Closing in on Vocabulary Acquisition: Testing the Use of iPods and Flashcard Software to Eliminate Performance Gaps


Vocabulary acquisition is one of the critical building blocks in acquiring foreign language fluency. Instructors typically expect students to learn vocabulary through study separate from the study of grammar or syntax, as well as through drilling and implicit contextual techniques. In some cases, however, faculty shy away from suggesting specific strategies for vocabulary acquisition, instead trusting students to discover methods that work best for themselves. In March through June of 2009, faculty and information technology experts at Carleton College pilot-tested the use of mobile technology as a supplementary tool to classroom learning of French as a second language. Specifically, iPods with digital flashcards, equipped with Mental Class flashcard software, were distributed to students to assist with vocabulary acquisition. Through this initiative, the researchers tested a premise that technological intervention may address the need to help students study vocabulary more effectively and do so in practical, sustainable ways that do not increase workloads for faculty, students, or academic technical support staff.

The Seeking Evidence of Impact (SEI) program is intended to bring the teaching and learning community into a discussion about ways of gathering evidence of the impact of our innovations and current practices. The goal of the SEI Case Studies is to provide examples of successful projects evaluating the impact of innovation, technology, and best practices in teaching and learning.

In addition to the SEI Case Studies, you may find other ELI resources useful in addressing teaching, learning, and technology issues at your institution. To learn more, please visit the ELI Resources page.

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