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Mobile Language Learning: How Gamification Improves the Experience

  • Izabel de Moraes Sarmento RegoEmail author
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Abstract

The learning process can be improved through the incorporation of evolving information and communication technologies to teaching. But it is not enough to use cutting-edge technology. The focus must be in promoting the development of skills that traditional teaching cannot adequately address. In this way, mobile devices, particularly smartphones and tablets, present exciting opportunities today. These devices, largely used by students, allow access to information in a ubiquitous way – anytime, anywhere. This ubiquity, aligned with other mobile learning features – such as high memory capacity, built-in video cameras, voice recording capabilities, and geolocation capabilities, among others – addresses several foreign language learning needs, in the modality known as mobile language learning. Play is a human activity used to entertain, teach, and transmit culture. Recently, games have been studied in a systematic way, where game elements are extracted and applied in corporate and educational situations. In mobile learning, game strategies – known as gamification – are often used to enrich the student experience, fueling motivation and promoting meaningful learning. In order to achieve the best results, it is important for the teacher, or other learning experience designer, to be knowledgeable of gamification elements and their application when creating mobile language learning activities. This chapter highlights the main elements of gamification that can be exploited for teaching languages, and it examines three experiences of language teaching trough mobile learning. It also analyzes how these experiences exploit gamification strategies to promote student engagement in the learning. Understanding how gamification strategies improve student learning in these experiences is important in order to advance the pedagogical and technological research of mobile language learning.

Keywords

Mobile learning Gamification Mobile language learning Language learning Language teaching 

1 Introduction

Learning a foreign language is increasingly in demand today as new technologies blur geographical boundaries and make access to information and people from remote locations possible.

Even with the advanced development of tools that help in the translation of texts, such as Skype’s simultaneous translation tool (Skype Translator) or Google’s voice translator application, intrinsic human characteristics, such as the ability to critically analyze information, to grasp humor and irony, and to identify implicit meanings in a message, are necessary to extract meaning from language. While translation tools help, they do not replace the human need to learn to communicate in other languages.

Mobile device technology can be a great ally if it is used to promote not only a more meaningful language learning experience for students but also to increase methodological efficiency by allowing access to education anywhere and at any time.

The modality of mobile language learning uses mobile devices to teach foreign languages. In this modality, the technology resources of mobile devices – such as video cameras, voice recorders, and Internet browsers – are exploited in individual or collaborative activities. Among the pedagogical resources used, game strategies – or gamification – are quite frequently employed in order to engage and motivate students.

What is gamification? What elements can be exploited in language learning activities for mobile learning? How does gamification improve the learning of a foreign language? Understanding the answers to these questions is paramount to designing motivational activities and, at the same time, promoting meaningful learning of the language.

In Sect. 2 of this chapter, the concept of mobile language learning and the main features of language learning through this modality of education will be briefly discussed. Section 3 broaches gamification and the main elements explored in language teaching. Section 4 presents an analysis of the use of gamification in three foreign language teaching applications. Section 5 is a conclusion, comprising a reflection of findings and a proposal for future studies.

2 Mobile Language Learning

Mobile learning (or m-learning) is a new teaching modality that follows the student’s current learning needs. This student is constantly moving from one place to another, and he is accompanied by mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, presenting opportunities to offer him educational activities so he can keep studying outside the formal classroom.

It is possible to find different definitions of mobile learning in the academic literature. Moura (2010) considers m-learning a new educational paradigm based on the use of mobile technologies: “In general you can define m-learning as any form of learning through battery-powered devices that are small enough to accompany people anywhere and anytime” (Moura 2010).

Despite ease of access, it is important to consider that mobile learning efficiency depends on the development of teaching strategies appropriate to the learner, considering his or her learning style, background, and context (e.g., considering where he or she lives – socially and geographically).

