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Assisted Language Learning Running head: MOBILE ASSISTED LANGUAGE LEARNING

Mobile Assisted Language Learning: Education on the Move. A Review of Literature.

Juan M. Garcia. Student. ETEC613 17-April-2012 Dr. Larysa V. Lysenko

Department of Education Concordia University

Mobile Assisted Language Learning Abstract This paper presents a review of literature of the field of Mobile Assisted Language Learning, or MALL, a subset and intersection of both, Computer Assisted Learning and Mobile Learning (also known as M-learning). The paper aims to present a general picture of the nature and amount of research on the field as published in peer-reviewed journals. The paper is structured around the concept of descriptive mapping and doesnt aim to be a profound critical

analysis of methodologies and results of existing studies but rather to depict the state of research in MALL, thus serving as a stepping-stone for further research. The research presented a picture of high penetration and growth of mobile device usage and generally positive attitudes towards mobile learning while discovering big gaps and troublesome issues on the topics, methodologies and results obtained by the researchers of the published articles. Keywords: Computer Assisted Language Learning, Mobile Assisted Language Learning, L2, M-learning, literature review, descriptive mapping, systematic review.

Mobile Assisted Language Learning 1. Introduction and justification 1.1 A mobile world: Usage of mobile phones in North America

In 2010 the Pew Internet & American Life Project, a project of the Pew Research Center, published a report on the wireless habits of US residents: 59% of adults go online wirelessly. Two in five use their mobile phones to access the Internet (Smith, 2010). Considering data of the 2010 US census, which places the population of the US at 308.7 millions (U.S. Department of Commerce, 2011), it means that 123.48 million of its habitants access Internet on their phones. That represents roughly more than 3.5 times the total population of Canada and more than 38 times that of Quebec (Census, n.d.). But Canada with its lower population doesnt fall behind, the Canadian Wireless Telecommunication Industry Association reports over 25 million of mobile subscribers (Facts & Figures, 2011) in a country of less that 34 million inhabitants (Census, n.d.). And in 2011 the Mexican government reported 84.2 mobile subscriptions per 100 habitants, up from 21.6 in 2001 and 0.2 in 1991 (Comision Federal de Telecomunicaciones, 2012). The parade of statistics showing the penetration of mobile phones across the world could continue, but a picture would emerge: mobile phone use has exploded in the last few years and it has reached high levels of penetration, even in developing countries. And mobile phones are only one of many mobile devices; personal media players, tablets, personal digital assistants, connected appliances, smart watches, and whatever new devices we might see appearing in the market in the next few years. The growth of mobile telephones and mobile Internet access along with a ecosystem of varying mobile connected devices has been accompanied of a growth in research regarding the potential of using mobile devices for learning: M-learning. A cursory search would reveal the wealth of literature on the topic. There are within this body of knowledge particular niches that

Mobile Assisted Language Learning

reflect particular uses or issues regarding M-learning. One of them is Mobile Assisted Language Learning (MALL). As the world becomes connected and countries and cultures, and people, across the world connect, communicating in a foreign language becomes a key issue. Can mobile devices help promote second language learning? Given the huge reach of mobile device it would be fool not to explore the possibility; enlisting mobile devices at the service of second language learning, if it is feasible, is an enticing proposition. Thus, the question of relevance and importance of the subject becomes evident as the potential of mobile to improve access to education and to generate new knowledge is demonstrated in numbers, what lies beyond potential, the realities, become subject of research. The use of mobile devices to enhance or promote the learning of second languages is the main subject of this paper. A coherent and well-structured question around which this research centers will be presented shortly. 2. The importance and nature of a literature review The Evidence for Policy and Practice Information and Co-ordinating Centre or EPPICentre, a member of the Social Science Research Center, itself part of the Institute of Education of the University of London defines descriptive mapping as the practice of describing and analyzing studies in order to understand the scope of current research activity (Mapping and refining the reviews scope, n.d.). The process allows identifying areas of opportunity for future research and gaps on the current body of research. The nature of such a systematic review has one more advantage: By simply describing, rather than scrutinising in-depth and critically appraising the research, reviewers can address a much broader field of research than is possible

Mobile Assisted Language Learning

when conducting a narrower synthesis of research findings (Mapping and refining the reviews scope, n.d.). The nature of this research favors the use descriptive mapping. The lack of previous experience dealing with the field of Mobile Assisted Language Learning or MALL, and the unawareness of the topics in the field make the use of the aforementioned technique suitable. It will eventually facilitate giving direction to new research one the field. Furthermore, descriptive mapping is suitable to the scope and nature of the present research; as it is a starting point for future research and it is constrained in its nature by time and limitations in extension. 3. that is the question. 3.1 Defining a research question Having defined the nature of the present research the substantive question is presented: q What is the state of MALL research as defined by the following sub-questions: How extensive is the body of literature available MALL? What is the dominant nature of the existing research in MALL (Qualitative or Quantitative)? What methodologies have been used in said research? What have been the findings of current MALL research?

