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Language, learning and technology

  1. 1. Volume 15 Number 2June 2011Articles ColumnsComprehending News Videotexts: The Tribute to Irene ThompsonInfluence of the Visual Content Article PDFAbstract | Article PDF by Dorothy ChunJeremy Cross, Nanyang Technological p. 1Universitypp. 44–68 Emerging Technologies Mobile Apps for Language LearningDivergent Perceptions of Article PDFTellecollaborative Language Learning by Robert Godwin-JonesTasks: Task-as-Workplan vs. Task-as- pp. 2–11ProcessAbstract | Article PDF Action ResearchMelinda Dooly, Universitat Autònoma de Edited by Fernando NaiditchBarcelona Using Wordles to Teach Foreign Language Writingpp. 69–91 Article PDF by Melissa Baralt, Susan Pennestri, and MarieOnline Domains of Language Use: SelvandinSecond Language Learners’ pp. 12–22Experiences of Virtual Community andForeignness AnnouncementsAbstract | Article PDF News From Sponsoring OrganizationsSarah Pasfield-Neofitou, Monash Article PDFUniversity pp. 23–26pp. 92–108 Reviews Edited by Paige Ware Moodle 2.0 Article PDF Reviewed by Tsun-Ju Lin pp. 27–33 Teaching Literature and Language Online Ian Lancashire (Ed.) Article PDF Reviewed by David Malinowski pp. 34–38 Contact: Editors or Managing Editor Copyright © 2011 Language Learning & Technology, ISSN 1094-3501. Articles are copyrighted by their respective authors.
  2. 2. Teaching English Language Learners through Technology Tony Erben, Ruth Ban, and Martha Castañeda Article PDF Reviewed by Jesús García Laborda and Mary Frances Litzler pp. 39–41 Corpus-Based Contrastive Studies of English and Chinese Richard Xiao and Tony McEnery Article PDF Reviewed by Zhang Xiaojun pp. 42–43 Contact: Editors or Managing EditorCopyright © 2011 Language Learning & Technology, ISSN 1094-3501. Articles are copyrighted by their respective authors.
  3. 3. About Language Learning & TechnologyLanguage Learning & Technology is a refereed journal which began publication in July 1997. The journalseeks to disseminate research to foreign and second language educators in the US and around the worldon issues related to technology and language education. • Language Learning & Technology is sponsored and funded by the University of Hawaii National Foreign Language Resource Center (NFLRC) and the Michigan State University Center for Language Education and Research (CLEAR), and is co-sponsored by the Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL). • Language Learning & Technology is a fully refereed journal with an editorial board of scholars in the fields of second language acquisition and computer-assisted language learning. The focus of the publication is not technology per se, but rather issues related to language learning and language teaching, and how they are affected or enhanced by the use of technologies. • Language Learning & Technology is published exclusively on the World Wide Web. In this way, the journal seeks to (a) reach a broad audience in a timely manner, (b) provide a multimedia format which can more fully illustrate the technologies under discussion, and (c) provide hypermedia links to related background information. • Beginning with Volume 7, Number 1, Language Learning & Technology is indexed in the exclusive Institute for Scientific Informations (ISI) Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), ISI Alerting Services, Social Scisearch, and Current Contents/Social and Behavioral Sciences. • Language Learning & Technology is currently published three times per year (February, June, and October). Copyright © 2011 Language Learning & Technology, ISSN 1094-3501. Articles are copyrighted by their respective authors.
  4. 4. Sponsors, Board, and Editorial Staff Volume 15, Number 2SPONSORS University of Hawai‘i National Foreign Language Resource Center (NFLRC) Michigan State University Center for Language Education and Research (CLEAR)CO-SPONSOR Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL)ADVISORY AND EDITORIAL BOARDSAdvisory BoardSusan Gass Michigan State UniversityRichard Schmidt University of Hawai‘i at ManoaEditorial BoardSigrun Biesenbach-Lucas Georgetown UniversityKlaus Brandl University of WashingtonThierry Chanier Universite Blaise PascalTracey Derwing University of AlbertaRobert Godwin-Jones Virginia Commonwealth UniversityRegine Hampel The Open UniversityPhilip Hubbard Stanford UniversityClaire Kennedy Griffith University, BrisbaneMarkus Kötter University of MünsterMarie-Noelle Lamy The Open UniversityLina Lee University of New HampshireMeei-Ling Liaw National Taichung UniversityLara Lomicka University of South CarolinaJill Pellettieri Santa Clara UniversityBryan Smith Arizona State UniversityPatrick Snellings University of AmsterdamMaggie Sokolik University of California BerkeleySusana Sotillo Montclair State UniversityPaige Ware Southern Methodist UniversityMark Warschauer University of California, Irvine
  5. 5. Editorial StaffEditors Dorothy Chun University of CA, Santa Barbara Irene Thompson The George Washington University (Emerita)Associate Editors Trude Heift Simon Fraser University Carla Meskill State University of New York- AlbanyManaging Editors Daniel Jackson University of Hawai‘i at ManoaWeb Production Editor Carol Wilson-Duffy Michigan State UniversityBook & Multimedia Review Paige Ware Southern Methodist UniversityEditorEmerging Technologies Editor Robert Godwin-Jones Virginia Commonwealth UniversityCopy Editors Rebecca Estes University of California, Davis Daniel Jackson University of Hawai‘i at Manoa Dennis Koyama Kanda University of International Studies Copyright © 2011 Language Learning & Technology, ISSN 1094-3501.The contents of this publication were developed under a grant from the Department of Education (CFDA 84.229,P229A60012-96 and P229A6007). However, the contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Departmentof Education, and one should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.
  6. 6. Language Learning & Technology June 2011, Volume 15, Number 2 p. 1 TRIBUTE TO IRENE THOMPSON In July 1997, Mark Warschauer realized his vision of an open access journal for emerging research in the field of computer-assisted language learning as the founding Editor of Language Learning & Technology. A year later, in July 1998, Lucinda Hart- González joined as a Co-Editor (serving for two years in that position), and in January 1999, Irene Thompson came on board as the third Editor. Thirteen years and 37 issues later, Irene is stepping down at the end of August 2011. I have had the great privilege and pleasure to work with Irene for the last 12 years since 2000 and would like to offer a tribute to her for helping to bring LLT to the tremendous heights it has reached. In 1998, LLT had more than 1,000 readers worldwide. In 2010, there were 18,214 official subscribers, and the journal’s Website has an average of 1,513 visitors per day, with over 552,000 visitors during the year. Since 2003, LLT has been indexed in the exclusive Institute for Scientific Information’s (ISI) Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), ISI Alerting Services, Social SciSearch, and Current Contents/Social and Behavioral Sciences, and in 2009 was ranked 3rd in Linguistics journals (out of 93) and 3rd in Education journals (out of 139). ISI Journal Citation Reports® Ranking: Year Impact Factor 5 Year Linguistics Education 2009 2.53 3.575 3 out of 93 3 out of 139 2008 1.70 2.067 11 out of 68 9 out of 113 2007 1.22 No Data 13 out of 55 14 out of 105 A study by Smith and Lafford (2009) that appeared in The Modern Language Journal surveyed expert researchers in language education and technology. These experts ranked Language Learning & Technology highest in quality in a list of 19 academic journals. LLT was also ranked first in terms of these scholars’ preferences for publishing their own research and in having benefit for tenure/promotion. All of the above successes are due in large measure to Irene Thompson’s expertise, dedication, thoroughness, attention to detail and unwavering commitment to excellence. She has worked tirelessly on all aspects of the journal, from the layout and design of the Website to the copyediting of individual articles and reviews, from performing internal reviews of the 150+ yearly submissions during the last several years to working closely with authors to craft publishable articles. During the time of her editorship, the journal has received over 1,300 submissions! Although we are on opposite ends of the continent, working with Irene these past 12 years has been seamless, enjoyable, and immensely rewarding. My heartfelt gratitude to her professionally and personally, and my very best wishes for her well deserved retirement. Despite the sadness of Irene Thompson’s departure, the journal seems to have come full circle as we welcome Mark Warschauer back as Co-Editor. LLT will no doubt continue to thrive and benefit from Mark’s visionary leadership. Aloha and mahalo to Irene and welcome back, Mark! Sincerely, Dorothy Chun Editor-in-ChiefCopyright © 2011, ISSN 1094-3501 1
  7. 7. Language Learning & Technology June 2011, Volume 15, Number 2 pp. 2–11 EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES MOBILE APPS FOR LANGUAGE LEARNINGRobert Godwin-JonesVirginia Commonwealth UniversityIt wasn’t that long ago that the most exciting thing you could so with your new mobile phone was todownload a ringtone. Today, new iPhone or Android phone users face the quandary of which of thehundreds of thousands of apps (applications) they should choose. It seems that everyone from federalgovernment agencies to your local bakery has an app available. This phenomenon, not surprisingly hasled to tremendous interest among educators. Mobile learning (often “m-learning”) is in itself not new, butnew devices with enhanced capabilities have dramatically increased the interest level, including amonglanguage educators. The Apple iPad and other new tablet computers are adding to the mobile app frenzy.In this column we will explore the state of language learning apps, the devices they run on, and how theyare developed.THE CHANGING MOBILE ENVIRONMENTAs long as there have been portable audio-video and computing devices, there has been interest inexploring their use in language learning. As portable cassette players yielded to iPods and other MP3players, the new capabilities of the hardware led to enhanced use of audio-based learning such aslanguage podcasts with integrated transcripts. As PDA’s (personal digital assistants) became morewidespread with the advent of the Palm Pilot and its successors, language dictionaries, e-book grammars,and flashcard programs began to appear. Palm also was the producer of some of the first smartphones,which integrated PDA functions with new capabilities including SMS messaging, built-in cameras, andvoice recording. With a small internal grant, I was able in 2002 to purchase smartphones for each of theparticipants in a study abroad program in Austria. The picture taking, text messaging, and dual-languagedictionaries proved to be very useful, but