Going Mobile: Language Learning With an iPod Touch in Intermediate French and German Classes

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Going Mobile: Language Learning With an iPod Touch in Intermediate French and German Classes
Foreign Language Annals  VOL. 46, NO. 3                                                                      445

       Going Mobile: Language Learning
       With an iPod Touch in
       Intermediate French and German
       Lara Ducate
       University of South Carolina
       Lara Lomicka
       University of South Carolina

       Abstract: Mobile devices are becoming more and more pervasive in today’s world for
       both personal use and educational purposes. Specific to the field of languages, mobile‐
       assisted language learning, derived from m‐learning and computer‐assisted language
       learning (CALL), differs from CALL in that it makes use of a personal portable device to
       enhance learning and give it the “anytime, anyplace” feature. Our study focused on both
       the learner and the mobile tool. We specifically investigated how students use mobile
       devices, specifically the iPod Touch, while noting differences in both personal and
       academic use. Using ecological constructivism as a theoretical framework, we examined
       the affordances of the mobile devices that encourage interaction with the target language
       and culture and explored a range of tasks using a mobile device.

       Key words: ecological constructivism, iPod Touch, m‐learning, mobile assisted
       language learning, mobile devices

       Mobile devices are becoming more and more pervasive in today’s world, both for
       personal use and for educational purposes. Currently, 67% of U.S. college students
       are smartphone users, and eMarketer (2012, n.p.) predicted that by the year 2016,
       91.4% of U.S. college students will own a smartphone. However, this practice begins
       long before college: Croy (2012) indicated that one third of American high school
       students own an iPhone. The impact of mobile technology is apparent in many

       Lara Ducate (PhD, The University of Texas at Austin) is Associate Professor of
       German and Applied Linguistics at the University of South Carolina in Columbia.
       Lara Lomicka (PhD, Pennsylvania State University) is Professor of French and
       Applied Linguistics at the University of South Carolina in Columbia.
       Foreign Language Annals, Vol. 46, Iss. 3, pp. 445–468. © 2013 by American Council on the Teaching of Foreign
       DOI: 10.1111/flan.12043
Going Mobile: Language Learning With an iPod Touch in Intermediate French and German Classes
446                                                                                   FALL 2013

aspects of society, including art, employ-        (Attewell, Savill‐Smith, & Douch, 2009,
ment, language, commerce, crime, and              p. 1). These handheld technologies can
learning (Traxler, 2009a).                        include cell phones, PDAs, iPods, and iPads.
     In addition to the growing use of mobile     Mobile tools are small, ubiquitous, and
devices in these domains, the application of      functional, which makes them attractive
such devices to classroom practice is             and easy for students to use and for
generating more attention. In educational         facilitating sociocultural opportunities for
settings, learning and teaching using mobile      learning (Pachler, Cook, & Bradley, 2009).
devices is referred to as m‐learning, or more     Chinnery (2006) described mobile learning
specifically—“the provision of education           as taking place in environments that could
and training on PDAs/palmtops/handhelds,          be “face‐to‐face, distance, or online; further,
smartphones and mobile phones” (Traxler,          they may be self‐paced or calendar‐based”
2009b, p. 2). Mobile learning, including          (p. 9); in other words, devices can be used
mobile‐assisted language learning (MALL),         both within and outside the classroom and
originally focused on the use of mobile           can reduce the cognitive load by providing
technologies to facilitate learning. More         less information at one time (Koole, 2009).
recently, however, researchers have also          Specifically related to language learning,
begun to focus on the mobility of the learner     MALL, which is derived from both m‐
(Sharples, 2006). Using mobile devices, both      learning and computer‐assisted language
instructors and learners are able to “tran-       learning (CALL), differs from CALL in
scend the boundaries of the structural stasis     that it makes use of a personal portable
of classrooms and lecture halls and their         device to enhance learning and give it the
associated modes of communication—they            “anytime, anyplace” feature (Geddes, 2004,
do not have to be confined to one particular       p. 1). Kukulska‐Hulme (2009) noted that
place in order to be effective” (El‐Hussein &     MALL is more spontaneous than CALL
Cronje, 2010, p. 13).                             because it allows for “new ways of learning,
     The study reported here focused on           emphasizing continuity or spontaneity of
both the learner and the mobile tool and          access and interaction across different con-
specifically investigated how students used        texts of use” (p. 162) and also places
the iPod Touch for both personal and              learning more directly in the hands of the
academic purposes. An iPod Touch is               student, although guidance is still necessary.
similar to an iPhone and plays music, videos,          Both students’ positive attitude toward,
and games and downloads apps; it also             and widespread use of, mobile phones have
connects wirelessly to the Internet. It is not,   played a major factor in the growing use of
however, a smartphone. Using ecological           and interest in MALL (Burston, 2011).
constructivism as the theoretical frame-          Perhaps the largest area of research has
work, this study considered the features of       investigated the use of mobile phone devices
mobile devices that encouraged interaction        (Pecherzewska
                                                     &            & Knot, 2007). For language
with the target language and culture and          learners, mobile phone devices can impact
explored the range of tasks for which             the learning of grammar, as noted by
learners used a mobile device.                    Baleghizadeh and Oladrostam (2010), who
                                                  found that English as a foreign language
                                                  students who had access to mobile phones
Review of Literature                              scored better on a posttest than those in the
Mobile Learning                                   group without access to a mobile phone.
Mobile learning (m‐learning) has been             Comas‐Quinn, Mardomingo, and Valentine
defined as using “handheld technologies,           (2009) described the use of mobile phone
together with wireless and mobile phone           devices to help students engage with the
networks, to facilitate, support, enhance and     target community and to share and com-
extend the reach of teaching and learning”        ment on cultural experiences in a blog. In a
Going Mobile: Language Learning With an iPod Touch in Intermediate French and German Classes
Foreign Language Annals  VOL. 46, NO. 3                                                      447