Since descriptive mapping is achieved by an analysis of the keywording results in terms of variables such as language, population focus, study design and key characteristics related to the review topic (Mapping and refining the reviews scope, n.d.) another valid and relevant question arises:

Mobile Assisted Language Learning q What studies present the defined keyword, synonym or equivalent keywords (such as those present in databases own glossaries)? Keywords defining studies by some of the characteristics have been established: o MALL: Mobile Assisted Language Learning. o Combinations of terms expressing mobile learning and second language learning (mlearning, mobile learning, technology assisted learning for the former and L2, second language learning/teaching/acquisition, foreign language). o Peer-reviewed (For the nature of the studies). o Published (For the nature of the studies). o Journal (Also limiting the scope of publications allowed). The initial set of keywords allowed for an initial overview of a field unknown to the researcher. A two-stage review could allow for a narrowing of the scope. However the step was

not necessary as the literature on the field responding to the criteria greatly limited the size of the body of literature available for study (a great deal of research exist, just not published in peerreviewed journals). The decision not too limit further the scope by defining keywords relating to methodologies, targeted L2, nature of studies and quality of results or experimental groups sizes proved adequate since it would have reduced greatly the available literature. 3.2 A caveat As it will be discussed towards the end of the paper, it would seem that the vertiginous speed by which mobile technology evolves and transforms itself has directed the field of MALL to be heavily reliant on conferences and other non-peer-reviewed, or at least not peer-reviewed journal, publications. That has hugely limited the available literature for review, therefore, the researcher believes that the initial limitations established: The review should include only

Mobile Assisted Language Learning

empirical research, based on qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods (Lysenko, 2012) should allow a certain degree of flexibility in this case. A few publications, just two, that are not empirical research but that due to the fact that they make reference to empirical research are mentioned. This represents a compromise between having to renounce to research a topic of importance and relevance, as expressed on the introduction, and having to allow research nonpublished in academic journals (another interdiction established beforehand), or reducing the body of works presented. Without further comment in said regard the review of literature continues. 4. The body of literature 4.1 Introduction to the body of literature As the publications started to accumulate a trend started to appear: research responding to the research questions and the criteria established originates mostly in Asia. Studies from Japan, Singapore, India, Iran, Philippines, Mongolia, and China were discovered. And, out of these studies the division between two target L2 languages emerged: English and Chinese were the dominating target languages. In function of this emerging trend the body of literature is presented as a factor of geographical region and target language. Asian studies focusing on Chinese as a target language are presented first, then Asian studies focusing on English as target L2. Finally, European studies focusing on French, and then on English, just to conclude with studies that do not fit on the organizing schema but that for reasons that will be explained later (including fitting the search parameters) have also been selected for this research. 4.2Existing research Over the next few pages the evidence is integrated: interpretation, synthesis, analysis and evaluation are conducted. First on individual publications and then as a whole body of research

Mobile Assisted Language Learning where patterns, topics and gaps appear. The study is not extensive and rather limited by space and time constrains. To facilitate the understanding, and extend the quality of the content of the presented research a chart outlining the objectives of the researchers and research questions explicit or implicitalong with a more detailed description of the methodology and results is provided and it is recommended that it be read, and used, along with the text of this research. 4.2.1 Teaching Chinese in Asia

Two studies originating in Singapore analyzed the use of mobile technologies as tools for the teaching/learning of Chinese. Of the two studies covered Vocabulary learning by mobileassisted authentic content creation and social meaning-making: two case studies (Wong & Looi, 2010) focuses on two case studies while Students' Personal and Social Meaning Making in a Chinese Idiom Mobile Learning Environment (Lung-Hsiang Wong, Chee-Kuen Chin, CheeLay Tan, & May Liu, 2010) takes one of the case studies from Vocabulary learning by mobileassisted authentic content creation and social meaning-making: two case studies (Wong & Looi, 2010) and analyzes it in more depth. Vocabulary learning by mobile-assisted authentic content creation and social meaning-making: two case studies (Singapore/L2 Chinese). In Vocabulary learning by mobile-assisted authentic content creation and social meaning-making: two case studies Wong & Looi (2010) analyze two case studies in which mobile devices were used by students to create contextualized meanings and generate a social learning experience. Wong & Looi (2010) argue that the focus of MALL research has gradually shifted from content-based (delivery of learning content through mobile devices) to design oriented (authentic and/or social mobile learning activities). Along with this perspective they

Mobile Assisted Language Learning present a strong belief on the potential of using mobile devices to create contextually relevant learning that is socially engaging. The researchers created two experiments. Both involving the use of mobile devices to facilitate students creation of imagery, and text, describing concepts previously learned in class and generating discussion after the fact. Both case studies explored groups of 40 elementary students (8 years old for case study 1 and 11 years old for case study 2). Two large differences emerge between the studies; case study one takes place solely within the confines of the school while case study 2 extends learning beyond class by inviting students to take the devices with them everywhere they go and creating images representing the concepts (in this case idioms) they learned. The level of the concepts studied is also different as case study 1 deals with

prepositions and case study 2 deals with idioms. Study 2 provided students with materials online (videos depicting the idioms) and a wiki to upload photos, a phrase related to the photo using the idiom and class discussion of each photo. The researchers found out that tasks performed in groups generated more engagement than individual tasks in both case studies. In-class discussions generated a higher level of discussion than the online forum (online discussion was a feature of study 2). Also, researchers found that students use of the mobiles differed from their expectations, as the standard deviation on the average production of artifacts is quite large (25.9) (Wong & Looi, 2010). Furthermore parents limited the use of mobiles, kids couldnt engage in a fully seamless learning experience. Furthermore, when the students engaged in taking pictures the activity was almost purely for resource collection (Wong & Looi, 2010), meaning they didnt used the mobile to associate phrases to the pictures.

