Summary of #AusELT chat with Huw Jarvis on Mobile-Assisted Language Use (MALU), 5/8/14

Photo credit: @grahamstanley on eltpics

Photo credit: @grahamstanley on eltpics

Many thanks to Huw Jarvis (@TESOLacademic) for agreeing to be our guest for the August #AusELT chat. Thanks also to @ElkySmith for moderating. It was an interesting hour where several lines of discussion arose and it was good to see regular #AusELTers (@cioccas, @sujava, @Penultimate_K) joined by newcomers @McIntyreShona and @ReinventEnglish.

This summary by @Penultimate_K

The topic of the chat was on the shift from traditional approaches in edtech (specifically CALL and MALL) to the more contemporary and social media-based MALU.

• First up – the acronyms:

CALL = computer assisted language learning
MALL = mobile assisted language learning
MALU = mobile assisted language use
SM = social media
ICC = intercultural communicative competence

MALU involves using a range of devices for a range of purposes in 2nd language learning. For our purposes in the chat, this is English. According to @TESOLacademic, MALU is a more accurate acronym to describe and investigate practice and it is his suggestion that MALU replace CALL/MALL which are misleading terms because what learners are doing with devices in less controlled contexts is rarely CALL and usually MALU.

The ‘M’ in MALL and MALU represents a broader range of devices than the ‘C’ in CALL. Mobility is now highly significant for all kinds of interactions in an L1 and for many also in an L2.

The ‘C’ in CALL comes from a bygone age of “just” desktops and laptops. Most blended learning curricula really still only acknowledge these two forms of technology and don’t really include mobile devices and social media.

The ‘U’ reflects not so much an aversion to the ‘learning’ in Krashen’s learning/acquisition dichotomy, but a recognition of a bigger picture in which acquisition is also recognised. One of the uses can be to consciously learn, but ‘picking up’ language through use is also significant, particularly with SM.

• Is there a place for MALU in ELT curricula or is its value more ‘extra-curricular’? (@ElkySmith)

If we define our job as being to equip students to operate efficiently in an L2 in a digital age, then there is a place in our curriculum. Introducing a digital literacies strand into the standard ELT syllabus “a la Pegrum et al” should definitely be considered as digital literacy in an L2 is key. It is, however, always a struggle to introduce anything new and many course designers are pushed to fit in such things as learning skills and critical thinking, never mind digital literacies! Therefore MALU ideas are best integrated into the syllabus and should not be treated as an ‘add-on’ – what Bax, discussing CALL, terms ‘normalisation’.

Some schools actually do have a social media curriculum but the example SM curriculum given by @McIntyreShona needed updating and could be made more interesting to students. This curriculum deals with Facebook, Twitter, wikis and blogs, the jargon which is used, and the shortcuts. The students, it seems, are not so much into wikis and blogs.

Incorporating digital literacy into ELT syllabi would also necessitate enhancing the digital literacy of teachers as not everyone knows how to gain and then impart these skills.

• SM in L1 and L2 is a dominant practice (outside class) for many users…so why does ELT neglect it? (@TESOLacademic)

It isn’t just SM use – ELT neglects a lot of things such as pronunciation, listening skills, and extensive reading! However, neglecting SM means missing out on the opportunities for more informal, incidental, incorporative, and authentic ways to acquire and use English. This is possibly because mobile technology is perceived as more social than educational and therefore not as ‘real’ learning. (@Penultimate_K)

When talking of areas in ELT that are neglected, @ElkySmith pointed out that intercultural communicative competence was one such area. He asked it if was possible that MALU could help with this? While it is possible that ICC is something that is gained incidentally through SM use, no one had really come across any real discussion of ICC and SM/ed tech, but @TESOLacademic noted that ICC and shifts away from EFL/ESL to ELF (English as a Lingua Franca) were also potentially well-aligned with MALU. For example, students report gaming online in L1 AND in L2. @ReinventEnglish asked if there were more games, apps, and SM that were ‘English Only? This perception of ‘English Only’ in games may be attributed to a bias towards the L2. The games are not so much developed as ‘English Only’ but because more often than not English is the language that the game-developers use, the gamers engage in the dominant language and adapt it so that they can participate in the game. Internet cafes in countries such as Thailand are packed with gamers playing in their L1 and L2 and the interchanges are ‘effortlessly macaronic and weighted more to L2’.

@TESOLacademic stated that SM ’belongs’ to [the digital residents] as it is not a ‘virtual learning environment’ like Blackboard or Moodle. There is certainly a difference between the ‘environment’ of the VLE and the ‘residence’ of the digital resident.

• Perceptions of MALU when used in class

This ownership (of English and of SM) is not always apparent to the students themselves, despite the fact that MALU arises out of work on student practices NOT teacher preferences (@TESOLacademic). @McIntyreShona pointed out that as well as being reluctant to engage in Facebook and other SM in English, her students are often worried about their lack of accuracy. This is interesting as it indicates that if SM forms part of a class activity, students see accuracy as being important. However, when engaging in extra-curricular SM or in gaming, accuracy is not so important to them.

Accuracy-based activities are perhaps seen as part of a more traditional CALL approach (which involves practice – rather than use – of English in the self-access centre) and of teacher-directed activities. It seems that students frequently post in L2 on Facebook with each other but respond less to teachers’ posts. It is possible that this is because they may be worried about everything the teacher sees as something which may be assessed, so they are giving priority to accuracy over fluency in these interchanges. (It is also significant that if the teacher starts using ‘their’ SM space, it may start ‘looking like learning and not so much fun!’ @cioccas) Studies have shown that students in the UAE as well as Thailand use both L1 and L2 with SM. Other studies show more L2 ‘turn-taking’ happens online compared with face-to-face interaction which again has implications for the fluency/accuracy debate as well as for teacher-directed vs self-directed learning and L2 use.

• How to use MALU in class – some suggestions

o For an EAP task, have students evaluate the credibility of websites and also to reference them.
o Get students to ‘interact’ (beyond clicking on “like”) in an L2 with Youtube. It was pointed out that Youtube use was passive and receptive (which is not a bad thing) and that it could be balanced out with other social media, Twitter, Facebook, etc. for more active and productive use.
o To review and share useful websites. (The teacher provides models for discussion, then negotiates the criteria with the class – all depends on the skills in class)
o Create a video introduction (an idea from a UECA PD session that @cioccas saw)
o Use apps in English (‘getting away from learning’ is arguably good – @TESOLacademic is with Krashen on this!) rather than using apps to learn English. Both are okay to do, but students’ expressed preference suggests the former
o “Managing” information e.g. deleting, putting things in folders, saving/backing up in virtual spaces (Dropbox,

• To conclude:

“So long as they’re using L2, it’s a win, IMO.” @McIntyreShona
“YES 😉 … and they may learn more too!” @TESOLacademic


From Huw (@TESOLacademic)

Web-page with keynote addresses, articles, and other links

From Lesley (@cioccas) (video introductions with a new class)

Bax – normalisation (of CALL)

Krashen – learning/acquisition distinction

Click to access principles_and_practice.pdf

Pegrum et al – digital literacies strand

2 thoughts on “Summary of #AusELT chat with Huw Jarvis on Mobile-Assisted Language Use (MALU), 5/8/14

  1. Pingback: Gonna get myself connected… | Social Media & Language Education

  2. Pingback: Upcoming #AusELT Twitter chat Thurs 6th Aug 2015: Mobile language learning: Moving from ‘why’ to ‘how’, with guest moderator Mark Pegram | #AusELT

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