three‐year study of 175 participants in            suggested that learning became more stu-
Tokyo, Stockwell (2010) found that 60%             dent‐centered and collaborative because
of learners never used the mobile phone to         students could communicate with peers
complete vocabulary‐related exercises,             whenever they needed help. Additional
while only three learners used a mobile            benefits of mobile learning include increased
phone device to complete all of the activities.    access to authentic materials, opportunities
Although students claimed that it took             to interact within and beyond the learning
longer to complete the activities on mobile        community (Comas‐Quinn et al., 2009),
phones than on a computer, Stockwell noted         access to comprehensible and extralinguistic
that learners did improve in speed and             input (McQuillan, 2006), and opportunities
scores over time when using either platform.       for additional language practice beyond
He also found that more students in the third      classroom space and time (Hoven &
year of the project used mobile phones than        Palalas, 2011). Mobile devices also allow
in the first year.                                  students to document study abroad experi-
     In addition to studies on the use of          ences (Comas‐Quinn et al., 2009) and to
mobile phones, researchers have also inves-        take and share pictures (Wong, Chin, Tan,
tigated the use of a variety of mobile devices     & Liu, 2010). In summary, Burston (2011)
in educational contexts. Hoven and Palalas         emphasized that students’ perception of the
(2011) examined mobility with an iPod              “anywhere and anytime” convenience is
Touch in a university‐level blended course         overwhelmingly favorable. As illustrated
in English for accounting. Twelve partic-          by these studies, MALL offers numerous
ipants employed mobile devices to view and         benefits, and the mobile context is ideal
respond to podcasts and to engage in mobile        for supporting learner interaction and
blogging. The study reported high levels of        collaboration and the co‐construction of
student satisfaction with this mobile device       knowledge.
and reported that the mobile listening                  Researchers have also documented new
option was superior to text‐based resources.       challenges raised by the use of MALL.
Kondo et al. (2012) investigated mobile            Stockwell (2012) suggested that the small
practices with pocket gamers (Nintendo DS          screen size, the restricted ways to access
mobile) to see if the use of such devices          input, and the limited types of tasks that may
would foster a self‐regulated style of learn-      be performed could influence the amount of
ing. Using pre‐ and post‐assessment results        information provided to learners. Sharples
and course evaluations from 88 first‐year           (2009), for example, noted that there is little
students in a university in Japan, they found      published research on the impact of MALL
that MALL encouraged study without                 on learners’ opportunities to speak and
instructor intervention and resulted in            listen to the language, and research has
increases in time spent on learning tasks,         shown that students and instructors do not
levels of satisfaction from the tasks, and self‐   make full use of the “anytime, anyplace”
measured achievement.                              (Geddes, 2004, p. 1) capabilities. There are
     Several studies have examined attitudes       also psychological barriers to using MALL,
toward MALL. Beres’s (2011) data from a            which can include finding the balance
long‐term survey of 349 university‐level           between private time and study time, as
second language students suggested that            well as challenges associated with studying
students viewed the process of language            in public venues or when using public
learning as extending beyond the traditional       transportation (Stockwell, 2012). Other
four walls of the classroom and indicated          researchers (Ducate & Lomicka, 2009;
that students responded positively to MALL.        Stockwell, 2008) have pointed out that
Nah, White, and Sussex (2008) reported             students do not always choose to use a
that students enjoyed being able to listen any     mobile device when they have access to a
where and at any time; their research also         computer. Because MALL is relatively new,
448                                                                                  FALL 2013