Mobile Assisted Language Learning The study starts to show a what will become emerging trends that will repeat themselves

over the next studies: students didnt use the mobile with the frequency intended. While there are positive attitudes toward the use of mobile, and connected technologies, engagement with said technology doesnt always correspond to the positive opinions. In this case this last comment is exemplified with the higher engagement with classroom discussions versus online discussion, as well as the artifact production rates. The lack of post-tests, control groups, and the small sample sizes (another trend that will emerge) make it more difficult to evaluate the question of whether there was measurable learning taking place. Although the researchers do not doubt that this kind of activity leads to learning based on the existing literature and theories. They succeeded in creating an environment that was conductive to learning, from their perspective. Students' Personal and Social Meaning Making in a Chinese Idiom Mobile Learning Environment (Singapore/L2 Chinese). In Students Personal and Social Meaning Making in a Chinese Idiom Mobile Learning Environment Lung-Hsiang Wong, Chee-Kuen Chin, Chee-Lay Tan, and May Liu (2010) analyzed in a more extensive manner the results of the case study 2 of Vocabulary learning by mobile-assisted authentic content creation and social meaning-making: two case studies (Wong & Looi, 2010). Students were given instruction in class, using among other elements comic animations illustrating idioms, the animations were made available online. Students were then given a mobile device (smartphone) and were expected to use it to take pictures and then upload them to a class wiki along with a phrase related to the photo using an idiom, thus the photo must provide an example of an idiom. A discussion was to take place on both the wiki and in class, helping students correct each other and learn from each other.

Mobile Assisted Language Learning


The researchers aimed to further investigate the cognitive process and learning strategies during the course of content creation (Lung-Hsiang Wong et al., 2010). In this context the results showed ,as mentioned earlier, that picture taking was not always simultaneous to the language learning activityas designedsince students collected resources (Lung-Hsiang Wong et al., 2010) and later assigned them a meaning. Furthermore students engaged more fully in class than outside of it. The small group in-class discussion lead the researchers to think that online discussions might be better served if also done in small groups. Learning did not take place as researches designed initially, the mobile phone served more as a camera than as a smartphone and online discussions generated low engagement. The disconnect between designed use, based in particular learning theories, and actual use started to emerge as a pattern. One of the most interesting features of requiring a multimodal presentation, enabled by the mobile devices picture taking and the phrase creating feature, was the ability for the instructor and other students to visualize erroneous concepts that might escape the eye in seemingly correct sentences but erroneous photo/idiom pairing, yet this feature does not seem to relate particularly to the use of mobile, as other forms of representation: enactments, drawings, and so on might have lead to the same results. A limitation to the study came in the form of parents attitudes: the parents prohibition of childrens usage of mobile phone outside the home defeated the purpose of 24x7 seamless learning and narrowed the context that the students could associate the idioms with (LungHsiang Wong et al., 2010). This further skewed the rates of production of artifacts in favor of students allowed to use the system outside of home. Does this signify another form of digital divide to be considered? Attitudes not only within the student but also around him might prove a pressing issue.

Mobile Assisted Language Learning The researchers concluded that the evidence showed indicators of seamless language learning that has the potential of transforming language learning into an authentic learning experience (Lung-Hsiang Wong et al., 2010). However it must be said that given the actual engagement and use of mobile devices demonstrate that there are still issues to be researched further. 4.2.2 Teaching English in Asia


The teaching of English as L2 dominated the literature, surprisingly even in the UK. The majority of the research originated in Asia. The two facts together mean that the following section represents the larger section of the existing body of research. One issue that must be highlighted for consideration in future studies: while using Asia as a whole served organizational purposes, attitudes and usage of mobile devices differ greatly by country and culture. A future grouping of nations or cultures based on their perception and uses of mobile devices might prove useful to identify geo-cultural issues. A Mobile Device and Online System with Contextual Familiarity and its Effects on English Learning on Campus (China/L2 English). In their study Cheng, Hwang, Sheng-Yi Wu, Shadiev, and Xie (2010) posited that as most people have a mobile device, most often a phone, in both developed and developing countries and since English is often taught using uninteresting topics (Cheng, Hwang, ShengYi Wu, Shadiev, & Xie, 2010) a system that presented relevant and geographically contextual information could allow students to enhance their motivation, learn useful English and support communication among students. The researchers created a system that used a GPS enabled phone with Internet access in order to provide students with relevant information about the campus, comment and give

Mobile Assisted Language Learning suggestions to other users. The students could create photos, videos, and conversations. Said


system was available also via web on the computer. The system was meant to allow students to practice English in a relevant context and the researchers to gauge the perception of such a system, their learning effects and the usage of mobile and non-mobile devices in relationship to participation and engagement. The system was designed with rules derived from existing human interface research (Cheng et al., 2010). The sample size was rather small, 10 graduate students (6 males, 4 females). Questionnaires were provided to students after the 6 months the project test lasted. No test were given to measure effect sizes, which was expected since the researchers desired to measure attitudes and usage rather effects. Te particular disconnect between usage and effects merits further research since finding out that students have positive attitudes and are willing to use systems that in the end dont work is not productive. However since that (effects) was not the aim of the study it is not a critique of this particular piece of research but of the body of research available. The students had very positive opinions about the system but preferred to use the computer interface. Such a trend emerged in many of the studies, but not all. The smart phones used in many of the studies, including this, are mostly Windows Mobile phone based. It would be interesting to see if newer interfaces and user interface guidelines provided by mobile operating systems would see a change. Apples iOS, Android and even Windows own newer Windows Phone 7 redefine the user interface of mobile platforms. Furthermore, connections are now faster. Do the attitudes differ in other contexts? As we will find out, yes. There is a need to do research across cultures; does the same system would generate the same usage in Japan, in the US, in Africa? Most likely not, as we will see.

Mobile Assisted Language Learning Using mobile phones in English education in Japan (Japan/L2 English).


