Real life listening comprehension exercise – mlearning with a sat nav
One of my students, Federico, uses a car navigation ...
Compare this with flashcards that are out of context and do not help the learner to immediately
solve everyday tasks.

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Real life listening comprehension exercise – mlearning with a sat nav

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One of my students, Federico, uses a car navigation system to find his way around the streets of his own country in English. Over the last few weeks he has been using the sat nav in English to help him improve his foreign language skills. Sat navs are GPS controlled devices that read aloud navigational instructions to the driver. The device references satellites to track where the car is and so is able to give directions according to the car’s exact location. Some allow you to change the language and Federico has changed his to English even though he is using it in his native Italy. Interestingly, he is able to recall the exact phrases he had learned, such as “bear right” and “take the third exit at the roundabout”. Clearly this approach has worked well, so it is worth pondering on why using a sat nav system seems to help learn a foreign language.

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Real life listening comprehension exercise – mlearning with a sat nav

  1. 1. Real life listening comprehension exercise – mlearning with a sat nav One of my students, Federico, uses a car navigation system to find his way around the streets of his own country in English. Over the last few weeks he has been using the sat nav in English to help him improve his foreign language skills. Sat navs are GPS controlled devices that read aloud navigational instructions to the driver. The device references satellites to track where the car is and so is able to give directions according to the car’s exact location. Some allow you to change the language and Federico has changed his to English even though he is using it in his native Italy. Interestingly, he is able to recall the exact phrases he had learned, such as “bear right” and “take the third exit at the roundabout”. Clearly this approach has worked well, so it is worth pondering on why using a sat nav system seems to help learn a foreign language. Everyday activities – learning in context Sat navs help solve the everyday problem of how to get somewhere unknown, so it offers learners an opportunity to learn in context. This means that the new language is relevant and meaningful, so it will likely be motivational. Of course, the context is limited (just directions), but the (new) words and phrases are presented at an appropriate time. Responses and feedback The program requires the student to respond to the instructions and then gives feedback as to whether the response was correct (either the program continues with the next instruction or if the directions were not followed, then the program suggests corrective action). The device can do this because it tracks its own location with GPS (Global Positioning Satellites). This ‘language learning exercise’ requires responses from the learner that demonstrate comprehension and then it offers immediate feedback as to whether the response was correct. Requiring a response helps the learner stay focused on the listening comprehension task; while the instant feedback will increase motivation. Repetitive Learning The program is using repetitive language: it uses the same set phrases again and again within a given journey and then this is repeated again in subsequent journeys. Repetition is good for language learning, but it can become boring and reduce motivation. Yet in this program the repetition is probably less boring for two reasons… • the program assists the learner to complete an everyday task more efficiently • the repetition is varied according to the slightly different contexts (each journey being a little different)
  2. 2. Compare this with flashcards that are out of context and do not help the learner to immediately solve everyday tasks. Other opportunities The GPS system seems to satisfy several requirements of a good listening comprehension exercise: it is highly practical and relevant; it requires a response by the learner; it gives immediate feedback; it is highly repetitive and yet maintains the learner’s engagement. There are perhaps other devices or resources that also offer these inherent attributes… • Recipes are practical and relevant; repetitive yet interesting. They also require a response, but they do not offer such immediate feedback • Instruction manuals are similar to recipes, yet they offer faster feedback. They are also less frequently used and so the repetition is itself not repeated. • Self-service checkouts at supermarkets are practical, relevant, repetitive, interesting, require a response and offer immediate feedback. However, in my experience they can be tricky to operate regardless of language. Other similar devices can be found at airport check-in and as in-flight entertainment systems. • Multilingual websites also offer the learner the possibility to do online tasks in a foreign language: check the weather; read/watch the news; buy goods/services; find out information. These activities are probably practical, relevant, repetitive, and interesting. However they require little direct response and there is limited scope for immediate feedback. As our lives have more automatic guides to assist us complete everyday tasks, there may be increasing opportunities for real-life language practice, regardless of which country we are in. Much of mlearning focuses on programs and materials that offer learning on the go, yet all too often these are disconnected from the immediate context of the learner. Sat navs are an example of how mobile learning can offer us “micro-immersion programs” without even leaving our own country. http://www.avatarlanguages.com/blog/satnav/

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