Apps + Homework = MALL

Mobile-Assisted Language Learning (MALL) has seen an explosion in terms of potential due to the introduction of smart phones. Through educational Apps, learners can find rich resources and varied activities in their language learning. I have earlier re-blogged Thiel’s (2014, Jan 24) article and review of Whitby’s (2013) Educating Gen-Wifi book, where instead of resisting smart phones in the classroom, educators are encouraged to actively utilize the potential of having, e.g., interactive encyclopaedias in your pocket. However, educators still have to question whether technology in each case can enhance learning processes in the classroom or not (cf. Leismann, 2014, Apr. 14). MALL should thus be used critically which presupposes thorough planning from the teacher.

Learning a language wherever you are

One of the most recent BBC Click episodes explores the potential of MALL. They present a language learning app called Busuu. This is an app where you can learn 12 languages, and interact with your peers. Duolingo is a similar app, allowing you to connect with your friends. Personally, I have found it motivational to compete with my friends in how much progress a day I am able to complete. And you can learn it wherever you are: on the bus, at the shopping centre, etc.

Coding can be easy and fun

The user interface in computing nowadays is much more simpler and easy to manage than some 15 years ago. Still, learning about codes and scripts in the quest of developing own software or apps is a very useful skill indeed. 2014 is the Year of Code, and enables learners to engage with problem-solving and code-cracking. Computer-science is hence taught through drag-and-drop programming, making it easy and fun. Still, learners can click and discover the real codes underneath. At, learners can be taught how to code the immensely popular game Flappy bird. I would assume this would be an enormous motivational factor for students.

In the occassion of ‘the Year of Code’, Silke tells of the ongoing Coding da Vinci project in Germany (Leismann, 2014, Apr. 14). Following the digitizing of many of Germany’s biggest libraries, this fusion of the gaming world and the cultural world seems very beneficial in bringing the high culture down to the public (Ibid.). So, jetzt anmelden, hackers of the open cultural world!

Game-based learning

Christian, has earlier published a post on the game-based learning tool Kahoot (Stranger-Johannessen, 2014 Feb 9). This is yet another form of MALL that has the potential to broaden the scope of the classroom. In Christian’s post, he shows to practical examples from his own testing in classroom to illustrate how motivated students can become in combining games and language learning. Interestingly, a student who rarely speaks in class won the game (!). BBC Click (2014, Mar 21) argues that Kahoot could be a great way of drawing students attention away from Snapchat and Facebook to engage in interactive learning activities.


Below you can watch the instructional video from, showing you how to code your own Flappy bird game:

And here you can enjoy the BBC Click episode:



BBC (2014, Mar 21). Learning a new language with help from your peers [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 09.04.2014].

Leismann, S. (2014, Apr. 14) “Technology is the answer, but what was the question?” [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 15.04.2014].

Stranger-Johannessen, C. (2014, Feb 9). The Wonders Of Kahoot [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 09.04.2014]

Thiel, P. (2014, Jan 24). Gen Wi-Fi [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 09.04.2014]

Whitby, G. (2013). Educating Gen Wi-Fi: How We Can Make Schools Relevant for 21st Century Learners. Australia: HarperCollins

Multimodal analysis: Deconstructing the semiotics of a power point presentation

The fact that students should work with a variety of texts and genres is a relatively clear in the Knowledge Promotion (UDIR, 2006). The salience of this is lent to several competence aims. However, the word multimodal is not used, and the interpretation consequently becomes more open (as seen in curriculum analyses, e.g. Vattøy 2014). However, the aims about modality are implicitly formulated. In the English subject curriculum, students should be able to “produce different kinds of texts suited to formal digital requirements for different digital media” (After VG1). As shown, although not explicitly formulated, making use of different digital media multimodality will most likely be a feature. In the elaboration of digital skills, nevertheless, the idea of modality is more explicitly formulated: “Formal requirements in digital texts means that effects, images, tables, headlines and bullet points are compiled to emphasise and communicate a message” (UDIR, 2006).

PK (2010), spectral bicycle and train - with sound. Flickr, Creative Commons License

PK (2010), spectral bicycle and train – with sound. Flickr, Creative Commons License

The notion of multimodality

Multimodality implies applying different modes in the creation of an artefact. Van Leeuwen (2005) argues that the notion of semiotic resources, as introduced by Halliday (1978), is the basis for multimodality with its focus on meaning-making through different signs. Kress and van Leeuwen (1996) uses children’s drawings as an example to highlight their notion of visual grammar. Still, multimodality could be understood in a much wider sense than simply the traditional idea of text, picture, and sound. Iversen and Otnes (2010) thus apply the term multimodal grammar to expand the limits of the semiotic resources available (p. 178). In their lyrical montage analysis of students’ power point presentations they apply the framework of Kress (2003) with the key notion of functional load. Kress (2003) understands functional load in terms of what affordances each mode carries and what salience it is given.