researchers and users of these devices must      gate the use of iPods, iPod Touches, and
keep these concerns in mind.                     Nintendo or gaming devices in educational
     Because of these conflicting findings,        contexts. The examples discussed above
Stockwell (2008) called for more studies on      highlight a variety of perceived benefits of
students’ use of mobile devices outside of the   using mobile devices, such as increased
classroom. Sharples (2009) emphasized that       opportunities for input and language prac-
MALL remains in its infancy, and not until       tice beyond the classroom as well as
recently did MALL activities go beyond           increased opportunities for learners to
simply mirroring early CALL activities           engage in interaction and collaboration
(electronic quizzes, grammar drills, and         and the co‐construction of knowledge.
vocabulary lists). The challenge for mobile      Research has also pointed to three types of
learning, then, is to build a deeper and more    challenges to the use of mobile devices for
pedagogically solid understanding of the         learning, including (1) pedagogical con-
ways in which learners use a variety of          cerns that involve limited access to input as
mobile devices and the effectiveness of these    well as types of tasks; (2) psychological
devices in offering learning opportunities       limitations, such as use of devices in public
that are not limited to simple vocabulary or     and private contexts; and (3) methodologi-
grammar practice activities and quizzes.         cal concerns, such as issues related to
     Furthermore, research into the use of       control and privacy.
MALL must take into consideration a variety
of methodological concerns. First, as the
devices are not always the property of the       Ecological Constructivism
researcher or are loaned to the learners for     Blyth (2008) described four theoretical
the duration of the project, the researcher      approaches to research on second language
has less control over how and when they are      learning: technological, psycholinguistic,
used, which can make it more difficult to         sociocultural, and ecological. Technological
control the variables associated with their      studies address the process by which new
use (Pachler, 2009; Sharples, 2009). There       technologies move from being used in
are also privacy issues associated with          society at large to their use for, and impact
tracking students’ use of these devices, as      on, specific educational purposes. Psycho-
they are accessed by students for both           linguistic studies take as a point of departure
learning and personal business (Van ‘T           the interaction and noticing hypotheses,
Hooft, 2009); thus, user data must be            while sociocultural research is based on
supported by information from student            Vygotsky’s theories of social learning and
questionnaires in order to gain a more           mediation. Ecological studies consider the
complete picture of how devices were             interactions among various aspects of an
employed (Isomursu, Kuutti, & Väin-              intervention, including the students, teach-
ämö, 2004; Trinder, Scott, & Magill,             ers, environment, and technological tools, in
2009). Wali, Oliver, and Winters (2009),         order to determine how they work together
for example, had students complete ques-         to influence the teaching and learning
tionnaires about how they used mobile            process. Thus, the ecological constructivist
devices in formal and informal settings,         approach allows the researcher to examine
observed learners using the devices, and         both the individual process of learning and
installed system‐monitoring software on          how the student mediates interactions with
students’ laptops to reveal what they were       other learners and other learning tools
doing, thus allowing the researchers to          (Hoven & Palalas, 2011) and “stresses the
triangulate data from several sources.           interactivity of humans and their environ-
     Thus, although most research has            ments in the process of socialization and
addressed the use of mobile phone devices,       development” (Lam & Kramsch, 2003, p. 6).
more recent research has begun to investi-       Blyth (2008) has suggested that, while each
Foreign Language Annals  VOL. 46, NO. 3                                                      449

of these four research approaches provides a       intercultural synchronous computer‐medi-
valuable window into second language               ated communication exchange between
teaching and learning, sociocultural and           native and nonnative speakers, Darhower
ecological approaches to research are be-          (2008) noted that, while many linguistic
coming more prevalent, perhaps because             affordances were available to the learners,
these approaches “provide insights into how        the learners did not always notice and use
languages are learned and how these in-            them to their fullest potential. Some learners
sights can be used to address practical            ignored corrections by the native speakers,
linguistic issues” (Lafford, 2009, p. 692).        while the majority merely acknowledged the
Lafford specifically noted the importance of        reformulation but did not integrate it into
language educators considering interactions        their own language use. As many of the
among, for example, learners’ attitudes and        corrections were implicit, Darhower con-
abilities, including linguistic, cultural, prag-   cluded that the learners either did not notice
matic, and affective (such as self‐confi-           the reformulation or did not understand its
dence) elements in virtual environments as         importance in the conversation. According
well as when students use Web 2.0 technol-         to van Lier (2004), it is the responsibility of
ogies to interact and share information.           the instructor and other interlocutors to
     When describing the ecological per-           help make the affordances available and
spective for language learning, van Lier           accessible to learners so that they notice and
argued that it is necessary to consider the        can use them to their learning benefit.
context when investigating the learning                 With regard to language learning with
activity because the learner “acts and             mobile technology, Hoven and Palalas
interacts within and with his environment”         (2011) and Lafford (2009) suggested that
(2004, p. 246). Part of this interaction is        learners’ use of technological affordances to
mediated by “affordances” (Gibson, 1979)           facilitate learning can be encouraged and
—that is, sources of support that are              managed by the instructor, other inter-
available in the environment that the learner      locutors, or the task design. In their study
may use to reach various goals. Depending          on mobile technology, Hoven and Palalas
on the user, an affordance can be manipu-          (2011) noted four features of tasks that can
lated in various ways. In language learning,       support learning within mobile contexts: the
for example, “if the language learner is active    tasks (1) must contain linguistic content
and engaged, she will perceive linguistic          that is relevant to a variety of learner types;
affordances and use them for linguistic            (2) should be designed so that learners
action” (van Lier, 2000, p. 252). A more           actively search for the linguistic material to
motivated student, or a student with more          fully engage with it; 3) should require
guidance, will more easily identify appro-         interaction with another learner, instructor,
priate affordances, such as opportunities for      or instructions to provide guidance for
interaction, then engage in or with them and       completion of the task; and (4) should
thereby learn from them. In contrast,              encourage mediation and thereby provide a
students who are less engaged or motivated         form of scaffolding by means of interactions
may not recognize all available sources of         with other learners or with resources
support or take advantage of potentials for        obtained through mobile devices. Thus,
interaction in and with the target language.       learners learn to process meaning through
     However, in order to make use of all          a fluid system of mediated verbal and
available resources and sources of support,        nonverbal relationships that are contingent
the learner must first be made aware of these       on affordances in their context and environ-
affordances and their potential (van               ment. These relationships may be mediated
Lier, 2004). The existence of the affordance       by other learners, more sophisticated users
alone does not necessarily encourage action        of the language, signs and nuances in the
(van Lier, 2004). For example, in an               context, technology‐based resources, and
450                                                                                FALL 2013