the main point of having the phones—for the students to writetravel diaries—proved to be problematic as the text input system (T9 keyboard) was too slow and error-prone for writing longer texts efficiently. This kind of issue was not unusual at the time. Five years ago inLLT, George Chinnery (2006) surveyed the state of mobile language learning. He reported on projectsusing mobile phones for vocabulary practice, quiz delivery, live tutoring, and email lesson contentdelivery, and on other projects using PDA’s for file sharing, video playback and stylus text entry. In manyof these instances, Chinnery reported that technical problems arose due to the limitations inherent in thedevices, in particular small, low-resolution screens (problematic for image/video display or even goodtext reading), poor audio quality (both in phoning and audio playback), awkward text entry, limitedstorage/memory and slow Internet connectivity. Many of the language learning projects were seriouslyhampered by these issues. Moreover, the predominant operating systems (OS) for phones and PDA’s atthe time, namely Palm OS, Windows Mobile, and Nokia Symbian, offered limited features andexpandability. All did allow, however, apps to be loaded onto devices, but they were few in number andlimited in functionality. Web browsing was constrained and slow; Web navigation using a mini-joystickor a stylus was awkward and error-prone.A huge step up in functionality arrived with the Apple iPhone in 2007. It is not only the iPhone’s ownadvanced features which have proven to be a game-changer in the mobile area, but also the fact that itssuccess has led competitors to create other equally capable devices. With the iPhone, Android devices,and Windows Phone 7 products, what used to be phones with added-on computing capabilities havemorphed into mini-computers which can also make phone calls. These devices go a long ways towardssolving the issues arising from early efforts in mobile assisted language learning. Screens areconsiderably larger, with higher resolution and clarity, and capable—through more powerful processors—Copyright © 2011, ISSN 1094-3501 2
  8. 8. Robert Godwin-Jones Emerging Technologies: Mobile Apps for Language Learningof playing back high-resolution video smoothly. Almost all smartphones today feature a responsive touchscreen which makes Web navigation much easier. Text entry is enhanced through a relatively large virtualkeyboard or a full physical mini-keyboard. Many phones are capable not only of video capture, but ofvideo (and image) editing as well as of voice recognition. Most of the new generation of smartphoneshave faster 3G or 4G cellular connectivity along with even faster Wi-Fi. Built-in storage is greatlyenlarged, with flash memory having in recent years become cheaper, smaller, and higher capacity. Someof the functionality of current smartphones even surpasses in some ways what is available on laptops, asmany include GPS chips, accelerometers, compasses, high-resolution cameras, and proximity sensors.Most incorporate Bluetooth and USB connections as well. Clearly having such powerful devices availableanytime, anyplace provides tremendous opportunities for educational use. However, it is not just—oreven primarily—hardware enhancements of the iPhone generation devices that hold the most promise foruse in language learning. Equally important is the software and the new opportunities that arise frommobile application development.APPS ON THE RISEOne of the significant software enhancements of the iPhone when first released in 2007 was the muchgreater usability of its Web browser, Mobile Safari. Coupled with a larger, high-resolution screen, a morepowerful processor, more internal (RAM) memory, and faster Internet connectivity, Mobile Safari wasable for the first time on a device its size to access and display the “full” Web. Previous phone browsersused either text only browsing, server-based on the fly re-formatting (Opera Mini), or reliance on WAP(Wireless Application Protocol), a way to rewrite HTML for display on phones. Web browsing on aphone did not deliver the same Web experience as desktop browsers. Web pages on the iPhone, bycontrast, are not dumbed down in any way, but are displayed as they would appear in a normal Webbrowser on a desktop computer. The smaller screen size effects the readability of full-page display, butthe iPhone introduced touch actions such as double tap and two-finger zoom to allow smaller text to beread. Other smartphones have similar browsers. In fact, most are based on the WebKit rendering enginedeveloped by Apple for use in Safari. Apple has made Webkit an open source project. Another significantdevelopment with Mobile Safari was robust JavaScript support, the language that supplies much of theinteractivity on the Web. Also supported was CSS 2 (cascading style sheets), which not only is importantfor formatting Web pages but also plays a key role in structuring the page’s “document object model”(DOM), an essential element in being able to change dynamically and programmatically elements of apage. At the same time, Apple introduced extensions to HTML and CSS which enhance the Web displayon iPhones. As WebKit is used now across smartphone platforms, these tags are commonly supportedand, in fact, are making their way into the specifications of HTML 5, the new version of the Webformatting language, not yet finalized, but already largely supported in many browsers. A majorcomponent of current Web publishing is, however, not supported on iPhones or on other mobile Appledevices, Adobe’s Flash; Apple believes that HTML 5 will gradually replace the use of Flash. Thatremains to be seen.Given the enhanced capability of mobile Safari, Apple initially encouraged developers to addfunctionality to the iPhone by creating Web apps, that is, HTML-based programs which used JavaScriptand CSS to provide interactivity. Developers, however, were not satisfied with this approach, which didnot provide full access to the capabilities of the iPhone, and in 2008 Apple announced that it would allow3rd party native applications for the iPhone. Subsequently, a SDK (software development kit) wasreleased for development of iPhone apps, built into Apple’s programming environment, XCode. At thesame time Apple created a curated environment for distributing the new apps, the Apple App Store,integrated into the iTunes Store. The App Store has proven to be wildly successful, with some 400,000apps to date. Other smartphone OS’s have implemented similar systems, although in general without thestrict scrutiny apps submitted to the Apple store undergo. Google’s Android OS, in particular, has gainedsignificantly in the past year in both users and number of apps. There are predictions that the number ofLanguage Learning & Technology 3
  9. 9. Robert Godwin-Jones Emerging Technologies: Mobile Apps for Language LearningAndroid apps will soon surpass those for Apple devices.Among these iPhone and Android apps are a good number supporting language learning. Claire Siskinhas provided a nice list of apps for language learning, and others have listed and reviewed apps for alllanguages, or for specific languages such as Japanese, French, and ESL. Many of these apps are of similarkind to those available for some time on phones, including flashcard programs, dual languagedictionaries, and phrase books. Not all are of the highest quality. In some instances, newer hardware andsoftware have allowed for enhanced functionality. Phrase books, for instance, can now hold much morecontent, including video as well as audio, and integrate with online sites. Some travel guides such as theLonely Planet apps feature advanced features such as drag-and-drop trip planners, audio phrase books,and even augmented reality, which uses phone camera views to overlay local site information.Vocabulary development programs have become more sophisticated and powerful. One I have been usingfor studying Chinese is eStroke. Its primary purpose is to help in learning stroke order for writing Chinesecharacters, but it also includes an extensive dual-language dictionary, features excellent animations, andincludes personal library and quizzing functions. Another popular app for Chinese is Pleco, which startsout as a free app, but adds functionality through a large number of paid add-ons such as specializeddictionaries, enhanced handwriting recognition, and optical character recognition. ChinesePod has anicely designed app which offers a variety of tools to work with lesson podcasts and theirvocabulary/phrases. The app also automatically syncs the user’s learning status on the app with that onthe Web site and allows lesson content to be downloaded for off-line study, one of the benefits of appsover the live Web. Another nice feature new smartphones offer Chinese learners, and anyone else using anon-Latin writing system, is the ease with which one can switch the virtual keyboard’s text input system,making it possible on the iPhone, for example, to enter Chinese characters by drawing them with one’sfinger or switching to pinyin text entry with then the corresponding character equivalents displayed forselection.Flashcard programs have also become more powerful. A popular program of this type is Anki, a spacedrepetition vocabulary study program (discussed in the LLT 14/2 column). The mobile version offersessentially the same powerful functionality as the desktop version, including deck and individual cardediting, audio support, and customizable review options. It also syncs with the desktop and Web versions.The popular Quizlet flashcard system also offers a mobile app, which has an interesting auto-definefunction when adding new items, which allows the user to see/choose definitions that other Quizlet usershave entered for that term.’s app links to language discussion forums that referencethe term searched. Conjugation Nation offers apps in a variety of languages for drilling verb forms.Linking a mobile app to Web services or an online database is being used more and more in languagelearning apps, in particular in commercial products such as Rosetta Stone or Transparent Language’sByki, as well as in online services such as or hello-hello, all of which have mobile appswhich sync mobile and desktop versions. Complete language courses, such as Living Language forFrench, are now also being offered as apps. An interesting approach to leveraging the client-serverrelationship on mobile devices is the Cloudbank project described by Pemberton, Winter, and Fallahkhair(2009). It uses crowdsourcing to build a database of informal English language usage, featuring anAndroid app communicating with a database through Web services. It also uses RSS feeds to keep usersinformed of new content added.Cloudbank leverages not only the ability of a smartphone to exchange information with an onlinedatabase; it also makes use of a peer-to-peer network. In fact, with the rise of social networking, we areseeing more language learning apps that take advantage of this trend. The Byki app for example, allowsusers to search for use of terms within Twitter messages. The Micromandarin project uses the locationaware program Foursquare to provide contextually relevant content for language practice. The app usesGPS to determine a user’s location and supplies vocabulary information and practice appropriate to thatlocation: food and drink vocabulary, for instance, if the user is in a restaurant. The CLUE project makesLanguage Learning & Technology 4
