geographic and economic barriers (p.45). As educators identify the needs of their

AppAdvisor

community, technology can work to positively impact their community by encouraging


participation in lifelong learning.
Our research proposal is to help facilitate the integration of mobile applications
developed for the iPad and Android tablets as tools in education. Specifically, we will be
creating a collaborative platform where education professionals can share and evaluate
mobile applications that support students language acquisition. This is where education
professionals can come together as a community to use a metalanguage for assessing and
evaluating these applications. In addition, we will create interactivities that exemplify
how applications can be used as a collaboration platform for students in the classroom,
along with self-learning tools to be applied in any learning environment, fostering do-ityourself communities (Kafai & Peppler, 2011).
Constructivism, much like technology, decentralizes the role of the teacher by
shifting focus to individualized and student-driven learning. This approach asks students
to construct ideas to develop a clear understanding of skills, processes and attitudes (Von
Glasserfeld, 2008). Language learning is based on four major components: reading,
writing, speaking and listening. With the preferred medium of technology, students are
able to work at their own pace and according to their own ability. The use of
technological applications helps to support student understanding and increase
engagement in learning environments through differentiated learning and individualized
instruction (Watson & Watson, 2011).
Intentions and Positions
The world has changed drastically in the last 10 years with regards to mobile
technology and this means that pedagogy has to evolve in tandem with this change.

AppAdvisor

Mobile devices are becoming more powerful and versatile, and are becoming the primary
computing device. According to Godwin-Jones (2011), this is not a trend language
teachers can ignore.
If students are using their mobile devices as their primary computing device, then
using applications to support learning of language bridges the gap between school
learning and home learning. Learning can happen anywhere and anytime. Having a
teacher guide the use of these applications and advise students in areas of weakness
furthers individual learning, making it more valuable for all students.
Being digital natives, todays students are intuitively engaged by the media and
digital world that surrounds them. Rhiannon Sparkes, an Elementary School teacher who
uses iPads in her classroom and has done research with Apple, believes that Using
technology is where the students are most comfortable and most creative. So its really
exciting to help them enjoy classic literature. The potential with iPad is limitless
(Apple).
Having a tool like AppAdvisor for teachers to browse supports hard working
educators and provides them with tools that engage, encourage and are current. To help
educators decide on which applications to use, AppAdvisor sorts and categorizes
applications according to a matrix built on two types of criteria: on the x-axis, we list 13
criteria made up of language skills that language learners need to master to be truly
competent users. These are Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking, Grammar/Sentence
Structure, Vocabulary, Storytelling, Publishing and Content Creation. Conventionally,
most of these skills are taught through a combination of textbooks, workbooks, drills and
games. However, with the use of mobile applications, these skills will benefit from the

AppAdvisor

affordances that mobile learning provides. These affordances include active learning,
portability, participatory learning, immediate feedback and delivery of smaller chunks of
language information that can be repeated and adapted (Bracke, 2013).
Using mobile applications correctly can enhance learner language acquisition.
Oftentimes the use of technology can become a hindrance or a distraction if used
incorrectly because the same goals could have been better achieved without the
intervention of a mobile applications. Its use should therefore augment the student's
learning experience and optimize learning capacity (Carrington, 2008).
On the y-axis are six items from Blooms Taxonomy. This is a strategic tool that
helps teachers to design learning objectives that achieve higher-order thinking. The six
criteria are Remembering, Understanding, Applying, Analyzing, Evaluating and Creating.
This taxonomy of lower-order to higher-order thinking skills lends itself particularly well
to language acquisition. It seems to parallel a language learners journey from the time he
is a beginner trying to remember and understand new vocabulary, till he becomes a more
advanced speaker who is creating complex language that reflects his thinking processes.
Although this taxonomy has been in existence since the early 20th century, it has been
updated as Blooms Digital Taxonomy (Figure 1) for use in 21st century education.
Where the two axes of AppAdvisor intersect, there will be many applications that
could be employed by an educator to fulfill the relevant criteria. For example, if a teacher
were looking for an application to encourage students to practise their pronunciation, they
could choose Chatterpix where the x-axis criterion of Speaking and the y-axis criterion of
Remembering (how to pronounce a word) intersect.

