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S. Couvaneiro, N. Pedro

Institute of Education, Lisbon University (PORTUGAL)
Mobile Assisted Language Learning (MALL) has increasingly become a field of study, showing Mobile Learning has a positive impact in language learning, such as English as a Foreign Language (EFL), mostly due to its ubiquitous potential (Kukulska-Hulme, 2012). This study looks at tablet use as a way to solve a double challenge - learning a foreign language and developing digital competence. As described by Kukulska-Hulme, mobile devices can help solve this challenge, since the two sides can answer themselves interchangeably (Kukulska-Hulme, 2010). Digital Competence has come forward as a priority, following the European “Digital Education Action Plan” recommendations (European Commission, 2018). It underlines the importance of preparing students at school for future digital challenges: “This makes investing in one’s digital skills throughout life of the utmost importance. While there are many opportunities arising from digital transformation, the biggest risk today is of a society ill-prepared for the future.” (European Commission, 2018). The same entity had already begun the development of a digital competence framework, named DIGCOMP (Ferrari, 2013). However, even though this has been presented as a priority, students’ technology adoption processes have been scarcely studied. The study presented here takes advantage of a private school tablet integration project to study eventual improvements on students’ learning, regarding motivation, oral production and digital competence. The study looked closely at the case of two groups of students, at the first and at the second year in the project. 106 students took part - 80 in the 7th and 26 in the 8th grade. In the 2015/2016 school year, the 7th grade students initiated their use of tablets in the classroom. The 8th grade had already done so and were thus in their second year using their devices. The two groups were surveyed at the beginning and at the end of the year regarding their motivation to learn EFL and their digital competence. For motivation, three scales from the Motivation index in the “Attitude/Motivation Test Battery” (Gardner, 1985) were selected. As for digital competence, both Proficiency and Self-confidence were assessed using the DIGCOMP framework (Ferrari, 2013). Throughout the year, students' digital products were collected and assessed in the three different terms. This allowed assessing students’ oral production according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (Council of Europe, 2009). At the end of the year, all the quantitative data were analysed and the (preliminary) results helped to develop the instrument to collect qualitative data: a script for an interview to the English teachers. This mixed methods research design uses a strategy that Creswell et al. (2003) considered “Sequential Explanatory”, since all the quantitative data were collected ahead of the qualitative data. Hence, the later were a way to deeper explore the initial results. Accordingly, this methodology falls within the Pragmatic Paradigm, since the research questions are the study's priority (Mertens, 2014). The results evidence a favourable tendency with significant differences in the first year in terms of oral production and digital competence. The second year has significant differences only in motivation. Both teachers felt the students were more actively involved in class activities and improved their oral participation, as well as the quality of their digital products.