Tuesday, September 17 • 1:45pm - 2:45pm
iPadding Sixth Graders to Improve Language Learning

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Empirical research in mobile language learning is still scarce. The purpose of this session is to report on a pilot study that explores the role of mobile technology in the learning and teaching of a foreign language. There are fundamental properties of mobile devices - such as portability, individuality, interactivity and connectivity - that are essential to foreign language education, in that they enhance exposure and noticing, promote interaction and develop corrective feedback. The mobile device used is iPad3 primarily because it is compatible with the most recent applications for the development of interactive skills and, compared to other mobile devices, it has a wider high-resolution touch screen, which helps learners’ focus, raising their awareness and making them notice key language features.

A class of sixth graders was observed in their first year of learning Italian and compared to the sixth grade class of the previous year, now in seventh grade. The application ‘Notability’ replaced both textbook and notebook. In line with the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR), all language skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing) were practiced, with a particular focus on spoken interaction.

Students were emailed the material the teacher wanted them to work on, they opened it using ‘Notability’ and did their assignments – aural, oral or written; in pairs or individually, depending on the task. This application also allows audio-recording, therefore students recorded themselves in spoken production tasks, and recorded each other in spoken interaction tasks. Most importantly, they could listen to their own recordings and self-evaluate their performance. Once the assignments in their various formats were completed, they were sent to the teacher for evaluation.

At the end of the year, a comprehensive standardized level test was administered. Results indicate that this year's sixth graders performed better in listening (+19.65%), spoken interaction (+18.66%) and reading (+23.66%), whereas the average score in writing is the same across the two groups of sixth graders. While the seven graders have improved their score in all components since last year, surprisingly, in spoken interaction, the sixth graders outperformed them by 15%.

These results are even more compelling given the fact that this year's sixth grade group has increased twofold since last year's. What makes the results particularly significant is that both groups shared the same teacher, the same curriculum and the same textbook. What seemed to have made the difference is the introduction of the iPad. Results thus, show that, thanks to mobile technology, the sixth graders of the current year have progressed better than the sixth graders of the previous year.

Co-presented with Adena Dershowitz

avatar for Sonia Rocca

Sonia Rocca

Foreign Language Teacher, Lycée Français de New York
Sonia Rocca obtained a PhD in Applied Linguistics from the University of Edinburgh, specializing in the acquisition of a second language in childhood. She is the author of "Child Second Language Acquisition" (Benjamins, Amsterdam, 2007). She has taught French and English at secondary... Read More →

Tuesday September 17, 2013 1:45pm - 2:45pm