How do you use mobile devices in the classroom? Tips, apps & best practices #ELTchat Summary 30/04/2011

A PLN for ELT Professionals

How do you use mobile devices in the classroom? Tips, apps & best practices #ELTchat Summary 30/04/2011

ELT Chat Summary – 30th April






This was the initial question for the evening’s discussion, although there was some debate about the definition of mobile devices. Some people suggested digital cameras, laptops, tablets – there are also dictophones and digital video cameras. This definition question was never really concluded but the focus eventually headed towards mobile phones and smartphones. I think there was some overlap with the recent topic ‘How do we cater for the needs of our learners in a digital age?’


Uses of mobile phones for the classroom eventually became the main focus, although I felt that the chat roamed around a number of areas, including the possibilities for use, teachers’ feelings, issues and potential problems and useful apps. As a result, I’m going to attack the summary from four different angles and then I’ll present a list of useful links that were shared during the chat.


I would like to point out that I was asked, ever so politely, to do this summary because of my summarising tweet…


…and I think it’s really important that these things are kept in mind whenever choosing technologies to use. To be honest I was surprised to be asked due to my obvious skepticism and critical stance during the chat. But, hey, I think the technovangelists need to keep at least some toes clinging to terra firma! ; ) Having done this summary and had some chance to reflect, I really can see some great potential for some of the apps and tools mentioned, but I do have some of the issues being a problem when I consider the contexts in which I have experience.


[Critical Ed. btw I think it’s worth pointing out that a few pro-technology participants do not actually seem to have any connection to ELT, but have some investment in technology.]




1) Why bother?

2) What can be done?

3) What could possibly go wrong?

4) What can be done to overcome issues?


1) Why bother?


@Shaunwilden : How do we feel about using them? I’d say why not we use them in life, well I do all the time

@ShellTerrell : Mobile phones allow students to carry the learning in their pocket & study when convenient, 5 min on bus, while in line, etc

@ShellTerrell : I believe it’s portable, involves learning anywhere anytime, & involves the learning taking charge of the content


•                In some places most people have a smartphone and use it regularly
•                In some places more people have smartphones than computers
•                In some places it seems that every adult and every child has a smartphone
•                There is a lot of potential for extra practice with a one to one student
•                Using this technology could be motivating
•                Many students try to use them in class anyway, why not allow it?
•                Students could be more autonomous if guided to use mobile technology
•                Smartphones can do loads of clever multi-media things

2) What can we do?


@ShellTerrell : Best ways to use mobile phones for language learning involves audio/image/video recording, & sms features common to most phones now

•                Use dictionary apps, such as SnaPanda for Android
•                Phones can be used to take photos or video for a scavenger hunt activity
•                Take photos of the whiteboard
•                Text students information (or receive it from them) about class or news about practical stuff like lesson cancellations or room changes
•                Get ss to take photos of stuff for hwk, bring to class, show them to a partner and chat about them
•                Create QR codes of things you want students to find on scavenging using mobile devices
•                Use mobile phone to record/ video the ss speaking and they can listen to themselves 
•                Use of the audio or video recording devices could overcome a school’s lack of resources
•                Adult learners could use language podcasts, record themselves, create videos, use search functions & dictionaries
•                Students can watch videos, perhaps from youtube
•                Use these apps with young learners – StoryRobe, StoryKit, Talking Tom, Mouthoff, Pubppet Pals, Sticki booth, Fotobabble, Animoto, Audioboo, Woices, 43 Things – see links below
•                Use fotobabble to take a picture and record audio talking about it
•                Students can share music with the teacher to be played in class
•                The technology can be used anywhere, so leave the classroom and go somewhere else!
•                Use Newsy app & Video Vocab apps for Business English 


3) So what’s the catch?


@efl101 : problem is not all sts have smart phones so fairness/equal access issues arise

•                Some schools have banned them – in some countries phones in school are a big NO!
•                In some countries smartphones are not used by most students
•                If some students have them and others don’t there could be issues causing negative feelings or behaviour
•                Smartphones can sometimes be a distraction as much as a learning aid
•                Students could use them to cheat in tests
•                There could be problems with ss feeling inadequate for not having the ‘right’ phone
•                Ss could start thinking they can use the phone all the time, not just when you want them to
•                Not so good for exam classes – ss can’t use them in exams and shouldn’t rely on them
•                Kids could start begging their parents for a phone when the parents can’t afford one or don’t feel that it’s appropriate
•                It might take time for some students to learn how to use their phone in different ways
•                The teacher may have to teach how to use an app
•                Sometimes it’s a problem getting students off the phone, no need to encourage them!
•                Do the phones have roaming internet access or would access to school wifi be needed?
•                What about the financial cost to the students of internet access and SMS?
•                Teachers don’t know what to do with mobile phones
•                Many teachers don’t even use much technology
•                Is it ok for teachers to expect student to be connected to learning all the time?
•                Training opportunities for teachers may never arrive
•                Can teachers actually afford to own good quality mobile phones?
•                Many teachers don’t even use computers very much, let alone smartphones

4) Responses to issues

•                If parents have issues, invite them into school and do a show and tell to explain the benefits
•                If not all students have one, get them to share or work in groups
•                Students sharing devices could help YLs develop better collaborative skills
•                Using a contract phone should mean there is no cost to the learners and apparently ‘mini top-ups [are] now given away with soda cans’
•                Teacher training courses – there’s one online soon, see links
•                Don’t wait for training, just dive on in and try it out
•                Huddle round phones in groups if necessary

Some different viewpoints


@ShellTerrell : Also mobile learning allows the learner to apply the language & vocabulary in a contextual setting & with others. Authentic! 


@familysimpson : @efl101  how do your students learn? Individually or by discussing in a group? Mobile opens up discussion to all – confidence booster


@japglish : @rliberni  I’m afraid I think m-learning is being overhyped


@rliberni : key to efficacy or not of mlearning is whether or not they are learning – having fun is good but learning must also take place


@AnthonyGaughan …reluctance to use private resource for work.. which schools provide mobile devices for staff?


@rliberni : mine prefer time away from their laptop – ‘an oasis of calm’ one std called his English lesson




SnaPanda – wonderfully innovative dictionary app


QR Codes – barcode thing


@ianchia: McGraw-Hill’s mConnect will offer vocabulary lessons via SMS, plans for Africa and Asia.


@ianchia: English in Action: Mobile Learning in Bangladesh ? National Geographic News Watch


Free ‘about mlearning‘ course taking place in april? 


@ShellTerrell: This created with free StoryRobe app for @CeciELT ‘s 6 year old son in Brazil for 1 of my upcoming pres.


Great video of using speak & repeat apps with kids learning Chinese here:


Good ideas here: Audio Apps for the iPod Touch – Handy for the Languages Classroom.




Talking Tom


Puppet Pals

Sticki booth




Ok, there you go. I hope I’ve managed to cover everything satisfactorily and give a balanced review of the chat transcript. Thanks to all participants for another really interesting #eltchat!


A little comedy to finish off