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Patterns and Effectiveness of Mobile Device Usage by Japanese Undergraduates for L2 Acquisition Purposes

Today learning takes place at any time and at any place due to the rapid advancement in mobile e-learning technologies. Smartphones and tablet PCs are rapidly gaining popularity among foreign language teachers and students alike as an effective way to improve foreign language skills, and are revolutionizing the way English is being taught in and out of the classroom. Recent research, in fact, has shown that Japanese university students find the use of a smartphone for the purpose of studying English to be interesting and motivating. However, as language education quickly surges forward with the adoption of mobile-assisted language learning (MALL), does the incorporation of these new technologies really benefit the learner or simply satisfy the instructor’s need to be innovative and ahead of the learning curve? The present study—one phase of a more comprehensive longitudinal study—seeks to answer this question, in part, by targeting a survey to English as a foreign language (EFL) learners at a private university in Tokyo, Japan. The survey has been administered the past two years, with responses — over 350 the first year and 550 the second — from native Japanese undergraduates studying EFL in three departments at a private university in Tokyo, Japan. One of the main goals of this study was to determine whether learners in the three schools were using mobile devices as part of their language-learning strategies, and if so, was it due to intrinsic motivation or other factors such as instructor encouragement and/or course requirement. It also seeksto determine how effective learners felt traditional methods of teaching English receptive (listening and reading) and productive (speaking and writing) skills—i.e., text-and lecture-centered classes—compared with classroom methods teaching these same skills utilizing MALL and computer-assisted language learning (CALL) methodologies. The survey also focused on other related topics, including patterns of mobile device usage in and out of the classroom and their effectiveness or lack thereof in improving English skills. The results of the surveys are also discussed in light of emerging theories of autonomous learning and second language motivation.


James Pagel    
College of Science and Engineering
Aoyama Gakuin University

James W. Pagel is an associate professor in the College of Science and Engineering at Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo, Japan. He is interested in the study of motivation and autonomous learning and use of computers in language learning.

Stephen Lambacher    
School of Social Informatics
Aoyama Gakuin University

Stephen Lambacher is an associate professor of English in the School of Social Informatics at Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo, Japan.
His research and teaching interests include the use of mobile e-learning technologies and social media to bolster L2-learning.


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