Multimodal analysis of a power point presentation

In this post, I will analyse a power point presentation I made last year in a the British Culture and Society part of the ”English VG1” subject at an upper secondary school. I will use screenshots of selected slides as basis.


Opening slide, Slide 1

The opening slide of the power point is an interesting one, and I chose it as material for my analysis because of its associations to a badge. The text that is added over and below the image, complements the image of the British coat of arms in a very beneficial way. My initial association is to a badge someone would wear on one’s jersey or sweater. I decided that the opening slide should be static, and I chose not to add any animations and movements for several reasons. First, the honour and importance of a national coat of arms is not to be used in an informal manner. Second, as an opening slide it should give some sense of a solid point of departure. The image of the coat of arms has the functional load (cf. Kress 2003) considering its central position. The text functions then arguably as an extension of the most salient modality. The function of the modalities is informative.


Henry VIII slide, Slide2.

In this slide, however, the informative function of the language is challenged by the expressional trick with the genre mixing. Making an old painting into a comic strip is an anachronistic and unusual feature. Digital texts carries the potential to allowing students to use their creative imagination when producing multimodal texts. I found the comic genre applied on photos and paintings quite interesting, and the meaning affordance alters. My students laughed out loud when they saw this slide, and I wanted to utilize the animation functions of the Power Point software. I started in the reading direction (from top) with the title and first bullet point. The two components came sliding in. Then, I let the Henry VIII painting come spiralling down on the slide with the speech bubble lightening down diagonally. This comic element dominated the whole slide after being introduced, and the students dwelled at this extension of textual information. Van Leeuwen (2005) uses the term rhythm in explaining how semiotic combinations such as animations could enhance the multimodal cohesion (p. 179).

Educational use of multimodal analyses

Analyses such as these, where students apply a framework on different multimodal texts could empower students with an enforced meta-analytical awareness. With tools for deconstructing multimodal texts, students are more able to consciously create their own multimodal texts. From a teacher’s point of view, one possibility is to assemble a framework with key terms, such as, e.g., rhythm, composition, information linking, and dialogue (cf. Van Leeuwen 2005).

Once again, I just feel I have to show one more comic-inspired power point slide, seeing as this was a feature I especially fell in love with.


Cameron Ministry, Slide 3



Halliday, M. A. K. (1978). Language as social semiotic. London: Arnold.

Iversen, H. M., & Otnes, H. (2010). Multimodale lyrikkmontasjer–teknologibruk og tolkende tekstskaping. In J. Smidt, I. Folkvord & A. J. Aasen (Eds.), Rammer for skriving. Om skriveutvikling i skole og yrkesliv (pp. 175-187). Trondheim: Tapir Akademisk Forlag.

Kress, G. R., & Van Leeuwen, T. (1996). Reading images: The grammar of visual design. New York: Psychology Press.

Kress, G. (2003). Literacy in the new media age. London & New York: Routledge.

UDIR. (2006). Læreplanverket for Kunnskapsløftet (LK06). Oslo: Utdanningsdirektoratet.

Van Leeuwen, T. (2005). Introducing social semiotics. London: Routledge.

Vattøy, K. D. (2014, Jan, 28) Curriculum analysis of the English subject (LK06): Looking for Digital Competence [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 24.03.2014]

Hypertext: navigating through a web of links


Brickley (2010) “Hypertext Flexibility”, Flickr, Creative Commons License

Hypertextuality lies at the very core of the World Wide Web, and it is by which it becomes possible to navigate through the a vast web of nodes, which are text-segments. Information is linked from a pointer (what we click) via a link to a node. The links are invisible, and you click on pointers to access different nodes which can be web pages and such.

Brickley’s (2010) photo illustrates, analogously and brilliantly, how texts are connected to one another. If you click the photo you will be directed to his Flickr page, since I changed the URL of the link in an attempt to credit his work of art in an even thorougher fashion than a textual reference can aspire to accomplish. Clicks will boost his statistics.