AppAdvisor

Figure 1. Blooms Digital Taxonomy Concept Map


Other Important Criteria of Mobile Applications
Besides the two sets of criteria that determine the x and y-axes of AppAdvisor,
other criteria have also been identified as essential to the choice of applications. We will
look at the following affordances that mobile applications provide, as deemed important
by Jenkins (2010) for the education of the 21st century student.
Play
Applications that contain gamification will afford learners to lose themselves in
the world of the game and not be afraid to use the target language even though they are
not competent enough yet.
Role Play and Simulation

AppAdvisor

Some applications allow different players to take on different roles to solve a


problem. This requires the use of more complex language and higher-order thinking skills
as students collaborate to solve a problem from different perspectives.
Appropriation
Some applications afford the building of new content from existing content. To
encourage new language learners to use the target language in a more extensive way, they
could remix content provided by an application and then publish a new version.
Multitasking
Multitasking is typical of a 21st century students homework mode. So, selflearning assignments through an application can be done while they are engaging in other
academic or personal activities.
Personalization
Learner-centered lessons are now easier to design than previously possible,
because of the affordance of personalization built into mobile applications. Recordable
speech, speech correction, error bookmarking and list creation are key requirements.
Participation
Through using suitably selected applications like both Productivity or Immersive
applications (Figure 3), a teacher can design a lesson that could involve small groups
playing a multi-player game in competition or in collaboration with each other. On the
other hand, Utility and Productivity applications could be used by users for self-learning
outside the classroom to further bolster the lesson conducted that day.
Types of Applications Design
Utility

Look up function; No practice mode e.g. dictionaries

AppAdvisor

applications
Productivity
applications

Offer sufficient practice; more fully featured (with a range of connected


functionalities)

Immersive
applications

Used to play games, view media and perform specialized tasks; offer a
full-screen, visually rich environment which is focused on the content
and the users experience with the content

Figure 3. Three Kinds of applications Designs (Sweeney 2012:2, quoted in Barack, 2013)

AppAdvisor

The Application Selection Process

Figure 2. How to Select Mobile Tools for Engaging Students in Language Acquisition
Here is a visual that encapsulates the cyclical process that an educator would have
to go through to select an application. It begins firstly with the need to assess the learning
needs presented. These needs are always changing according to the progress that the
learner makes, and therefore some kind of formative assessment should be ongoing, at

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least in the educators mind. After the educator knows what is needed, he will have to
also decide which thinking skills or process will fulfill the learners language acquisition
most appropriately at that stage of learning. The educator then needs to study
the curriculum to assess when to schedule specific applications that encourage active
learning or collaborative learning to fulfill that learning objective. Correspondingly, other
or similar applications could then be selected to support class learning through
differentiated self-learning during or after school hours. Finally, the educator will design
the lesson to skillfully use the applications that were chosen so as to maximize the
learning of the students both in class and outside of class.
Key Concepts and Context
Considerations for mobile application formats will be taken into account when
designing the AppAdvisor. Interfaces, device features, usability and connectivity are all
variables when using mobile applications in the classroom. Having a centralized source
for educators to go to that is rated and reviewed by other educators will help in
overcoming obstacles like usability and platform type. Since private application sources
(iTunes) are designed for particular platforms, it will prove to be a useful tool when
implementing them into classroom settings that contain very diverse application needs
(Hue and Meier 2010). As the applications market continues to grow and develop for
multiple platform capabilities we hope to mitigate the frustrations of educators through
AppAdvisor.
By providing a matrix for evaluation that takes into account the myriad of mobile
applications available, our design will essentially be a resource for language applications.
By seeking out and developing evaluation and assessment criteria of these applications,

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we can better defend our own autonomy as professionals, as school boards and districts
seek to limit, manage and generally resist the use of mobile applications. It is understood
that recent research in the area of collaborative and participatory learning environments
incorporates the use of mobile applications. This shows a high level of engagement by
students when used for academic purposes in the classroom, which also requires
educators to critically evaluate their implementation and purpose. As Yarmey concludes,
while students are interested in using their phones for academic purposes, they still
require guidance from educators to choose the most appropriate mobile resource and to
evaluate mobile websites and mobile applications (Yarmey, 2011).
With our focus on language acquisition applications, our goal for AppAdvisor is
the evaluation of mobile applications through the developed matrix. We intend to launch
this process by focusing on five different applications as a starting point. The intention is,
as our AppAdvisor base grows, educators with diverse accessibility will be able to locate,
evaluate, and review applications for different platforms and device requirements. There
is some debate about the longevity of the mobile applications in comparison to the use
and growth of mobile web-based applications. Possible developments in AppAdvisor
may also include evaluation of mobile websites, as trends indicate that growth here will
occur at a much faster rate than that of mobile applications. The argument is that mobile
websites are easier to access in comparison to some mobile applications that require
multiple pages open, further slowing down the process (Yarmey, 2011). Staying current
and ahead of the curve in terms of trends is also a consideration for the longevity of such
a tool.

