Monday, March 12, 2012

Handheld pronunciation: Sounds Right . . .

Clipart: Clker
If you have an iPad, get ready for the next wave of pronunciation programs. If not . . . not to worry just yet. You won't be missing much for a while. Granted, handhelds, by definition, use the hands, touch and movement, but almost without exception (that being the new iPad HD), they are not "haptic," that is there is little or no touch-based feedback to the user on accuracy of positioning or pronunciation. That will come. More importantly, however, is the impact on the body (or kinaesthetic memory and processing) of using a handheld, especially for pronunciation. Working a handheld quickly and efficiently often involves extensive body control and rigidity (video games such as "Temple Run," aside!) such that the focus and attention must be on the interface--similar to the difference between writing a note by hand and doing it on the wordprocessor--not the body. (There is more and more research coming out on the limitations of "handheld literacy and learning." See earlier posts.) Handhelds such as "Sounds Right" by the British Council, linked above, may be good for getting information and basic sounds, but when it comes to later recalling and being able to integrate those sounds into conversation, that is probably another matter. There are a number of similar handheld pronunciation practice programs now available. They all involve holding the handheld in fixed position (which normally will be in the lower visual field--with head "bowed" just to see what is on the screen well) and then either just listening, repeating or taking a shot at pronouncing the word or phrase first.) HICP is based on a bit more body engagement than that, actually. It may work in an iPad held by something other than the body (like a tripod) at eye level as you dance along and pause occasionally for some haptic feedback, however. Keep in touch.  

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