This article was placed intentionally in this order as it contrasts with the previous study: If Japanese students do prefer the use of mobile phones over desktop computers it might set an interesting conversation and gap/opportunity in research. Thornton and Houser (2005) set out to find the landscape of mobile phone use in Japan, the attitudes of students towards the usage of mobile phones and how they engaged multimodal content in mobile devices (mail and multimedia in phones and PDAs). Their study focused not on effect sizes, although they did find larger gains in post-tests of mobile learners. After surveying 333 university students they confirmed high rates of mobile phone ownership, and usage, particularly email, and availability and use of Internet on the phones. Students manifested sending an average of 200 mails from their phones each week as compared to two on their computers (Thornton & Houser ,2005). From their initial sample the researchers created two experiments, one comprised of 44 female Japanese students who were sent 3 daily emails to help them increase their English vocabulary, the first mail in the morning defined the word, the second one provided an opportunity for rehearsal and the third one rehearsal in a narrative. Their attitudes and the effects of the experiment on test scores were measured. The second experiment focused on attitudes and allowed students (31 sophomores) to access multimedia content in mobile devices along with quizzes (Thornton & Houser ,2005). Both experiments showed that students engaged and favored the use of the technology they were accustomed to use: email in the phone. The rates of mobile use are quite different of those of the previous study with students engaging on the mobile phone and 89% of them expressing their desire to continue to learn using their mobile (Thornton & Houser ,2005). The

Mobile Assisted Language Learning case of Japan breaks the pattern that many other studies created since in this case positive attitudes toward mobile learning were reflected in usage. The researchers concluded that Japanese students may have unique attitudes towards learning and towards mobile technology, unique access to technology, and unique patterns of


using mobile technology (Thornton & Houser, 2005) and they continue to invite to replicate and compare studies across cultures (Thornton & Houser, 2005). Their statement is very insightful and researchers must consider that the accelerated adoption of mobile technologies (information is readily available from different sources: trade associations, polling organizations, governmental organizations) might mean that younger generation might have different patterns of usage, even a few years of difference between studies might start to show more Japan-like patterns in countries other than Japan. Effectiveness of vocabulary learning via mobile phone (China/L2 English). The study presents what some researchers have called content based (Wong & Looi, 2010) and represents an attempt to use the limited capabilities of a highly distributed device. They focus on how students can learn vocabulary from SMS (Short Messaging Service, used to refer to a message sent used such system). The study, as it has become the trend, evaluates attitudes and opinions from the users, although the objective was to examine the effectiveness of SMS vocabulary lessons of limited lexical information on the small screen of mobile phones (Lu, 2008). One can notice the difference not only in teaching approaches but subject between this experiment and Students' Personal and Social Meaning Making in a Chinese Idiom Mobile Learning Environment as idioms are different in nature because their meaning is different to the sum of the meaning of its components.

Mobile Assisted Language Learning In the experiment Lu (2008) implemented a system that would send out two text messages per day to each student, one in the morning, one in the afternoon. The experiment lasted to weeks and 31 vocational high school students were the subjects of the study. The researchers wondered if such a system would be more effective than paper-based learning and what would be the students perception of the system. The results are not surprising, as mentioned before there is a trend emerging, opinions


about the system and the possibility of mobile learning were positive, 3.7/5 in a Likert scale(Lu, 2008), mobile learners presented vocabulary gains and system use differed from the one encouraged by teachers (Lu, 2008). The findings further establish the positive attitudes of young learners toward mobile, however as Thornton and Houser (2005) showed this might be a cultural attitude and further research in other countries is needed. Up to this point mobile learning has been showing to produce positive learning outcomes when such variable is measured. The other commonality between this studys findings and other studies is the gap between intended use and actual use. In this case students did not read the SMS as they were received but rather at later times. Simultaneously, the students favored the convenience of the system over the quality of the content. Since attitudes favor convenience, could delay reading of materials be a function of said convenience? Further research is needed but the continuous mention of convenience in the measurements of attitudes across studies and the students establishing their own patters of use as opposed to following instructions seem to indicate that a connection exists. Personalized Intelligent Mobile Learning System for Supporting Effective English Learning (China/L2 English).

Mobile Assisted Language Learning In a study comprised of 15 university students, 3rd year, enrolled on the English department the researchers developed a system to select news texts and deliver them to the


students, then use the student feedbackincorporated on the mobile systemand delivery more news articles that are suitable to their level of English and conductive to students improving their level of English by using principles established by Vygotskys concept of the Zone of Proximal Development. The researchers analyzed the attitudes of students toward the system (Chen & Hsu, 2008). At this point it will come as no surprise, given the emerging trend, that attitudes were positive and that on the issue of effects on learning one can observe a positive difference between pre and post-tests, along with students own higher self assessed reading skills. Students engaged with the mobile devices, however two issues that arose might help better understand why students behave the way they behave towards mobile devices and their lack of use of the devices: students received a two hours training class on how to use the device and ranked the system as friendly. Have other projects failed to take into account the level of familiarity of a user with a system? It would seem so. Can the training received by students change the way they perceive the usefulness of a system? That is an interesting topic for study and a future consideration. The other aspect that might help shed light on other studies is the students reported perception of the use of the system as extraneous to their learning activities; they viewed it as something different to their learning process, an additional activity, not integral to L2 acquisition and mastery. The trends in results and objectives of the studies solidify: the study looked for pre and post test difference, and they appeared. The researchers collected data regarding attitudes, and they were positive: usability scored high on the scale. A few differences proved key: training and

Mobile Assisted Language Learning explanation of the system and the use of an interface suitable to mobile, such features are not present in every research, but helped better understand probable areas for inquiry.

