Friday, October 7, 2016

Picture this! Affective use of smart phones in (pronunciation) teaching!
Tigger warning: The following post contains both fun and "happy talk" of various stripes!

Although the research on the effect (and affect) of classroom smartphone presence runs the gamut, from minus (BBC) to plus (Inside Higher Ed.), every new pronunciation textbook or system must be at least highly handheld-compatible or have its own app. Something apparently all studies to date missed, however, was to what extent using a handheld, especially taking and posting pictures, contributes to . . . HAPPINESS!

Chen, Mark and Ali, of University of California-Irvine have happily filled in that gap: Promoting Positive Affect through Smartphone Photography, linking happiness with use of selfies and shared photos. From the Science Daily summary:

Researchers collected nearly 2,900 mood measurements during the study and found that subjects in all three groups experienced increased positive moods. Some participants in the selfie group reported becoming more confident and comfortable with their smiling photos over time. The students taking photos of objects that made them happy became more reflective and appreciative. And those who took photos to make others happy became calmer and said that the connection to their friends and family helped relieve stress.

Without getting into the somewhat suspect methodology and conclusions of the research--which would obviously detract from the fun of drawing out the implications for pronunciation teaching (or any kind of teaching for that matter), let's just focus on a few of the more fascinating possibilities:

A. Selfie's promote confidence and comfort with one's own photos.
Teaching application: In addition to just added confidence, being more comfortable with "objectively" critiquing one's voice production, especially pronunciation would be for many learners exceedingly valuable. 
B. Photos of things that make one happy encourage reflectiveness and "appreciativeness".
Teaching application: Reflectiveness is now the "gold standard" for both learners and instructors. Just imagine the implications for instructor and course evaluations! In addition, some of the most interesting and productive work with smart phones has been with learners exchanging and discussing favorite photos where peer and self monitoring of language form and content is involved (See C, below, too.)
C. Photos to make others happy make one calmer and relieve stress.
Teaching application: Calm, stress-free working milieu is invaluable in pronunciation instruction but exceedingly difficult to maintain. The connection to the connectedness of the other members of the class is, of course, key. A good example of that is having students creating and talking about various kinds of photo collections, collages or web-applications that organize and display pictures with unlimited numbers of contributors.

Just doing this post made me feel, well . . . happier! There are, it seems, even more good (affective and pedagogical) reasons why students should be encouraged to use their smart phones in class! Get the picture?

University of California, Irvine. (2016, September 13). Study links selfies, happiness. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 5, 2016 from