Following the current trend of fusion between classroom and distance learning, Zhang (2015a) points out that the special characteristics of mobile devices and technologies should be taken into consideration before adopting mobile learning into any educational project. The author suggests that, rather than replacing classroom learning, mobile learning should be seen as a complement to traditional teaching.

In the academic literature, the definition of mobile learning has evolved through three main phases: the first focused on the mobile device; the second turned the focus to learning outside the classroom; and the third highlighted the mobility of the student (Moura 2010). The main characteristics that define the last and current phase are the ability to continue learning beyond the time and geographical limits of formal education, the ability to use the student’s context to aid learning, and the ability to collaborate between peers. Students are no longer passive recipients of learning content but instead exercise autonomy, creating and editing content and communicating with teachers and peers.

Despite advances in mobile technology and in educational research, mobile learning initiatives do not always achieve this third phase – where the mobility of the student is focused – satisfactorily. McCombs (2010, cited Zhang, 2015a) argues that technical limitations and a lack of understanding of student needs by mobile learning project developers are still impediments to implementing true “anytime, anywhere” learning. Some technological barriers, such as the lack of access to high-speed Internet on mobile devices, also hamper implementation.

Even so, the sophistication and creativity of new applications is constantly improving, bringing real-world mobile learning closer to what researchers believe to be the ideal state of this modality, which is contextualized, collaborative, and ubiquitous.

Among the relevant characteristics of mobile learning, learner mobility is considered by many authors (Peng et al. 2009; Moura 2010; Sharples 2006; Traxler 2005) as its main feature. Other relevant features include the presence of a mobile technology device that, among various features, allows access to the Internet, access and ability to record audio and video, and file storage. Currently the most widely used devices are smartphones and tablets, but the early mobile learning research focused on PDAs (personal digital assistant), voice recorders, MP3 players, and regular mobile phones.

Planning and developing m-learning activities may be challenging but worth the effort as resources and learning activities can be shared anywhere and at any time, allowing wider access to education, reaching remote locations and also those with very limited financial resources.

However, as explained below, technology and pedagogy both need to evolve so that mobile learning initiatives become more accessible and effective.

2.1 Mobile Learning in Foreign Language Learning

Learning a language is a long and continuous process. In order to encourage faster and more effective learning, it is necessary to expand the time and space limits of classroom, enabling the student to have contact with the foreign language at different moments of their daily life. Foreign language learning can work more effectively if the student has the opportunity to access learning content along his day.

Therefore, as mentioned earlier, one of the areas of teaching that can largely benefit from mobile learning is foreign language learning. Recent studies (Kukulska-Hulme and Shield 2008) demonstrate that mobility of the learner and mobile devices can provide great benefits for language learning.

This form of education can been used in different contexts and with different teaching approaches, from the translation method to teaching based on experience. This is positive, since greater access to educational activities leads to higher benefits to learners of foreign languages.

Some researchers call this area of knowledge MALL: mobile-assisted language learning (Kukulska-Hulme and Shield 2008). MALL offerings have changed as mobile device technologies have evolved. Initially, offerings focused on the use of voice recorders and of palmtops (PDA). With the advent and adoption of the mobile phone, new offerings explored SMS (short message service or text message). As mobile phones gained more features and connection capabilities, MALL initiatives evolved to include native applications (installed on the device). Today, smartphones allow the use of native applications with Internet browsers, geolocators, video cameras, and audio recorders together in the same application, along with other features.

However, even with many different technological features, many mobile language learning offerings still use very few technological resources. Translation and vocabulary exercises are the most widely available. Few offerings promoting collaboration, context exploration, and ubiquity (access anytime and anywhere) have been developed. In general, current offerings merely migrate the dynamics of traditional classroom teaching into mobile devices.

Learner mobility and mobile devices can promote a more engaging and meaningful language learning experience. However, to advance foreign language mobile learning, teaching strategies that exploit technological resources and engage learners through experiences that are meaningful in their context of use need to be developed. Game strategies can help.

