Mobile technologies develop so fast that they have strongly entered all spheres of human activity, including education. In the 1990s, with the advent of pocket personal computers, the development and assessment of mobile learning technology for students started. There is a wide range of the mobile devices used in education, like cell telephones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), Ipods, and podcasts. The potential of mobile technologies and their successful application by foreign language teachers is enormous. Moreover, mobile learning represents an innovation in terms of the integration of mobile devices with learning techniques. The mobile learning has both advantages and disadvantages. Thus, a background noise and a inability to search via messages are among the disadvantages, while the advantages include a flexible way of learning and the possibility of free hands during the process of learning. (Tayebinik & Puteh, 2012, p. 57). Despite the existing disadvantages of mobile learning, it is widely used in the FL teaching and has significant perspectives of its effective application in this sphere.
Mobile learning is a part of the new educational paradigm created due to the technologies encouraging flexible and individual learning. At present, the daily usage of mobile phones and other devices, for example, video game consoles which can be also used for educational purposes by students is the main incentive of the mass distribution of mobile learning worldwide. It is important to note that mobile technologies guarantee the high quality of education for the development of children, youth and adults around the world.
The term “mobile learning” or “m-learning” belongs to the use of mobile and portable IT - devices, such as pocket PDA computers (Personal Digital Assistants), mobile phones, laptops and tablet personal computers in teaching and learning. Due to the fact that computers and the Internet have made the educational tools portable, accessible, effective and simple in use, they open ample opportunities for the expansion of the access to the innovative technologies, in particular, to the Internet. Mobile devices, such as phones and pocket computers, have much more reasonable prices than desktop computers, and, therefore, represent a less expensive way of the Internet access. The emergence of the tablet personal computers allows using mobile Internet access with equal, if not bigger, functionality compared to desktop computers (Chinnery, 2006, p. 9).
Mobile Learning in FL Teaching
The idea of mobile classroom started to be discussed by different researchers long time ago. The author of the article “Language in action: Applying mobile classroom in foreign language learning” states that being a part of mobile learning, a mobile classroom (MClass) gives huge opportunities for FLL, as it would allow learners to study the language by means of audio and video recording. Moreover, mobile learning allows students to take part in different mobile activities at any time and from any location (Shih, 2005).
The so-called “CALL” (computer-assisted language learning) connects the process of education with life and work. Moreover, this kind of activity is not related only to school, university or other institutions. It leads to the friction between the traditional education system focused on the educational program and individual achievements, and mobile learning, based on the interests of students and their needs in different situations and circumstances (Erben et al., 2008).
The Mobile-Assisted Language Learning (MALL) is one of the CALL’s directions. According to Miangah and Nezarat (2012), the future of mobile learning includes the development of contextual dependent technologies which will enable the use of movements, routes and preferences of students and simplify the access to the necessary resources. Thus, the MALL is implemented in such areas of language studying as listening, grammar, phonetics, reading and vocabulary (Miangah & Nezarat, 2012).
Mobile learning eliminates the need for the creation of special computer classes and gives full freedom to teachers to provide students with online-applications as required. In terms of practical training, a student can use a mobile device for mastering of the language skills via telephone, for example. Mobile learning is often easy by content and is more often used for providing access to audio materials for students, exchanging text messages, participating in polls and text chats as well as recording and reviewing notes (Liu, Navarrete, Maradiegue, & Wivagg, 2014).
In one the latest issues of the British Council, Gary Motteram (2013) indicated the most characteristic features of mobile learning, such as:
- The innovative thinking is the prerequisite of the modernization of education and introduction of mobile learning;
- The educational effect of mobile learning is individual in every case, and there is no opportunity to predict what it will be in a definite situation. It is likely to encourage a personal interest based on the crisis of a student’s competence;
- Mobile learning is based on relationship. A trainee is always included into the whole system of the interpersonal and social relationships (parents, teachers, colleagues, and friends);
- Mobile learning is a natural process of sharing and perceiving information due to the need for a computer communication, evolution of the technical means of learning and the use of information and telecommunication technologies;
- Mobile learning is connected with the practice of using technical means of teaching and opportunities of informational and telecommunication technologies;
A mobile computer or another portable electronic device with the possibility of wireless access to information and telecommunication is an integral instrument of the educational process of mobile learning (Motteram, 2013).
Another group of the British Council specialists researched a new direction in pedagogy, called “mobile pedagogics”. The mobile pedagogics is a special branch of pedagogics that is science about education, training and learning– with a purpose of the formation of ability to a continuous training during lifetime in any place and at any time, opening the regularities of the personal development in the course of mobile learning and education on the basis of the remote technologies by means of portable devices. It is realised in the creation of new forms of knowledge and mentality, characterised by multimedia, structure, availability, modularity, mobility and interactivity. The application of this phenomenon in the mobile learning can bring positive results in terms of the development of language skills of learners, namely, it enables them to master their reflective skills on the studied material, identify the possible gaps in knowledge, use language in real life situations, conduct multiple experiments, and develop the digital literacy (Kukulska-Hulme, Norris, & Donohue, 2015).