the technological tools themselves. Lan-         3. To what extent did use of the mobile
guage is therefore emergent and dynamic,            device provide students with increased
as learners use and create authentic lan-           exposure to the target culture and
guage, both purposefully and incidentally,          opportunities for communicating in the
on the basis of their perceptions of,               target language?
interactions with, and action upon affor-        4. How did students perceive the use of the
dances found in their learning and language         mobile devices?
environment (Hoven & Palalas, 2011, p.
     Therefore, according to ecological con-     Methods
structivism, learning cannot be looked at
only as taking place within the individual;      Participants
research on learning should also incorporate     Thirty‐nine students in two intermediate‐
into the analysis the role of the environment,   level (4th semester) foreign language classes
available tools and resources, instructors,      at a large southern university were involved
instructions, and other learners and             in the semester‐long study. There were 20
interlocutors.                                   students in the French course and 19
     While previous research on MALL has         students in the German course. The partic-
focused on students’ use of and attitudes        ipants were between 18 and 22 years old; 22
toward MALL or on particular types of            were male and 17 were female. Twenty‐four
materials and activities that may be accessed    had used an iPod Touch before; 11 were
using mobile devices (Kukulska‐Hulme &           familiar with one but had not used one
Shield, 2008), few studies have examined         before, and only four had never seen one.
the types of tasks or types of communication
in which students are engaged, nor have          Procedures
studies investigated the extent to which
learners have taken advantage of the
                                                 At the beginning of the semester, a pre‐
“anytime, anywhere affordances” of mobile
                                                 survey (see Appendix A) was administered
devices (p. 280). The current study seeks to
                                                 using surveymonkey.com to gauge students’
add to the growing body of research on
                                                 interest in the project and to assess their
communication and “anytime, anywhere”
                                                 level of experience using iPod Touches.
learning with MALL. Based on previous
research on MALL and situated within the
framework of ecological constructivism, this     Training
study investigated students’ “anytime, any-      Students either checked out an iPod Touch
where” use of the iPod Touch and consid-         from the Foreign Language Learning Center
ered how instructors integrated the iPod         at the university for the duration of the
Touch into learning and how students             project or used their own iPod Touch.
reacted to using the iPod Touch to access        Students were also allowed to use a
learning materials at their own convenience      smartphone if the device provided access
and to suit their own needs, both within and     to applications that were similar to those on
beyond the classroom. Specifically, the           the iPod Touch. Twenty‐seven students
study addressed the following questions:         checked out an iPod Touch; two German
                                                 students and one French student opted to
1. Which affordances of the mobile device        use their own mobile device or smartphone,
   did students use and with what                and the remaining students used their own
   frequency?                                    iPod Touch. As all students had access to the
2. To what extent were different affor-          same applications and other tools, such as
   dances used for personal and academic         cameras, on their devices, data from all
   purposes?                                     students were included in this study.1 An
Foreign Language Annals  VOL. 46, NO. 3                                                    451

