by Shaun Wilden
With my teenage students clamouring to use their mobile devices (mainly their smartphones) in class, and with more and more articles in the ELT press suggesting that we should be embracing our students’ phones as an extra resource, rather than banning them from our lessons or forcing the students to drop them into a box at the classroom door on entering, I decided to take the plunge and experiment with a few mobile learning ideas. To help me, I chose Shaun Wilden’s book Mobile Learning, and I was very glad that I did.
What a treasure trove of practical and imaginative ideas it turned out to be! Almost every page has at least one activity to try out, some as many as five or six. A small icon of a hand with the words ‘Try this’ next to the task title makes the activities easy to find, and there are also helpful ‘Getting it right’ tint boxes to help teachers set an activity up most effectively, avoid potential pitfalls, and navigate such things as data protection laws, etc. Also very useful are the ‘Why this works’ boxes, which give a brief and clear rationale for the activities, outlining the benefits and anchoring them in sound pedagogy.
Divided into three parts (‘Implementing mobile devices’, ‘Taking the first steps’ and ‘Mobile devices: projects and beyond’), the book moves from assistance with the basics – help in getting started and understanding the essential functions of mobile devices and apps – to far more sophisticated project ideas, including digital storytelling and augmented reality, something I had heard about but never fully understood until I read the author’s clear explanation. The section on virtual reality was, perhaps, a step too far for me – I really can’t see myself equipping my students with Google Cardboard headsets, or the even more sophisticated alternatives, so that they can enter different and seemingly solitary worlds where they interact with images rather than with each other – but at least now I understand what everyone is talking about, and I dare say, in due course and in the right circumstances, it might even be something that I would be prepared to consider for the future.
For now, though, I can’t wait to try out more of the ‘here and now reality’ activities in the book with my students, who, for the first time in my teaching career, seem to regard me as being somewhat ‘cool’ – perhaps not in comparison with other teachers, who have taken to technological gadgetry much more swiftly, but certainly in comparison with my former self. Gone are the days when my students roll their eyes at my apparent inability to understand the simplest of technological tools, and I think I can honestly say that their motivation and general enthusiasm for English has increased markedly.
So thank you, Shaun Wilden, not only for providing a wealth of activities to keep my students happy and engaged in learning and practising English, but for rescuing me from the Dark Ages!
Ernest Dickinson London, UK