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Users’ familiar situational contexts facilitate the practice of EFL in elementary schools with mobile devices

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It is beneficial for students to experience situational learning, especially for English as a foreign language (EFL) learning. Providing more listening and speaking opportunities could help EFL students with English learning. Our research proposes a listening and speaking practice system employing personal digital assistants (PDAs) for situated learning using contexts with which students would be familiar. The proposed system attempts to help participating EFL students by presenting learning contexts in familiar situations, such as during lunch at school. The results show that the proposed system and designed activities provided EFL elementary school students with listening and speaking practice opportunities in basic vocabulary and simple sentences with the support of familiar, situational learning. In the experiment, the experimental group learned multimedia-based learning materials about food materials at lunch with PDAs. In contrast, the control group learned via paper-based learning materials in class without real contextual support. After the experiment, findings reveal that the experimental group significantly outperformed the control group in learning achievement. By providing recommended sample voices recorded by peers, students in the experimental group could repeatedly listen to the recordings in familiar situations, thus obtaining more opportunities to practice and interact with peers later. The other significant finding is that the number of peers used to practice speaking English in daily contexts, defined as practice diversity, was significantly correlated to learning improvement. That is, when students practiced speaking English with an increased number of peers, in familiar contexts, their English skills improved. After interviews with students, an interesting phenomenon was identified; students in the experimental group extended their learning from school to home. Furthermore, students’ learning was not only a deliberate event or situation – learning also took place spontaneously in their daily lives. Therefore, the proposed system and activities can help EFL students, particularly novices, listen to and speak English in familiar situational contexts.
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Keywords: familiar context; mobile learning; peer interaction; practice diversity

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Graduate Institute of Network Learning Technology, National Central University, Jhongli, Taiwan

Publication date: 2013-04-01

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