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English-language learning at their fingertips : educational and motivational affordances of tablet apps in children's EFL learning

Given the popularity of multi-touch tablets, especially among children, and the amount of educational applications (apps) currently available for their use, tablets offer mobile-assisted language learning opportunities rarely provided by more traditional English as a foreign language (EFL) teaching methods. Tablets are increasingly finding their way into classrooms, as their unique affordances give them educational advantages over other mobile technologies. To date, however, insufficient research has been conducted on the educational applications and motivational potential of this digital tool, particularly with reference to foreign-language acquisition by young beginner learners. The aim of this research was to explore the educational and motivational affordances of tablets and tablet apps in supporting young EFL beginner learners, and the factors affecting students’ self-determination to use tablets to learn English. To fulfil this aim, I designed and conducted a case study in a fourth-grade class in a state primary school in Riyadh City in Saudi Arabia. I used an exploratory qualitative case study design to gain an in-depth understanding of the topic. My approach was social-constructivist, supported by a framework of self-determination theory. I collected the data via participant observation, focus groups, semi-structured interviews and blogging. The sample consisted of 22 female students between 9 and 10 years old. I used inductive and deductive thematic analysis to examine the data. The findings indicate that the technological affordances of tablets, their capacity to mediate and encourage social interaction and collaborative learning, and the overall positive experience of tablet-based EFL learning powerfully motivate children to use tablets to learn English both in classroom settings and beyond. These influential factors were found to elicit, enhance and sustain the intrinsic motivation (IM) and self-regulation of the young EFL participants. The children were highly intrinsically motivated and positively self-regulated by the use of tablet apps to learn English both in the classroom and outside the school setting. Self-determination types such as IM accomplishment, IM knowledge, IM stimulation and identified regulation of external motivation were observed in the data. These findings suggest that the experience of learning via apps was both enjoyable and personally meaningful. However, the students’ self-determination appeared to be affected by certain factors related to the use of tablets (digital and social factors) and apps (app features) that reduced their motivation to deploy these learning tools. The findings of this thesis provide language instructors and researchers, policy-makers and app developers with insights into the educational and motivational tools afforded by tablets and tablet apps for English-language learning, and the factors that enhance or reduce young EFL students’ self-determination to use these tools for learning. In addition, recommendations are made for future research in this area.
Date January 2016
CreatorsAlhinty, Mona
ContributorsMarsh, Jackie ; Yamada-Rice, Dylan
PublisherUniversity of Sheffield
Source SetsEthos UK
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation

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