initial in‐class training session was provided,   culture. For example, after students read a
although it was not necessary because most        text that took place in Berlin, students were
students were familiar with the devices.          able to follow the characters from place to
Devices were not locked down or pre‐              place using the Google Maps app to help
loaded; rather, students could freely load        them visualize the characters’ journey and to
devices with additional music, movies, and        get to know areas around Berlin. To gain
apps of their choice and use the devices for      historical background on a novel they read
their own purposes outside of class. Devices      that took place in former East Germany,
were reformatted at the end of the semester.      different groups researched various histori-
                                                  cal events and terms such as Stasi (secret
Logs                                              police), Freie Deutsche Jugend (similar to
As it was not possible to track students’ use     Girl/Boy Scouts), and the Berlin Wall and
of the iPod Touches because some of the           then shared the information that they had
devices were owned by the students,               found. When studying various cities in
students were given time in class biweekly        German‐speaking countries, students sur-
to complete a user’s log on surveymonkey.         veyed the headlines of the city’s newspaper
com to record the types of affordances that       and conducted Web searches of popular
they used on the mobile devices for both          destinations and upcoming events in the city
personal and academic purposes (see Ap-           to help them gain an image of the city and
pendix B).                                        think about where they might enjoy visiting.
                                                  To complement a textbook chapter on
                                                  media, students used the TéléPub app to
Tasks                                             watch French television commercials and
At the beginning of the semester, students        then made comparisons between the home
received a list of French or German               and target cultures. YouTube was also a
applications (apps) that they were encour-        useful source of videos about various
aged to download; new applications were           German‐ or French‐speaking cities, movie
added as necessary throughout the semester        trailers, music videos, and informational
(see Appendix C). Throughout the project,         videos about aspects of culture, such as
students engaged in weekly in‐class tasks,        regional dishes. This culturally rich infor-
weekly homework assignments, and four             mation served as a basis for discussions
larger out‐of‐class tasks.                        about products, practices, and perspectives
                                                  of culture as well as for making cultural
In‐Class Tasks
Examples of in‐class tasks included (1)           Homework Assignments
searches about cities, people, political par-     Each week for homework, students com-
ties, and historical events; (2) information‐     posed three tweets on Twitter for classmates
gap tasks on political parties, paintings, and    to read and to which classmates were
historical information; (3) exploring news-       required to respond. At least two of the
paper headlines; (4) searching travel apps;       tweets were required to be in the target
(5) comparing television commercials; (6)         language, and one could be in English. The
navigating Google Maps; (7) viewing You-          topics were open, and the goal of the tweets
Tube videos in the target language; (8)           was to allow students to express themselves
referencing dictionary and grammar apps;          using the target language in a relaxed
(9) researching and comparing weather; and        manner without the pressure of writing a
(10) searching and listening to French and        large amount of text (posts are limited to 140
German music. Students used the informa-          characters). Tweeting also served to build
tion they found using their devices in class      community within the classroom and, by
or group discussions about the target             tweeting about their daily lives, thoughts,
452                                                                                     FALL 2013

and concerns, classmates learned more                smoke, including the ages of the smokers.
about each other, their hobbies, and inter-          Describe the stereotype you chose and
ests. Students were graded simply for                provide evidence for or against the
completing their three tweets and responses,         stereotype (include a link to your sources
rather than on the accuracy, complexity, or          on your post).
content of the messages.
                                                        The four projects asked students to
Out‐of‐Class Tasks                                 present themselves, talk about their living
In addition to the tasks described above,          accommodations, explore a favorite spot in
students completed four formal out‐of‐class        town, and discuss stereotypes. The projects
projects that included a video or photo            were evenly spaced throughout the semes-
component using their devices. These               ter, approximately every three weeks. Stu-
projects are described in more detail below.       dents posted each project with a short
                                                   description to the group Facebook page,
 Project 1: About Me (Individual task).           which was set up as a discussion forum to
  Create a short video (2–3 minutes) where         serve as a repository for the assignments,
  you discuss an interest you particularly         including a link, when appropriate, to their
  enjoy. How did the interest come about?          video, which was uploaded to the class
  How much time do you spend doing it?             YouTube channel. Facebook was chosen
  Why do you enjoy it? About 10–30                 because students were already familiar with
  seconds of the video should show your            it and visited it regularly, thus making it a
  actual interest.                                 logical and easy place to post information;
 Project 2: My Dorm/Apartment (Individu-          however, any course management tool
  al task). Create a photo collage (using for      could be used. The posts were required to
  example http://www.photovisi.com/) of            be at least 50 words and written in the target
  your dorm room or things/people in your          language (see Appendix D for the grading
  dorm room. Write about why you chose             rubric). Students received one point extra
  those pictures, why they are meaningful,         credit if they replied to another student.
  and what they tell about you.                    During the course of the project, students in
 Project 3: Welcome to Our City (Collabo-         the French class also communicated with
  rative task). Create a 2‐ to 3‐minute video      French students from Paris who would be
  with a partner showing visitors a place you      visiting the following semester; thus, they
  want to take them to in Columbia [South          were not only introducing themselves and
  Carolina]. Give a bit of history/back-           their city to their classmates but also to their
  ground about the area you chose. Give            future French friends. The outside audience
  directions from campus to the location           for the German students was a group of
  you chose and talk about the hours you           elementary school teachers from Saxony‐
  can visit. Perhaps there is even a link to the   Anhalt, Germany who would be visiting at
  Web site that you can include.                   the end of the semester; thus, these students
 Project 4: Exploring Stereotypes (Individ-       also had a larger audience than just their
  ual task). Interview three people about          classmates. Because the courses needed to
  what stereotypes they think of when they         accommodate partner classes who were not
  think about France/Germany and French/           enrolled at the institution, Facebook was
  German people. From the list of topics           most appropriate for posting the projects.
  you were given in your interview, choose
  one to explore. Then research the actual         Post‐Surveys
  facts associated with that stereotype. For       At the end of the project, a post‐survey on
  example, if the stereotype is that all           surveymonkey.com was administered that
  French people smoke, look up statistics          asked similar questions to those in the
  on how many French people actually               biweekly logs about students’ use of the
Foreign Language Annals  VOL. 46, NO. 3                                                   453

