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Mobile phones in the classroom can support teaching and learning

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A new study by Brunel University London has explored the use of mobile phones in China’s classrooms - and the readiness of higher education English language teachers to embrace a smart new way of teaching.

Mobile phones in the classroom are a common cause of conflict and tension among teachers and students. Although schools set their own policies and guidelines around mobiles, it is still a challenge that many teachers grapple with on a daily basis.

As well as disrupting teaching and learning, mobile phones can raise concerns around bullying and safeguarding, and the UK government’s education secretary recently called for a complete ban in England’s schools.

But what if mobile phones could actually support teaching and learning in the classroom? Dr Yujuan Luo and Prof Mike Watts from Brunel University London have explored teachers’ readiness for smartphone-assisted learning methods within their teaching.

The study, published in Computers in the Schools, involved over 200 higher education English language teachers in China who completed an online survey to assess their perception of smartphone teaching methods - and their readiness to include them in their lessons.

The results of the survey showed that a teacher’s attitudes towards smartphone learning had the most significant direct effect on their readiness to include it in their teaching.

According to the education experts, teachers mostly believed that integrating traditional teaching approaches with innovative mobile technology learning could overcome everyday teaching challenges, such as time, learning resources, inadequate teaching space and large class sizes, by reducing reliance on face-to-face learning activities.

The teachers were largely keen to engage with smartphone-facilitated teaching and learning and believed that they would have a positive impact on student engagement.

“In terms of the teachers’ attitudes towards using smartphones, performance expectancy - the extent to which it is considered that the adoption of smartphones is useful for improving learning performance - had the greatest direct influence on a teacher’s readiness to implement smartphone learning,” said Dr Luo.

“This was followed by their relevant technological knowledge and confidence in incorporating mobile technology into their teaching.”

The technical support that was available to teachers within their organisation was another important factor for them.

Information technology anxiety was shown to significantly hamper a teacher’s attitudes towards smartphone learning technology and their readiness to include it in their teaching.

In total, 39% of teachers believed that they had adequate skills to incorporate smartphone technology into their teaching, 20% did not and 30% were undecided.

“The survey showed that only 4% of teachers did not own a smartphone, and less than 5% owned laptops,” said Prof Watts.

“This indicates that teachers in China embrace mobile technology in their everyday lives and provides a promising foundation for its implementation within education.”

The results of the study also showed that traditional teaching practices, methods and culture can pose a threat to smartphone learning.

“Teaching culture had a significant negative relationship on teachers’ attitudes and acceptance towards smartphone learning methods, demonstrating that traditional teaching and learning and methods within an existing teaching culture can impede the complete acceptance of smartphone-assisted learning,” said Prof Watts.

The analysis showed teachers who are deeply influenced by traditional exam-oriented teaching methods tend to have a negative attitude towards innovative teaching approaches and prefer conventional teaching.

“Teachers with more teaching experience may play a passive role in adapting to the emerging smartphone society because of their conventional teaching and learning approaches. However, teachers in our study believed that smartphones would be more important in education in the post-pandemic world,” said Dr Luo.

“The study highlights that there is a place for mobile phones in the classroom, and teachers are ready to embrace new technological teaching in their practice.”

‘Teachers’ Readiness to Adopt Smartphone-Based Teaching Methods: Evidence from China’, by Yujuan Luo and Mike Watts, is published in Computers in the Schools.

Reported by:

Nadine Palmer, Media Relations
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