Do Students Wish to ’Go Mobile’?: An Investigation into Student Use of PCs and Cell Phones

Do Students Wish to ’Go Mobile’?: An Investigation into Student Use of PCs and Cell Phones

Simon Bibby (University of Manchester, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1855-8.ch020
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Abstract

Handheld devices are increasingly powerful items in terms of both hardware and software. They have ceased being merely tools of mobile telephony, and are now powerful, multi-purpose, mini-PCs. Technology provision within higher education was via clusters of tethered PCs in designated rooms, but an increasing number of universities are trialing the use of handheld devices to deliver mobile learning. The present research study provides a detailed review of the mobile learning literature, and profiles student usage of PCs and cell phones. Student preferences for a homework vehicle are identified. The results demonstrate that students express a clear preference for the cell phone over the PC as a tool of choice, and state a readiness to ‘go mobile’ with their learning.
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Introduction

NetGen Needs

For today’s university students, variously dubbed the net generation (Oblinger, 2004), or net natives (Prensky, 2004), “technology is an environment” (Hoffman, 2004), no longer simply a tool, or even an agglomeration of tools. Such is the prevalence that some commentators are asserting that today’s students are inherently different from those of past generations and that universities need to recognize and address this paradigmatic behavioural shift (Alexander, 2004; Prensky, 2004; Wagner, 2005). University faculty may however lack familiarity with how NetGen students act and interact with and through an increasing range of technologies. To attempt understanding present students and bridge at least some of the generational-technological gap, students’ views and perceptions of tools they use needs investigation. The two key research aims of this research study are to: (1) profile student usage of PCs and cell phones with specific reference to usage, experience, proficiency and value accorded to the two tools; (2) determine student preferences for future IT tool usage, specifically their preferred choice of homework vehicle.

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Review Of Literature

Implications of Introducing Mobile Learning

Recent advances in hardware (PDAs, enhanced gaming machines, smartphones, iPhones, iPad) and the advent of 3rd generation telephony (3G) now enable access to the internet through a range of portable, handheld devices. These are technologies which students are familiar with, are accustomed to using, and which may have considerable potential as tools for delivering learning (Alexander, 2004; Naismith, Lonsdale, Vavoula, & Sharples, 2004; Prensky, 2004; Wagner, 2005).

There have been several substantial literature reviews undertaken of mobile learning in the last decade (Attewell & Savill-Smith, 2003; Cobcroft, 2006; Naismith, Lonsdale, Sharples, & Vavoula, 2005; Savill-Smith & Kent, 2003; Smith, Salaway, & Borreson Caruso, 2009) indicating a considerable recent increase in interest in the field. Traxler (2007) lists a growing number of workshops and conferences that started in 2002 with MLEARN in Birmingham which have grown both in numbers held and which have seen increasing attendances. The first mobile learning handbook was published in 2005 (Kukulska-Hulme & Traxler, 2005).

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