devices; it also assessed students’ opinions    (80%). Although only two students men-
about the use of the devices in their French/   tioned prior use of iPod Touches in an
German class over the semester (see Appen-      academic setting, 33 out of 39 students
dix E). Only 30 students responded to the       (85%) responded that they were excited to
final survey, so there are fewer post‐survey     use the devices during the semester and thus
responses than from the pre‐survey.             most began with a positive attitude toward the
The surveys and the out‐of‐class homework
                                                Research Question #1—Which
assignments were the main sources of data
used to address the research questions. The     affordances of the mobile device did
pre‐ and post‐survey information was ag-        students use and with what
gregated, and data from the logs were           frequency?
summarized for each question. For the           The survey results indicated that students
short‐answer questions, the researchers         used their devices for a variety of activities.
read students’ responses, then organized        Figure 1 indicates the number of students
them by topic and theme.                        who used each application or tool. Data in
                                                Figure 1 show that students did indeed take
Results                                         advantage of a variety of affordances offered
When asked in the pre‐survey how they           by the mobile devices. When comparing the
thought iPod Touches could be useful in the     logs from the beginning to the end of the
foreign language class, the majority of stu-    semester, the researchers found no major
dents suggested the use of German or French     change in apps that were accessed, and it
applications (100%), sharing information        appeared that students generally used the
(82%), navigating the Internet (95%), viewing   same apps throughout the period under
videos (80%), listening to music (64%),         consideration unless a new app was pre-
building community (82%), and communi-          sented by the instructors and/or required to
cating with classmates or the professor         complete a particular assignment.

                          Purposes for Using the iPod Touch
454                                                                               FALL 2013

                        Use of Device for Academic Purposes

Research Question #2—Were                       assignments required its use (33%). One
different affordances used for personal         student remarked: “The exposure was right
and academic purposes?                          at our fingertips. The iPod Touch made it
For academic purposes, students’ logs           easier and more accessible to learn French.”
indicated that they mainly used the mobile      Another echoed, “It was a constant reminder
device for apps, the dictionary, searching,     to practice the language and think about
and tweeting (Figure 2). For personal use,      things in French.” A student in the German
students gravitated toward Facebook, mu-        section reported, “Previously, I never would
sic, searches, and apps (Figure 3). When        have even thought about German outside
asked whether they used the devices more        the classroom, but this semester, I was more
frequently for personal purposes or for         exposed because of the fact that I was always
language learning, students responded           looking at German on Facebook and
from their logs in an even split (15/15).       Twitter.” Only a small number of students
                                                did not feel that the mobility aspect was
                                                important. One reported no gain in expo-
Research Question #3—To what                    sure outside of class and clearly preferred a
extent did use of the mobile device             computer: “I did not really use my iPod
                                                Touch for language purposes outside of
provide students with increased
                                                class. I would use my computer.”
exposure to the target culture and                   The out‐of‐class tasks allowed students
opportunities for communicating in              the opportunity to create videos where they
the target language?                            practiced presentational skills to communi-
As mentioned above, students used the           cate in the target language through writing
device both in and out of class. Ninety         and speaking, as is evident in Table 1.
percent of the students indicated (27/30)       Through the in‐class assignments, in which
that they gained more exposure to the target    students worked with target culture apps,
language outside of the classroom due to the    explored authentic Web sites, or watched
device’s mobility (13%) and the fact that the   authentic videos, they employed their
Foreign Language Annals  VOL. 46, NO. 3                                                     455

                           Use of Device for Personal Purposes

interpretive communication skills and were               When asked about whether they en-
exposed to target culture products, practi-         joyed their devices, 87% of the students
ces, and perspectives. Survey results indi-         replied that they did (26/30). Two students
cated that, because students had constant           only somewhat enjoyed them, and two did
access to the iPod Touches, they also               not enjoy having them for the semester.
explored the target language and culture            Nine (23%) were fearful of losing them,
on their own in ways not connected to or            damaging them, or breaking them. Of the 39
required by their classes.                          devices “loaned” out, all were returned with
                                                    exception of one that was stolen. Students’
                                                    favorite aspects were having a portable
Research Question #4—How did                        dictionary (18%), writing Twitter posts
students perceive the use of the mobile             (15%), and being able to work on the go
devices?                                            and look up information anytime and
Ninety‐three percent of the students (28/30)        anywhere (21%). One student commented,
felt that their learning increased as a result of   “A lot of the apps allowed me to solve basic
having access to an iPod Touch throughout           issues with my grammar, also it helped a lot
the semester due to the mobility of the             as an English‐to‐French dictionary to refer-
device and accessibility of the apps and other      ence.” Another likened it to having a
features. When asked about why they felt            computer in class: “It was like using a
that they learned more, one student replied,        personal computer in class. We could
“It forced us to think in French more, and do       research artists and culture. I also could
less translation in our heads,” while another       look up words in the dictionary when
mentioned that “it was super easy to access         speaking.” Yet another stated, “It integrated
French.” Another student responded, “I was          technology into learning, which is a very
able to read German news by using different         progressive approach to teaching the lan-
apps.” Yet another replied, “Yes, I was able to     guage that held my attention.” Fifty‐six
find words I wanted to know anywhere.”               percent of the students agreed that it made
456                                                                                 FALL 2013

