Библиографическое описание:

Васляева М. Ю. The tendency of MALL development in Kazakhstan [Текст] // Педагогическое мастерство: материалы VI междунар. науч. конф. (г. Москва, июнь 2015 г.). — М.: Буки-Веди, 2015. — С. 199-204.

The paper examines the world experience of mobile devices application in personal and professional lives of learners. The use of mobile phones for English language learning by Kazakhstani EFL learners is considered. The study revealed some specific uses of mobile devices, a selection of which is reported in this paper. The paper links the findings to further debates about the changing relationship between learners and educational institutions, and the role of mobile phones in learning English.

Key words: MALL, m-learning, mobile device, technology-supported learning, mobility, spontaneous learning.



Widespread of technology affects the process of teaching and learning foreign languages. Moreover, increasing availability of mobile phones and other portable and wireless devices have been changing the landscape of technology-supported learning. A number of efforts were undertaken by scholars to understand how mobile technologies relate to traditional and innovative ways of teaching and learning languages, showing the applicability of mobile learning through different tasks and software.

We made an effort to reflect on what mobile learning has to offer and to consider how languages are learnt among Kazakhstani EFL learners.   

Beside self education, everyday opportunities to access learning resources on mobile devices have increased. When you book a holiday to foreign country or flight, you need a phrasebook to download to your mobile phone or handheld device. Another example, when someone wish to improve or advance his knowledge of a language, it is possible, using Internet, find downloadable resources or use mobile application. In fact, there is uncertainty of cost and usability that stand before in the way of such learning and teaching.

To start with, we note that there is no agreement among researchers about one thing: defining exactly what 'mobile learning' stand for (Kulkuska-Hulme, 2009; Traxler, 2009). The concept of mobility is problematic itself, within definition of mobile learning. On the one hand, one understand 'mobile learning' as mobility of learners - an ability to learn anywhere, at any time they want by using handheld devices. Other researchers understand it as mobility of devices themselves, that is important too. We think both of the aspects are important, because mobile learning can take place in both classroom and also in self education.

Furthermore, Pegrum (2014) provides a helpful way of differentiating these interrelated aspects of mobile learning. He suggests that the use of mobile devices in education belongs to one of the three categories with an accent on devices / learners / context:

-        when the devices are mobile;

-        when learners are mobile;

-        when the learning experience itself is mobile.

The first category assumes the mobility of a device - typical for 'connected classrooms' as Pegrum describes it. It is a classroom, where students use their devices to access the internet, searching for educational resources, etc. In this case, students work within the walls of a classroom, so they are not physically mobile. The second category - when learners are mobile, describes the situation where students may study by themselves while they are on move (learning vocabulary via mobile applications, for example). The last category is when learning experience is mobile - assumes the scenario when learners use their devices in a real-world contexts to access information needed at the moment, or to create a multimedia records of their learning wherever they be at the moment.

As for learning languages m-learning (or Mobile-assisted language learning) is a relatively new field, especially in Kazakhstan, within CALL (Computer-assisted language learning) and e-learning, so there is little research available.     

Actually, MALL has too much in common with CALL. In addition, like CALL, in general, there is limit theoretical framework for MALL against which to evaluate its efficacy that lead to confusion array (Egbert & Petrie, 2005).

So, Shield & Kukulska-Hulme (2008) in overview they have emphasised that MALL differs from CALL in its use of personal, portable devices that provide new ways of learning, making  accent on continuity or spontaneity of access and interaction within different contexts of use. In this context MALL seems to belong to students than it does to teachers, that shift focus on learner-led than teacher-led. In particular, mobile technology promote learning at the point of need and fit in their mobile lifestyles.

Besides, the main reasons, which make valuable mobile devices are its size and weight as well as input and output capabilities such as keypad vs. touchpad and screen size and audio functions.

In relation to foreign languages learning, mobile learning seems relevant in number of principles. These principles include providing time for exploration of mobile technologies, blending mobile learning and traditional language learning, using mobile learning both individually and collaboratively, and also employing learners' own mobile phones (Herrington et al., 2009). However, these affordances are accompanied by limitations. While mobile learning allows anytime/anywhere access, learning experience may be limited by mobile device screen size or deceiving environments in which they are used (Reinders & Hubbard, 2013).

It is also necessary to point out, that the devices most Kazakhstani EFL learners use are hardly relevant. Today, every learner, who is involved in mobile learning comes to understanding that everything matters which device he use. First, even learner have more than one device he faces the problems of short battery life and reliability. Moreover, particular mobile devices have been created for specific activity as, for example, work-related device or for leisure.


To understand how learners' devices might be integrated we decided to look trough world experience. In general, the majority of MALL activities appear to make use of mobile phones. However, some researchers divide studies between those that are content-based (development of activities and learning materials) and those that are concentrated on design issues related to developing learning materials and activities for mobile devices.