The following section is a reflection on the use of gamification to the teaching of foreign languages. The main elements of gamification will be presented and three examples that exploit such resources for teaching languages will be analyzed.

3 Gamification

Games have been a part of human culture since ancient times. There are records of games being played as far back as 3000 BCE (Historic Games 2014). In addition to the playful and entertainment aspects, games can also be used to transmit knowledge from generation to generation. Therefore, playing can be a way of teaching and learning. Language, logic, motor coordination, spatial distribution, and a myriad of other cognitive skills can be taught and learned through games like chess, RPG (role-playing game), video games, and others.

In many cases, learning takes place intuitively and spontaneously while playing. Learning is not always the main goal of a game, but the result of engaging in the game’s tasks, of repetition, of engaging in trial and error, and of overcoming challenges. However, for educational purposes, it is possible to propose goals and to use gaming strategies to make learning challenging and engaging.

Considering the ability to influence player behavior, Werbach (2014) proposes the use of the theories of persuasive design to show how a gamified activity can influence motivation and user ability. Building on Fogg’s theory (2009, cited Werbach, 2014), which considers that motivation and ability lay in a continuum, the author considers it necessary to identify where the user is on this continuum to develop a “trigger” that promotes his motivation and ability: “Game-like experiences can promote both motivation (by making activities feel more engaging) and ability (by promoting learning, achievement, and feelings of confidence)” (Werbach 2014).

To promote interventions that cause behavioral change, Werbach (2014) suggests that gamification should be seen as a process. Therefore, it is not necessary to classify weather a task is gamified or not nor to determine the degree of gamification of tasks. According to the author, to build this continuous leads designers to strive to enhance the strategies of the games.

From another perspective, Kapp (2012) believes that gamification is the use of elements traditionally thought of as for a game or “fun” to promote learning, engagement, and problem-solving skill. In his book “The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education,” Kapp defines gamification and its components through an educational lens and presents strategies to bring gamification to the educational context, whether in the classroom or in a virtual learning environment.

According to the author, “Game-based techniques, or gamification, when employed properly, have the power to engage, inform, and educate” (Kapp 2012). According to the author, the purpose of gamification in education is to create a system where participants engage in an abstract challenge, defined by rules, interactivity, and feedback resulting in a quantifiable product, ideally generating an emotional reaction.

Kapp (2012) presents some game aspects that are essential for gamification in learning. Among them, the most relevant are:
  • Mechanics: with a schematic of points, rewards, and stages to be overcome

  • Aesthetics: with great influence on the player’s engagement and her desire to participate in this experience

  • Game thinking: converting an everyday experience into an activity that has elements of competition, cooperation, and storytelling.

In the author’s view, these elements seek to promote engagement, which is essential for successful learning through a gamified experience.

In the following section, these and other relevant elements necessary to create a gamified dynamic that positively impacts learning will be discussed.

3.1 Gamification Elements

There are a few ways to categorize gamification elements. One of the most widely used is to group them into three categories: dynamics, mechanics, and components (Werbach and Hunter 2012). Dynamics represent the highest level of abstraction of a game: constraints, emotions, narrative, progression, and relationships.

Mechanics are basic processes leading to a sequence of actions that generate the player’s engagement: challenge, chance, competition, cooperation, feedback, resource acquisition, rewards, transactions, turns, and win states.

Finally, components are the most easily observable elements by the player. The fifteen most important pointed out by authors Werbach and Hunter (2012) are achievements, avatars, badges, boss fights, collections, combat, content unlocking, gifting, leaderboards, levels, points, quests, social graphs, teams, and virtual goods.

This section will not exhaust all gamification elements but will rather focus on those considered most relevant to the context of this discussion.

Goals

When it comes to learning experiences, the definition of the learning objectives is the starting point. Without them, there is a risk of losing track along the route, resulting in a playful and motivating experience without concrete student learning results.

