Mobile phones in the MFL classroom

In the latest guest post about using Technology in Modern Foreign Languages, Dominic McGladdery writes about the apparent disparity between government advice on using mobiles phones in the classroom and the reality of teaching in classrooms where often every single student owns a mobile phone

In the latest guest post about using Technology in Modern Foreign Languages, Dominic McGladdery writes about the apparent disparity between government advice on using mobiles phones in the classroom and the reality of teaching in classrooms where often every single student owns a mobile phone. Dominic opts to make the most of mobile phones as a teaching and learning tool and explores the different ways in which he has used mobile phones in his classroom.

As long ago as 2001, the UK government asked the Stewart Inquiry to set guidelines on a minimum age for mobile telephone users. It didn’t, but that didn’t stop the government from issuing a circular to all schools in England discouraging non-essential use of mobile telephones among students under the age of 15.

Since then, things have changed. Children used mobiles and didn’t grow the tumours the government warned them about, and the technology has become so advanced that most children I teach have a mobile telephone in their pocket which is considerably better and faster than the desktop PC in my study.

Much has been written about how students can use their telephones as learning tools. However, officially, mobiles are still banned in many schools.

I have been using them with my KS4 students with some success and here are some ways in which we have used them:

  • Voice recording
    The students record themselves speaking in the target language using the mobile phone’s in-built voice recorder. They then play it back, listening to their work. Instant self assessment and possible peer assessment. What did they do wrong? How could they improve?
  • Video recording
    Using the video recording function, one student records two others performing a dialogue in the target language. This is great for practising GCSE Role Play activities and also for improving pronunciation. We have also done this using the school’s video cameras but, for some reason, the students prefer to use their mobiles. The fact that they don’t need to be taught to use them saves valuable time in class too.
    The finished work can then be sent to my laptop via Bluetooth and shared with the group.
  • Sending files via Bluetooth
    For the last couple of years the students have recorded their Presentations for their GCSE speaking exams using Audacity. I edited them taking out long pauses and erms, saved them as .mp3 files and bluetoothed them to each student. They then listened to them on their mobiles or copied them to their Mp3 Players. We found this an excellent way to revise. Your friends don’t need to know that you are revising for your German exam, do they?
    I also used Xtranormal with Year 9 students to create movies which I embedded into my department’s wiki. I downloaded them using RealPlayer and sent them to students’ phones using Bluetooth. They were really proud of what they had done and achieved.
    We have used Bluetooth to revise grammar points too. I converted some grammar PowerPoint files I made into movies with Movie Maker and bluetoothed them to the students.
  • Downloading
    I made some Crazytalk movies with some of the students and uploaded them to a YouTube account I created for the department. The students then downloaded the files to their mobiles to show their friends and families.
  • Using the web
    I recently had a student use her mobile phone in my class to look up the meaning of a word on WordReference because she couldn’t find it in the dictionary. I have also allowed students to use Wikipedia to find information on certain topics in the target language.

If you work in a school which allows students to use their mobiles responsibly, I would definitely recommend that you try out some of the ideas listed above.

So what are my future plans?

Well, next term I hope to get the students to use their phones actively in lessons. Ideally, I want them to use their phones to answer questions by text message. I’d already heard of one site, SMSPoll and, after reading Mark Cunningham’s blog about his recent experiences, another called PollEverywhere. Both these sites allow students to answer multiple choice questions and give realtime answers which can be put straight into PowerPoint presentations, which would be ideal for starters and plenaries in the classroom.

PollEverywhere also allows you to create free text polls where students can respond with their own answers and allows answers via Twitter, too. This would be ideal for feedback and gathering information in languages lessons.

I’m aware that not all students will have their mobiles in school and that not all of them will be able to send SMS for free, but I hope to find a way around this. When I do, I’ll let you know.

Dominic McGladdery

Dominic McGladdery is Head of Modern Foreign Languages at Roseberry Sports College in Chester le Street, where he teaches French and German.

