Findings from the Milton Keynes field trial: testing an app to improve English language learning and cultural understanding: highlights

As noted in our last post the MASELTOV Milton Keynes field trials took place over a 3 week period in January and February 2015. We are still analyzing the rich and exciting data that were gathered during the field trials. Meanwhile, we thought we would post the initial finding highlights here, drawing on the interview data – with more to come in future posts.   Just as a reminder, we had:

17 participants from Spanish speaking South American countries.

The participants used smartphones with the MASELTOV App (MApp) services throughout the trial period and post-trial we carried out 12 interviews with participants plus one with the mentor/tutor.

We were interested in the following research questions:

RQ1: How do the participants use the tools and services provided within the MApp to improve their language and communication skills and cultural understanding?

RQ2: Does the MApp enable participants to shift their learning practices toward more self-directed learning?

The participants told us that they appreciated the following features of the MApp lessons because:

    1. The tool was available – always there when needed. One participant said: “if I need to go to the bank about my account, I look for it, [the lesson] find it, read it, go to the bank and do it!” Another commented: a good idea as most people have a mobile telephone or tablet. It is practical, you don’t have to find a place, you can just take the phone out…it’s (the phone) is permanently there”. However, the tool was often used at home, rather than out and about; partly because of the costs of internet connection, but also, for some, the environment was more conducive: “I wanted to take advantage of it at home with my kids to practice with or at night when it’s all calm”.
    2. It enabled them to look up vocabulary and phrases of personal interest. So, for example, the participants used the language lessons provided on the MApp to support particular situations where they wanted help with their English, such as going to the doctor’s, making bank transactions or catching a bus. This was indeed one of the chief intended uses of the lessons. For example, one participant found that they could change a couple of words in a phrase in a lesson on public transport and then used the phrases for their own bus journey.

there’s a lesson that says how to catch a bus, how to change bus… I got to my destinations with the same phrases simply by changing the (name of the) destination and the time, so this is what I really liked, questions like “…how long will it take from my house to central Milton Keynes…what bus do I take?” so then it’s really easy, things like ‘take’ and ‘change’… simple words I know but I didn’t know how to express myself with them…so this really helped me”.

C. They appreciated the support for practicing specific skills. One participant reported: I got more than I expected, especially pronunciation – something I find great difficulty with especially the accents, ways to say different words and phrases”, whilst another noted: I can say it again several times, complete it with my headphones, repeat it with the system, oh…it’s weird, they are saying it like this”.

D. They appreciated the feedback: “ (I liked the) practice….like the tests where you could see if you learnt it or not so if I had mistakes, I could see my errors and say OK I’ll go back and read it again”.

E.  And finally they perceived it as practical and needs driven and appreciated this: really practical everyday phrases that help a lot, for example in my bank I didn’t know what to say if I wanted to deposit this amount but…there were really simple sentences that help you really fast, it’s been really good”; “[I learnt a lot] because of the language learning app,… if I want to find a job or… need to open a bank account, or find out my social security number…really useful for people recently arrived ..”  This was indeed one of the aims of the lessons.

For further information on the Milton Keynes field trial, please contact: Prof. Agnes Kukulska-Hulme ( and/or Jan Jones ( or for more information about the MASELTOV project please see here:

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