  10. 10. Robert Godwin-Jones Emerging Technologies: Mobile Apps for Language Learningsimilar use of GPS to supply location appropriate content and adds another dimension through taggingobjects with RFID tags (radio frequency identification), whose information then can be retrieved on thesmartphone. Beaudin, Intille, Tapia, Rockinson and Morris (2007) describe a similar project forvocabulary learning, using objects in the home with stick-on sensors. It seems likely that we will see appdevelopment in the future take greater advantage of some of the hardware features of new smartphonesbeyond the GPS chip. The accelerometer, for example, used extensively in mobile game applications,could be used in language learning games as well.Claire Siskin’s list of apps for language learning includes a category called “repurposed apps,” whichdiscusses general purpose apps that could be used in language learning, including voice search, voiceemail, postcard creation, audio recording, and children’s games. Integrating audio capabilities adds acrucial component of language use and learning. A good many e-books are becoming available, especiallyfor the iPad, which combine text, images, and audio in an attractive way. Some also include games. Manyof these, such as the Town Musicians of Bremen, are designed for children, but clearly would be ofinterest for language learning. Google Translate for Android offers an interesting experimental featureusing voice. “Conversation mode” lets users translate an utterance into the target language, which is thenread aloud. One’s conversation partner can then speak in the target language and have in turn thatresponse be translated and read aloud. Another Android voice translation app is Talk to Me, which hasgotten positive reviews. While newer smartphones include voice recognition, including in some cases forlanguages other than English, this feature does not yet appear to have worked its way into apps.DEVELOPING FOR MOBILE DELIVERYIn order to take full advantage of the hardware and OS capabilities of a mobile device, developers need tocreate an app using an approach consistent with that device’s programming environment. For Apple iOSdevices (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad), that means using Objective-C and Apple’s XCode developers’ tool.However, such apps will not run on Android devices, for which apps are written in Java running on aversion of Linux. iOS apps are available exclusively from the Apple App Store (unless the iPhone is“jailbroken,” i.e., unlocked for open access), while Android apps are more widely available, from theofficial Android Market, Amazon’s Appstore for Android, Handango, and other repositories. As is thecase with iOS apps, Android apps are free or available for a price, usually under ten US dollars. Someapps are considerably more expensive—buying all the add-ons to Pleco costs US $149. Apps are usuallyavailable in English only, few are localized for other languages. Other smartphone environments(Blackberry, WebOS [Palm/HP], Windows Phone 7) use different programming environments, allmutually incompatible. All of the different smartphone software companies make development toolsavailable, which typically include a desktop phone simulator. Most are free, or available for a modestcost. Except for iOS development, which is Mac OS only, app development can be done on Windows orMacintosh machines, and, in some instances, on Linux.App development is currently progressing at a feverish pace, and app developers are in high demand.However, for language learning purposes, native app development may not be the best choice. Not onlyare the programming environments different, each also involves knowing or learning a programminglanguage such as Objective-C or Java. Moreover, there is little carryover from developing an app in oneenvironment to re-creating that app for a different platform. Obviously, the fundamental functionality anduser interface design could be the same, but the programming will be altogether different and done usingdifferent tools. For educational use, as things stand now, it would seem that one at the least would want tohave an iOS and Android version of an app, probably a Windows Phone 7 app as well, and possiblyWebOS or Blackberry versions, depending on one’s user base and the market rise and fall of the variouscompanies’ products. This could prove to be a time-consuming and expensive development process.An alternative to developing native apps is to create instead a Web app. This involves using more familiarand easier-to-learn HTML, JavaScript and CSS. All are scripting rather than programming languages,Language Learning & Technology 5
  11. 11. Robert Godwin-Jones Emerging Technologies: Mobile Apps for Language Learninghence do not involve compilation into byte-code. The only tool needed is a text editor. Web apps will runand perform similarly in most smartphone environments, particularly as all but Microsoft now useWebKit. The look and feel can be quite similar to built-in apps, particularly if one uses relatively newHTML/CSS tags such as the “viewport” meta tag and CSS “webkit-border” rules. Icons/shortcuts to theWeb app on the home screen allow it to be launched in a similar way to native apps. Distribution for Webapps is through a Web server, rather than from an app store. What does one sacrifice creating a Web apprather than “going native”? Execution speed is likely to be slower and the user interface not as slick.There will also be more limited access to the device hardware, including its camera, audio player or GPS.These considerations may or may not be of consequence, depending on the nature of the application. Theymay be outweighed by the advantage of creating one app which can be universally deployed. My secondyear German students have been using for the past year a simple flashcard Web app I created, which islinked both from the Blackboard course Web site and from an open, mobile-friendly link. This allows thestudents to use the app both from desktop browsers and mobile devices, something not doable with nativeiPhone or Android apps.Another possibility is to create a “hybrid app,” a Web app which is then ported through a tool such asPhoneGap to the native environment of the smartphone. This facilitates linking to some hardware featuresof the device. It also allows for possible distribution through one of the app stores. A number of Web appscreated with PhoneGap are available from the various app stories. Creating a Web app for mobiledistribution through PhoneGap or similar tools such as Appcelerator Titanium can be much easier throughusing templates such as those available from Mobile Boilerplate or by using a mobile-oriented JavaScriptlibrary. Among the latter is jQuery Mobile, an extension to the popular and free jQuery library. UsingjQuery Mobile makes it easy to create parts of a Web app such as navigation, form elements, and pagetransition effects without having to write the JavaScript oneself. It supports most smartphone platforms(but not yet Windows Phone 7) and features progressive enhancement, meaning that its advanced featuresdegrade gracefully if not supported in a given mobile browser, while maintaining across all browsers thesame essential content and functionality. If not supported, for example, page transitions such as fading,flipping or sliding will simply not appear, but the new page will still be displayed.Another kind of mixed environment approach that is getting wide usage is the creation of Web-basedcontent that automatically re-formats itself for display on a small screen. This approach uses a feature ofCSS 3 called CSS media queries, which is widely supported on both mobile and desktop browsers. Thisinvolves adding a tag to the HTML header to direct a Web browser to use a size appropriate CSS style, asin the following example: <link media=“only screen and (max-device-width: 480px)” href=“mobile.css” type=“text/css” rel=“stylesheet” />In this case the page formatting will be determined by the “mobile.css” style, rather than the main CSSlinked in the header of the page, if the device being used has a maximum width of 480 pixels. A similarprocess has been possible for some time to enable optimization of a print copy of a Web page. What isnew here is the ability to specify a screen width to be used in connection with a particular style. A mock-up of an online journal page from the Web design site “A List Apart” demonstrates this and displaysdifferently depending on screen width, with the pictures either displayed in 2 columns on a phone (480pixels wide or less), 4 columns on a typical monitor (480 to 600 pixels) or 6 columns on a widescreenmonitor (wider than 600 pixels). The navigation buttons also change location depending on the screensize, namely moving to the top for a small screen. While this approach has a number of devotees, othersadvocate creating separate HTML pages for mobile devices. It is a trade-off between more complex codewhich adjusts automatically to different screen size or simpler code which must be maintained and syncedin different file locations.One approach that many language developers have used in the past in creating Web-based interactivity isLanguage Learning & Technology 6