                                     Out‐of‐Class Tasks

      Project Description                                               Addressed
      About me:                                                     • Communication
        • Individual                                                   (presentational)
        • Create a short video (2–3 minutes) where you              • Communities
          discuss an interest you particularly enjoy. How did
          the interest come about? How much time do you
          spend doing it? Why do you enjoy it? About 10–30
          seconds of the video should show your actual
      My dorm/apartment                                             • Communication
        • Individual                                                   (presentational)
        • Create a photo collage (using for example http://         • Communities
          www.photovisi.com/) of your dorm room or things/
          people in your dorm room. Write about why you
          chose those pictures, why they are meaningful, and
          what they tell about you.
      Welcome to Columbia                                           • Communication
        • Collaborative                                                (presentational)
        • Create a 2‐ to 3‐minute video with a partner showing      • Communication
          visitors a place you want to take them to in                 (interpretive)
          Columbia. Give a bit of history/background about          • Communities
          the area you chose. Give directions from campus to
          the location you chose and talk about the hours you
          can visit. Perhaps there is even a link to the Web site
          that you can include.
      Exploring stereotypes                                         • Communication
        • Individual                                                   (presentational)
        • Interview three people about what stereotypes they        • Cultures
          think of when they think about France/Germany             • Connections
          and French/German people. From the list of topics         • Communities
          you were given in your interview, choose one to
          explore. Then research the actual facts associated
          with that stereotype. For example, if the stereotype
          is that all French people smoke, look up statistics on
          how many French people actually smoke, including
          the ages of the smokers. Describe the stereotype you
          chose and provide evidence for or against the
          stereotype (include a link to your sources on your
Foreign Language Annals  VOL. 46, NO. 3                                                     457

learning more portable and convenient, and        iPod Touch speaks to another benefit of the
54% stated that it helped make them more          mobile devices. While some of the tasks in
motivated to learn German or French.              which students engaged might be possible to
Students’ preferences for tasks in future         accomplish using a laptop, students did not
semesters included producing videos, using        necessarily have at their disposal a laptop or,
the devices for tweeting, and communicat-         if they did have access, they did not routinely
ing with classmates or native speakers via        bring the device and use it for research
Skype or Facetime.                                during class. In addition, on a laptop, the
     To summarize, students took advantage        necessary apps and video/digital camera
of a variety of affordances when using their      features were less readily available.
mobile device or iPod Touch. According to the          From a pedagogical perspective, their
survey, searching, tweeting, and Facebook         simplicity and mobility made the devices
were among the most popular tools. For            quite useful in the classroom for reference,
personal use, students tended to take advan-      research, and completing jigsaw tasks.
tage of the social media and music features       Rather than having to go to the computer
most frequently, while for academic use, they     lab, students could easily access their mobile
explored apps, dictionaries, and search tools.    devices to gather information or complete a
Finally, students overwhelmingly enjoyed          short task and then put them away when the
being able to use a device as part of their       task was complete. As all students had access
language class, and a main advantage they         to a mobile device, it made it easier to
reported was the exposure to the target           complete video projects, which required
language and culture outside of the classroom.    students to use the language outside of class,
                                                  and in some cases to interact with other
Discussion                                        native speakers. One caveat to using the
As shown by the survey results, the benefits of    devices in the classroom was that it was
using iPod Touches in the foreign language        sometimes difficult to ascertain whether
classroom were clearly recognized by the          students were using them for academic or
participants in this study. iPod Touches are      personal use. While they were readily
easy to use on the go, can facilitate autonomy    available for reference at any time during
and increased exposure to the foreign             class, it was not always obvious if students
language, and offer access to authentic           were looking up a word or checking
materials and resources and to the target         Facebook.
language and culture. The following sections
comment further on each of these aspects.         Autonomy and Increased Exposure
                                                  Students’ comments on the surveys showed
Ease of Use and Mobility                          that the easy access to affordances on these
Two of the most cited advantages offered by       devices also played a large role in providing
the iPod Touch in the post‐survey were ease       opportunities for increased exposure to the
of use and mobility (see also El‐Hussein &        target language and culture. To help students
Cronje, 2010; Sharples, 2006; Traxler, 2007).     make best use of affordances available to
Similar to Burston’s findings (2011), the          them, and as recommended by van Lier
simplicity of the iPod Touch and ability to       (2004), students were provided with a list of
access it any where and any time stood out as     possible applications and were able to choose
a major benefit for the students. As noted by      which apps to use both within and outside of
Traxler (2007), the mobility, ease of use, and    class. Students acknowledged that they
access to the device allow learners to “exploit   enjoyed being able to explore and use apps,
small amounts of time and space for               such as Anki, Leo, Twitter, word reference,
learning” (p. 8). The obtrusiveness of            and itranslate on their own and benefitted
bringing laptops in the classroom vs. the         from the flexibility and freedom to use the
flexibility of being able to quickly access an     devices in ways that corresponded with their
458                                                                                   FALL 2013

