Using smartphones for English language learning in ELT

Beena Anil

In this article, assistant professor of English at SDNB Vaishnav College for Women in India, Dr. Beena Anil, shares example activities for introducing smartphones in to your English language learning classroom.

Technology is predominant in all walks of life. In academia, technology is a harbinger of many innovative teaching methods. In the rise of technology and social networks, chat has become a common means of communicating for many around the world. With the help of smartphones, people chat with friends orally or textually whenever and wherever they like. Like elders, students do use smartphones extensively. Using technology in the classroom may create a real world that will develop learners’ real world skills.  Many research studies have found that technology assisted language learning facilitates the second langue learning process. This article discusses the advantage of using smart phones in ELT. Teachers can use their own, or a school smartphone, or under the proper guidance students can bring their smartphones or tablets in to classroom.

The benefit of smartphones in language practice

In the world of Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram students have varied applications to use for learning English. Oral and text messages are automatically saved and participants have access to these at any time.

In the present world, technology has influenced the language learning process and incorporated the development of second language teaching and learning (Benson and Reinders 2011). Researchers like Throne and Black (2011) observe, a providential number of educators’ support for a need to develop a better learning atmosphere in the online learning process. Emery (2012) suggests that many current teachers of second language learners have had little substantial overall repertoire of classroom activities that are appropriate for teaching English as a second language.

An amicable learning environment

After understanding the benefits, the teacher can develop a range of tasks to use in the classroom to learn English language.   While devising these tasks, the teacher should consider that the tasks should be engaging, personalized, and relevant for learners to communicate in English voluntarily.  Students use a wide range of text chat programmes and application in their day to day communication, but if they need to create a social media account in order to take part in the activities, the teacher should play a key role in organizing this, to avoid issues. Teachers should be vigilant and instruct students to avoid sharing personal contact details on social media.

When carrying out the tasks, teacher can divide the class into pairs or groups. They can create a chat room for each pair, which can be displayed on the whiteboard for later reference.  Each pair should be sit on a different table, and be given a smartphone.  Students type the URL of their pair’s chat room, write their name in the nickname box and join the room.  Teacher can also join the chat room to monitor students and provide corrective feedback to them.

Smartphone language activities

Teachers can design many interesting communicative tasks using smartphones, but here are three example activities that teachers can use with their students.

Activity One: Break the Ice

This is a very common activity which involves encouraging students to create a good rapport with their partner for the smooth functionality of the other tasks. The teacher begins the activity by offering a topic in which students can ask questions to find out more about each other. The students spend ten minutes on text chat to become familiar with their partner.

Activity Two: Spot the Difference

This activity encourages students to develop a good rapport with their team mates. Teachers can divide the class into groups. Each group gets two pictures with a slight difference in them. Before performing a voice chat, each group can discuss between them what the differences in the pictures are. Teachers can help students by providing them with vocabulary.  Pairs of students should then record their narration of the differences between the pictures on to their smartphone and share with their classmates through Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger. Useful words can be displayed on the whiteboard for further classification and understanding.

Activity Three: Breaking News

In this activity students perform a role play that can be recorded on a smartphone.  Half of the class has been recently rescued from an earthquake and the other half of the class play role of reporters who have come to interview them following their rescue. Before the role play, let the two groups have a warm-up session to discuss and develop the story. The teacher should monitor and provide assistance, if needed.

After the performance of the three tasks, the teacher can provide feedback via text or oral chat on the phone. This is also an opportunity for students to share their opinions or suggestions about the other teams. Following this, the teacher can identify common errors and write them on the whiteboard, showing how they can be rectified.

To find out more, read some of our other articles about using smartphones in the classroom.



Benson, P. and Reinders, H. (eds) (2011). Beyond the Language Classroom. Basinstoke: Palgrave, Macmillan.

Emery, H. (2012). A Global Study of Primary English Qualifications: Training and Career Development. London: British Council.

Throne, S.L., and Black, R.W. (2011). Identity and Interaction in Internet-mediated contexts. In Higgins, C. (ed) Identity Formation in Globalizing Contexts. New York: Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 257-278.

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