  12. 12. Robert Godwin-Jones Emerging Technologies: Mobile Apps for Language Learningproblematic in the mobile sphere, namely Flash. Traditionally, Flash has been used for video streaming,animation, and for general interactivity. Flash is not likely to ever be supported on iOS devices, but itdoes run on other mobile devices. Android 3.0 and some 2.x versions support Flash. However, Flashperformance on mobile devices is not as robust as it is on desktop platforms. It tends to run more slowlyand occasionally crashes the system on some devices, due mostly to memory issues. Adobe has beenworking on better performance on mobile devices, and it seems likely performance will improve in thenear future. However, if it’s possible to use HTML 5 rather than Flash—which may or may not bepossible—that is advisable for the widest possible compatibility.OUTLOOK: TABLETS ALSO ON THE RISEComplicating app development even more is the arrival of touchscreen tablets. The iPad, introduced in2010, has been a phenomenal success for Apple, with sales far exceeding most expectations and eclipsingsales of earlier tablet computers, which never caught on except in narrow niche markets. Apps developedfor the iPhone will also run on the iOS-based iPad but to take advantage of the larger screen need to bemodified, which may entail a revamping of the user interface. One of the first commercial languagelearning apps designed specially for the iPad was the heavily marketed hello-hello app, available forseveral different languages. Meanwhile, tablets from other manufacturers are becoming available, manyusing the Android OS. The Android tablets vary in sizes, most either 7 or 10 inches, with likely morevariation in future models. Given this scenario, it seems all the more advisable for developers to considercreating a Web app with a fluid grid that adjusts automatically to different environments. It looks likelythat tablets will be a popular product in the near future, so having language learning applications thatwork in that environment seems highly desirable. Of course, a special use case may make creation of anative app more appropriate, especially if the target audience has a marked predominance of oneplatform, or if hardware linkage is an important part of the project. It’s unfortunate that today in mobilesoftware development, we seem to have gone back to the days when developers had to make a choice thatexcluded a large part of their possible market, as in deciding between Mac-based HyperCard or Windowsonly Toolbook. The Web has been an environment which has brought peace to the platform religion warsbut we are starting to see a new war of words being waged between iOS and Android partisans.As recently as 2007, a comprehensive review of mobile assisted language learning by Agnes Kukukska-Hulme and Lesley Shield found that for the most part uses of mobile devices were pedestrian, uncreative,and repetitive and did not take advantage of the mobility, peer connectivity, or advanced communicationfeatures of mobile devices. Most activities were teacher-led and scheduled, not leveraging the anytime,anyplace mobile environment. Oral interactions and learner collaboration were infrequently used. Theproblem is less one of hardware/software shortcomings and more in developers’ conceptualization of howlanguage learning could be enhanced in new, innovative ways with the assistance of mobile devices. Thenew mobile computing environment ushered in by the arrival of the iPhone gives us even more capabilityof which to take advantage. It would be a shame to fall into only the same use patterns as in the past. In arecent post to his mobile ESL blog, David Read describes what he would like to see in a language app. Heenvisions a photo translation function that would make use of the built-in camera as a scanner to read in,recognize, and translate items from menus, posters, or other realia, similar to how that works now in theSnaPanda program (Android). He would also like to see new approaches to accessing language corporaon small screens as well as ways to look up and display items simultaneously from a variety of onlinedictionaries, with the added ability to add items from all these sources—scanning, look-up, corpora—to apersonal word bank. It would be interesting to see such functions combined as well with an intelligenttutoring system (ITS). A step in that direction is the TenseITS project (Cui & Bull, 2004) which featureda mobile ITS using context and location of the user to determine which verbs to use in drill exercises. ThePDAs used in the project were hampered by limited memory capacity; the new generation of mobiledevices could make mobile ITS a more doable proposition. Chen and Li (2010) describe a project whichcombines context/location awareness with a rudimentary kind of ITS, with content delivered based on aLanguage Learning & Technology 7
  13. 13. Robert Godwin-Jones Emerging Technologies: Mobile Apps for Language Learninguser’s profile/learning history and current location. In this case location was determined by nodes in awide-area network, but GPS could also be used. With the good connectivity now available on mobiledevices, adding a social dimension to location-aware learning apps would be beneficial, allowing users toshare context-specific learning experiences.It is not just the mobility, enhanced hardware, and better software of new mobile devices that shouldencourage new thinking. The devices in and of themselves encourage a new kind of relationship betweenuser and machine. The responsive touchscreen interface seems to create a more personal, even intimateconnection, becoming part of one’s personal identity. According to a recent report on creating mobileapps from Forrester Research, the emotional bond often created is something to keep in mind whendeveloping mobile apps. The devices are more personal also in the sense that they are individually highlycustomizable and small enough to be always within reach. It’s also the case that both smartphones andtablets tend to focus the attention more on one task at a time than is the case with regular computers.Although multi-tasking to one degree or another is available on these devices, the screen size and touchinterface tend to invite users to focus exclusively on the program running in the foreground. Foreducational uses, this may present a welcome opportunity to capture, at least for a short time, the fullattention of the learner. Desktop and laptop computers will continue to be used, but as mobile devicesproliferate, their use may change. Apple devices are still tied to using a computer for storage and syncing,but the predominant movement these days is towards over-the-air syncing and resources residing “in thecloud” rather than on a personal computer. With faster Internet connections, client-user interactionsthrough Ajax (JavaScript-based server interactions) or other means work faster and smoother, making itpossible to draw data more efficiently from online sources for smoother interactions in an ITS or otherprogram involving heavy data usage.As personal devices, smartphones are ideal for individualized informal learning. The user determineswhich apps to acquire and how to use them. As language educators, we should encourage and assist thelearner autonomy this enables and provide means for learners to combine formal and informal learning.Song and Fox (2008) describe a project which features an open-ended, student-oriented approach tovocabulary learning in which EFL students were provided access to and guidance on using a variety ofvocabulary building tools. The article describes the considerable variety of tools and approacheseventually chosen by the students. This kind of activity becomes even more powerful when coupled withthe ability for students to show or discuss their methods and findings with their peers. The photo bloggingproject described by Wong, Chin, Tan, and Liu (2010) involved students using iPhones to take photos toillustrate Chinese idioms being studied and to share their photos and comments with the class through awiki. Students were encouraged to take photos based on their daily lives using their immediatesurroundings. This use of the student’s actual environment improves upon similar projects that have usedan artificial space such as a lab (Stockwell, 2008) or a classroom (Liu, 2009). We know that learningbecomes more real and permanent when tied to learners’ lives outside the academic environment. Mobiledevices are a great way to achieve that goal. Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that we are far fromseeing universal ownership of smartphones—they are still too expensive for many budgets. Designingexclusively for smartphone usage will necessarily exclude many users. Smartphone penetration will likelygain worldwide in coming years, but not at the same pace everywhere. At the same time, phone and tabletmodels—both hardware and software—will evolve from their current state. Given how competitive andprofitable that market has become, the pace of innovation is likely to be rapid. As mobile devices becomeeven more powerful and versatile, we are likely to see more users make them their primary, perhaps theirsole computing devices. This is not a trend language educators can ignore.Language Learning & Technology 8
  14. 14. Robert Godwin-Jones Emerging Technologies: Mobile Apps for Language LearningREFERENCESBeaudin, J. S., Intille, S. S., Tapia, E. M., Rockinson, R., & Morris, M. E. (2007). Context-sensitivemicrolearning of foreign language vocabulary on a mobile device. In B. Schiele, A. K. Dey, H. Gellersen,B. de Ruyter, M. Tscheligi, R. Wichert, E. Aarts, & A. Buchmann. (Eds.), Ambient intelligence (pp. 55–72). (Springer Lecture Notes in Computer Science). Volume 4794/2007. Berlin: Springer.Chen, C-M., & Li, Y-L. (2010). Personalized context-aware ubiquitous learning system for supportingeffective English vocabulary learning. Interactive Learning Environments, 18(4), 341–364.Chinnery, G. M. (2006). Going to the MALL: Mobile assisted language learning. Language Learning &Technology, 10(1), 9–16. Retrieved from, Y., & Bull, S. (2005). Context and learner modelling for the mobile foreign language learner. System,33, 353–367.Kukulska-Hulme, A., & Shield, L. (2007). An overview of mobile assisted language learning: Can mobiledevices support collaborative practice in speaking and listening? Paper presented at EuroCALL 2007,Conference Virtual Strand, September, 2007., T.-Y. (2009). A context-aware ubiquitous learning environment for language listening and speaking.Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 25(6), 515–527.Pemberton, L., Winter, M., & Fallahkhair, S. (2009). A user created content approach to mobileknowledge sharing for advanced language learners. Proceedings of mLearn 2009, Orlando, Florida, 184–187.Song, Y., & Fox, R. (2008). Using PDA for undergraduate student incidental vocabulary testing.European Association for Computer Assisted Language Learning, 20(3), 290–314.Stockwell, G. (2008). Investigating learner preparedness for and usage patterns of mobile learning.ReCALL, 20(3), 253–270.Wong, L.-H., Chin, C.-K., Tan, C.-L., & Liu, M. (2010). Students’ personal and social meaning makingin a Chinese idiom mobile learning environment. Educational Technology & Society, 13(4), 15–26.RESOURCE LISTLanguage Learning and Mobile Apps• Language Learning Applications for Smartphones, or Small Can Be Beautiful – Clair Siskin’s list• Brief Review of Language Learning Apps – HRC Blog• Learnosity Blog : Mobile Applications for Language Learning• Move Over, Rosetta Stone: Mobile Language Apps Make Learning Fun• Mobile Application for Language Learning – MALL Research Project Report from the schools online initiative• Cool Apps for Language Learning• 50 iPhone Apps to Help You Learn a New Language• How I’m using my iPad to learn languagesLanguage Learning & Technology 9