17 The role of electronic pocket dictionaries as an English learning tool among Chinese students (China/L2 English). In their research of the motivations of students to use electronic dictionaries Jian, Sandnes, Law, Huang, and Huang (2009) analyzed the use of electronic dictionaries and their perceptions in China. As mobile phones become more advanced some of the findings of the researchers may help designers of smartphone-based dictionaries. Feedback in the form of questionnaires was collected from 104 engineering studentsout of which 38 were graduates and the rest undergraduatesand 88 humanitieswith 20 students being graduate students and the rest undergraduates (Jian, Sandnes, Law, Huang, & Huang, 2009). The study highlights cultural differences, just as the study conducted by (Thornton & Houser, 2005). Cultural differences among students dont need to be country based; humanities students and engineering students had different attitudes toward mobile dictionary usage. Engineering students favored portability and Humanities students favored usability (Jian, Sandnes, Law, Huang, & Huang, 2009). The differences among students in the same university, in the same country show how different attitudes can be toward MALL devices. One should also add that as the authors put it electronic dictionaries are uncommon in most other parts of the world, such as Europe, Africa and America (Jian et al., 2009). The study also found that access to dictionaries in mobile phone and access to multimedia content was not highly desired by the students (Jian, Sandnes, Law, Huang, & Huang, 2009). The electronic dictionaries, as compared to the phone, were faster and allowed the use of a full keyboard. There seems to be a leaning towards devices and interfaces that are easier to use, one

Mobile Assisted Language Learning could even consider portability one such feature also since it makes is accessible. Mobile and


convenience seem to go hand in hand: when students are asked to use cumbersome methods or unresponsive interfaces they shy away from use, regardless of possible learning benefits. When the mobile system is convenient and more accessible than other methods then students seem to move towards mobile. Why use a small phone keyboard when a full keyboard is available? Why access the content on a tiny screen when I dont need it now and I can access it at home? Why wait until I get home to read the news if I can read them during my commute? Convenience trumps everything else in mobile, or the research would seem to show that. Vocabulary on the move: Investigating an intelligent mobile phone-based vocabulary tutor (Japan/L2 English). In his experiment Stockwell (2007) created a internet based system in which students could access small lessons and then do activities such a multiple option questions. The system was created in such a way that the presentation layer was independent of the content layer (Stockwell, 2007) making it easy to display on mobile phones by adapting to the device. The research aimed to investigate the differences in use and student performance between both presentations. The system would store data regarding how often the students used the system, on which platform and for how long. The experimental group (no control group existed) consisted of 11 third and fourth year university students, out of which only 5 used the mobile system (Stockwell, 2007) (although all of them where encouraged to use it). Independently of the low usage (only one student used the system on a mobile device more times than on a computer (Stockwell, 2007)) students gave favorable opinions about the use of mobile learning, although they ranked the computer higher than the mobile. The study would seem to contrast with that of Thornton and Houser (2005), however the nature of the task

Mobile Assisted Language Learning was different. The other aspect that is present on this study is the fact that the sample was very


small, the difference between the two studies might be due to statistical issues when dealing with such a small sample. And that criticism is not exclusive to Stockwell (2007) but to the whole field as a whole since study after study used small samples and/or no control groups. The other discrepancy that arose between this study and that of Thornton and Houser (2005) is that in Stockwell (2007) saw mobile users scoring slightly lower on the tasks as compared to the higher scores of the non-mobile learners. Using Mobile Phones to Improve Educational Outcomes: An Analysis of Evidence from Asia (Philippines, Mongolia and India/L2 English). In their study Valk, Rashid, and Elder (2010) aimed to examine the extent to which mobile phones helped improve educational outcomes in two specific ways: 1) in improving access to education, and 2) in promoting new learning. Theirs is an analysis of experiment obeying the criteria of: demonstrating the use of mobile phones, and addressing lower and lowermiddle classes in the Asia-Pacific region. Having clearly documented results was the final criteria. Out of the 6 projects that fitted the criteria only three addressed to MALL. In the Philippines an English teaching program paired CD and workbooks with quizzes via SMS to improve access to education since as Samrajiva and Zainudeen (2008) as quoted by Valk, Rashid, and Elder (2010) mention: mobile phone ownership is increasingly more common in the lower socio-economic segments of society. The project didnt required complex engagement with the phone but also didnt provide much content in mobile form either, that might be the reason why mobile phone users scored only marginally higher (Valk, Rashid, & Elder, 2010).

Mobile Assisted Language Learning


The Mongolia experiment was similar in that SMS was used to test students. Students did not complete the tests in immediate fashion but instead waited and did them last minute, which, as we have seen, is common behavior; students dont engage with content on the mobile instantly but rather accommodate to their own time and convenience. The last of the projects resembles more the first case study mentioned in Vocabulary learning by mobile-assisted authentic content creation and social meaning-making: two case studies since it took place in the confines of a school but using mobile devices. The study found that stronger students benefited more from the self-directed activities of mobile while weaker students benefited more from teacher-led activities, the results indicate that different activities, mobile or not, might be better suited to stronger or weaker learners. The role of electronic pocket dictionaries as an English learning tool among Chinese students by dictionaries Jian, Sandnes, Law, Huang, and Huang (2009) also found differences in uses and attitudes toward a mobile device, in this case electronic dictionaries, depending on level of proficiency. The results of the 3 studies showed that while there is evidence of mobile phones facilitating increased access, much less evidence exists as to how mobiles promote new learning (Valk, Rashid, & Elder, 2010). They studies showed that students also perceived benefits on mobile learning which agrees with previous studies and further makes the case for the need of continued research. Students do accept mobile learning, but what has to be done to make such learning productive and efficient? That is a less researched question that needs to be addressed. 4.2.2 Teaching Language in Europe. Development of a cross-platform ubiquitous language learning service via mobile phone and interactive television (UK/L2 English).

