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Jun 03 2018 - 08:00pm
Are Mobile Devices Really Catalysts for K-12 Communication?

Oddly, little is known about how students perceive mobile devices in the classroom or the potential of the technology in school settings. For example, are these devices viewed as strictly for communication, entertainment, and photo storage? Or something else? This study gave middle school students the opportunity to use mobile devices in class. The results revealed a possible detrimental effect on achievement.

The study cohort comprised 442 middle school students from five schools (six teachers, eighteen classes) in a suburban area in the western United States. Students were surveyed during a two-week engineering project where they worked in groups to design a medicine dispenser for an elderly person. Instruction on digital citizenship laid the groundwork for permitting mobile device use in classrooms. Half were allowed to use mobile devices in any way they saw fit, as long as it was beneficial to completion of the task. The other classes completed the design task without tech support.

Despite 80% of students wanting access to mobile devices in class, less than half the students used their device for longer than 20 minutes, over a total of 400 minutes (five 90-minute class periods). Perceptions of use of mobile devices and actual practices varied, demonstrating a possible disconnect and identifying an area for further research. While students said sending audio, video, or photo files and accessing information were the most likely uses for mobile devices, learning new skills was the most commonly reported use of mobile devices.

Although mobile devices are largely hailed as catalysts for communication, researchers say introducing them into K-12 classrooms may be detrimental to student achievement, and that further research should identify: specific ways mobile devices improve or harm student learning; classroom impacts of mobile devices (e.g., on achievement, demeanor, environment); and the apparent disconnect between student perceptions and practices.

Bartholomew, S. R., & Reeve, E. (2018). Middle school student perceptions and actual use of mobile devices: Highlighting disconnects in student planned and actual usage of mobile devices in class. Educational Technology & Society, 21 (1), 48–58.

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Posted in: New Learning TimesResearch Digest|By: Debra Lee|23 Reads