  15. 15. Robert Godwin-Jones Emerging Technologies: Mobile Apps for Language Learning• Google Docs gets Android, iPhone editing in 44 languages• Mobile Language Learning: Learn Japanese on the Go• Mobile ESL: My perfect language learning mobile app• TOTALe Companion – For Rosetta Stone• Byki Mobile App• Quizlet – App• Conjugation Nation – Verb form app• app• CloudBank Project – Crowd-sourcing project with Android appApp Development• Mobile application development – Good introduction from Wikipedia• Mobile app development trends - what languages should you be learning? – Nice overview of different platforms• Mobile App Design Best Practices - Forrester Research – Comprehensive but expensive• What is Android? | Android Developers – Good starting point• iOS Development Center – Starting point from Apple for developing iPhone and iPad apps• BlackBerry Developer Zone• WebOS Developer Center• Introduction to Windows Phone 7 Development)• How To Port an iPhone Application to the iPad• Green’s Opinion: From iPhone to iPad: Creating a Universal ApplicationWeb Apps and Mobile-friendly Web Publishing• Mobile Web Best Practices 1.0 – From the W3• ADL Mobile - Mobile Learning Research• Designing Web Sites for Phone Browsers – Microsoft• New to Mobile? Welcome to the One Web Debate• Mobile Application Development: Web vs. Native - ACM Queue• Responsive Web Design or Separate Mobile Site? Eh. It Depends• A List Apart: Articles: Responsive Web Design• A Flexible Grid• jQTouch - jQuery plugin for mobile Web development• Sencha - Desktop and Mobile JavaScript Frameworks• PhoneGap• Baker Ebook FrameworkLanguage Learning & Technology 10
  16. 16. Robert Godwin-Jones Emerging Technologies: Mobile Apps for Language Learning• jQuery Mobile | jQuery Mobile• Nuance Mobile Developer Program: Dragon Mobile SDK• Need a Mobile Web App Template? Mobile Boilerplate 1.0 is Here• CSS3 Media Queries• css3-mediaqueries-js – Library to use css media queries in supported browsersLanguage Learning & Technology 11
  17. 17. Language Learning & Technology June 2011, Volume 15, Number 2 pp. 12–22 ACTION RESEARCH USING WORDLES TO TEACH FOREIGN LANGUAGE WRITINGMelissa Baralt, Florida International UniversitySusan Pennestri, Georgetown UniversityMarie Selvandin, Georgetown University This paper introduces readers to Wordle, a data visualization tool, and describes how word clouds, or wordles generated by Wordle, were used in an action research project designed to facilitate the teaching of foreign language (FL) writing within a dual coding theoretical framework. Over the course of one semester, students in a third-semester university FL Spanish course submitted drafts of their compositions electronically to create wordles (word clouds). The wordles were then used as visual tools to discuss students writing development, writing strategies, and lexical acquisition. Word frequency counts along with wordles also contributed to student-centered discussions about writing. The paper concludes with a discussion of ways in which instructors can incorporate wordles into their FL classrooms to facilitate the teaching of L2 writing, as well as use them as tools to promote vocabulary development and communicative task-based teaching and learning.USING WORDLES TO TEACH FOREIGN LANGUAGE WRITINGData visualization tools have recently generated increased interest in multiple disciplines due to theirability to present and summarize data in ways that appeal to different types of learners. One type of datavisualization, word clouds, assists in accentuating the main points of text-based information. In a matterof a few seconds, a word cloud highlights the main ideas by presenting words used in a text in the shapeof a cloud, with the biggest words being those that were most frequently employed in the text. Whilenumerous ideas exist for the potential of word clouds, there is relatively little research on whether andhow they can facilitate the teaching and learning of vocabulary. No study exists to date that explores theirpotential in the FL classroom. In examining one type of data visualization tool for word clouds, Wordle,the present paper aims to fill this gap by carrying out an action research project during which “wordles”were incorporated into a Spanish foreign language (FL) classroom. The project had two goals: to facilitatethe teaching of writing in class and to improve students’ writing in the FL.The first part of the paper that reports on this project contains a brief discussion of data visualization as alearning tool by specifically examining word clouds and how they have been used in previous research.The second part describes an action research project conducted by the authors using Wordle. The finalsection discusses the outcome of the project and provides suggestions for incorporating word clouds intothe FL classroom. Throughout the paper, the term wordle is used to refer to a word cloud in general, whilethe capitalized term Wordle refers to the specific application tool created by Jonathan Feinberg (2009).Data VisualizationData visualization refers to the use of tools for representing data in the form of charts, maps, tag clouds,animation, or any graphical means that make content easier to understand (Barret, 2010). It serves as away to communicate information clearly and effectively through visual representation, sometimes evenvia animated multimedia (see Friendly, 2008, for an excellent review of the history of data visualizationthrough the centuries). Over the past few years, the use of data visualizations has increased rapidly inacademia and in other contexts. These tools can help facilitate the understanding of complex events orphenomena because they present data in a multimodal way, incorporating visual, phonological, textual,and even animated input. For example, data visualization was used to report on the 2010 midtermelections in the United States (see CNN© video at © 2011, ISSN 1094-3501 12
  18. 18. Melissa Baralt, Susan Pennestri, and Marie Selvandin Action Research: Using WordlesWordleIt is only recently that data visualization has become more accessible to the general public. Using widelyavailable Web 2.0 tools, users can now easily create data visualizations without needing to know thetechnology used to create word cloud output. Creating data visualizations is now as easy as pastinginformation into a browser’s window and choosing an output style, thanks to the many Websites thatprovide these tools for free to the public.Word clouds are one of the most popular forms of data visualization. A word cloud, also called text cloudor tag cloud, is a visual representation of word frequency. The size of each word in a cloud depends onhow many times it appears throughout the text. As the frequency of the word increases, the size of theword in the cloud becomes larger as well. The importance of a word is thus visualized in the cloudaccording to its font size. A number of free word cloud tools are available, such as Tagxedo, Tagul,Wordsift, and Tag Crowd. One of the most popular word cloud generators is Wordle, created by IBMdeveloper Jonathan Feinberg. Feinberg also built Word-Cloud Generator (WCG), the tool found in thewidely-known interactive data visualization site called Many Eyes ( by Feinberg as a “toy,” Wordle is used by many for its simplicity and its visually appealingresults. Users simply need to copy text from any source and paste it into Wordle, which performsstatistical analyses of the text and organizes it by word frequency. Users can then change the font, shapeand color scheme of the resulting image, remove any unwanted words, and view the total word frequencycounts in a separate chart. Figure 1 below shows a word cloud created by the authors using Wordle.Figure 1. Example word cloud from (created by the authors).Word Clouds in ResearchOnly a small number of studies (Cidell, 2010; McNaught & Lam, 2010; Pendergast, 2010; Ramsden &Bate, 2008) has conducted research with word clouds, all within the last four years. Pendergast (2010)used “tag clouds” to perform an analysis of the most commonly used terms from documents published bythe American Association for Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS), creating what she referred to as a“folksonomy” of texts (p. 292-3). She showed that the clouds revealed a visual hierarchy of text, andconcluded by suggesting that tag clouds be included on Websites next to the published documents.Pendergast argued that doing so would appeal to multiple generations, including the “millennials,” who,according to her, are multiliterate and tend to prefer visual over textual information (p. 297).Language Learning & Technology 13
  19. 19. Melissa Baralt, Susan Pennestri, and Marie Selvandin Action Research: Using WordlesCidell (2010) suggested that “content clouds” may serve as a form of exploratory qualitative data analysis(p. 516). She carried out a study with geographical data from public meeting transcripts and newspaperarticles about “green” buildings. Using both visual content clouds and word frequency reports to carry outtwo case studies, Cidell showed visually how the same environmental issues are understood in differentways across the country. McNaught and Lam (2010) also supported the use of word clouds, arguing thatthey can be used as supplementary research tools for the triangulation of data (i.e., using multiplemethods and data sources to obtain a more reliable picture of the phenomenon being explored). Theycarried out a study in which transcripts from two student focus groups, Chinese secondary school sciencestudents and second year law students, were analyzed. The researchers used Wordle to assess students’blog entries about their educational experiences as well as the use of ebooks. They were able todemonstrate the vast differences among student experiences, as well as to qualitatively corroborate theirquantitative findings about students’ perception of the value of both the focus groups and ebooks. Finally,Ramsden and Bate (2008) discussed the potential for word clouds to contribute to the field of education.They described how word clouds can be used to examine teacher responses to a survey about podcastingin educational contexts. The authors concluded by suggesting other uses for wordles (e.g., gatheringinformal feedback during large group instruction), as well as considerations teachers should take intoaccount when creating word clouds, for example, the selection of software, data preparation, and how tointerpret a word cloud.Word Clouds in EducationTo our knowledge, there is currently no research on the implementation of word clouds in the classroom.Rather, there are resources and suggestions for teachers on how to use word clouds. For example, Mehta(2007) created a Website that uses word clouds to analyze the speeches of U.S. presidents called U.S.Presidential Speeches Tag Clouds. Users can drag a timeline cursor to compare the frequency and trendsof word use by all of the presidents. Another example is the Website, which has asection entirely dedicated to materials for teachers, such as the data visualization graph of wealth andhealth of nations. Not surprisingly, most literature on ways that teachers might incorporate word clouds isavailable on the Internet, typically in the form of blogs. One of the most detailed blogs with ideas forteachers is the Website The Clever Sheep, maintained by a Canadian high school teacher Rodd Lucierwho proposes a number of educational uses for word clouds (Lucier, 2008).Dual Coding HypothesisThe theoretical framework for using wordles in the classroom is based on the dual coding hypothesis(Paivio, 1986). Engaging in class-based discussion about the meaning of words while simultaneouslybeing able to look at them in a wordle, thus presenting learners with visual and auditory inputconcurrently, may help them to process and to retain vocabulary more effectively. According to Paivio’sDual Coding Theory, as well as to recent empirical findings about the way in which human brains processinformation (see Sousa, 2006, for a review), both verbal and nonverbal knowledge contribute to lexicalrepresentation of words in the mind. In reviewing what brain research tells us about second languagelearning, Genesee (2000) explains that “as connections are formed among adjacent neurons to formcircuits, connections also begin to form with neurons in other regions of the brain that are associated withvisual, tactile, and even olfactory information related to the sounds of words” (p. 2). Using multimedia-based input in class such as wordles should facilitate learners’ ability to make meaningful connectionsamong written, oral, and visual information, since the dual coding theory postulates that the mindprocesses and encodes information in multiple ways. There is clearly a need, then, for studies that showwhether and if so, how, word clouds can enhance teaching and learning. The present study sought toaddress this need by carrying out an action research project exploring the potential of word clouds in a FLclassroom context.Language Learning & Technology 14