Mobile Assisted Language Learning Fallahkhair, Pemberton, and Griffiths (2007) created a project that aimed to bring the functionalities and features of interactive TV, or iTV, and mobile phones to the service of


language learning. Their project consisted on creating a multiplatform service that would allow television viewers to receive additional content while watching TV. Programmes such as news, soap operas and documentaries have the potential to enhance language learners experience by showing the target language, culture and context of use (Fallahkhair et al., 2007) while the mobile system served for learning the new recommended language items and as tool for managing personal knowledge (Fallahkhair et al., 2007). The study aimed to measure attitudes and to obtain feedback for the design of the system (since the iTV component was a simulation with an operator in another room and not a full functioning system). The sample was composed of 14 paid volunteers, all university staff or students between the ages of 21 and 39. They experienced the system in a laboratory environment, which simulated a living room, for an hour and a half and were give an hour to complete a questionnaire. The perception of the system was positive but the participants found it slow and confusing (Fallahkhair et al., 2007). The dichotomy between positive opinion of the system and its evaluation as slow and confusing appears as just one more example of the disconnect between positive attitudes on the user side and the actual implementation of the system and the users use. The fact that the participants were paid to experience the system in a laboratory setting makes it harder to gauge what would de the real use learners would give to the system. The authors very cleverly assert that for a system such as theirs a certain level of automation has to be achieved and that there is a need for algorithms for selection and segmentation of learning materials from the broadcast television (Fallahkhair et al., 2007),

Mobile Assisted Language Learning


specially since this system does not depend on content created specifically for it but rather feeds from broadcast television. M-Learning: An Experiment in Using SMS to Support Learning New English Language Words (Cyprus/L2 English). The research conducted by Cavus & Ibrahim (2009) tested a Mobile Learning Tool (MOLT) with 45 college students. The students used the system and then a survey of uses and attitudes was collected. Pre and post-test were also carried out. The system spaced the sending of message with the aim of improving learning. Users however did not always engaged the content as it was received and attended it on their own time and terms. The finding helps corroborate finding from other researchers where users disregard teachers instructions and consume content on their own terms, furthering the case for mobile as student-centered medium. Student self-assessed that they could remember the words more easily, such belief was reflected in the improvements in post-test results, as compared to the pre-test results (Cavus & Ibrahim, 2009). The attitudes towards the system proved positive since students ranked highly statements such as I found the MOLT system enjoyable(Cavus & Ibrahim, 2009). When asked what other features they would like to see, images and animation dominated (Cavus & Ibrahim, 2009). It would be interesting to know if such preference for image and video would be reflected in actual use since some of the research of the field has showed discrepancies between opinions and usage. The scope of the study mimics what other studies have done to find out the potential of using mobile devices (Cavus & Ibrahim, 2009) for teaching purposes. Up to this point the literature has dealt more with potential than large-scale implementation or establishing frameworks for developing MALL. One could theorize that the developers of MALL are either

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few, or they create materials or systems based on their own beliefs without supporting evidence or they use the guidance of m-learning and CALL research to create a sort of Ad-hoc frankenliterature. On the Spot: Using Mobile Devices for Listening and Speaking Practice on a French Language Programme (UK/L2 French). The project carried out in the Open University of UK aimed to research how students could use their own mobile devices to practice listening and speaking French. With 35 students enrolled during a 6-weeks course the experimenters, Demouy & Kukulska-Hulme (2010) provided access to learning materials in two mode: on the personal media player (PMP) students could download and listen to French pronunciation while mobile phone users could call a number and record and review their pronunciation by over the phone (Demouy & KukulskaHulme, 2010). Users of both systems adapted the use of the system to their needs and uses of technology: PMP users took advantage of their commutes to listen to the materials while phone users waited to be at home or in another ideal environment since their system usability was affected by noise and the complicated and limiting interface (it required users to punch numbers on the phone while getting no visual feedback and provided no easy navigation of materials). The students manifested wanting to have quizzes relating to the recorded materials, which comes as no surprise since other studies have showed that users appreciate immediate feedback (Valk et al., 2010). Users seem to enjoy the affordances that mobile offers in the way of shortening not only distances but also time between actions and feedback, while simultaneously managing time on their own side of the communication on their own terms and by their own timelines.

Mobile Assisted Language Learning User centered learning emerges once more as a feature not necessarily of the design of


the learning system (this system carefully timed messages for students) but rather as a function of the nature and the attitudes of users towards mobile. On the aspect of MALLs potential for teaching and learning the post-test results prove again that results can be comparable to those of traditional education. 4.2.3 Teaching second languages across the world: Identifying trends. The inclusion of the following articles responds to two issues. First, they correspond to the keywording defined as part of the descriptive mapping and the criteria established in this review of literature, although they may run counter to the initial guidelines provided (as mentioned in A Caveat). The size of existing literature that fits the criteria is quite small and makes it almost necessary to include them. But most importantly, when trying to evaluate the existing literature through descriptive mapping the aim is to paint a picture of the field, to find out what exists, what is missing and direct further research. These articles help better understand the state of MALL research and paint a more complete picture; it is for this reason that they have been included. Computer-Assisted Language Learning Trends and Issues Revisited: Integrating Innovation (USA). The article barely makes reference to learning through mobile devices by mentioning that much of CALL uses general consumer communication tools and applications for which we would no longer use the term pedagogical software, such as mobile communication devices and tools for texting, audio conferencing, videoconferencing, podcasting and so on (Garrett, 2009). The author makes no mention of mobile learning as a distinct category and seems to include it with every other web-based or communication tool, however the studies presented previously

