||As a result of the access Brazilians are having to ICT through a more dynamic economic situation, professors have witnessed an increasing presence of smartphones and tablets inside university classrooms. This article assesses the pedagogical resources for Second Language Acquisition (SLA) as well as the human computer interaction (HCI) designed to promote English language learning via T.A.L.L (Tablet-Assisted-Language-Learning) or M.A.L.L (Mobile-Assisted-Language-Learning) from two Learning Virtual Environment (LVE) applications designed for the English language autonomous learning named Busuu and Babbel (free versions) available at AppStore and Google Play. This research assesses both apps and it will be considered to the implementation of one of them in the English Language Graduation course syllabus (1st and 2nd semesters) (Slattery, 2006) from Universidade Tiradentes – a 50-year-old Brazilian University. We believe that apps focused on SLA are somehow used by many university graduates in Portugal, in Brazil and basically everywhere. I am also aware of the fact that these students are what Prensky (2001) calls “digital natives” and live their lives “eager about technology use” (Leu, 2004) nowadays.
This massive access to gadgets helps mobile learning (m-learning) as a whole since it happens anywhere, in special outside of class (Kukulska-Hulme, 2009); it is focused on the student as it is learner-centered (Anderson, 2008) and it is “thoroughly ubiquitous” (Valk, Rashid and Elder, 2010). To Vavoula (2005), “any learning situation that is not at a fixed predetermined location has to be defined as m-learning”. The learning opportunities provided by these gadgets regarding their time and space possibilities cannot be taken for granted and any post-graduation study dwelling with these opportunities has to be considered. We investigate their multiple uses and applications to L2 learning through this research project to a Doctorate degree in Educational Sciences. Theoretically, the pedagogical aspects that evolve from learning through an online community reinforce the SLA according to Krashen's (1981) language acquisition theory of i+1. Vygostky’s (2002) knowledge of Zone of Proximal Development and Thorne and Payne's (2005) theory for using podcasts are also intertwined with this study. It includes as well the concepts of Lan et al (2007), where “language learning is no longer limited to one-way individual learning, but can be expanded to a two or multi-way collaborative learning”. As an Assistant Professor I at the English Department at UNIT (Aracaju, Brazil) and now granted by Erasmus Fellow-Mundus with a Doctoral Program in Educational Sciences at Universidade Nova de Lisboa, I will develop my doctoral studies within these two institutions. In Portugal, the students may have the same objectives when interacting with the aforementioned apps, so conducting this research at ILNOVA may present some similarities to the findings when conducted at Unit in Brazil. Afterwards, I will be on the forefront of the implementation of m-learning tablet and smartphone applications to the 1st and 2nd semester syllabus (Slattery, 2006) of our College course. This new pedagogical procedure will prepare “future teachers of the idiom to the reality of their audience in post-modern educational times” (Campos, 2008).
As a methodological approach to this project, focused on the implementation of a new paradigm in instruction and pedagogical studies, my Advisor suggested performing a Design-Based Research (DBR) that according to Herrington (2007) and Barab and Squire (2004) aims at “producing new theories, artifacts, and practices that account for and potentially impact learning and teaching in naturalistic settings”. To Reeves (2006), “a research proposal for a doctoral study using a design-based approach must include a practitioner-oriented focus as well as degrees of collaboration that are not necessarily required for more traditional predictive research designs”. Finally, Collins (1992) acknowledges that the methodology should address the complexity of the problems in real classroom context when “integrating known and hypothetical design principles with technological affordances to render plausible solutions to these complex problems and conducting rigorous and reflective inquiry to test and refine innovative learning environments as well as to define new design principles.”
Consequently, as an English teacher, I will assess all learning resources and possibilities presented on the applications for English learning named Busuu and Babbel, our thesis analyzes their concepts of language progression, pedagogical purposes as much as their HCI (human-computer interaction). For the HCI, we use some of the ergonomic criteria for LVE's of Bastien and Scapin (2003) such as Immediate Feedback, Information Density, User Control, Consistency and Compatibility. During this research, we are also investigating how these apps define linguistic progression, vocabulary choices, themes, dialogues and finally, the “schooling” approach focused on language learning that these tablet and smartphones’ versions present.
The final results of this 33-month doctoral program will adequately identify which app would be implemented as an official content for the Graduation Course subjects entitled English Language I and English Language II at Universidade Tiradentes. As a conclusion, the option will be for the most adequate Learning Virtual Environment (LVE) applications designed for the English language autonomous learning that presents a wider range of possibilities for an effective SLA learning and a higher level of adequacy to the profiles of the students we have in our classrooms at UNIT, and now at Universidade Nova de Lisboa. We remind our audience that most subject students to be involved on this research (UNIT and UNL) will not be fluent on the English language – we aim for A1, A2 and B1 C.E.F.R. levels here and therefore they might demonstrate a higher necessity of a more guided or grammatical approach to learning sometimes. As we said before, tablets and smartphones are a reality nowadays as they can be found in almost every household, classroom and educational institution in both countries. Brazilians (UNIT) as well as Portuguese students (UNL) will certainly improve their overall knowledge learning a lingua franca through some apps that can bring you real learning possibilities for free or for some Reais or Euros. Concluding with the reason why these countries should learn English as soon as possible, according to EF’s English Proficiency Global Index - Brazil still stands at the 46th position (Low Proficiency) while Portugal is doing a better work but stands at the 19th position (Moderate Proficiency), what it is not so adequate when comparing to other European countries.