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The constructionist theories of Seymour Papert influence the scope and sequence
of our design project as it models the type of collaborative and immersive learning
educators have come to value (Stager, 2014), specifically, the idea of building a
community of lifelong learners.
Counter Arguments
Accessibility
Although iPads and Android tablets are available in many First, Developing and
Third World countries, there is a vast disparity with regard to accessibility within
countries and populations. This disparity has been termed the participation gap by Jenkins
(2010).
Usage
Even where iPads and tablets are available by the cartload in schools, many
teachers do not know how to optimize their use in classrooms.
Connection Speed
In rural areas, and in large cities where there is an over-subscription of the
Internet, connection to the Internet can be limited and even unreliable. This could hinder
online learning through the use of mobile applications. Offline options should be made
available to offset the limitations of Internet coverage.
Workflow
It is important that learners are able to share their data with their teacher for
assessment, and with their classmates or friends for collaboration. This feature is not
always available on all iPad applications.
Interactivities

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Our group will attempt to create two specific design platforms: first, a simplistic
looking website, which will guide users to select the best application mobile application
based on a query. This visually interactive website will look sleek and simple, applying
Don Normans theory of a visceral level in designing, creating a comfortable and easy to
navigate environment, ensuring that novice users will stay on our website and make use
of what it offers (Norman, 2003). Mobile applications depicted on the website will
undergo a specific rating system, which is based on a very comprehensive and complex
analytical matrix.
The scores for a specific mobile application will be cross-referenced with reviews
and feedback from other educators in the future. Our intention is to keep the website as
an open source website with the hopes of making AppAdvisor a sustainable and everevolving environment, where educators help educators. The development of our design
will follow Dr. Paul Kims ADDIES principles: analysis, design, development,
implementation, evaluation, sustainment (Kim, 2012). With sustainment in mind, our
goal is to create the notion of a wiki-like platform, where seasoned experts will rate
mobile applications using our matrix, and computing new scores for all sorts of
applications. This will give educators, who are looking for best mobile applications, the
chance to be a user and evaluator at the same time.
Second, we would like to expand our reach to mobile users, creating a mobile
version of our AppAdvisor. This mobile application will follow the same principles and
exhaustive assessment as the website. Keeping a sleek, simple, easy to navigate platform
is our key priority. The easier the platform can be used, the happier the user will be and
the more traffic it will generate, which will be vital to its existence.

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Our design will be for applications across different platforms and will aim
to reach out to every educator, no matter what the technological background might be.
From novice to expert, AppAdvisor will serve as a consulting platform to choose the right
mobile applications according to keyword searches, educator ratings, and user reviews.
To promote our product, we will attempt to create an advertisement spot in the
form of a short stop-motion commercial for both platforms based on the main ideas of
AppAdvisor. We would also like to set up workshops in schools or school districts to
introduce this effective tool to educators.
Verification
Despite all the evidence showing how mobile applications can be useful
educational tools for language acquisition, there remains the question as to how we could
verify how useful our AppAdvisor will be. Are educators consulting the AppAdvisor
webpage or mobile version? Are teachers inspired to try out a new mobile application in
the classroom to engage their students, ultimately increasing learning? To verify our
design, we will employ statistics on website visits, use, and downloads. We will also
provide quick survey pop-ups that encourage critical feedback from visitors.
Firstly, we will verify how successful AppAdvisor is by how often it is used.
Educators will be looking for tools to help them wade through the myriad of mobile
applications available to them. AppAdvisor will narrow down the specifications of an
application and ultimately, it will save educators around the world a lot of time.
Secondly, prompting teachers to complete a quick survey, while visiting
AppAdvisor, would reveal important information about what teachers are looking for and
how satisfied they are with what they are finding.

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Lastly, by examining the success of applications ranked on AppAdvisor, we can


see how useful and relevant it is in connection to our matrix. Keeping an eye on ratings,
reviews, and other feedback will keep AppAdvisor current and useful. Educators will be
able to introduce new applications, which will be ranked after cross-referencing it with
our matrix and based on educators reviews.
Conclusion
Our aim is to provide every educator with a tool to help reach students and
educators on a global scale. By designing AppAdvisor, we hope to ease the facilitation
and integration of mobile applications as a tool to enhance meaningful learning.
AppAdvisor is based on the recommendations of an online learning community
comprised of educators. This platform will provide educators with an evaluative matrix of
mobile applications, specifically organized to support individual needs, organizing
applications into language skill categories, and juxtaposing it with Blooms Taxonomy.
AppAdvisor will be a tool to provide support not only to seasoned but also to novice
users, who are in need of a simple and easy to navigate platform. AppAdvisor, the onestop-tool all educators have been missing until now!
References
Apple. - Education - A novel's setting comes to life. (n.d.). Retrieved February 4, 2015,
from http://www.apple.com/education/ipad/teach-with-ipad/classroom/secretgarden/
Bloom's Digital Taxonomy. (n.d.). Retrieved February 14, 2015, from
http://edorigami.wikispaces.com/Bloom's Digital Taxonomy

