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1 Smartphone

Kimberley Walsh, Memorial University of Newfoundland

2 Definitions and background

Jubien (2013) defined the smartphone as a handheld computing device that has the ability to perform functions such as telephone calling, cellular and wireless internet connecting and downloading, installing and running applications. “These technologies and new forms of mobile communication and collaboration have been widely adopted by young people and integrated into their everyday lives” (Milrad & Spikol, 2007, p. 62). According to The World report ninety percent of the world population has access to mobile technologies and networks (Gedik, Hanci-Karademirci, Kursun, & Cagitay, 2012). As a result the smartphone is a steadily emerging technological tool that is being utilized in educational environments to support and enhance the learning process (Clough, Jones, McAndrew, & Scanlon, 2007). “The rapid proliferation of mobile phones among students is generating a novel platform for the development of technology-supported learning experiences” (Echeverria, et al., 2011, p. 351). The smartphones’ ability to shift between a multitude of built-in and downloaded applications and functions allow it to be a versatile educational tool (Jubien, 2013).

3 Affordances

Handheld technologies such as smartphones provide students with quick and easy access to relevant information (Wei, Chen, Wang, & Li, 2007) and the fact that smartphones are portable and easier to carry than other devices allows students to learn whenever and wherever (Daher, 2009). The use of smartphones comes naturally to 21st century students education and because of their familiarity with technology, students find utilizing such devices during the learning process simple and enjoyable (Echeverria, et al., 2011).

Zhang, Song and Burston (2011) noted that mobile phone technologies have the potential to increase learners’ efficiency in self-regulated learning environments. Daher (2009) found that utilizing smartphones as part of the curriculum met the individual learning needs of students which included improving anytime and anywhere communication and collaboration. They also offer a more personalized from of learning and instruction that can be tailored to the abilities, interests and diverse needs of students (Song, Wong, & Looi, 2012). As a result of this tailoring Song, Wong and Looi (2012) found that students felt empowered with self-sufficiency and developed and followed their own learning paths which allowed more room for creativity, collaboration and problem-solving. Koh, Loh and Hong (2013, p.110) affirmed that “with the help of the smartphones, students took charge of their own learning.” Smartphones also help enhance group learning outcomes by facilitating more interactive discussions among group members (Huang, Wu, & Chen, 2012).

Gedik et al. (2012) described the “push effect” that is employed by smartphones to alert users of waiting messages and emails has also proved to be an advantage because it serves as stimuli prompting learners to start working. This “push effect” is considered to be a strength when employing smartphones in learning contexts because it “pushed” students to be attentive in studying and revising content at home which otherwise would not be possible (Gedik, et al., 2012). Clough, et al. (2007) found that mobile devices such as smartphones support the process of learning and can provide opportunities for learning in new ways utilizing a mobile context that otherwise would not have occurred. Using such technologies in educational environments can provide diverse learning opportunities for educators and students (Gedik et al., 2012). Price, et al. (2012) found that there has been some reluctance to intergrating smartphones into curriculum because of issuse such as inappropriate internet access. However, Koh, Loh and Hong (2013) noted that the emergence of smartphone adoption for learning has steadily increased especially in tertiary education and is starting to penatrate more and more into secondary and elementary education. Utilizing smartphone technology “allows learners to take advantage of emerging technologies to enhance their learning efficiency” (Zhang, Song, & Burston, 2011, p. 210). Utilizing smartphone technology in the curriculum is not only beneficial for students: instructors can also benefit from using smartphones to provide timely, effective, constructive and frequent feedback to learners (Chen, et al., 2013). Such technological tools also provide instructors with ease of tracking and analyzing student responses and progress (Kizito, 2012).

4 Constraints

Kizito (2012) found that there has been a delay in the adoption of smartphones as useful tool in teaching and learning due to specifc limitations such as screensize, batter life and security, all of which hinder learning. The smartphones’ small screen size can make it difficult to view and properly display materials and as a result there is a high risk of reducing learning performance due to increased cognitive load (Chen, et al. 2013). The study by Jubien (2013) furthered this finding noting that reading materials on a smartphone is actually more complex; if the material that is to be read contains complex or unfamiliar words learners would have to switch applications to define the word. This can lead to a host of issues for learners such as having to switch back and forth between applications, which in turn makes it difficult for students to focus (Jubien, 2013). Huang (2012) contended that bigger screen sizes associated with newer version smartphones will help students type and read in a more effective manner. Echeverria (2011) found that the processing limitations of the smartphone must also be considered when designing collaborative activities for learning as slow response times can cause users to quickly lose interest in the learning task. Due to these physical limitations of the smartphone it can be difficult to provided full instruction using these devices and therefore they are more suitable for supporting face to face instruction (Gedik, et al., 2012).

