SMS as a learning tool: an experimental study

Mar Gutiérrez-Colón, Pere Gallardo Torrano, M. Elisa Grova

Abstract

The aim of this experimental study was to find out the potential of using mobile phones in teaching English as a foreign language, specifically the use of SMS as a support tool in the EFL class. The research questions formulated were: (1) Is using SMS messages via a mobile phone an effective tool in terms of motivation and engagement? (2) What type of mini-lessons do subjects think are better to be sent via SMS in terms of effectiveness, engagement, and usefulness for their learning purposes? (3) What is the appropriate timing for the activities to be sent? (4) Did students who participated in the project perform better than the control group? This experimental study lasted two academic years. As this was a preliminary study of the viability of the SMS methodology, it was conducted with a small group of students (n=13) from the English Degree at the University Rovira i Virgili (Tarragona, Spain). During the first year we designed various types of activities and sent them though a period of 15 weeks. The aim of this first part was to answer the research questions 1 to 3. The second year, a new set of exercises was created. This time, the aim was to gather data to be able to answer the fourth research question. Both qualitative data (from the first year) and quantitative data (from the second year) were analysed. We can conclude that the subjects have found this experience engaging. The subjects preferred receiving short, direct exercises which could be answered immediately. They preferred receiving the SMS in the afternoon or evening and the results show that this methodology enhances the retrieval of memorized English language rules. The results of this study were presented at the EuroCALL 2011 conference in Nottingham and are the result of a research project funded by the Institut de Ciències de l'Educació (Universitat Rovira i Virgili).


Keywords

e-Learning; m-Learning; SMS; distance learning; new language teaching methodology

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