Mobile Assisted Language Learning have demonstrated different uses by students themselves and the failure to engage students in


mobile devices when materials are not designed to their use of mobile. Is this the reason why the body of literature is so rachitic? Is there a tendency of ignoring mobile and lumping it with every other web-based learning? If so, the affordances, and the actual use students give to mobile are being ignored and great disservice to the learning and research community is taking place. Editorial: From Courseware to Coursewear? (N/A). This editorial for the journal Computer Assisted Language Learning proposes that in MALL there has been no hype; a fact that one could interpret also from the small size of the literature. The author argues that this might indicate that MALL is in a state of amateur development and that the hype will increase as soon as tools become available allowing teachers and researchers their own mobile applications and tools (Colpaert, 2004). This position presents an interesting point regarding MALL research, it may well be that research has lagged since the penetration of mobile devices is high but production of MALL software and tools is limited. The author expresses the need for a framework which integrates a sound pedagogical approach based on the mobile language learner in a sociocollaborative context (Colpaert, 2004). Certainly the literature shows that no such framework is available. Novel Technologies, Engines and Mobiles in Language Learning (India). Marginally connected with MALL, the article presents some of the aspects that reflect the aspects of CALL as these relate to teaching and learning English in India (Kirubahar, Santhi, & Subashini, 2010). While mobile devices are just an element of the whole CALL environment the author indicates that M-learning not only breaks barriers but also presents new challenges in the educational area (Kirubahar et al., 2010). The authors overview and case for M-Learning further proves the need for more studies around MALL in order to better understand how to

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reach the potential mentioned. Studies support some of the issues presented by the researcher and help define a picture of positive attitudes towards mobile learning, but there is a lack of peerreviewed published research. Mobile Phones: Just a Phone or a Language Learning Device? (Iran). In what amounts to little less than a brief review of literature, Bahrani (2011) presents an argument for the use of mobile devices in language learning and presents a few guidelines to design materials that are suited to use on mobile devices. The article is brief and introduces nothing in the way results from experiments. However, it fitted the selection criteria and helps establish the case for the need of more research. Academics have started to manifest interest and Bahranis article shows how even the most basic overview of the field can garner interest and provide scarce resource for people trying to understand the field. 5. Further analysis and discussion While the present study conducted an analysis on individual articles, including connecting them to other studies as a whole body of research there is space for further analysis. Studies seem to demonstrate that students have positive attitudes towards mobile learning and the statistics seem to demonstrate that mobile has a huge reach, however there is big disconnect when it comes to L2 or MALL. Studies and experiments have been small in size, limited, nonconclusive, in general they present very little in the way of a large picture. This is worrisome, specially considering the opportunity presented by the marriage of availability and positive attitudes. The other disconnect seems to be between the way users interact with mobile devices and the way researchers intend them to do so, a posteriori it is not unexpected; researchers can quote literature supporting the use of mobiles for learning, however they would be hard pressed to

Mobile Assisted Language Learning describe uses of mobile devices and attitudes outside of those found by their studies. How do people use their phones? Is there level of emotional attachment with the devices that might


prevent them from fully using a loaned test device the same way they would use theirs? What are the dominant and emerging technologies, not just from a technical perspective but on the marketplace? Thornton and Houser's (2005) more thorough understanding of mobile use in Japan, the practices favored by users might be one of the factors why they didnt see a huge discrepancy between reported attitudes and the use of the system they designed. They also used the largest sample sizes with 333 students polled and 44 used for one of their experiments. Other researches would be well advised to follow their example. In a mobile society where commerce and travel across borders is a reality it is surprising to see so little research, the attitudes of Chinese and other Asian researchers towards improving their use of MALL is commendable and the scarcity of such research in the western world is worrisome. Taken together, the research also seems to show that mobile learning tends to become learner centered; even a seemingly content-based approach, when conducted in mobile, has affordances for self-directed learning. 6. Conclusions 6.1 Answering the research questions The present review of literature was structured around well-defined research questions and structured coherently on the fundamentals of a descriptive map, a methodical analysis of evidence. As such, the conclusions for the research come in form of answers to those questions. 6.1.2 Extent

Mobile Assisted Language Learning The evidence shows that the available body of literature is small in size when only published, peer-reviewed journals are contemplated. However there are vast amounts of publications in the form of conference papers and non-peer reviewed publications. This might obey to the ever-changing nature of mobile devices and the time frames required to create and publish research that obeys to the strict guidelines of academic publishing. 6.1.2 Nature of the Research and Methodologies The nature of the research is for the most part qualitative and has focused heavily on discovering attitudes and behaviors around the use of mobile devices for language learning.


Although quantitative studies exist and suggest that mobile learning is no inferior on its effects to traditional learning they represent a minority of the studies and their sample sizes are small (in certain cases as little as 10 students become an experimental group with no control group). There is also a common practice of implementing a sample/pilot program and have students participate to observe their use of the system, identify their attitudes with the intention of adapting such systems for further investigation. 6.1.3 Findings One of the interesting findings on the research has been a disconnect between positive attitudes and actual engagement and use of the mobile system, furthermore the use of the systems responds to users preferences commonly ignoring teachers instructions of suggestions, which means that students high ranking of convenience as a factor or a characteristic of mobile is not surprising. It would seem that students see mobile devices as devices of convenience and as such they dont adapt themselves to new uses but use the mobile to adapt content to their own needs and convenience. This is a particularly interesting topic that should be further investigated and implemented in the design of future systems.

