Is It Possible to Form Good Study Habits with an App?

My previous post prompted reflection on how good study habits are formed. I shared ideas on long-term change as described by B. J. Fogg in his TEDx talk “Forget Big Change, Start with a Tiny Habit.” In theory, it certainly sounds plausible that a new habit can become automatic if it is closely tied to an existing behavior. Since I have yet to experience or observe this in the context of language learning, I can only hold on to the idea as a possible approach. There are others we could consider, of course, so we may not jump on Fogg’s tiny habit bandwagon too soon.

I do agree with Fogg’s assertion that intrinsic motivation can take good habits only so far. What else can fuel a person’s efforts to make a long-term change in their behavior? Perhaps we can consider the support of an app. Yes, I know it’s become cliché to say, “There’s an app for that.” However, why dismiss the idea without looking at what the app actually offers?

Look in the app store and you’ll see quite a number of apps that track habits and goals. What they all have in common is requiring the user to first identify specific goals. In the case of a language learner, one cannot simply type in: Understand more English. Concrete tasks must be entered. Study vocabulary flashcards would work. If a teacher were to recommend the use of such an app, one guideline would be to identify a range of doable tasks related to the language goals. An app may allow a user to create an unlimited number of tasks, but too many wouldn’t allow a language learner to focus properly.

Habit trackers also ask users to set reminders. This can be a good thing since today’s students carry their smartphones around all day long. Reminders with a special alert tone are harder to ignore than a friendly email from a study partner or teacher. Reminders can be set for daily or weekly tasks. A 5-minute review of flashcards can be set for every Monday and Friday morning. The task of writing a sentence with one vocabulary word can be scheduled for every evening at 7 p.m.

Habit trackers force honest reflection. Users view trends and insights. These apps use numbers and/or graphics to track what has or hasn’t been done. For example, a language learner can easily see the last time vocabulary flashcards were used. The app Productive shows your current streak and your best streak. Can you top your best streak? Did you break your streak? And if that isn’t enough to prompt a learner to get back on schedule, then perhaps fun rewards or social support would work.

An app like Habitica considers more sources of motivation beyond personal reflection. It’s promoted as a “gamified task manager” complete with the chance to earn rewards and level-up. Users get an avatar and can turn the whole experience into a social one. It’s not as simple as posting your progress on social media. The app allows friends to fight monsters together in the quest to form good habits and maintain them. The other perk to this kind of gamified platform is the necessity to read more English. Users will read quest details and learn new words and expressions in a meaningful context.

My disclaimer is that I’m merely proposing an idea for consideration. Can apps help students form good study habits? Maybe. As with Fogg’s TEDx talk, I have only considered these habit-tracking apps in theory and have not tested them out with students. I find the summer months to be a great time for gathering new ideas. Have you come across any other apps worth considering?




2 Comments Add yours

  1. Mahmoud shwky says:

    well hi 😄😄
    my name is mahmoud shwky from Egypt, and i wanted to ask you about something, my sister’s friend have some kids and thay are horrible at English and according of my english marks at my highschool and primary school, my sister told her that i can teach, and according to islam teaching is one of the highest good deeds, and i wanted to invest some my time to teach them for free or at least with low cost, but…
    i don’t know where to start from?, I’m at lvl 7 of 12 in speech and thx to online gaming great typing skills even with pen and papers, but i don’t know where to start from, and they want me to strength there language skills so thay would be able to study for school, the moral is that thay want me to teach them but not for school, and cuz of that i i don’t know what should i begin with vocabulary or grammer or what, and thay can’t create a simple sentence.
    thats why i contacted you so i could get a professional help.and I’m 19 years btw
    , i will be waiting fir your reply.

    kind regards
    Mahmoud shwky

    1. Hello Mahmoud. Teaching is a wonderful job, and in many ways teachers are simply helpers. We help the learning process along. As a tutor, you can support those children to the best of your ability. One place to start is with their school work. If they have old assignments or books, you can review. Part of your goal should be to make it fun and enjoyable for them. Read short stories together. Listen to children’s songs together. You’ll find both children’s audio books and songs on YouTube. Also, you can draw and talk about what you draw. Ask them simple questions to get them talking.
      1) You might allow a course to guide you., for example, is free and has good resources for beginners and adults. The materials aren’t really for kids, but it can help you identify what you need to cover.
      2) You can look for a picture dictionary. There are dictionaries for children. Here’s one. The pictures and word lists will help you cover useful vocabulary, and you can talk about the pictures you see. Help the kids make sentences.
      3) If you’re more serious about learning how to teach, you can look at teacher resources on methodology. Let me know if you’re interested, and I can suggest something.
      4) Online do a search for ESL games. Here’s just one possible resource.

      Good luck!

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