EUROCALL 2014

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How Quizlet has Transformed the Mindset of 400 Students in a Blended Learning Test-Based Course in Japan

The technology of recent times has shaped the students that we teach. Learners of today seem to be surrounded by, and constantly immersed in technology. Tapscott refers to the young of today as the `Net Generation’ (1999). Prensky claims that today`s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach, (2001) and that ‘Digital Natives’ learn in ways that were never previously possible (2010). Instant access to information, in the form of high speed internet, Wi-Fi and more recently the introduction of smart-phone technology means that information and learning through such sources is more viable now than ever before. Such developments in technology can be seen to have considerable implications for education, in relation to the growing need to prepare young people for a life saturated by technology and rapid change.

The relatively recent introduction of smartphone technology has seen exponential growth over the years. In Japan, overall smartphone ownership is still relatively low at 48% of all cellular handheld devices. However, ownership in the younger generation stands at close to 100%. Mobile technologies have the potential to provide a long list of new and exciting learning experiences to the learner (Rueckert, 2013). It is about time that teachers embrace the use of such technology in class through the introduction of innovative applications and programmes that have the power to encourage autonomous learning in all levels of students.

This presentation will introduce a study at a medium sized private university in Japan where a blended learning component was added to a test-based syllabus of 400 low level foreign language students. The subjects in this study all voluntarily chose to take a TOEIC course aimed at improving test scores over the space of two fifteen-week semesters. The blended learning component comprised of a very simple to use, student-centred website called Quizlet that was specifically chosen to encourage autonomous learning with the end goal of improving ability and test scores. Quizlet, initially formed in 2007 is a vocabulary learning tool that enables users to create, combine and collect word lists individually or collaboratively.

Student created word lists are accessible through mobile or tablet applications and through this study were shown to improve test-scores by an average of 10% in almost all subjects. Quizlet have produced a comprehensive and intuitive study platform that allows students to input words in their target language then have that word translated into another language of their choice. Quizlet is also closely linked to the online Flickr photo database, providing visual aids to any word inputted.

In this presentation quantitative and qualitative data collected through a 50-itemed survey conducted before and after the introduction of Quizlet to the 400 subjects in this study will be introduced. Empirical data, clearly shows an improved awareness of how technology can influence the foreign language learner. Student feedback on the use of Quizlet and the use of smartphones in class will also be mentioned.

Author(s):

Bruce Lander    
Foreign Language Institute
Kurume University
Japan

Bruce Lander, an English instructor at Kurume University, Fukuoka Japan has been teaching at the university level for 10 years and in Japan for 15. His main philosophy of teaching runs on the premise that teachers should not teach knowledge and facts, rather they should simply teach how to learn. Bruce’s main area of interest is the development of Learner Autonomy through blended learning.

 

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