Mobile phones help teach English better, HCM City university study finds


Dr Nguyen Ngoc Vu, dean of English department at the HCM City University of Education, speaks at Viet Nam-USA Society English Centers (VUS)’ annual Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages conference. — Photo Courtersy of VUS

HCM CITY (VNS) — Mobile-assisted language learning is helping the English department at the HCM City University of Education improve its students’ proficiency, Dr Nguyen Ngoc Vu, the department’s dean, said.

Speaking at the Viet Nam-USA Society English Centers (VUS)’ annual Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages conference on Friday, he said the increased availability and falling cost of mobile devices in recent years see many students come to language classrooms with smart phones or iPads.

But many use them to listen to music, watch films or access social media instead of for learning, possibly because they have not had the opportunity to use them for learning, he said.

In 2011 he and his colleagues took the existing e-learning system on desk computers and redesigned it for use on mobiles, he said.

The mobile devices are now used to receive text/multimedia messages from teachers with course content and administrative information about courses, schedules, tests, and assignments; look up online dictionaries; take photos of notes; and record lectures to listen to later, he said.

Students using smart phones can also join discussion forums, watch tutorial movies, provide feedback, submit assignments online, and download study materials, he said.

Mobile-assisted language learning is now part of the curriculum at his department, he said.

A study of the efficiency of mobile-assisted learning in which 132 students aged 20 to 22 were rated last year showed their level of proficiency to be upper intermediate, he said.

Most students are ready for mobile learning, which gives them a choice of learning materials, schedules and styles and prepares them for the 21st century work environment, he added.

The challenges facing mobile learning, Vu told Viet Nam News, include slow internet connection and the fact that reading too much on a laptop or mobile device is tiring.

To get over the former problem, the university has helped by providing the department a dedicated server, he said.

It also poses difficulties for students and teaches with poor computer skills, he said, stating an obvious problem.

The conference, which this year had the theme “Celebrating Diversity in English Language Teaching in Asia,” attracted nearly 2,000 foreign and local English teachers and managers.

It discussed current teaching practices and issues in Việt Nam and other Asian countries to explore various ways of making English language teaching more interesting and effective.

Stephen Thomas, VUS’s academic advisor, said making teaching more interesting, productive and creative is crucial to facilitating students’ English language learning process.

Deputy Minister of Education and Training Phạm Mạnh Hung said his ministry wants to have close co-operation with the private sector in English language teaching to speed up the implementation of the National Project for Foreign Language Development 2020 and achieve comprehensive and fundamental reform of education.

English centres are encouraged to expand and diversify co-operation with countries having the languages needed by Vietnamese students, he added. — VNS


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