In a game, victory is the ultimate goal. Reaching it means the end of the game. Therefore, it is customary to establish intermediate goals that lead to this ultimate goal. Thus, the student is motivated to move ahead and get feedback as she develops skills and overcomes challenges.

Mechanics

Mechanics are systematized in rules, and rules are the essence of a game. They dictate how the game will work, when it will end, and how the stated objectives will be achieved. There are different types of rules, grouped by Salen and Zimmerman (2004) as operational rules (describing how the game is played), constitutive or foundational rules (formal structure that supports the functionality of the game), implicit rules or behavior rules (governing the social contract between two or more players; in other words, etiquette), and instructional rules (governing the learning process through the game). So, setting rules, it is an important step to define the game mechanics.

Aesthetics

Aesthetics are of great importance in the participant’s engagement: “Appropriate and aligned visuals, attention to detail, simple contrasts, or colorful backdrops create an immersive environment that contribute to the overall game experience” (Kapp 2012).

Consistency is the main factor to be considered in the aesthetics of a game. Therefore, it is very important to take into account the audience for whom it is intended, taking care, for example, to not use childish aesthetics in a game designed for adults.

Game Thinking

Game thinking converts everyday experiences, whether professional or educational, into more playful and dynamic activities. Werbach and Hunter (2012) define game thinking as a way to use all available resources to create an engaging experience that motivates the desired behaviors.

Bringing this concept into education, it is important to observe teaching situations and identify opportunities to enrich them with the resources of gamification. This demands that the educator or designer get to know the repertoire of gamification strategies and elements that are available and critically look at teaching and learning experiences, identifying ways to make them more engaging and meaningful to the learner.

Collaboration

There are several gamified learning experiences where students study and play by themselves, usually in a virtual environment. However, when thinking about mobile language learning activities, it should be taken into account that collaboration is a very important element in promoting collective knowledge building. Through the exchange of experiences and mutual help among peers, students have the opportunity to become more engaged with the challenge. Group work also increases commitment, helping to reduce evasion.

Reward and Competition

Reward structures involve but are not limited to scores, badges, and rewards. Behind these elements are driving forces of human development: motivation and competition.

Kapp (2012) believes that conflict, competition, and cooperation are inherent parts of the game: “The meaning of play in the context of conflict is to become a winner while avoiding a loss at the hands of an opponent. (…)” Competition is where opponents are “constrained from impeding each other and instead devote the entirety of their attentions to optimizing their own performance. (…) Cooperation is the act of working with others to achieve a mutually desirable and beneficial outcome.”

Even if a reward is virtual, the possibility of winning something motivates the player to continue, seeking new badges and rewards. Competition can be exploited through simple game elements such as rankings, where players can view their position compared with opponents and feel motivated to improve their performance to achieve a higher rank.

This monitoring of performance itself is an important way to promote metacognitive skills in the learner, allowing him to monitor his own learning. Kapp (2012) criticizes e-learning courses and classroom instruction which generally do not provide easily traceable progress reports in the formats of leaderboards, badges, or rewards. Reward structures can be regarded as a form of feedback, allowing the student to know her position in relation to the expected performance.

Feedback

In games, feedback is constantly given. According to Kapp (2012), the frequency and intensity of the feedback is opposed to traditional teaching. According to the author, “Games provide informational feedback. Feedback in learning or playing game is designed to evoke the correct behavior, thoughts, or actions.”

The author refers to two types of feedback. The first is more informational, showing the learner the degree of success or error of his behavior, thought, or action. The second is more educational, providing information to the learner to guide her toward the right end performance.

The feedback does not need to look like a simple text message stating whether the student is right or wrong. In the words of Hunicke (2009, cited Kapp, 2012), “juicy” feedback needs to be tactile (giving the player the feeling that the feedback is happening on real time), inviting (making it a moment desired by the player), repeatable (can be received several times when the player achieves objectives), coherent (related to the game context), continuous (the player does not need to wait for it, happening as a natural result of the interaction), emerging (flowing naturally in the game, giving the sensation of belonging to the game environment and not interrupting or distracting the player), balanced (the player knows he or she is getting feedback and reacts based on feedback), and fresh (it is a bit surprising, containing unexpected turns, and it is interesting and inviting).