  20. 20. Melissa Baralt, Susan Pennestri, and Marie Selvandin Action Research: Using WordlesTHE PRESENT STUDYTo investigate the potential of word clouds in a FL classroom, an action research project was designedusing Wordle to enhance essay-writing skills in an intermediate-level FL Spanish class. The steps used inthe present project were adapted from Mackey and Gass’s (2005) explanation of action research,specifically to (a) incorporate “wordles” in the FL classroom to facilitate the teaching of writing inSpanish and (b) improve students’ FL writing. To follow is a description of the classroom context andeach step taken during the research project.Classroom ContextWordles were incorporated into an Intermediate-level Spanish FL class at a private research university. Ina class of 18 students, which met for 50 minutes three times a week, students were assignedcommunicative tasks to perform with their peers in order to practice newly learned vocabulary andgrammar. Students were also regularly assessed in speaking, reading, listening and writing.For the writing component, students wrote four compositions throughout the semester, each with twodrafts. Some days of instruction were designated for in-class writing workshops that served as anopportunity for discussing the writing process and writing strategies, and also for receiving instructor andpeer feedback. The writing workshops were conducted as a class and were typically divided into twoparts. During the first half of the workshop (25 minutes), the instructor discussed with students how towrite in different genres such as narration, argumentation, and presentation in Spanish. Spanish transitionwords, such as paragraph markers, were presented, as well as writing techniques and formats that studentscould employ in their essays. The instructor also dedicated time to review common intermediate-levelerrors in writing. During the second half of the workshop (25 minutes), students worked in pairs todevelop and discuss their essay topics, work on outlines, and ask questions. The writing workshops wereconducted in Spanish.All four composition topics covered cultural themes introduced in the course. Students were expected tobe able to: present information formally with an introduction, supporting paragraphs, and a conclusion;use accurate grammar; and incorporate the instructor’s feedback into their writing. These expectationswere clearly communicated to the students.Action Research Stage 1: Identification of the Problem and HypothesisThe instructor observed two main issues in students’ writing, which served as the foci of the currentproject: (1) continuous repetition of errors in students’ essays, and (2) students’ reliance on highfrequency words, without trying to incorporate new ones into their writing. In other words, students rarelyemployed new vocabulary, relying instead on the same words. Below are some examples from studentcompositions. Pienso que estereotipos no están basados en la realidad por muchos razones. Primero, un estereotipo que pienso que no es cierto es el estereotipo que atletas son brutos y no son inteligentes. Un otro estereotipo es que personas gordas son gordas porque no hacen ejercicio; este también es falso por muchas razones. Muchas personas piensan que ... “I think that stereotypes are not based on reality for many reasons. First, a stereotype that I think is not certain is the stereotype that athletes are dumb and are not intelligent. One other stereotype is that fat people are fat because they do not do exercise; this is also false for many reasons. Many people think that …”Note that the verb pensar “to think” is used three times; the adjective mucho “many” three times, and theun otro “one other” is used instead of otro “another,” a common error. Despite class discussions about theuse of new lexical items, students often relied on words with which they were most comfortable. Theinstructor therefore wanted to develop a more student-centered way to promote more lexical creativityLanguage Learning & Technology 15
  21. 21. Melissa Baralt, Susan Pennestri, and Marie Selvandin Action Research: Using Wordlesand grammatical accuracy. In consultation with the instructional technology staff, the instructor decidedto use wordles as a teaching tool during the writing workshops. Because wordles are used for visualizingthe text and could be based on the students’ own compositions, the instructor hypothesized that their usecould have a positive effect on student writing.Action Research Stage 2: Data CollectionData collection for this action research project came from three sources. First, at each draft stage, theinstructor used Wordle to create one whole-class-based wordle as well as a word frequency count from allof the students’ compositions. Second, after each writing workshop, the instructor wrote a teachingreflection about the class discussion and how students responded to the wordles. Lastly, at the end of thesemester, the instructor asked students about their own perceptions of the use of Wordle for the writingprocess.For the second composition, students were asked to submit their first draft to the instructor electronically.Using Wordle, the instructor then created a single wordle based on all the students’ compositions. Duringthe next class meeting and writing workshop, the instructor showed the resulting wordle to the class.Figure 2. Students’ first wordle for draft one of composition two.Figure 3. Students’ wordle for the second draft of composition two.Language Learning & Technology 16
  22. 22. Melissa Baralt, Susan Pennestri, and Marie Selvandin Action Research: Using WordlesAs can be seen in the wordle in Figure 2, the largest words were those most frequently used in thestudents’ writing. Using the wordle, the students and the instructor engaged in a dialogue aboutvocabulary items they had used, the different tenses, and even themes that their peers had written about.The class discussion during the workshop was therefore focused entirely on the students’ own use ofwords. By examining the wordle in Figure 2 as a visual representation of the students’ own writing, theinstructor addressed issues in writing in a way that was based primarily on the students’ writtenproduction instead of the teacher’s feedback. Together, the class then came up with the goal of havingstudents use five new vocabulary words in their second composition draft. For the next writing workshop,students again sent their second draft electronically to the instructor. Figure 3 shows the wordle from thesecond draft of the second composition.This wordle showed that more words were used in the second draft than in the first one. To provideadditional evidence, the instructor used the “show word counts” tool on the Wordle Website to create acorpus count of every word used in all 18 student compositions (Figure 4). While the total number ofword types that students as a class used in their first draft was 1,134, the second draft word count was 1,258. Furthermore, in addition to showing the total number of word types used by the students, theinstructor showed them the frequency of each word. For example, in the first draft, the high frequencyword mucho “many” was used 48 times across students’ compositions. In the second draft, it was usedonly 21 times, meaning that students were using different adjectives in their writing. Both tools alsoshowed students how many tenses they had produced, the different uses of adjectives, and how theyshowed grammatical agreement. The word frequency list also allowed the class to discuss topics inorthography: in scrolling down the word count list, a student pointed out that observaciones“observations” was listed twice. A closer examination revealed that across all 18 compositions, there weretwo uses of observaciones and two uses of observaciónes with an accent mark on the penultimatesyllable. Students then inquired about which was correct, noticing their equal frequency. The instructorinvited students to brainstorm about syllabification rules in groups. As a class, the students concluded thatthe single form observación has an accent, but maybe the plural form does not need one. This allowed theinstructor to briefly discuss accentuation in a way that was based on the students’ own writing. Toconclude workshop 2, students established further goals for their next composition: a continuedincorporation of new vocabulary words as well as the use of tenses besides only the present and past. Onestudent also reminded the class to think about accent marks when an extra syllable is added to the word.Goals, therefore, were student-generated for the next composition and writing workshop.In the third composition, students’ writing continued to improve in the areas of grammatical complexity,accuracy, and use of new vocabulary, as indicated by an improvement in the average composition gradecalculated with a rubric in these three areas, among others. Anecdotally, students reported to the instructorthat they enjoyed the Wordle tool and looked forward to seeing the class wordle getting bigger with eachsuccessive draft. By the third composition, the whole-class wordle contained 1,476 word types. Somestudents used new vocabulary that had specifically come up during the class discussions of their writing.There was also a notable decrease in the use of commonly used words, such as mucho “many,” pienso que“I think that,” and personas “persons”. The wordle helped to discourage use of common words, becausestudents knew that they would show up in the class wordles. The end goal of seeing the wordle growpromoted the incorporation of new lexical items in their FL writing.Language Learning & Technology 17
