Jessica Mackay

Using WhatsApp for interactive tasks

This interactive workshop looks at a programme of tasks conducted via the social media platform ‘WhatsApp’, integrated into an adult EFL course. Tasks included drills, Q & A and guessing games. We will discuss how task type influences participation and type of language produced. Furthermore, learners’ off-task interactions provided useful insights into implications for group dynamics and learner agency.

SESSION ABSTRACT

As ELT practitioners, we are increasingly reminded that our learners use mobile technology in most aspects of their lives, and will undoubtedly expect to use it in class as well. Therefore, given the available resources, we should be trying to integrate mobile technology into our courses and programmes in order to motivate and engage our learners. While there is plentiful information on how to do this and what to do, through teacher resource books, conference workshops and online courses, to date little research has been done on how students and teachers actually use this technology in language courses. This interactive workshop draws on a research project conducted in an adult EFL context in Barcelona, Spain. Learners on a five-week summer intensive course carried out a number of tasks, such as drills, guessing games and free production, via the social media platform WhatsApp. Participation was voluntary and took place in learners’ own time. We will look at practical suggestions on how to set up the tasks, including privacy considerations. By looking at the learners’ responses and the language produced, we can analyse which task types were most successful in promoting learner participation and potential learning opportunities. Furthermore, through analysis of the learners’ off-task interaction, we can speculate on the potential influence of this type of programme on factors such as learner agency, group cohesion and dynamics. This talk will be of interest to teachers of adults and young adults, curious to know more about the potential benefits, both linguistic and interpersonal, of setting up tasks via social media.

SPEAKER BIO

Jessica has the RSA Dip. TEFLA, MA and a PhD in Applied Linguistics. She is an EFL teacher and head of Teacher Training at the Escola d'Idiomes Moderns, Universitat de Barcelona, lead editor on ‘ELT Research in Action’, (2018, 2020), IATEFL Research SIG committee member and Barcelona Area Coordinator for TESOL Spain.