Progression in Levels

Progression in levels is used to achieve three objectives (Kapp 2012). The first is to assist the evolution of the game narrative, presenting new information to sustain player engagement. The second objective is related to strengthening and developing skills, focusing on the development of the same skills in the later levels of the game, but requiring more speed and making them more challenging. The third objective is that the levels serve as motivation, as small victories by the player who moves from one stage to the next.

Therefore, levels in the game are used to serialize the challenge and the narrative, increasing motivation and preventing the game from becoming boring and tiring. The challenge is to combine these elements so that the game does not become too easy or too hard.

Storytelling

It is a big challenge for gamified learning designers to take into account the student’s context. One possible way is creating a narrative or storytelling , bringing relevance and meaning to experience.

The name of the game, characters and stages, and some graphic elements are usually sufficient to activate the story that will unfold in the player’s imagination.

According to Kapp (2012), stories bring meaning, context, and guide action. The main elements of the narrative used to develop games are the characters, events, tension, and solution.

Considering the topics presented above, the most significant gamification elements for mobile language learning are summarized in the Table 1:
Table 1

Gamification elements for mobile language learning

Goals

Narrative

Rules

Feedback

Reward structure

Progression degrees

Graphic aspect

Educational

Ludic

Context

Operational

Behavioral constitutive

Instructional

Educational

Informational

Competition

Cooperation

Collaboration

Narrative

Ability

Motivation

Aesthetics

Consistency

Learning tasks that employ gamification do not always utilize all these elements. However, it is important to know them all and make conscious decisions about which elements to use. The main objective is not to transform learning activities into full games but to enrich the student’s experiences, motivate her, and make learning more meaningful.

In the following section, three mobile language learning experiences will be analyzed from the perspective of gamification, highlighting strategies, and elements used.

4 Gamification in Teaching Languages

The use of gamification strategies is widely used in the classroom teaching of foreign languages and can be seen in educational materials and activities that exploit recreation and competition to engage students in language learning. Currently, some mobile learning offerings also use game strategies for the teaching of foreign languages. Here, three foreign language mobile learning with gamification offerings will be discussed. Elements of games that are used and others which could be used to enrich the experience will also be analyzed.

4.1 Language Learning Game

Sultana et al. (2012) present a collaborative game proposal for foreign language learning. Named LLG (language learning game), the tool is designed to help adult learners learn a foreign language using smartphones. Learners must already have some language knowledge to participate in the game. In terms of technology, a smartphone that runs Java and has access to the Internet is needed. The authors presented an example of English language teaching .

The game proposes that a small group of three to five participants collaboratively creates a story in English. Each participant writes a sentence and submits it to the group. The other participants may suggest spelling and grammar corrections. The original and the corrected versions of the sentence are submitted to a vote by the group, which chooses the option that seems to be the most accurate.

Then, another participant writes a sentence that follows the previous one. The process repeats until all students have written a sentence, which completes a cycle. The game runs for three to four cycles. In the end, a supervisor – someone with a high command of the language – assesses the story created and suggests corrections. Finally, everyone gets a version of the full story and a virtual flashcard with the supervisor’s corrections.

An important aspect of LLG is anonymity: the participants do not know who is in their group. According to the authors, this prevents people from feeling intimidated, afraid of making mistakes. The authors also point out that competition can lead to a situation where students with greater language proficiency earn rewards and student with limited knowledge of the language gain nothing. Therefore, they believe that everyone benefits in collaborative offerings, where students are encouraged to create communities of mutual assistance: “Their critical thinking skills increase and their retention of information and interest in the subject matter improves. This in turn leads to higher self-esteem in all the participants, which is the ultimate goal of LLG. It is designed in such a way that all the participants need to communicate with each other frequently” (Sultana et al. 2012).

