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Mobile learning (m-learning) is undergoing a rapid evolution, supporting a variety of fields, including second language acquisition and whose focal features are recognized as the potential for the learning process to be personalized, informal and ubiquitous. In addition to the increased proliferation of mobile technologies such as smart phones, MP3 and MP4 players, PDAs iPhone or iPad, learners are increasingly motivated by their personal learning needs and wants, including those arising from a greater global mobility, their need for social interaction and collaborative learning. In this sense, Mobile Assisted Language Learning (MALL) can be considered an ideal solution to break learning barriers in terms of time and place and promote out-of-class instruction.
In the light of this context, we present an exploratory research conducted at the University of Extremadura consisting on the introduction of a mobile application during 8 weeks to more than 100 ESL undergraduate university students. Learners from the fields of engineering and teacher training were provided with a mobile application, Taplingua Inc, running under Android and created by a San Francisco based startup. The App uses practical situations, video explanations and interactive games to rapidly teach English as a second language to adults, including also multiple learning strategies to improve the learning experience such as gamification, “flipped classroom”, mobile learning in micro lesson format, and task-based teaching methodologies.
The study compares motivation and preferences for activities in mobile learning previous and subsequent to using the App in several groups of learners being initially taught in a traditional classroom and then exposed to the aforementioned mobile teaching tool. Several tests and surveys were performed to determine whether there are any differences in motivation and test score between students exposed to both traditional and mobile learning, revealing main effects:
A high degree of satisfaction with the component of the course, citing fun, portability, and easy access to resources as key benefits;
Flexibility as a leading factor to promote language learning (all language skills presented in the application are positively assessed)
Interaction and oral communication as the primary shortcomings of the platform
To conclude, the research proved that using mobile video and games can result in general terms in higher engagement and learning outcomes. Besides, the utilization of the App within a traditional learning context shows a preliminary tendency which specially helps students with language learning difficulties to better acquire the language and meet the goals set for the language class.