His blog can be found at http://www.domsmflpage.blogspot.com

Twitter: @dominic_mcg

Top Photo by leonardlow

José Picardo

José is Assistant Principal at Surbiton High School and a Fellow at Naace. He is interested in improving education and the way technology can be used to enhance and transform teaching and learning. José has been curating Box of Tricks since 2007 and holds a MA in ICT and Education.

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  • Gisele Amoros

    I’ve started asking students to use their mobile phones in class, although technically they are not allowed.
    The first time I’ve asked some yr 7 to video pairs of students practising a simple dialogue.
    They loved doing it and I noticed that when they were being filmed they unconsciously made an extra effort on pronunciation.
    I tried again with some yr 9 French and got a similar reaction. One student challenged me and asked what was the point of the exercice. I told him about the pronunciation, I also said he could show his parents, some others said they were going to put it on their facebook and I also said that if he didn’t like his performance, he could always press delete and start again.
    I ‘ve also asked students with broken hands/arms or some who had “forgotten” their prep diaries to use their phone to type or take a pic of the homework.
    A great tool to use in class!

  • Gisele Amoros

    I’ve started asking students to use their mobile phones in class, although technically they are not allowed.
    The first time I’ve asked some yr 7 to video pairs of students practising a simple dialogue.
    They loved doing it and I noticed that when they were being filmed they unconsciously made an extra effort on pronunciation.
    I tried again with some yr 9 French and got a similar reaction. One student challenged me and asked what was the point of the exercice. I told him about the pronunciation, I also said he could show his parents, some others said they were going to put it on their facebook and I also said that if he didn’t like his performance, he could always press delete and start again.
    I ‘ve also asked students with broken hands/arms or some who had “forgotten” their prep diaries to use their phone to type or take a pic of the homework.
    A great tool to use in class!

  • Guest

    I regularly allow those pupils who ask (they tend to be the older ones) to make a note of the homework on they mobile phones to do so. As Dominic mentions in the main body of the post, above, many of the mobile phones our pupils bring to class have a huge number of applications which we teachers would be terribly short sighted not to take advantage of.

    Just the other day, a sixth former (17 years old) brought his homework to class in his Blackberry. Here’s the proof! http://www.twitpic.com/p7tmn

  • http://www.boxoftricks.net José Picardo

    I regularly allow those pupils who ask (they tend to be the older ones) to make a note of the homework on they mobile phones to do so. As Dominic mentions in the main body of the post, above, many of the mobile phones our pupils bring to class have a huge number of applications which we teachers would be terribly short sighted not to take advantage of.

    Just the other day, a sixth former (17 years old) brought his homework to class in his Blackberry. Here’s the proof! http://www.twitpic.com/p7tmn

  • http://carlottinobello.blogspot.com/ Aline

    I have also started getting my students to use their phone to record their speaking assessment (in presence of an adult in our languages office) so that they can then bluetooth the recording to my laptop.
    Students love it!
    Aline, MFL teacher at NRA in Witham.

  • http://carlottinobello.blogspot.com Aline

    I have also started getting my students to use their phone to record their speaking assessment (in presence of an adult in our languages office) so that they can then bluetooth the recording to my laptop.
    Students love it!
    Aline, MFL teacher at NRA in Witham.

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  • Holly Bates

    So many schools in Europe have adopted the usage of cell phones and the technology has made learning a more pervasive and engaging process.

    for e.g- Mobl21 has explored the area of using technology to connect students and teachers better, and facilitate the transfer of content.

  • Holly Bates

    So many schools in Europe have adopted the usage of cell phones and the technology has made learning a more pervasive and engaging process.

    for e.g- Mobl21 has explored the area of using technology to connect students and teachers better, and facilitate the transfer of content.

  • Holly Bates

    Lot of countries have started allowing restricted usage of mobile devices in classroom.Check out – Mobl21- <a href="http://www.mobl21.com,” target=”_blank”>www.mobl21.com, which is used in many schools in US and does facilitate effective creation and sharing of content

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