In the paper presented by the authors, the following gamification elements are identified:
  • Objective: to promote the self-esteem of learners of a foreign language.

  • Mechanics: to write sentences that compound to a story.

  • Collaboration: to correct other participants’ sentences, to vote on the correct sentence among the different versions presented, and to write a sentence that will continue the story.

  • Feedback: participants correct the sentences for spelling and grammar; a supervisor reviews the story and points out corrections that students did not suggest.

In addition to receiving the final version of the story, the authors point out that the best writer and the best group should be rewarded, but not to name the reward so that students cannot discover the other participants of the game.

It is noted that progression levels are not displayed. The authors note that, in the pilot, teachers who accompanied the game expressed interest in implementing LLG in their courses, demonstrating that it is a complementary activity to a wider teaching curriculum. Perhaps that is why there is no concern about levels of progression in the game. Although not explicit, it is possible that the complexity of the game increases as participants gain greater knowledge of the foreign language, which can make it more challenging for the whole group.

The themes for the stories are not mentioned in Sultana’s article but the group supervisor could suggest a theme or situation for the construction of the story, for example.

Competition can stimulate student engagement in the game while be complementary to collaboration. On one hand, the anonymity of participants favors freedom from judgment in relation to making mistakes but, on the other hand, recognition from peers promotes social engagement, which is important for collaboration.

4.2 Duolingo

A free and widely available foreign language learning application, Duolingo was analyzed by Petit and Santos (2013) from the point of view of language teaching methodology and gamification.

The authors point out that the application uses quite old teaching methods and modern gamification strategies at the same time. Duolingo activities are based on the translation of texts (teaching methodology dating back to the nineteenth century) and teaching grammar and vocabulary in isolation (methodology that emerged in the mid-twentieth century). Petit and Santos (2013) believe that this methodological choice is made for economic reasons, since teaching vocabulary out of context excludes the need for human mediation.

When a student starts learning a new language, the application presents vocabulary translation exercises, always with reference to a language that can be the learner’s native language or another available language. One exercise, for example, has a word in the source language and four images with different words for the learner to choose the correct translation. By choosing one of the words, the application plays an audio recording of the chosen word.

The same type of exercise is repeated for the translation of sentences. Sometimes images are available as translation support resources, but sometimes they are not, unlike the audio feature (which is always available). Even in early lessons, exercises are presented where the learner must write the translation of words and short foreign language sentences in the reference language.

The system has some flexibility for accepting more than one translation option whenever possible, and words without orthographic accents, although drawing the user’s attention when he writes without accents.

In the Spanish course for Portuguese speakers, 64 different lessons were identified. The names of the lessons are always topics of grammar or vocabulary such as plurals or colors. The initial lesson has 18 screens with different exercises, all centered around the translation of words and short sentences.

The user begins the first lesson with four hearts, called “lives.” If she misses an activity, she loses a heart. If she loses the four, she will need to redo the lesson. At the end of each lesson, she receives a number of points according to her performance.

Among gamification strategies, Petit and Santos (2013) highlight the system of life, points, and competition. Competition takes place when the user adds other users to their list of friends. The system will notify the user about the performance of friends, encouraging them to reach the scores obtained by them.

The most prominent gamification elements in the application are:
  • Mechanics: the rules are clear and presented as the user advances in the game.

  • Aesthetics: it is very intuitive and visual resources are exploited both for teaching the language (with images related to vocabulary) and to make the user experience more pleasant.

  • Feedback: the user receives feedback immediately when completing an exercise. The system also gives tips when orthographic accents are not used properly or when more than one answer is possible.

  • Levels of progress: the 64 lessons identified in the Spanish course, for example, are grouped into levels. To advance from one level to another, not all lessons need to be completed. If the user believes he has the required knowledge for that level, he can submit to a test called a “shortcut” to validate his knowledge and advance to the next level.

