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2011 TechDayPlus: Simon Bibby

The following is a summary of the presentation given by Simon Bibby

Investigating student preferences, proficiency and usage patterns: PCs versus cell phones

By Simon Bibby

Coming from a school teaching background, my research interests tend to the more directly practical.  As part of a larger research project (n= 101) I conducted in February 2009 at a private women’s university in western Japan, I investigated student usage of PCs and cell phones. The part of the research I reported here had a threefold aim, examining:

(1) student usage of cell phones and PCs
(2) student preferences
(3) preferences for tool of choice for university English homework.

I presented the results of the research, noting the following key findings:

  • Students reported themselves to be expert cell phone users, but (very) low proficiency users of PCs.
  • The majority of student communications were via their cell phones: cell phone use for emailing, SNS and blogging predominated.
  • Students accessed the internet more via their cell phones (60%)than via their PCs (40%).
  • Given the choice to keep only one of the two tools, 92 of the 101 students preferred to keep their cell phone rather than PC.
  • Regarding homework preference, 67 respondents indicated a preference to use cell phones, 2 for cell phone and PC, 25 for PC, 7 for the more traditional paper and textbook.

The main reasons for the stated preference for cell phones over PCs were portability, speed (PCs take time to boot – far too long for students), and blanket internet access.

Further to the findings I gave a quick overview of the mobile learning literature, noting both the potential benefits and challenges for institutions, teaching staff and students of moving toward mobile learning. I suggested that a fundamental required change lies in the abandonment of the anachronistic overheated, cramped room of tethered devices, the PC room, to an increased number of more open and dispersed learning spaces/ learning places.  

Brief post-presentation discussion focused on the affordances of tablet devices, notably the new iPad 2; comparisons between cell phones, smartphones, tablets, netbooks and laptops; and the need to physically and cognitively chunk learning materials for differing devices.