I went out the other Saturday night in the middle of a torrential rainstorm.

I went out the other Saturday night in the middle of a torrential rainstorm. I had no choice but to just brave the weather as it was a pre-arranged fortieth birthday party and I live on an island in Hong Kong so am bound by ferry timetables rather than my own convenience.Because of the rain I decided to leave my phone at home rather than risk it getting wet, although a few months old now it still feels new enough that I feel a slight sense of panic if I see a new scratch on the case. Getting it wet didn’t seem like an option.It must have been the first time I have been out without my phone for a long time. And boy, did I find the experience strange. Not for the lack of telephonic technology in my pocket but for the extras that come with it. I couldn’t take a photo of my friend on her birthday night. I couldn’t listen to a podcast on the ferry into town. I couldn’t check the internet for football scores on the way home. Or Tweet about where I was. Or Facebook to upload photos of the night. Or check the underground train app to work out the fastest way across town. Or learn a phrase in Spanish to impress my Spanish friend. The fact that it has become a social norm now to walk around with small computers in our pockets is something that us educators need to think about a lot more. I see students in classes with machines that have access to online dictionaries, translators, flashcards makers, English learning podcasts etc etc in their pockets. And then they ask me how they can improve their English outside class. There is a sign on the classroom wall with a picture of a mobile phone in the middle of a red cross. Of course, we don’t want students chatting to their mates through the lesson, or checking their Facebook accounts but the power of the mobile phone as a learning tool should be harnessed more I think in and out of class. You’ll have seen Rob (the TeachingEnglish manager) has added a section on the launch of some British Council mobile phone apps. I have spent a lot of the last few months working on MyWordBook, and although by no means perfect yet, I think reference tools where learners can create, store and share English vocabulary can be really useful.I’ve started some research into the learners experience with regards to using language apps for their learning and will be happy to share that.It would be really interesting to hear your thought on these apps and experiences of using mobile phones for learning and teaching, whether it’s smartphones like the iPhone or lower tech phones.

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