Koh (2013) noted that the use of a smartphone in learning activities can at first be associated with novelty among students. Students can easily get caught up in non-learning activities when smartphones are used with the intention of enchancing learning (Koh, Loh, & Hong, 2013). Therefore it is important to regularly integrate their use in the classroom so that students are not as distracted by their novelty effect (Gedik, et al., 2012). Zhang, Song and Burston (2011) found that using smartphones to enhance learning can distrup, distract, and discourage instead of motivate learning.

5 Links

  1. Part 1: 44 Smart Ways to Use Smartphones in Class By John Hardison
  2. How Teachers Make Cell Phones Work in the Classroom By Tina Barseghian
  3. A presentation on the use of Cell phones in my classroom By George Engel
  4. 40 Creative Ways to Use Cell Phones in the Classroom By Melissa Seideman
  5. SmartPhones in the Classroom By Roxanne Nys

6 Works Cited

Chen, N.-S., Wei, C.-W., Huang, Y.-C., & Kinshuk. (2013). The integration of print and digital content for providing learners with constructive feedback using smartphones. British Journal of Educational Technology, 44(5), 837-845. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2012.01371.x

Clough, G., Jones, A. C., McAndrew, P., & Scanlon, E. (2007). Informal learning with PDAs and smartphones. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 24(5), 359-371. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2729.2007.00268.x

Daher, W. (2009). Students’ perceptions of learning mathematics with cellular phones and applets. International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning, 4(1), 23-28. doi:10.3991/ijet.v4i1.686

Echeverria, A., Nussbaum, M., Calderon, J., Bravo, C., Infante, C., & Vasquez, A. (2011). Face-to-face collaborative learning supported by mobile phones. Interactive Learning Environments, 19(4), 31-363. doi:10.1080/10494820903232943

Gedik, N., Hanci-Karademirci, A., Kursun, E., & Cagitay, K. (2012). Key instructional design issues in a cellular phone-based mobile learning project. Computers and Education, 58(4), 1149-1159. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2011.12.002

Huang, H.-W., Wu, C.-W., & Chen, N.-S. (2012). The effectiveness of using procedural scaffoldings in a paper-plus-smartphone collaborative learning context. Computers and Education, 59(2), 250-259. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2012.01.015

Jarvela, S., Naykki, P., Laru, J., & Luokkanen, T. (2007). Structuring and regulating collaborative learning in higher education with wireless networks and mobile tools. Educational Technology and Society, 10(4), 71-79. Retrieved from

Jubien, P. (2013). Shape shifting smartphone: Riding the waves in post-secondary education. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 39(2), 1-16. Retrieved from

Kizito, R. (2012). Pretesting mathematical concepts with the mobile phone: Implications for curriculum design. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 13(1), 38-55. Retrieved from

Koh, E., Loh, J., & Hong, H. (2013). A snapshot approach of a smartphone-enabled implmentation. Research and Practice in Technology Enhanced Learning, 8(1), 91-115. Retrieved from

Milrad, M., & Spikol, D. (2007). Anytime, anywhere learning supported by smart phones: Experiences and results from the MUSIS project. Educational Technology and Society, 10(4), 62-70.

Price, S., Davies, P., Farr, W., Jewitt, C., Roussos, G., & Sin, G. (2012). Fostering geospatial thinking in science education through a customisable smartphone application. British Journal of Educational Technology, 1-11. doi:10.1111/bjet.12000

Song, Y., Wong, L.-H., & Looi, C.-K. (2012). Fostering personalized learning in science inquiry supported by mobile technologies. Educational Technology Research and Development, 60(4), 679-701. doi:10.1007/s11423-012-9245-6

Wei, F.-H., Chen, G.-D., Wang, C.-Y., & Li, L.-Y. (2007). Ubiquitous discission forum: Introducing mobile phones and voice discussion into a web discussion forum. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 16(2), 125-140.

Zhang, H., Song, W., & Burston, J. (2011). Reexamining the effectiveness of vocabulary learning via mobile phones. Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology, 10(3), 203-214. Retrieved from