At present, there is a great deal of researches devoted to the efficiency of the application of mobile technologies and mobile learning in the FL teaching. According to Simon and Fell (2012), the results of the survey conducted in the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Anderson Language & Technology Centre (ALTEC) showed that mobile education assumes the emergence of the whole range of the new methods of learning and teaching based on the belief that interaction in a traditional class is often not as effective as desired. It is possible to call mobile training “blasting” or “changing a paradigm”, especially when its focus shifts from the training in a traditional school to overcoming the possible shortcomings of the existing training programs and methods of their efficiency assessment (Simon & Fell, 2012).
The results of the survey showed that the majority of respondents (29%) use the dictionary apps, translator apps (21%), verb forms apps (10%), flashcards (7%), and radio programs (4%). The authors of the article state that more than 50% of respondents-students indicated that they use the mobile technologies in the process of learning foreign languages. However, not only students apply these technologies - around 15 % of instructors, tutors and teachers reported their use of the mobile technologies in the process of teaching the foreign languages. At the same time, the survey showed that neither teachers nor students fully understand the whole potential of the mobile technologies. The findings of the authors of the survey show that the effective collaboration of IT specialists with teachers and students would lead to the advancement and upgrading of the innovations in the sphere of m-learning (Simon & Fell, 2012).
One of the projects was implemented in the Japanese universities with the aim to find out how the reading and grammar materials sent to the mobile telephones of the Japanese students were understood and mastered by them. The majority of the respondents - participants of the project – indicated that this experience was rather positive and effective for mastering their foreign language skills in reading and grammar. However, students indicated the difficulties with reading on small screens, security problems, and low interaction among the disadvantages of mobile learning (Wang & Smith, 2013, p. 129).
Another research was conducted in two American schools during three years. The students of several classes were asked to fill out a questionnaire about the use of mobile technologies. During the whole period of research, students used IPod Touch in the English language learning. Later, their language skills and progress were monitored. The results of the research showed that the reasonable application of IPod Touch in English Language Learning (ELL) revealed significant academic results and had effective pedagogical benefits to both students and teachers (Liu et al., 2014).
The implementation of the mobile learning technologies in the UK has been successfully applied for years. In her article “Modern foreign languages, higher education and mobile learning”, Natalie Ticheler (2015) states that this method is more useful when a pupil is not present at the defined place and is trained using the situational approach and resources available for it. Mobile learning also allows pupils to easily change the situation and conditions of learning and combine the education in several educational institutions. Moreover, it is stated in the article that the majority of the UK universities develop and implement the programs aimed at the expansion and support of the mobile learning practices for the maximisation of the learning experience of their students. However, despite the wide usage of m-learning in the UK educational establishments, the new technology is neither a well-defined nor a well-developed concept, so that it should be supported by the new approved theories (Ticheler, 2015).
Thus, mobile learning has a number of advantages, namely an easy access to education, ability to study in the preferred rhythm, simplified access to the audio materials and social networks, satisfaction of the student’s interests via podcasts or free learning programs, and enhanced assessment and diagnostics of the possible problems in education. The mobile technologies have the potential to provide a new learning experience for all learners of foreign languages (Kim et al., 2013, p. 55; Chinnery, 2006, p. 11).
To sum up, the innovative technologies and mobile learning platforms allow looking at the learning process from a new angle and in various forms. Firstly, offline classes have the limited quantity of seats and are divided into quarters or semesters. Secondly, people can get access to education on the way somewhere, in small portions, instead of sitting hours in classrooms. Moreover, mobile technologies allow making the involvement in education absolutely unique. Mobile devices add a considerable value to the education process. A low cost of access and a higher penetration of mobile devices and services give wide opportunities in terms of the use of economically effective and scalable technologies in education.
Mobile learning in FL teaching is a huge step in the development of the educational system throughout the world as it allows simplifying the process of training connected with the physical capacities, language, and cultural distinctions. However, a qualitative course also requires additional efforts from a teacher. Moreover, mobile learning cannot be effective without a classical education, but can become an excellent addition to it. Thus, the combination of the traditional teaching methods and new technologies, including the use of the virtual environment as a motivation for students, becomes one of the effective approaches to the foreign language teaching. The critical judgment of the studied material by means of the mobile technologies promotes the formation of language skills and abilities, and forms the linguistic, sociocultural, communicative, and professional competences.