  23. 23. Melissa Baralt, Susan Pennestri, and Marie Selvandin Action Research: Using WordlesFigure 4. Excerpt from word frequency count (produced by the same Wordle tool).One incident that took place during a conversation about the students’ third composition was particularlyrevealing. The name Bob was present in the second wordle (composition 3, draft 2). During the followingwriting workshop, the instructor asked students to identify any words they did not recognize in thewordle, and then invited the authors who had used those words to define them in class. A student raisedhis hand and asked “¿Quién es Bob?” (“Who is Bob?”). After much laughter from the class, the studentwho had written about Bob explained that Bob was his uncle who had dressed up as a clown one year forhis birthday. Notably, this excerpt had an error in it: the student’s first draft contained the erroneous formvestió, “dressed,” which the instructor corrected to se vistió (irregular spelling and reflexive form). Thestudent, while telling the class about Bob, produced the correct form (se vistió) and went on to explainthat this irregular verb had been corrected in his first composition, but that he had remembered the correctform. The humorous conversation about Bob turned into a form-focused incident during which thestudent himself drew attention to a linguistic form in front of the whole class. Thus, a student’sobservation resulted in another student’s consideration of grammatical accuracy, while sharing ameaningful story. This moment in class illustrated how opportunities to talk about the writing process,grammar, and feedback, namely, the instructor’s corrections of students’ compositions, were facilitated bythe use of wordles.By the fourth composition, the wordle for students’ compositions had grown by another 50 words, as canbe seen in Figure 5. Not only were students using more vocabulary in their writing, they also wereemploying and trying out new grammatical tenses, as demonstrated by both the wordle and corpus wordfrequency count.Language Learning & Technology 18
  24. 24. Melissa Baralt, Susan Pennestri, and Marie Selvandin Action Research: Using WordlesFigure 5. Students’ wordle for final composition.For example, the first wordle and word frequency count showed that students employed only the presentand past tense; however, by the fourth composition, they were using the present, past, future, perfecttenses, and even the present subjunctive. Though the addition of these tenses and moods was a function ofnew grammar learned during the semester, the wordles helped to show how much students had learnedand how much they could express in writing by the end of the semester. It is important to point out thatthe very mechanisms of their writing served as the focal points of their own class discussions about thewriting process.Action Research Stage 3: Qualitative Evaluation of the Effects of WordleAt the end of the semester, the instructor asked students to share their thoughts about the use of Wordleand whether or not they thought it was an effective tool to learn about writing in Spanish. Students wereasked to write their opinions anonymously. 100% of the students thought that the use of Wordle wasworthwhile and that it was a valuable tool to help them improve their writing. Many credited the wordleswith making the writing workshops much more enjoyable and interesting than traditional ones. Studentsalso made reference to the visual component of wordles. Below are some student comments: “I really like the wordles. They were fun and different. They also were interesting in that they showed me what everyone else was writing about. I got to know my classmates a little better.” “The wordles definitely helped me in my writing. I especially liked that [the instructor] actually showed us how many more words we were writing with, how our grammar was improving … for me, having something visual just helps me more.” “Using wordles for me was better because it made the writing workshop days more interesting. I normally hate writing workshop days! The visual of what everyone was writing about made it more interesting.” “… What I liked was that it was a way of making art from our class’ compositions. It made me more interested in writing, and I can honestly say I learned some words by studying the wordles.”These student comments corroborated perceptions expressed in the teaching reflection journal kept by theinstructor. After the first writing workshop, the instructor reflected on how she felt and how studentsseemed to respond: Today I felt like I really was able to get them interested in writing in Spanish! They seemed to come alive when I showed them the wordle and explained that it was made up of every one of their compositions. For the first time I felt like I wasn’t up there in front of the class lecturing aboutLanguage Learning & Technology 19
  25. 25. Melissa Baralt, Susan Pennestri, and Marie Selvandin Action Research: Using Wordles writing. Writing workshops are sometimes difficult for me in that sense, because it’s hard to make the very topic of writing be student-centered and communicative. They seemed so interested and so much more willing to talk about their compositions, and I was able to use the wordle to get them to initiate the discussion. This definitely started by talking about the vocabulary they used, asking which words they recognized and which they didn’t. I think the word frequency count will help too—I’m going to try that next time and see how they react to it. The best part of today though, was the fact that the students came up with goals to improve the next round of compositions. This made me ecstatic, because I wasn’t telling them what to do—they thought of the ideas themselves.By the end of the semester, the instructor wrote the following as a conclusion to the action researchproject: … I feel like I have finally found something to really enhance my teaching about writing. The wordles were an excellent way to help me teach more effectively this semester, because I felt that I was connecting with my students better. As I’ve taught this class before, I definitely feel that wordles assisted in obtaining better writing on behalf of the students too. They were fun, were visual, and were created from the students’ work … they helped me to motivate my students about writing.The instructor’s impression of the use of wordles to assist in teaching about FL writing was very similarto that of the students: effective, novel, and enjoyable. Not only did the class discussions and workshopdays become more student-centered, students also improved in their writing by incorporating newvocabulary into their essays, using grammar more accurately, and incorporating more content in theirwriting. Both the instructor and students had positive perceptions of wordles, confirming the instructor’shypothesis that wordles could be an effective tool for improving student writing.DISCUSSIONThis action research project was designed to address problems in students’ FL writing as identified by theinstructor, as well as to improve instruction in writing workshops. The incorporation of wordles into theclassroom as an instructional tool resulted in the students using more varied vocabulary, more verb tenses,and more accurate grammar in their writing. In addition, feedback on students’ perceptions of wordle as atool to help them improve their writing was very positive. From the instructor’s perspective, wordlesenhanced the teaching of writing workshops and made them more effective and student-centered.Other Uses of Word Clouds in the FL ClassroomThe action research project described above demonstrated how word clouds can be used to facilitate theteaching of FL writing. However, they can certainly be employed as well for other languages, purposes,and for different types of tasks in FL instruction. For example, the Wordle application also supportsCyrillic, Devanagari, Hebrew, Arabic, and Greek scripts, and therefore can be used for many otherforeign languages. To conclude, we would like to propose further suggestions for FL instructors such as:Vocabulary DevelopmentInstructors can create wordles from a text and have students learn and be tested on new words. Forexample, instructors can create a word cloud from a news article and use it to start an in-classconversation about current events. Students can use the word cloud visual to ask questions about wordsthey might not know and/or as a means of input when discussing current events.Pre-communicative Task PhaseInstructors can use word clouds during the pre-task phase of communicative tasks for which students arerequired to use new vocabulary. Students can be given a few minutes to study the word cloud and askquestions; they can then continue to refer to it as a visual means of vocabulary assistance while engagingin conversational interaction.Language Learning & Technology 20
  26. 26. Melissa Baralt, Susan Pennestri, and Marie Selvandin Action Research: Using WordlesPre-reading ActivityStudents can engage in discussions using key words produced in a word cloud and make predictionsabout the content before reading the actual text.BrainstormingStudents can use word clouds to generate ideas for new writing topics and/or themes.ReflectionStudents can use Wordle as a reflective tool for writing projects. For example, a wordle can be created foreach essay that a class writes; wordles could be displayed as art forms illustrating the different genres andtopics the class wrote about.AssessmentInstructors can create word clouds from students’ individual essays and use them for self-assessmentpurposes. Similar to the present study, the resulting word clouds as well as word frequency counts canshow students’ individual progress towards improving their vocabulary. The source of text could derivefrom blog posts as opposed to essays; this could be especially relevant for online classes.Define Main IdeasStudents can use Wordle to make a word cloud out of a speech or newspaper article in the target languageto discover and highlight the main ideas.CONCLUSION, LIMITATIONS, AND SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER RESEARCHIn this action research project, wordles helped the instructor to foster more student-centered discussion ofwriting in class. In addition, they helped students to improve their writing. This study also aimed tocontribute to the body of literature on emerging technology, in this case, wordles as data visualizationtools.A limitation of this study is its possible lack of generalizability. Findings in action research projects aretypically relevant to the specific class under investigation, its students, and its own unique characteristics.While the use of wordles was successful in the current project, it may yield different results in otherclassrooms, contexts, and even languages. In addition, any instructor who wants to use Wordle must havea Java-enabled Web browser. If the in-class computer does not have java applets, the instructor may needto take a screen shot of the wordle before class. Finally, the algorithm used by Wordle automaticallyeliminates “common words” unless the instructor turns off this option. It is possible that “commonwords” are treated differently across languages.While this study is classroom-specific, our goal is to share the results of the project with other FLinstructors so that they too can consider the implementation of word clouds as well as other forms of datavisualization tools in their classrooms. Further empirical studies, action research projects, and evenclassroom tasks are needed so that we learn more about how data visualization tools afford opportunitiesfor teaching and learning in a variety of contexts and languages.ABOUT THE AUTHORSMelissa Baralt is an Assistant Professor of Spanish Applied Linguistics at Florida International Universityin Miami, Florida. She does research in second language acquisition, bilingualism, and task-basedlanguage learning that involves technology.E-mail: mbaralt@fiu.eduLanguage Learning & Technology 21