Designing communicative activities for mobile learning hold to keep in mind four types of MALL suggested by Pegrum (2014). Each type focused primarily on one of the areas:

-        content MALL: for example, self-study content such as reading e-books, or listening to podcasts;

-        tutorial MALL: such as games/quizzes, vocabulary flashcard apps, pronunciation/repetition apps;

-        creation MALL: tasks including creation of text, audio/video, images;

-        communication MALL: for example, sharing of created digital artifacts via mobile devices, locally/internationally via networked groups.

What is clear, the guidance and feedback of a teacher should be provided. In addition, Hockly & Dudeney (2014) propose to take into account six key parameters for communicative activities design using mobile devices in the classroom:

-        hardware (device affordances including features and connectivity capabilities);

-        mobility (of learners, devices and learning experience);

-        technological complexity (learners' technological competence);

-        linguistic / communicative competence;

-        content, tutorial, creation and communication MALL;

-        educational / learning context (learning styles and learner's expectations).

What is more, the integration of mobile learning into a course book-driven approach is considered to be teacher-led learning. On the other hand, encouraging learners to communicate with each other via mobile phones is considered as learner-led learning.

Receiving messages outside the classroom / class hours is the simplest example of vocabulary learning via mobile phones (Andrews, 2003; Levy & Kennedy, 2005) or quizzes and surveys (Levy & Kennedy, 2005; McNicol, 2005). Using mobile phone for vocabulary learning look like completing vocabulary activities. The intelligent system creates a profile of a learner and then delivers activities according to the area they find most difficult. Mobile-based email is used in Japan to promote learning vocabulary (Thornton &Houser, 2005). Japanese students also use their mobile phones to access web-based video clips explaining English idioms. Podcasting and mobile blogging are also not difficult to understand and this technology engage student in learning English.

Although, mobile phones were designed to allow oral interaction, there is an exception, which is found in a study at Stanford University (Tomorrow's Professor Listserv, 2002) in learning and teaching Irish as a Second Language (ISL), where learners used their mobile phones to take part in automatic voice-controlled grammar and vocabulary quizzes. Even though it was network coverage at any time and from any location, this activity was abandoned because of the problems with voice recognition software.

Here we have noticed that m-learning in more formal language learning contexts concentrates our attention on delivery of activity types such as quizzes and vocabulary items, that should be relevant for students' needs. Considering less formal language learning represented by design issues approach, which suggests learners to control their own learning.

A rare example of learner-led mobile language learning is mentioned by Song & Fox (2008) who investigated how learners of English were using a mobile device in self-education, especially to improve their vocabulary. This study shows how the mobile phone helped them communicate with each other in identifying word meanings. Another example, where students had leading role, when they were proposed the design of a mobile, game based, digital revision space which is learner-centered, self-directed and based around a virtual community (Michelsen, 2008).

Pocket Eijiro is a web-based Japanese system for English language learning receives more than 100,000 hits per a day. This system was designed for access via WAP-enabled mobile phones.

Extending the idea of using web-enabled mobile phones, Pemberton and Fallahkhair (2005) and Fallahkhair et al. (2007) described the development of a cross-platform approach using mobile phones and interactive television for informal language learning. While, mobile phones offer a variety of personal activities and learning on move, they are less powerful for learning authentic content. Contrary, television provides rich multimedia presentation of authentic and immersive content. Such programs as news, soap operas, sitcoms and documentaries have a great potential to enhance language learners' experience.

Furthermore, only few activities were created for supporting learner collaboration or communication. So, Dias (2002a, 2002b) suggest learner-learner interaction using expensive mobile devices. Learners had to find information and shared it with peers with an aim to build understanding of a real-world problem. Lan et al's study (2007) inspired learners to support the idea in developing their skills in reading and listening to each other using their mobile phones, but it does not seem to facilitate synchronous interaction of any other sort, either through text or voice. The chat sessions carried by Samuels (2003) allow learners to communicate with each other in text, but not voice. There is no evident structure in the chats, so they were not created to help with knowledge co-construction. It seems that mobility and portability not to be fully exploited in design of MALL activities, even though it is precisely these affordances that justify using mobile devices at all.

Many researchers try to define the effective use of mobile devices in learning languages when the members are separated by distance. Petersen & Divitini (2005) bring together mobility of a person with the ways in which mobile devices can be used to empower language learners. They suggest, that language learner visit target culture, a year abroad, as an example, use mobile technologies to collect and share the experiences in that culture with language learners at home. In other words, they create the content either to satisfy the co-learners' request for specific information or to share the material that seems to them relevant to the needs of community of learners.

In the study reported by Lan et al. (2007) students read aloud to each other via Skype and received feedback in the form of mistakes in pronunciation, indicated on screen be peer helpers and a summative assessment. This activity support interaction and collaboration within a formal context.

