The current study focuses on the evaluation of Mobile Assisted Language Learning (MALL) implemented in elementary schools, analyzing teachers’ attitudes, perceptions of proficiency, and hardships associated with this approach. In addition, the impact of specific demographic and technographic variables (gender, teaching experience, and professional development) on teachers’ attitudes toward the MALL and perceptions of proficiency is explored. The study demonstrated that, in general, teachers perceive using MALL in elementary schools in Saudi Arabia positively. They admit the possibility of using mobile phones for various needs while conducting EFL classes: integration containing portability, learning opportunities, multimedia functions, accessibility, scaffolding, availability and connectivity of data, ubiquitous form of learning, and time efficiency. This approach was applied for conducting lessons during the pandemic, and teachers admit positive results of MALL for supporting the teaching and learning process. Consequently, teachers’ positive attitude towards using MALL within classroom activities on the English language during the coronavirus restrictions.
Initially, teachers considered that they have enough skills and preparations to implement MALL during their EFL lessons efficiently. However, the majority of them lack the essential qualifications to adhere to this approach. Researchers proposed a range of solutions to this issue, for instance, Dashtestani (2013) highlights that educational institutes should contribute to acquiring ICT skills by their employees. The necessity of practical and theoretical training and increased awareness of the ways of implementing new technologies for conducting language lessons. Bandera (2006) notices that teachers with high levels of productivity adhere to instructional strategies, which stimulate students to use MALL. Kent & Giles (2017) investigate other conditions, namely teachers with low efficiency. The researchers claim that this factor influences their ability to use MALL negatively. Summarizing the presented opinions, it is crucial to provide teachers in Saudi with additional training on using technologies for conducting lessons to implement MALL effectively. This finding is also admitted by studies, published in 2016 and 2018 years.
As the majority of Saudi teachers lack essential qualifications to use technologies during classes, they encountered hardships while implementing MALL. Bandora (2006) mentions that teachers with high self-efficiency are capable of overcoming the challenges associated with MALL use. The widespread difficulties concerned the students’ behavior and knowledge: “students’ non-use of mobile phones for academic purposes and students’ lack of skill/knowledge to use mobile phones for academic purposes”. Moreover, problems with the internet and equipment were indicated: “internet connectivity obstacles, slow Internet speed and lack of MALL activities and software tools”. Therefore, the need to concentrate on delivering MALL training for Saudi EFL teachers is essential. This finding is shared with previous research, conducted by Khan (2018) and Dashtestani (2013).
For conducting the current study, the MANOVA analysis was utilized. The results demonstrated that gender does not influence teachers’ attitudes and perceptions of their proficiency in MALL. Participants of different gender showed no difference in their opinion on MALL implementation. This conclusion may be proved by other research in this field. Dehkordi (2018) revealed that both female and male teachers tend to have a positive perspective on using MALL in EFL teaching and learning. However, some studies made other conclusions in this regard, suggesting that gender is an impactful factor, which defines teachers’ attitudes and perceptions of their proficiency in the new approach (Oz, 2015; Baek et al., 2017). In these cases, female teachers were more positive about the changes in teaching and learning practice, compared to their male colleagues. Women were convinced of beneficial learning results via the new approach.
The MANOVA analysis revealed a difference in attitudes and perceptions of proficiency about MALL among participants of different levels of professional development and working experience. Thus, the results of the MANOVA analysis demonstrated that higher professionality defines a positive attitude to MALL and perception of proficiency to realize this approach in practice. 76 people involved in the experiment stated that they had not completed MALL training before. This factor is considered to affect adhering to MALL for conducting English language lessons. Consequently, to successfully implement this approach, it is essential to organize training courses and workshops on this topic. Carless (1999) states: “Without sufficient retraining, even teachers initially enthusiastic about an innovation method can become frustrated by problems in implementation and eventually turn against the project” (p. 23). This conclusion may be proven by previous studies, presented by Norah (2020).
The experiment showed that teachers with 21-30 years of professional experience tended to accept the MALL positively and adjust to it, compared to employees with less experience. Rosa (2016) claims that experienced teachers can adopt ICT skills easier than novice teachers. Rosa (2016) also mentions that they have a more positive attitude to MALL than teachers with 0-10 years of professional experience. Baek et al. (2017) presented a similar result, stating that teachers with more than 15 years of experience tend to perceive MALL positively and adopt this practice to their lessons.
Mobile-Assisted Language Learning (MALL) implies a new approach to conducting lessons on learning languages. It involves using mobile phones, digital applications, and websites as class activities. This methodology was considered to be effective, especially in the conditions of the Covid-19 pandemic, when students had to complete their curriculum via online possibilities. Since the moment MALL was implemented in teaching practice in Saudi, little evaluation has been done on the issue of teachers’ perception of this approach and adaptivity to it. Thus, the importance of collecting the teachers’ attitudes to MALL should not be underestimated by the policymakers, when they introduce new strategies. It is evident that teachers play a crucial role in applying MALL to practice effectively, and for this reason, it is essential to receive feedback from them. In general, in Saudi elementary schools, teachers tend to have positive attitudes toward using MALL for conducting a lesson on the English language.
To implement MALL beneficially, it is vital to take into consideration the conditions, where it is supposed to operate. Following this principle, the Ministry of Education is recommended to help teachers cope with all the challenges associated with MALL adoption. Carless (1999) states: “Without sufficient retraining, even teachers initially enthusiastic about an innovation method can become frustrated by problems in implementation and eventually turn against the project” (p. 23).
The majority of Saudi EFL teachers do not have the appropriate qualifications to use MALL for conducting lessons. They need to increase the level of their proficiency for developing MALL successfully. Ashtestani (2012) highlights the necessity to provide Saudi EFL teachers with need practical and theoretical training. This method is considered to help them acquire the necessary skills for using technologies for conducting language classes. Thus, teachers should be supplied with pedagogical and practical coaching for implementing MALL competently in the curriculum.
To overcome all the challenges associated with using MALL, governmental support is required. The Ministry of Education should establish Practical MALL workshops, intended to develop and design MALL activities and tasks and share the experience of adhering to this approach. Furthermore, it is advisable to motivate language teachers to find partners in designing MALL activities for lessons. Practical MALL workshops may significantly stimulate teachers to work in collaboration. Another essential condition is access to the required equipment for conducting classes with the use of modern technologies. They should be supplied with the possibility to utilize a variety of MALL software programs.
The current study appeared informative in the context of indicating the gaps in the research on this topic. Moreover, it includes recommendations on the direction of studies presented in the future. The literature review revealed that it is essential to explore Saudi EFL teachers’ perceptions of MALL implementation in K-12. For instance, as the current study predominantly focuses on teaching practice in elementary schools, there is a lack of data on MALL implementation in other stages of school education. In addition, the question explored in the study may be approached differently, namely using mixed methods or qualitative methods of research. Another direction of future research implies the actual practice of using MALL, investigating the difficulties faced by EFL teachers. The conclusions of the current study are considered to benefit teaching practice and relieve the challenges associated with MALL implementation, and attract the attention of the Saudi Ministry of Education and interest in teaching development people.