(The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Al-Fanar Media).
The use of technology in language classes is currently a hot topic in education circles. The trend in learning has roughly paralleled trends in technology, evolving from the use of large mainframe computers to a stage where all parties may employ handheld devices. In the process, education has become a far more localized and accessible pursuit than it was even as recently as 10 years ago. This latest iteration is commonly referred to as e-learning, with an important variation centered around the influence of mobile phones, referred to as m-learning.
Because of the portable nature of this new educational medium, which combines mobile phones with the sometimes apparently limitless ability of the World Wide Web to deliver information to learners, large swaths of traditional educational methodology and teaching methods may be falling by the wayside. More and more, educators and researchers are irresistibly attracted to the seductive power of this technological combination, particularly at this time of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Unfortunately, there remain many structural roadblocks that hinder the advent of m-learning. The promotion of such technology in language classrooms carries with it the implicit assumption that the presence of mobile phones in the classroom is an unqualified benefit. In fact, the very presence of these devices, not only in classrooms but also in society, has the potential of disrupting the ordinary course and patterns of life that the venues in which they are used to exist for.
Speaking as a Yemeni instructor, with experience in teaching at all levels of education in our nation, this situation requires the adaptation of online learning, due to the complicating factors created by the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the geopolitical struggles and challenges facing the nation as a whole for an indefinite period of time. It would be next to impossible for the government to provide computers, laptops or other major learning platforms for online learning. However, since most Yemeni students own a kind of smartphone, it is within the realm of possibility to make use of any available application for these mobile phones to enhance the process of online learning for these students.
Using mobile phones as the primary means of access to a larger online-learning system in Yemen can provide certain benefits. To take one example, applications like WhatsApp may themselves be used as platforms, since groups may be created to exchange knowledge between the teachers, especially English-language teachers, and learners. Also, other applications and/or social networking websites, such as Facebook or Twitter, may also be employed for these objectives.