Mobile Assisted Language Learning 6.1.4 Conclusion: What is the state of MALL research? Overall the research published in peer reviewed journals has not been able to catch up


with the technology, there are no studies about the effects of using tactile interfaces, of systems using newer devices and most importantly the newer user interfaces and affordances of mobiles. Research in North America has tremendously lagged behind. For example, Apple Inc., manufacturer of the iPhone and iPad, has made strong attempts to introduce its mobile devices to the educational market; little has been done to investigate their potential (or that of similar devices) in language learning. Yes, the body of literature regarding m-learning is vast, rich and vibrant. But the community of second language learners and teachers has been greatly unattended. A far fetched, but nonetheless valid, question also rises: Is this lack of research a function of cultural hegemony? Of disregard for foreign cultures (foreign to western/English speaking countries)? No example could be found of actual research in the USA, and only two in the UK, yet the majority of the studies focus on the teaching and learning of English (even one of the two published in the UK). Take the example of China, were current research has explored how students can use mobile to learn English: no equivalent exists in the US, regardless of the size of the Chinese community in USA and the amount of trade and commerce established between the two countries. What role do culture, power, hegemony, and other issues play on the research stage? The question remains open. Finally, it was established the great potential that mobile has, if at the beginning only by its high penetration, but later on by the widespread acceptability and positive attitudes of users/learners towards mobile learning. The research community would do a great disservice, to those hoping to teach or learn a second language, if they do not increase the amount and quality

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of research being done. The research community has then almost a moral obligation to catch up with the reality of mobile in the world.

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References Bahrani, T. (2011). Mobile Phones: Just a Phone or a Language Learning Device? Cross-Cultural Communication, 7(2), 244248. Boyinbode, O., Bagula, A., & Ngambi, D. (2011). An Opencast Mobile learning Framework for Enhancing Learning in Higher Education. International Journal of U- & E-Service, Science & Technology, 4(3), 1118. Cavus, N., & Ibrahim, D. (2009). M-Learning: An Experiment in Using SMS to Support Learning New English Language Words. British Journal of Educational Technology, 40(1), 7891. Census. (n.d.).Statistics Canada. Government. Retrieved from Chen, C.-M., & Hsu, S.-H. (2008). Personalized Intelligent Mobile Learning System for Supporting Effective English Learning. Educational Technology & Society, 11(3), 153180. Cheng, S.-C., Hwang, W.-Y., Sheng-Yi Wu, Shadiev, R., & Xie, C.-H. (2010). A Mobile Device and Online System with Contextual Familiarity and its Effects on English Learning on Campus. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 13(3), 93109. Colpaert, J. (2004). Editorial: From Courseware to Coursewear? Computer Assisted Language Learning, 17(3-4), 261266. Comision Federal de Telecomunicaciones. (2012). APNDICE ESTADSTICO EJECUTIVO DEL SECTOR TELECOMUNICACIONES (Appendix). Retrieved from Demouy, V., & Kukulska-Hulme, A. (2010). On the Spot: Using Mobile Devices for Listening and Speaking Practice on a French Language Programme. Open Learning, 25(3), 217232.

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Facts & Figures. (2011).Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association. Chart. Retrieved from Fallahkhair, S., Pemberton, L., & Griffiths, R. (2007). Development of a cross-platform ubiquitous language learning service via mobile phone and interactive television. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 23(4), 312325. Garrett, N. (2009). Computer-Assisted Language Learning Trends and Issues Revisited: Integrating Innovation. Modern Language Journal, 93(1), 719740. Jian, H.-L., Sandnes, F. E., Law, K. M. Y., Huang, Y.-P., & Huang, Y.-M. (2009). The role of electronic pocket dictionaries as an English learning tool among Chinese students. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 25(6), 503514. Kirubahar, J. S., Santhi, V. J., & Subashini, A. (2010). Novel Technologies, Engines and Mobiles in Language Learning. Language in India, 10(2), 160169. Lu, M. (2008). Effectiveness of vocabulary learning via mobile phone. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 24(6), 515525. Mapping and refining the reviews scope. (n.d.).The Evidence for Policy and Practice Information and Co-ordinating Centre. Retrieved from Smith, A. (2010). Mobile Access 2010. Pew Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved from Stockwell, G. (2007). Vocabulary on the move: Investigating an intelligent mobile phone-based vocabulary tutor. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 20(4), 365383. Thornton, P., & Houser, C. (2005). Using mobile phones in English education in Japan. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 21(3), 217228.

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U.S. Department of Commerce. (2011). Population Distribution and Change: 2000 to 2010 (Brief). Retrieved from Valk, J.-H., Rashid, A. T., & Elder, L. (2010). Using Mobile Phones to Improve Educational Outcomes: An Analysis of Evidence from Asia. International Review of Research in Open & Distance Learning, 11(1), 117140. Wong, L. -H., & Looi, C.-K. (2010). Vocabulary learning by mobile-assisted authentic content creation and social meaning-making: two case studies. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 26(5), 421433. Wong, Lung-Hsiang, Chin, C.-K., Tan, C.-L., & Liu, M. (2010). Students Personal and Social Meaning Making in a Chinese Idiom Mobile Learning Environment. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 13(4), 1526.

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Appendix 1: Search Strategy Database: PsycINFO. Keyboards searched: Mobile Assisted Language Learning, L2, second language, M-learning, mobile learning, mobile, learning, language acquisition, mobile phone Suggested words/thesaurus/related topics: verbal learning, foreign language learning, cellular phones, m-learning, distance education Additional criteria: peer reviewed journal, years 2000 to 2012, and full text available.

Database: ERIC. Keyboards searched: Mobile Assisted Language Learning, L2, second language, M-learning, mobile learning, mobile, learning, language acquisition, mobile phone Suggested words/thesaurus/related topics: ubiquitous language learning, computer assisted teaching, computer assisted learning Additional criteria: peer reviewed journal, years 2000 to 2012, and full text available.

Comments: Results often presented a huge quantity of noise: irrelevant results appeared, no standardized term existed in the databases for Mobile Assisted Language Learning while the term was used frequently on the literature. A great deal of what could be called weeding took place, thus relevant information regarding the number of results becomes useless. For example ERIC showed only one result for peer reviewed articles under the keywording Mobile Assisted Language Learning while in many other cases variables and keywords entered where nowhere to be found on the results produced.

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Appendix 2: Chart of Studies For a digital version consult the file: mallResearchXLS.xls