Such activities like Twitter, Facebook and My Space are popular beside language learners. For example, social networks allow group of students or friends to meet, post messages, share pictures, and generally interact online. Note, that most of the interaction takes place in written form. Learners use English instead of their mother tongue to practice writing skills. More advanced form of using mobile phone for writing tasks is keeping blog. This requires mobile device and Internet access. Learners use text messaging and camera features to add messages and post pictures to their personal blogs. This task is great for personal experiences, places, visited and people met, but it is also useful for collecting information and report it.     

Anyway, in formal contexts, learners require to partly paid for their studies in order to motivate them use mobile devices to support language learning, while learners in informal context less concerned on the cost, accessing learning materials at their own convenience and to suit their needs. Another factors as the relative costs of  using mobile phone networks in different geographical places or from different providers must play a role here, but the cost requires careful exploration and further research by those working in MALL.  

Statement of the problem   

Mobile devices have become integrated with daily lives and since the devices are a significant part of a daily life they will be used for accessing information and learning, even if informally.

We are interested in engagement of mobile devices in learning languages, particularly in relation to spontaneous learning. To find out how Kazakhstani EFL learners use mobile phones to support their language learning (or even do they know how MALL may support their language learning), we took a questionnaire.

As far as, m-learning in Kazakhstan is not used enough, participants throw the light on some of the questions and ways in which mobile devices can be used in language learning.

There are 200 participants (EFL learners) who took part in a questionnaire. MALL questionnaire consists of two parts: part A containing personal information (age, gender, major, job), and part B containing the usage of mobile devices in learning English as a second language. So, part B contained qualitative questions formulated on familiarity and the use of different types of mobile devices to learn English as a foreign language. The first question asks for differentiating MALL (Mobile-Assisted Language Learning). More than a half of the respondents believe that mobile learning is a learner mobility - convenience to study anytime and everywhere, other part of respondents associate MALL with the application of mobile devices for self-education and small amount of respondents assume spontaneous learning wherever you are at the moment (bus, car, airplane etc.) (See Figure 1).  

Fig. 1. Differentiation of MALL by EFL Kazakhstani learners


The second question looks for language skills, which are practiced by respondents. This question was provided with a list of language skills and components, such as: listening, speaking, reading, writing, vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation (See Figure 2).

Fig. 2. Language skills and components involved in m-learning


Third question was related to advantages of MALL in language learning respondents are provided with some space to describe their opinion. The most popular answers are accessibility (anytime and anywhere), portability, free downloadable learning materials, spontaneous learning (no guidance of a teacher).

Next question aimed to know how many applications / software respondents know and use in their language learning (they are provided with some space to describe their opinion). The most common answers are: Lingua Leo, Busuu, Quizlet, Learn English words free, English Dictionary, English Conversation practice, T&L.

The questionnaire followed by interview was aimed at eliciting how mobile-enabled language learning change the process of learning languages.


The study has delivered interesting results into emerging practice of mobile phones, which we can serve as a tool to facilitate learning languages in formal and informal contexts. Evidently, mobile devices support spontaneous learning. There are also numerous reported benefits, particularly for learning English vocabulary, writing SMS, communication via chat, and it seems that aspects of social interaction can benefit, such as the ability to share information across social network technologies (Facebook, WhatsApp etc.). Our research confirms the popularity of SMS for vocabulary learning and reporting on the daily activities, playing games using apps. Using mobile device for social networking in English and playing games, like learning vocabulary, or crossword puzzles, which involve a focus on language are also popular among EFL Kazakhstani learners.

Our survey shows that mobile devices are enabling users to create resources for learning purposes, write blogs to keep on touch with friends, take photos and videos, making and taking notes.  

Nevertheless, mobile applications are fashionable among EFL Kazakhstani learners they are not necessarily cheap and it is important for teachers / institution to keep in mind if they are planning to develop apps they have to understand how students percieve and use their mobile phones. Our findings indicate that apps should be built on the existing preferences of students for social communication, listening to the audio, learning vocabulary.


In conclusion we point out, that having multimedia online in mobile phones is not new, but how to deliver information effectively for spontaneous independent learning or to support pedagogical approach that is not teacher-led requires further investigation.

So, the aim of this paper were to reflect on what mobile learning has to offer and to consider how languages are learnt among Kazakhstani EFL learners. The idea is to move beyond a superficial understanding of mobile learning, which does not give sufficient consideration to how mobility, accompanied by digital, location-aware technologies can change learning. Having studied the examples, we find out some benefits and applicability of mobile devices to language learning. What makes mobile learning so intriguing is its movement between indoors and outdoors, across formal and informal settings, allowing learners choose an appropriate way. Mobile learning often takes place out of the classroom, beyond the reach of a teacher.

Our study has considered the use of mobile devices among students and the next research step is to examine the specific applications that students use for learning English. How, where and when do they use these applications? In what way these applications contribute to students' overall learning?

Consequently, there is a number of directions for further research, such as identifying what is the best learnt in the classroom, what should be learnt outside and the ways in which connections between these settings will be made, that also provide useful information for teachers and educational institutions.




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