  27. 27. Melissa Baralt, Susan Pennestri, and Marie Selvandin Action Research: Using WordlesSusan Pennestri is an Instructional Technologist at the Center for New Designs in Learning andScholarship (CNDLS) at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. She works with faculty across alldisciplines to enhance instruction through the use of technology in ways that are pedagogicallyappropriate.E-mail: sqp@georgetown.eduMarie Selvanadin is a Web Application Developer at the Center for New Designs in Learning andScholarship (CNDLS) at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. She designs and develops Webapplications that meet the pedagogical needs of faculty members, as well as research on new Webapplications.E-mail: mks49@georgetown.eduREFERENCESBarret, T. (2010). Forty-five interesting ways* to use Wordle in the classroom [Slideshare slides].Retrieved from, J. (2010). Content clouds as exploratory qualitative data analysis. AREA, 42, 514–23.Educause (2009). 7 things you should know about…Data Visualization II. Retrieved from, J. (2009). Wordle. Retrieved from, M. (2008). A brief history of data visualization. In C.-H. Chen, W. K. Härdle, & A. Unwin(Eds.), Handbook of computational statistics: Data visualization (pp. 15–56). New York: Springer.Genesee, F. (2000). Brain research: Implications for second language learning. Eric Digest, EDO-FL-00012, 1–2. Retrieved from, R. (2008). Top 20 uses for Wordle. Retrieved from, A., & Gass, S. M. (2005). Second language research: Methodology and design. Mahwah, NJ:Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Mehta, C. (2007). US Presidential Speeches Tag Cloud. Retrieved from, C., & Lam, P. (2010). Using Wordle as a supplementary research tool. The Qualitative Report,15(3), 630–643. Retrieved from, A. (1986). Mental representation: A dual-coding approach. New York: Cambridge UniversityPress.Pendergast, D. (2010). Connecting with Millennials: Using tag clouds to build a folksonomy from keyhome economics documents. Family & Consumer Sciences Research Journal, 38, 289–302.Ramsden, A., & Bate, A. (2008). Using word clouds in teaching and learning. Retrieved from, D. A. (2006). How the brain learns. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Language Learning & Technology 22
  28. 28. Language Learning & Technology June 2011, Volume 15, Number 2 pp. 23–26 NEWS FROM SPONSORING ORGANIZATIONSSponsorsUniversity of Hawai‘i National Foreign Language Resource Center (NFLRC)Michigan State University Center for Language Education and Research (CLEAR)Co-SponsorCenter for Applied Linguistics (CAL)University of Hawai‘i National Foreign Language ResourceCenter (NFLRC)The University of Hawai‘i National Foreign Language Resource Center engages in research and materialsdevelopment projects and conducts workshops and conferences for language professionals among itsmany activities.PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENTOur 2011 Summer Institute on Online Learning Communities for Less Commonly TaughtLanguages will bring together faculty from participating institutions to build language-specific onlinecafés. Participants will structure thematic café content rubrics, participate in training sessions on research-based pedagogical best practices for facilitating online learning communities, and practice technical skillsneeded to host cafés on the BRIX courseware system and to deploy tag cloud technology, skills that willenable them to fashion online learning communities to achieve a variety of specific purposes.The Chinese, Korean, and Russian Flagship Cafés will combine Flagship students at domestic sites andstudy abroad sites, allowing second-year students to act as mentors for first-year students preparing fortheir upcoming international experience, further improving their language and networking skills. TheInternational Teacher Development Café for Samoan Educators will facilitate the sharing of ideas,research, and materials among teachers across the Pacific in the US, Samoa, and New Zealand. TheJapanese for International Business Café will serve as a virtual support group and networking venue forMBA students conducting their overseas internships throughout Japan. Each café will serve as a modelfor developing similar cafés in the future.Interested in finding out more about online cafés or creating your own? Visit our Online Cafés resourceWebsite.STAY IN TOUCH WITH SOCIAL MEDIADid you know that the NFLRC has its own Facebook page? It’s one of the best ways to hear about thelatest news, publications, conferences, workshops, and resources we offer. Just click on the “Like” buttonto become a fan. For those who prefer getting up-to-the-minute “tweets,” you can follow us on ourTwitter page. Finally, NFLRC has its own YouTube channel with a growing collection of free languagelearning and teaching videos for your perusal. Subscribe today!Language Learning & Technology 23
  29. 29. News from Our Sponsoring OrganizationsNEW NFLRC PUBLICATIONS‘O Fāiā Fa‘atūmua o Sāmoa mai Tala o le Vavau by ‘Aumua Mata‘itusi Simanu More so than most other Polynesian languages, the Samoan language is highly stratified. The common spoken form of Samoan used among friends and peers, for example, would be inappropriate for public speaking at both traditional and non-traditional gatherings. At these kinds of events, Gagana Fa‘aaloalo (Respect Language) and Gagana Fa‘afailāuga (Chiefly Language/Oratory) are used. Both of these speech registers interweave into the language references to Samoan history, genealogies, and, more recently, the Christian bible. The first book in this series, ‘O si Manu a Ali‘i, was written primarily to provide linguistic background for these registers. This second book, ‘O Fāiā Fa‘atūmua o Sāmoa mai Tala o le Vavau, provides the core knowledge necessary to understand thehigh level of interplay in Samoan oratory between language and history.Check out our many other publications.OUR ONLINE JOURNALS SOLICIT SUBMISSIONS Language Learning & Technology is a refereed online journal, jointly sponsored by the University of Hawai‘i NFLRC and the Michigan State University Center for Language Education and Research (CLEAR). LLT focuses on issues related to technology and language education. For more information on submission guidelines, visit the LLT submissions page. Language Documentation & Conservation is a fully refereed, open-access journal sponsored by NFLRC and published exclusively in electronic form by the University of Hawai‘i Press. LD&C publishes papers on all topics related to language documentation and conservation. For more information on submission guidelines, visit the LD&C submissions page. Reading in a Foreign Language is a refereed online journal, jointly sponsored by the University of Hawai‘i NFLRC and the Department of Second Language Studies. RFL serves as an excellent source for the latest developments in the field, both theoretical and pedagogic, including improving standards for foreign language reading. For more information onsubmission guidelines, visit the RFL submissions page.Michigan State University Center for Language Educationand Research (CLEAR)CLEAR’s mission is to promote the teaching and learning of foreign languages in the United States.Projects focus on materials development, professional development training, and foreign languageresearch.PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENTFour professional development workshops are slated for July 2011. The application deadline is June 1, sohurry to choose your courses: • Rich Internet Applications for Language Learning: Introductory Techniques • Adding Variety to Reading and Vocabulary Lessons • Project-Based Learning in the Language Classroom • Using Video to Promote Language Development in the ClassroomLanguage Learning & Technology 24
  30. 30. News from Our Sponsoring OrganizationsDetailed information on all workshops can be found on our Web site.NEW PRODUCTWe have recently released our new Introductory Business Chinese CD-ROM. The software is intendedmainly for use by those who have little or no knowledge of the Chinese language but who, for anynumber of different reasons, wish to learn more about business and economics in the Chineseenvironment.MATERIALS DEVELOPMENTCLEAR is developing several new products during our fifth funding cycle. Check our Web site forupdates on new products and services. Some of our upcoming projects include: • Professional development webinars on diverse topics • Online videos for language teaching techniques • Online listening and speaking tests for LCTLs • Applications for language learning on mobile devicesCONFERENCESCLEAR exhibits at local and national conferences year-round. We hope to see you at ACTFL, CALICO,MIWLA, Central States, and other conferences.NEWSLETTERCLEAR News is a free bi-yearly publication covering FL teaching techniques, research, and materials.Download PDFs of back issues and subscribe at Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL)The Center for Applied Linguistics is a private, nonprofit organization that promotes and improves theteaching and learning of languages, identifies and solves problems related to language and culture, andserves as a resource for information about language and culture. CAL carries out a wide range ofactivities in the fields of English as a second language, foreign languages, cultural education, andlinguistics.Featured Resources: • Language Policy Research Network (LPREN) CAL is pleased to host the Language Policy Research Network (LPREN), created in 2006 by the Research Networks committee of the Association Internationale de Linguistique Appliquée, (International Association of Applied Linguistics). Visit the LPREN Web site to learn more or to join the e-mail discussion group. • CAL News CAL News is our electronic newsletter created to provide periodic updates about our projects and research as well as information about new publications, online resources, products, and services of interest to our readers. Visit our Web site to sign up.Language Learning & Technology 25