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You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him learn: Smartphone use in higher education

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British Journal of Educational Technology Volume 46, Number 4, ISSN 0007-1013 e-ISSN 0007-1013 Publisher: Wiley


Smartphone technology is penetrating world markets and becoming ubiquitous in most college settings. This study takes a naturalistic approach to explore the use of these devices to support student learning. Students that had never used a smartphone were recruited to participate and reported on their expectations of the value of smartphones to achieve their educational goals. Instrumented iPhones that logged device usage were then distributed to these students to use freely over the course of 1 year. After the study, students again reported on the actual value of their smartphones to support their educational goals. We found that students' reports changed substantially before and after the study; specifically, the utility of the smartphone to help with education was perceived as favorable prior to use, and then, by the end of the study, they viewed their phones as detrimental to their educational goals. Although students used their mobile device for informal learning and access to school resources according to the logged data, they perceived their iPhones as a distraction and a competitor to requisite learning for classroom performance.


Tossell, C.C., Kortum, P., Shepard, C., Rahmati, A. & Zhong, L. (2015). You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him learn: Smartphone use in higher education. British Journal of Educational Technology, 46(4), 713-724. Wiley. Retrieved February 25, 2020 from .

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