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Mittwoch, 05. Dezember 2012


A continuation from the last...


As discussed in my last posting, the question was if smartphones really do help in learning and retaining vocabulary. 


General feedback from students and other trainers has been that yes, using phones in class is a benefit, and the phone itself, or the App, is simply a different way of accessing what have been used in language training for decades, namely; dictionaries. 


The students who use phones commented that it is simply much faster and easier for them to look up unknown words on a phone than in a dictionary; they have either a specific app or a site bookmarked in their phone’s browser for ease of access.  I can’t argue with them on this!


This however, did not really get to the bottom of the issue of whether they were in fact retaining the vocabulary that they looked up.  When asked about this, students were much less certain and tended to refer to their notebooks and flick back and forth, looking for vocab that they had written down from previous lessons and generally looking nervous.


Based on my own observations, the students who have the best retention of vocab are those students who are organized in their approach to learning new vocabulary. They have a specific place where they enter new vocabulary (cards, lists etc ) and they then look at this vocab at least once between meetings.  


As a trainer, I see a need here to not just teach the language, but also facilitate their learning process and give support when their learning practices are letting them down.  Simple stuff, but more on this next posting.


Mike Hicks

Freitag, 05. Oktober 2012

Is this a dictionary? 

Smart or not so smart?


My question this month is a simple one; do smart-phones help in learning vocabulary?


Before going further, I think we need to define learning.  The Oxford dictionary defines learning as “the acquisition of knowledge or skills through study, experience, or being taught”.  If this is the case, I don’t see how smart-phones help the language learner too much at present (apps excluded). 

I agree that smart-phones can help the learner find the word quickly when they need it, but is this “acquisition of knowledge”?  Will the learner be able to use that word later in a conversation when they do not have their smart-phone at the ready?  No, is my opinion.

After watching young learners with their phones over the past year, I have begun to feel that they have certainly learnt how to search the web quickly and efficiently to find vocabulary during a lesson’s activities.  I don’t feel however, that the immediate regurgitation of this vocabulary is in fact evidence of learning.

Rather, I feel the ease that they can access needed vocabulary has meant they write less new vocabulary down and simply rely on the ability to look it up again on their phone as needed.  My concern is that because of the ease in using these devices, we are being blinded to what is actually taking place; the repetition of retrieving vocabulary from an external source, that may or may not be reliable, rather than the internalization and “learning” of new vocabulary. 

I freely admit that I have not read any peer reviewed articles on the use of smart-phones in the class before writing this, so everything I write is based on my own opinions, thoughts and observations.  Feel free to take me to task on anything I say, and I would welcome arguments backed up with some hard and fast data to help put the matter to bed.  I would also welcome comments from those students who use smart-phones in class, do you feel you are learning more/better/ faster etc?

If you wish to comment, please email me on mail(at)discourse-es.com and I will post a summary next month.


Mike Hicks

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