Non-digital vs digital hypertext

Non-digital texts could have some hypertext qualities. When we read a newspaper we might find a page number of an article we are interested in on the front page, and then go ahead and open the respective page. On the web, however, everything is connected through hypertext at some level. The web might sometimes appear as a labyrinth, but without a specific beginning or end, considering how everything is interconnected.


LexnGer (2006) “Toronto Labyrinth”, Flickr, Creative Commons Licensed.

Internal vs external links

The links that are created from this page to the two respective Flickr pages are called external links, since they lead to different websites. The links that are created under the topic “Collaborative writing” are by contrast internal links, seeing as they lead to the same WordPress site (in this case).

Hypertexts and digital texts in the classroom

Students of the 21st century are familiar in handling masses of information, and have perhaps developed strategies that are unfamiliar to older users, since the time of exposure is often at an earlier age. Students may be familiar with sharing posts and content through social media. Not all, however, are used to write texts where they deliberately and consciously link to pages by marking text, image or icon.

Hypertext and critical digital competence

I have earlier written posts about Wikipedia in the classroom where I focussed on the importance of critical digital competence. I had a hands-on experience in the classroom where students systematically altered Wikipedia articles and proved my point. I believe that collaborative writing where students engage in joint text production using hypertext could increase their critical digital competence. This could be done by using for instance Wikispaces. Encouraging students to link to one another’s wiki-pages as well as external links to useful information could deepen their understanding of how the web works.

Hypertext and multimodality:

Kulbrandstad (2001) discusses the importance of an awareness of hypertext at the Lower Secondary level. He writes about the project HYPTUNG (“Hypertekst i ungdomstrinnet” / “Hypertext at the Lower Secondary level”) in his report that has the title “From woolen threads to hyper links”. The analogy is in line with Brickley’s (2010) photo. He argues for a creative approach to working with hypertexts in the classroom: “Work with hypertext in the classroom, thus, has to give students the opportunity to develop knowledge and skills in what is called web design or screen aesthetics” (p. 14; my translation).

Pedagogical idea

In keeping with Kulbrandstad’s ideas about combining hypertext and multimodality, I think it could be a very useful idea to initiate group project work on wikipages. Students create their own wikis and work with a specific topic, where there is a focus on making hypertexts, and linking, in particular to their fellow students’ pages. When their project is finished, a cross-curricular activity is carried out where for instance Arts and Crafts is combined with English. Students make representations of their wikipages in keeping with Brickley’s illustrative photo, and Kulbrandstad’s ideas about woolen threads. Students will be given feedback along the way, and are assessed at the end of the project. At this point, a focus on hypertext will be emphasised.



Kulbrandstad, L. A. 2001. Fra ulltråder til hyperlenker. Rapport fra prosjektet “Hypertekst på ungdomstrinnet”,. Hamar: Høgskolen i Hedmark, nr. 2.


Wikipedia follow-up: the students proved my point


I have earlier blogged about the role of Wikipedia in the classroom. I pointed out how incredibly popular it is, and much used by students. The issue that I addressed was the uncritical attitude that follows along with its use. Many students use it as their first choice, but do not critically assess references. Critical awareness when using Wikipedia is thus of key importance in their learning processes.

Recently, I taught a class in a school project where they were in the phase of gathering information for their papers. I registered that the majority of students used Wikipedia. When I saw that some only copied and pasted passages from Wikipedia, I found it necessary to ask all of the students questions of how they could know if the sources they found at Wikipedia were reliable. I asked questions like: “Who is the author of Wikipedia”, “Who has written this example text?”, etc., to spark critical reflection. When we had established that everybody is a potential collaborator and producer of texts at Wikipedia, I proposed foolishly that all of the students in the class could edit the texts online. The students took this seriously.

In a matter of 10 minutes, the Wikipedia pages that the students all used started to change, and the content was changed to nonsense, just like the distorted Charlie Sheen Wikipedia page below:


Even though the content was not in formal tone, I experienced that the students proved my point in not blindly trusting Wikipedia. Popular Wikipedia pages will not stay distorted (when it is very obvious that a something is untrue) for any great length. When multiple authors are involved, authors are often informed when changes occur, and often change them back. Nevertheless, the information could still be faulty, so teaching students to use references actively and check other sources becomes increasingly important. So, I do not in any way claim that we should abandon the use of Wikipedia, but instead inspire to use it in a critical and independent way. Another aspect is not relying on the textbook as a source of objective truth either.


Digital Footprints in the Sand?

