Text Messaging to Teach ESL

Courtesy of Matthew Nehrling, I just found this article describing the use of text messages to teach English as a Second Language (ESL). This pilot program is from Athabasca University, which I heard of for the first time last Friday during Terry Anderson’s presentation at the Online Connectivism Conference.

While mobile learning through cell phones will be limited for certain things, I agree with Matthew that language training could be very effective in this medium. I think mobile learning will be like any other technology–great for certain things, not as much for others. It probably wouldn’t be my choice for having students get feedback on their body language, for example, at least not with the current technology.

Mobile learning does have possibilities for all sorts of lifelong learning applications though. It takes learning out of the classroom and makes it accessible in their everyday lives. It’s learner controlled, so they can learn what they want when they want it.

“You’re controlling it, which is so nice,” said Tracey Woodburn of Athabasca University. “A lot of people have been telling me, ‘Oh, I can do this when I am watching my kid’s soccer practice or when I am on the bus coming to school.'”

I think this might be an example of connectivism in practice–decentralized, out of the classroom, informal, when the students want it. I wish the article had more explanation of the design and whether or how students connect with each other as well. It sounds like it might be self-study, which may be fine for what it is. I could see self-study text message lessons like this used in combination with face to face synchronous practice as well.

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4 thoughts on “Text Messaging to Teach ESL”

  1. Hi, I’m interested to know the outcome of this pilot program, as I had tried an experimental version of this myself some years ago.

    Does anyone know if this program was a success or has since been discontinued by Athabasca University?

    Please email me at info [at)a-room-in-new-york.com.

    Thanks, Tom

  2. In Korea almost everyone has a cell phone. I give students text messages that are written in shorthand and they try to find out what they mean. They have a short amount of time to find out what they mean.

  3. I use the mobile phones in my classes. I pick out material from a book and the students have the weekend to text back the answers. I also give pop quizzes to the students and they have one hour to text the answers back to me. I also have the students do speaking exercise recordings on their mobiles and bluetooth the recordings to me the next class period. They love it.

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