Exploring Language Learning with Mobile Technology: A Qualitative Content Analysis of Vocabulary Learning Apps for ESL Learners in Canada

Liang, L. (2018) Exploring Language Learning with Mobile Technology: A Qualitative Content Analysis of Vocabulary Learning Apps for ESL Learners in Canada. Electronic Thesis and Dissertation. Repository. 5763.

This Canadian study offers a comprehensive review and analysis of 3 vocabulary apps, Duolingo, Johnny Grammar Word Challenge and Anki App, to assess their appropriateness and usefulness to support learning both inside and outside of the ESL classroom.

The study includes a review and an extensive analysis and discussion of the exemplary features of ESL learning apps in relation to curriculum, pedagogy and design.

As part of the study the author developed an app evaluation checklist based on the in-depth analysis of the vocabulary apps and in the context of the Ontario ESL curriculum. This checklist could be a very helpful tool for instructors in adult settlement language  as they review and evaluate learning apps for use by  learners in the classroom and for independent learning.

Given the ever-increasing number of apps promoted as “learning apps”, the considerable investment of time required to review an app for use in teaching and learning, and the relative lack of research focused on the quality of language learning apps, this study provides a timely and accessible introduction to ESL learning app evaluation


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NMC Horizon Report 2017 Higher Education Edition

New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Report: 2017 Higher Education Edition. Austin, TX.

This  annual report profiles six time-based key trends, significant challenges and important developments related to technology adoption in higher education. The 78-member 2017 Expert Panel includes Canadian representatives from the University of Saskatchewan, the University of Ottawa, Conestoga College and Niagara College.  One of the 10 highlights from the report states that online, mobile and blended learning are “foregone conclusions” necessary for an institution’s survival. This highlight emphasizes the importance of measuring how these approaches affect learning outcomes.

Retrievable from: https://www.nmc.org/publication/nmc-horizon-report-2017-higher-education-edition/

Technology and the Four Skills

Blake, R. (2016). Technology and the four skills. Language Learning & Technology, 20(2), 129-142.

The report looks at technology-mediated task-based language learning’s ability to integrate the four skills while recognizing that evaluation of language proficiency has not reached the same level of complexity and  continues to evaluate the four skills in isolation.

The author provides examples of asynchronous and synchronous tools that provide opportunities to move between skills while working on tasks. One example of this is an app that transcribes learners’ speech into the second language; whenever there is an error in the written transcription, the learner knows their pronunciation has deviated from the norm and can analyze the transcription and correct the original utterance so that it transcribes correctly. The author emphasizes the importance of planning activities such as these, including pre-activities, making sure all students know what is expected of them, providing instructions for any digital tools required and balancing conflicting needs where necessary. He also presents some of the concerns about how computers and computer screens affect communications and urges readers to be aware of possible miscommunication that may occur.

Retrievable from: https://www.lltjournal.org/collection/col_10125_45833

Understanding the Digital Capacity of Newcomer Settlement Organizations

Understanding the Digital Capacity of Newcomer Settlement Organizations

Open North presented this webinar on the responses from surveys sent to 657 Canadian Service Provider Organizations delivering Settlement services through IRCC’s Settlement Program. IRCC defines Digital Capacity as “the ability to use digital tools within an organization to enhance service delivery, communication, and coordination. The digital capacity of an organization may be the function of skills and training (e.g., staff digital literacy), infrastructure (e.g., accessible internet, mobile hardware), applications (e.g., software, cloud computing) and processes (e.g, data analytics, data management, social media use).”

The slides from the presentation are available on the site along with recordings of both the French and English presentations.

The research objectives of the study are as follows:
1. Gain a deeper understanding of the digital capacity and needs of service provider organizations (SPOs) that serve newcomers in Canada

2. Help to inform and recommend options for future consideration to support the digital capacity of the settlement sector

3. Help to fill a gap in evidence significant to policy development in the digital capacity area

4. Support improvements to digital capacity among SPOs

Retrievable recording of webinar: http://www.amssa.org/resources/videos/other-video-resources/understanding-the-digital-capacity-of-newcomer-settlement-organizations/

Designing evaluation into change management processes. In Managing Change in English Language Teaching: Lessons from Experience.

Kiely, R. (2012). Designing evaluation into change management processes. In Managing Change in English Language Teaching: Lessons from Experience. Edited by Christopher Tribble. London: British Council.

This chapter is part of a British Council book about the changing role of English in the world. It provides details from 21 international English Language Training projects. The book addresses issues surrounding the internationalization of English. Although it does not address settlement issues, its inclusion of a blended learning project does make it meaningful for the bibliography. In many language programs innovative projects today do involve the integration of technology. The introductory notes to the book state the importance of a number of elements that should be addressed “in parallel” when making changes in education in order that the changes make a lasting impact. The examples given include initial as well as in-service training of teachers and testing and assessment systems, curriculum and course materials. These needs are also present in adult settlement language training programs that are intending to integrate technology and adopt a blended approach. Kiely’s chapter ends with a description of three types of evaluation that he hopes will engage the different agendas of program stakeholders in improving the likelihood of success in all areas of a program.

Retrievable from: https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/sites/teacheng/files/B330%20MC%20in%20ELT%20book_v7.pdf


Evaluation of a blended language learning environment in a French university and its effects on second language acquisition.

Marie-Françoise Narcy-Combes, J. McAllister.   Evaluation of a blended language learning environment in a French university and its effects on second language acquisition. La revue du GERAS  2011, 59, 115–138.

In response to a high drop-out rate in large compulsory language classes in a French university, a blended learning program was introduced, using a task-based approach with a distance component using Moodle and face-to-face small group tutorials. The goal was to raise motivation using real-life tasks and to develop interactions that promote second language acquisition. The face-to-face component was further broken into two tutorials, one with 45 students and a teacher and one with 15 students. Teachers provided personalized feedback both in the tutorials and online. The report presents results about the students’ language levels, their involvement, their language learning in class, and their perceptions of the blended language learning program. The author presents key themes expressed by the students related to strengths and weaknesses in the program. Several students commented that a teacher is essential. Team work remained a challenge for students and the authors state that they are searching for a way to convince students that they have more teacher access in a blended learning environment than they would in larger groups.

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Blending Learning in a Web 2.0 World: Creating Learning Opportunities for Language Learners.

Marsh, D. (2012). Blending Learning in a Web 2.0 World: Creating Learning Opportunities for Language Learners. Cambridge University Press.

This booklet provides a short history of the term “blended learning” and traces its development from the notion in 2000 of simply supplementing classroom learning with self-study e-learning activities to its use today to mean any combination of different methods of learning, different learning environments and different learning styles. While not focused on ESL, it is a good resource to set the stage while providing practical guides and templates.

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Evaluating computer technology for language learning

Chapelle, C. (2010). Evaluating computer technology for language learning. Contact, 36(2), 56–62.

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This article presents a review and evaluation of research on the effectiveness of technology in second language teaching and learning. The article draws on studies that compared classes using technology and those that do not, surveys of instructors’ and learners’ opinions about the use of technology in language learning, and discourse analysis of learners’ performance in a computer-assisted environment. The author points to the difficulties and complexities of establishing the factors that support successful language learning and cautions that claims made by developers of commercial software for language learning  need to be verified  “on the ground” by observational research on students’ use of technology and on actual reports from instructors and students on their use of technology.