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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Mobile Language Learning: The Medium is ^not the Message

  • Author(s): Lotherington, Heather
  • et al.

This paper repositions McLuhan’s (1964/1965) extension theory of technology in the context of mobile (-assisted) language learning (MALL), and explores whether and how the medium (i.e., the mobile device) impacts the message (i.e., the target language) and the means by which it is taught in MALL. A survey of recommended commercial MALL apps generated four top-ranked apps, which were reviewed, then trialed in an autoethnographic study of learning Italian to explore how language, communication, and language pedagogy were theorized, enacted, and assessed in each app. On the whole, MALL apps were found to repackage outdated language teaching pedagogies, and failed to capitalize on the affordances of mobile connection apart from piecemeal incorporation of gamification strategies and social media links. The article concludes with a call for professional educators to harness, not just consume, mobile technologies towards informed design-oriented MALL pedagogies.


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