Among the gamification elements that are not exploited, the lack of use of the student’s context and collaboration among peers stand out. From the point of view of language learning, the lack of use of the learner’s context in the design of the activities is a very important element. It would be necessary to further investigate if a learner who completed all the lessons will be a competent speaker, able to communicate in a foreign language. Regarding collaboration, the presence of friends serves as stimulus for competition, but a form of collaboration in solving tasks was not identified.

4.3 LingoBee

Going in the opposite direction, Procter-Legg et al. (2014) propose that learning should be seen as a social activity, happening inside a community of learners. To explore how these factors promote language learning, the researchers conducted a study in different countries to develop and test the application LingoBee, designed to support language learning on mobile devices.

LingoBee is part of the SIMOLA (Situated Mobile Language Learning) project, created through a partnership between six countries (Simola 2012). The application supports six different European languages and Japanese. It is an open source app, developed for the Android OS.

LingoBee’s objective is to develop knowledge of vocabulary in a context. The learner creates her own virtual flashcards with the words and phrases she is learning. In each flashcard, she describes the word and can link a picture, record the pronunciation of the word, or link a web link. The application has a text-to-speech feature to help with pronunciation.

These flashcards are stored in the system repository and are shared among users who can view, edit, and vote on entries. This repository has search tools that facilitate the search for specific content.

The authors identify LingoBee users as social networkers, since learners construct meaning together while creating the multiple inputs used to add and edit these entries. The application also allows users to create a social profile with a username and contact information, encouraging social interaction among peers.

Although not presented as a game per se, it is possible to identify gamification elements in the LingoBee application:
  • Objective: it is clear that the proposed objective is the dominance of vocabulary in a foreign language.

  • Collaboration: this element is crucial to motivate the engagement of the user in the application, since, by collaborating with peers it is possible to validate if the entries presented are correct.

  • Feedback: occurs through interaction with peers, through comments, edits, and voting on entries in the system.

  • Aesthetics: in Procter-Legg’s article, it is possible to identify some screenshots of the application and verify that the design is intuitive and functional.

  • Context: the application explores the learners place and time. He can, for example, take a picture of an object that is in front of him and create an entry with new vocabulary in the foreign language. The application is a great example of how to exploit context for teaching languages through mobile learning.

Among the gamification elements neglected, game mechanics and rewards stand out. Regarding the mechanics, rules are not displayed. Also, no reward structure is evident besides the votes of fellow learners and the level of personal satisfaction achieved in learning.

The authors propose that the social context promotes learning. They argue that social networks break down the barriers between formal and informal learning and are currently becoming a path sought by students.

LingoBee explores gamification elements taking into account current concepts of teaching foreign languages, in particular the student’s context, and peer interaction, making it an interesting Mobile Language Learning offering.

5 Future Directions

Considering the cases presented below, it is possible to conclude that learning foreign languages can be enhanced by mobile learning and by gamification strategies. Currently, studies on teaching approaches indicate that elements such as context and collaboration are very important when learning a foreign language (Telles 2009; Figueiredo 2006).

The challenge in using gamification elements in mobile language learning is to go beyond activities focused on the acquisition of specific elements, such as vocabulary and translation of sentences, and expand the horizons to more complex offerings considering student’s context and the different forms of collaboration among peers.

One of the trends in the convergence of technologies for education is a blended format (Johnson et al. 2014), where educational activities will take place partly in person and partly online, both through computers and through mobile devices. This will lead designers to focus not only on technology devices but especially on teaching strategies, considering the best resources to promote learning wherever the student is.

In this sense, gamification strategies will be very important to engage and motivate students in learning beyond of the institutional limits of formal education, wherever they are and whenever they want to learn.

6 Cross-References

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Language Institute, Applied Linguistics DepartmentCampinas State University (Unicamp)CampinasBrazil

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