needs and interests. Kukulska‐Hulme and           (1) students were exposed to various types
Pettit (2009) confirmed these same findings.        of linguistic content; (2) tasks were designed
Their study, involving graduates of the           to encourage students to engage with this
Institute of Educational Technology at the        linguistic material; (3) in order to fulfill the
Open University who used mobile devices,          guidelines of the tasks, students had to
found that mobile learning “gives individuals     interact with another student or at mini-
the capacity to make use of electronic            mum, engage with the instructions of the
resources and tools in flexible ways that suit     task; and (4) students were encouraged to
their circumstances and lifestyles” (p. 152).     interact with the resources available through
Being given the time and affordances that         the device and their fellow classmates. As
were necessary to guide their own learning        recommended by Lafford (2009), using the
allowed students in the current study to          iPod Touch to complete assignments also
“stumble and learn” (Comas‐Quinn et al.,          allowed students to more effortlessly and
2009, p. 101) and thereby discover new            quickly engage in real‐world tasks, such as
information they had not necessarily planned      conducting an interview, completing online
to find using the devices in ways that guided      searches, and describing themselves and
their own learning.                               their city. Although not everything they did
     As evidenced by students’ comments and       on the device related to the target language,
logs, they had the time, autonomy, and            it was encouraging to see from the logs and
affordances to explore the target language        short‐answer questions that students did
and culture in ways related to their classes,     make an effort to engage with the target
which ultimately provided them with more          language so as to manage their own learning
exposure to the target language and culture on    and discover items of personal interest both
the topics and in the ways that most interested   in and outside of the classroom.
them. Students also reported spending in-
creased time listening to and reading in the
target language thanks to having the device,      Opportunities for Standards‐Based
which also increased their exposure to the        Learning
language outside of class. Each student could     Thanks to the availability of the iPod
work at his or her own pace to explore topics     Touches, students’ greater access to authen-
of interest. The autonomy and flexibility of the   tic materials and increased opportunities for
devices could be one reason why students felt     communication allowed them to meet each
that their learning increased with the use of     of the 5 C’s that are outlined in the
the iPod Touches.                                 Standards for Foreign Language Learning
                                                  (National Standards, 1999). First, use of the
Access to Authentic Materials and                 iPod Touch greatly enhanced students’
Target Language and Culture                       opportunities to engage in all three com-
In addition to ease of use and mobility and       municative modes: students met Standard
increased exposure and autonomy, students         1.1 by using the language to communicate
could more easily access authentic materials      with each other in the target language
of the target language and culture with the       through Twitter and Facebook, they met
iPod Touch. Students accomplished this            Standard 1.2 when they interpreted authen-
both on their own as they explored various        tic listening and reading passages from
apps and through the more structured tasks        online sources, and they met Standard 1.3
that they were required to complete,              when creating projects for their classmates
including the weekly in‐class tasks, weekly       to read and view. Through using apps and
homework assignments, and four larger out‐        visiting authentic Web sites created by and
of‐class tasks. As noted by Hoven and Palalas     for the people of the target culture, students
(2011), use of the affordances offered by         gained insights into the products, practices,
the iPod Touches had multiple benefits:            and perspectives of the target cultures
Foreign Language Annals  VOL. 46, NO. 3                                                     459

(Standards 2.1 and 2.2) and made extensive        Conclusion
comparisons with their own language and           This study offered a preliminary look at
culture (Standards 4.1 and 4.2). Using the        MALL, most particularly how students used
iPod Touch to gather information on topics        a mobile device “on the go” both within and
such as art and artists, geography, historical    beyond the language classroom, at times and
events, and political systems, students           places that best accommodated their sched-
easily reinforced their existing knowledge        ules and learning goals. The findings
in other disciplines while also learning new      suggested that intermediate language stu-
information and acquiring new points of           dents who are offered the use of mobile
view (Standards 3.1 and 3.2). By communi-         devices will take advantage of the affordan-
cating with their classmates and, more            ces for personal and academic uses, thereby
important, with the native French and             allowing increases in the amount of time
German speakers who had personal and              allocated to language learning and thus
meaningful reasons to read and react to           greater exposure to the target language and
students’ work through Twitter and Face-          culture. As one student summarized, “I
book, students became part of vibrant             could think about the language anywhere
language communities (Standard 5.1).              and anytime.” When iPod Touches were put
Finally, it is hoped that by engaging in          into the hands of learners, the range of
authentic tasks, participating in live‐time       activities and live‐time access to authentic
discovery, and sharing information in the         materials, resources, and support trans-
target language with peers and authentic          formed learning, offering students unlimited
audiences, students will become motivated         access to resources, opportunities to com-
to continue language study and thus               municate using the language in important
become lifelong learners (Standard 5.2).          and meaningful ways, mobility, conve-
                                                  nience, and opportunities for learning
                                                  anywhere and at any time.
Limitations and Suggestions for
Future Research                                   Note
Although it could be difficult to replicate        1. As the vast majority of devices used in this
this study due to the small sample size, the         study were iPod Touches, we refer to the
reliance on self‐reported data from surveys          devices as such throughout the article.
and logs, and the ever‐changing nature of
mobile technology and the possibilities it
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iPod Touch Pre‐Survey
1. What are the last 4 digits of your id#?
2. What is your age?
     17 or younger     18–19       20–21           21–22       over 22
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