Hold the Phone! ESOL Instruction via Mobile Phone

At this point most of our students have access to some sort of mobile phone.  Are you using these in your instruction?  I have met teachers who send text messages to their students and have found tools that allow teachers to contact many students at once, but the idea of individualized instruction via cell phone has always seemed like it could be very time consuming. And that’s where Cell-Ed comes in.

Cell-Ed uses simple or smart cell phones to deliver short 3-7 minute ESOL lessons for Hispanic adult learners that combine into a 25-hour course. Students just call a phone number and learn through interactive audio and text lessons.

Cell-Ed recently added a new literacy service to help Hispanic immigrants workers learn to read and write in Spanish first. They also have a Citizenship line in English (for any immigrant language group) to help immigrants learn the 100 questions on the Naturalization Exam.

Cell-Ed is free if you use the pre-recorded content.  You can also pay to be able to add your own content.

The Cell-Ed demo I went through began with calling this number 213.223.7323 (try it yourself).  A recorded woman’s voice welcomed me and told me that I would be receiving a text message.  The voice also explained that I had to stay on the call while the text messages came in so that the voice on the phone can give me directions on what to do with each text.

The first text message asked for my name and organization.  I responded and the a 2nd message arrived that said ” __________are you from?” ” I’m from Mexico” and gave me the choice of What,  When, Who, or Where.

The interface was intuitive.  The only challenge was to listen to the call and look at the text message screen at the same time–which meant that I put the call on speaker, so others around me could hear too.  This could be remedied easily with headphones.

You can learn more about the project in the video below.

While Cell-Ed could be used to extend work done in the classroom, it seems like a particularly rich tool for prospective students who are waiting to enter a class or students who live far away from a program and cannot meet in person often or at all.

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About Nell Eckersley

Nell loves roller derby, Indian food, and educational technology. She grew up in Nebraska, home of Carhenge. Nell now lives in Sunset Park, Brooklyn with a very friendly cat named Bruno. She is always looking for ways that technology can help solve problems and deepen and broaden teaching and learning.

7 thoughts on “Hold the Phone! ESOL Instruction via Mobile Phone

  1. I forwarded this information to our ESL teachers. I tried the program and found it very easy to use. The pace of the speaker makes it easy to understand her requests. Many of our ESL students do use cell phones. This activity will allow students to practice outside of school hours.

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  2. This sounds like it could be really helpful for my ESOL students. They often ask me for extra work outside the classroom and the majority of them use cell phones on a regular basis. I went to the web site and noticed that there are fees to use the service – $40 per core course and $10 per microed course. Is this true for all users?

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  3. I teach a high-intermediate/advanced ESOL class in which some of my students are quite well educated, while others are working on basic reading and writing. I think that this might be a good resource for them. I have the impression, however, that the material is aimed only at Spanish speakers and that vocabulary is presented in Spanish translation. If so, some of those most in need would be excluded.

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    1. The paid version of Cell-Ed does allow the teacher to create their own content so you could make the content more language agnostic. I’m checking but I believe in New York you should be able to access a paid account at no cost to yourself as it is sponsored through Office of New Americans. Contact Cell-Ed’s Education Director, Alison Ascher Webber at 510-816-1585 or alison@celled.org for more info.

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  4. Once again, Nell: Gracias! I am an ESL instructor at Mid Manhattan Adult Learning Center (MMALC)/NYCBOE. Two years ago, I gave a workshop on BYOD for Adult Ed Conference and had the pleasure of meeting you, but I have yet to robustly integrate with cell phones, etc. … until THIS YEAR. The two main issues we face in using this kind of tech in the classroom on a routine basis: 1. Recharging. I’ve requested that admin put power strips at each table (4) and appropriate wire coverings, etc. so students can easily recharge their phones after using in class (of course, they would bring their cords from home). 2. Wireless Connection: I have also requested the classroom use a portable hub (perhaps from http://everyoneon.org) that can be locked up when not in use. Many students cannot get appropriate connectivity in many school rooms. Also, some have very restrictive plans that are prohibitively expensive with usage and/or have very low speeds of connectivity. I have written Alison and will find out about our access to teacher-created content because I really want to use this resource in both my ESL classes this year! 🙂 As I have many French speaking students (as well as Bengali, Ayisyen/Haitian Creole, etc.), I would like to design ‘language agnostic’ tools for everyone to utilize. 🙂

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