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Bracke, K. (2013). Apps for mobile language learning. Retrieved February 14, 2015,
from https://www.academia.edu/8016956/apps_for_mobile_language_learning
Carrington, A. (2008). In Support of Excellence. Retrieved February 14, 2015, from
http://www.unity.net.au/allansportfolio/edublog/?p=917
Godwin-Jones, R. (2011). Emerging Technologies Mobile apps for Language Learning.
Language Learning & Technology, 15(2), 211. doi:ISSN 1094-3501.
Hue, R., & Meier, A. (n.d.). Mobile Strategy Report: Mobile Device User Research (pp.
1-37, Rep.). California: California Digital Library.
Kim, P. (Speaker). (2012, September 18). Dr. Paul Kim, Stanford University, Designing
a New Learning Environment. Retrieved from
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5E8ZBuysdWA
Kafai, B. Y. (2006). Playing and making games for learning: Instructionist and
constructionist perspectives for game studies. Games and Culture, 1(1), 36.
doi:10.1177/1555412005281767
Kafai, B. Y., & Peppler, A. K. (2011). Youth, technology, and DIY: Developing
participatory competencies in creative media production. Review of Research in
Education, 35(1), 89. doi:10.3102/0091732X10383211
Nakamura, L. (2007). Digitizing Race: Visual Cultures of the Internet. Minneapolis, MN,
USA: University of Minnesota Press. Retrieved February 14, 2015 from
http://www.ebrary.com.
Norman, D. (Speaker). (2003, February). Don Norman: 3 ways good design makes you
happy. Retrieved from
http://www.ted.com/talks/don_norman_on_design_and_emotion?language=en

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Stager, G. (Producer), & Stager, G. (Director). (2014, TedXASB). Seymour papert


inventor of everything. [Video/DVD] YouTube.
Sweeney, P. & Moore, C. (2012). Mobile applications for learning vocabulary:
Categories, evaluation and design criteria for teachers and developers.
International Journal of Computer-Assisted Language Learning and Teaching,
2(4), pp.1-16.
Von Glasersfeld, E. (2008). Learning as a Constructive Activity. AntiMatters, 2(3), 33-49.
Retrieved from http://anti-matters.org/articles/73/public/73-66-1-PB.pdf
Watson, S. L., & Watson, W. R. (2011). The Role of Technology and Computer-Based
Instruction in a Disadvantaged Alternative School's Culture of Learning.
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Appendix 1
Matrix for Selecting Mobile Apps in Language Teaching
Language Learner Level Intermediate
Language Skill

Bloom's
Taxonomy

Ap

An

Integrated

Storybird

Storybird

Reading

WordPress

WordPress

Writing

WordPress

WordPress

Listening

Duolingo

Duolingo

ChatterPix

ChatterPix

Speaking

Duolingo

Duolingo

ChatterPix

ChatterPix

Literature

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Story telling

Storybird

Publishing

WordPress

Content Creation
Grammar/
Sentence Structure

WordPress
Gr
Wonderland

Vocabulary

Duolingo

Duolingo

R=
Remembering

U=
Understandin
g

Ap =
Applying

Storybird
WordPress

An =
Analyzing

Evernote

Evernote

E=
Evaluating

C = Creating

Appendix 2
Application Selection Process
1. Assess learning needs of the class
a.
Linguistic background of students
b.
Academic or age level of students
c.
Language skill needed (grammar, speaking, listening, reading, writing, integrated,
communicative)
2. Evaluate which thinking skills are needed, according to Blooms Taxonomy
a.
Remember/Knowledge
b.
Understand/Comprehension
c.
Apply/Application
d.
Analyze/Analysis
e.
Evaluate/Evaluation

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f.

Create/Synthesis
2. Identify which learning objectives in the curriculum need participatory and
collaborative learning using mobile applications. Some applications lend
themselves better to collaborative learning than others.
3. Decide which learning objectives need to be supported by applications for selflearning outside the classroom
4. Design a blended lesson that uses the appropriate mobile applications both during
and outside of class time.