Investigating Undergraduate Student Mobile Device Use in Context

Investigating Undergraduate Student Mobile Device Use in Context

Yanjie Song (The University of Hong Kong, China)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-511-7.ch007


This chapter reports on an in-depth one-year empirical research into examining five undergraduate student mobile device uses in context. Data collection methods include: student reflective e-journals, student artifacts, observations, interviews, field notes, and memos. Three complementary streams were involved in the data analysis. Seven interacting factors in context that could either facilitate or inhibit mobile device use were identified and discussed.
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In mobile technology educational practices, Seale (2008) posits that understanding the relationship between educational uses and technology is “all about understanding context” (p. 2). Mobile device uses have to be understood in “multiple virtual and physical contexts” (Seale, 2008, p. 2). In Wali et al.’s (2008) words, we need to make sense of the use in “context crossing and social setting - the intersection between context as change in location and context as change in social settings” (p. 55). More specifically, Gay and Hembrooke (2004) propose that context needs to be redefined as a “multidimensional construct that has overlapping and interacting layers” (p. 75). Thus, context includes “the external physical context, the context that the individual brings to the situation, the context of the tool or device, the information context, and the context that is created by the activity itself” (p. 75). Some studies have proposed conceptual frameworks for designing mobile learning environments from a socio-historical perspective (e.g., Uden, 2007; Sharples et al., 2007, Wali et al., 2008, Zurita & Nussbaum, 2007). These views on context in mobile device educational uses enrich the literature regarding the concept of context in theory. However, they also impose challenges on how to apply these theoretical views of context in mobile device educational uses. In practice, the majority of mobile device educational research has presupposed a specific setting where students have used mobile technologies to perform teacher/researcher-led tasks (e.g., Lan, Sung, & Chang, 2007; Motiwalla, 2007). Only a few empirical studies on mobile device educational uses have been carried out in a social context (e.g., Jones & Issroff, 2007; Sharples, Taylor, & Vavoula, 2007; Waycott, 2005), but they have not addressed the concept of context in student mobile device uses in higher education.

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