The 21st century has seen an explosion in digital technological development, and it is still very much ongoing. Processes that have been executed in an analogue fashion, such as a handing a paper boarding card to the flight personnel, are soon becoming extinct. With so much of our personal and private information online, our privacy could potentially be out there in the open. Despite passwords and increased security, the possibility that hackers could access all of our personal information is evident. Kapadia et al. (2007) discuss the perils of pervasive environments where sensors can record users’ contextual information, such as geographical location. They argue that “digital footprints” can be made available to third parties without the users’ consent.

A good example in explaining the notion of “digital footprints” in 2014 is the smart phone. Since 2007 (and the publication of Kapadia et al.’s article) the smart phone has become the preliminary quintessential mode of the decade we live in. In order to use many apps and features, for instance, Google Maps, the GPS needs to be activated. However, agreeing to turning on the GPS means that you agree sending out information about your location. And the digital inhabitant of 2014 is not ignorant. If the President of the United States can tap the phone of the German Chancellor (Sherwell, 2013) , then of course, your GPS information surely will be available to somebody.

Founder of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, expressed his disapproval of the increased surveillance of the Web, and urge its users to protest (BBC 2014). In a BBC interview, he drew a comparison to human rights and proposed the idea of a “Magna Carta” bill of rights to protect users’ privacy.

From an educational point of view, digital awareness is ever so important, and students need to be given some instruction to start this process. Still, most of this learning will happen by experiencing, although some might not be so pleasant. However, this is more and more problematic, since it is harder to know whether you are able to know whether you are monitored or not. For example, does turning off the GPS on your phone make you undetectable?

Bergman (2001) explains how the greater part of the Internet is called the “deep web”, and is hidden from most users’ sight. When you use search engines and such, you view only the surface web which is considerably scarcer. In other words, every action you make on the Internet could potentially be monitored or traced back to. Cavoukian (2008) makes an interesting dichotomy between privacy and security. Digital users in the 21st century want to be safe, so they relinquish some privacy. The notion of a Web 3.0 is also relevant in this discussion. While Web 2.0 allowed users to communicate and interact with the web, Web 3.0 tailors the users’ needs and wants. Facebook is an obvious example. Facebook adapts the newsfeed to your digital footprints. The friends you interact with will be prioritized on your newsfeed, for example. On the one hand, this is all very convenient and Facebook users’ do not have to waste their precious time. On the other, Facebook ends up with a lot of information about you that are connected to your habits and so on.

Obviously, there has to be some kind of control on the World Wide Web, but at what cost? How do you feel about Big Brother looking over your shoulder?



BBC (2014, March 12) Sir Tim Berners-Lee: World wide web needs bill of rights [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 12.03.2014].

Bergman, M. K. (2001, September 24). The deep web: Surfacing hidden values. The Journal of Electronic Publishing, 7(1), online.

Cavoukian, A. (2008, May). Privacy and Digital Identity: Implications For The Internet. In Proceedings from Identity in the Information Society Workshop.

Fettinger, C. (2010) Stop Big Brother. Flickr photos, Creative Commons License. Available at: [Accessed: 12.03.2014]

Kapadia, A., Henderson, T., Fielding, J. J., & Kotz, D. (2007). Virtual walls: Protecting digital privacy in pervasive environments Pervasive Computing (pp. 162-179): Springer.

Sherwell, P. (2013, Oct 27) Barack Obama ‘approved tapping Angela Merkel’s phone 3 years ago’. New York and Berlin: Daily Telegraph. Available at: [Accessed: 12.03.2014].

A great day for educators, but a sad one for photographers?

One of the challenges when facilitating multimodal activities in the language classroom is minding copyrights. The gap between doing it the easy way, i.e., doing a quick Google Image Search, versus doing an advanced search (not to mention about the different licences) at Flickr could be wide. Piracy has, consequently, become a very common thing on the web. Blogs and web pages use images without an awareness of copyrighted material.

In a BBC article published today, you can read that Getty Images has made an attempt to change this trend. Recently, Getty Images made 35 million photos free to use. With its new “embed tool” users can embed photos in their blogs while at the same time give credit to the photographer. Newspapers and agencies will still have to pay for photos. However, many photographers are unhappy with this course of events, since the removal of watermarks makes it easier to give away photos for free.


(Photo: Matis, 2012, Flickr)



BBC (March 6, 2014) “Getty makes 35 million photos free to use” [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 06.03.2014]

Matis, B. J. (Jan 18, 2012) [1113]. Flickr, Creative Commons Licence [Online]. Available at:  [Accessed: 06.03.2014].