LEARNING VOCABULARY THROUGH TWITTER
1 Universidad Panamericana (MEXICO)
2 Universidad Cristobal Colón (MEXICO)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2014 Proceedings
Publication year: 2014
Conference name: 7th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 17-19 November, 2014
Location: Seville, Spain
Abstract:Vocabulary is one of the most important elements of language learning. Having a wide vocabulary helps language learners understand written and spoken language. It also helps them express their own ideas more completely.
Research has shown that vocabulary needs to be taught both explicitly and implicitly. In other words, learners need to have access to input which provides opportunities for learning new words, but they also need to be taught what words mean. Research also explains that explicit teaching works best when words are accompanied by examples and associated to images.
Because classroom time is limited and there are so many components to include- listening, reading, writing and speaking activities- teachers seek alternative ways to help students learn vocabulary.
Mobile learning is one such alternative. Some recent studies have shown promise in using mobile phones to teach vocabulary, either through SMS messaging, or using the email function. Other studies have shown success in using Twitter as a means of getting more input to learners, or in forming learning communities.
The present study used Twitter to deliver a daily vocabulary word to learners. The study took place during the spring term (January to May, 2014) at a small, private university in western Mexico. The researchers hypothesized that delivering a daily vocabulary word by Twitter would help the participants learn vocabulary more effectively.
Participants were 183 students in a university program of English, at either intermediate or advanced levels. Students were divided into an experimental or control group. Descriptive statistics show that both groups were similar in gender balance (approximately 60% female to 40% male) in level of English studies (mostly advanced level), and in level of studies at the University (a majority from sixth semester of studies).
Both groups took a vocabulary test at the beginning of the semester. Participants in the experimental group were asked to sign up to Twitter and “follow” the Twitterfeed of one of the researchers, who sent a daily word accompanied by a definition, an example, and an explanatory image. There were no special requirements other than signing up for the Twitterfeed, and teachers were asked not to make explicit references to the study, to avoid contaminating the results.
At the end of their semester of studies, both groups took the same vocabulary exam as a post-test. Results were measured to see if there was any gain in vocabulary knowledge. The ANOVA test (p= 0.959) showed no significant evidence to allow the null hypothesis to be rejected. Thus, Twitter appeared not to be a successful vehicle for vocabulary learning.
Why was Twitter unsuccessful at promoting vocabulary learning if email and SMS messaging had proved successful? It is possible that the reason lies in the targeted nature of the latter two methods of delivering the vocabulary. Tweets may have gotten lost in the “noise” of so many other incoming messages. A second stage of this research project may show if this is the case.
Keywords: Technology-enhanced language learning, Twitter, mobile learning.