Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Middle School Student Perceptions and Actual Use of Mobile Devices: Highlighting Disconnects in Student Planned and Actual Usage of Mobile Devices in Class

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Middle School Student Perceptions and Actual Use of Mobile Devices: Highlighting Disconnects in Student Planned and Actual Usage of Mobile Devices in Class

Article excerpt


Today's students, growing up in an electronic age of connectivity, carry more computing power every day to school than previous generations encountered in a lifetime. This powerful computing power--embodied in student's mobile devices--represents one of the great unknowns of today's educational landscape. How do students perceive these devices? Are mobile devices strictly for communication, entertainment, and photo storage? What exactly is the potential of these mobile devices in school settings? If mobile devices were introduced in the classroom, what would students do with them? The purpose of this paper is to share the perceptions and actual usage characteristics of middle-school students who were given the opportunity to use mobile devices in the classroom during a two-week engineering design challenge.

Mobile devices in middle-school classroom settings

The presence of mobile devices among youth ages 4-14 has experienced double-digit growth since 2005 (CommonSense Media, 2013; NPD Group, 2008; Shuler, 2009) and a similar trajectory is expected moving forward. This explosion of mobile devices among school-aged children has led many to argue for, and against, the inclusion of mobile devices in K-12 classroom settings. The possibilities of mobile devices, and their potential for classroom inclusion, is poised for research and exploration (Hwang & Tsai, 2011). In one metaanalysis of research related to mobile learning in K-12 Education (Liu et al., 2014) the authors note that "literature has shown a significant increase in recent years in terms of publications reporting both projects relating to and studies being conducted on mobile technology use in education" (p. 326). In another metaanalysis (Hwang & Tsai, 2011) identified several themes in their review of research trends in mobile and ubiquitous learning:

* Mobile and ubiquitous learning research has greatly advanced (32 articles during 2001-2005 versus 122 articles during 2006-2010).

* The majority of research is being conducted with higher education and elementary school students.

* The majority of studies were not specific to any specific learning domain; instead they mainly focused on the investigation of motivations, perceptions, and attitudes of students toward mobile and ubiquitous learning.

* The majority of research conducted related to mobile learning has been conducted outside of the United States--specifically in Taiwan. The authors cite Taiwan's national program for e-Learning as a likely source for this disparity.

Liu et al. (2014) specifically looked at the findings from 63 articles related to mobile devices in K-12 settings and found that 21% of the studies compared the effectiveness of mobile learning to traditional learning settings, while 79% represented exploratory investigations

of mobile learning in K-12 settings. The majority of these studies took place outside of the United States (89%), with over half of the studies cited originating in Taiwan. Only 14% of the studies related to middle-school students--the majority revolved around elementary school students. For subject matter, the natural sciences, mathematics, social studies, language arts, and English as a second-language were the dominant academic areas researched.

Benefits associated with mobile devices in classroom settings

Liu et al. (2014) identified four primary affordances of mobile learning from the literature:

* offering students multiple entry points and learning paths and allowed for differentiated learning,

* enabling multiple modality via mobile devices by which students have a tool to create a different learning artifact to suit their needs,

* supporting student improvisation in situ--student may improvise as needed within the context of learning (e.g., take pictures to illustrate learning connections), and

* supporting learning creation on the move with an ease of creating and sharing artifacts. …

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