Using smart phones and tablets to support learning (2014)

Anne Nortcliffe & Andrew Middleton

If 87% of students own a smart device (Armstrong, 2012) and over 1,300 members of staff have connected their personal devices to the University’s email server, it is likely that the way staff and students engage with life, their practice and study is changing too.

In January 2014 university-wide surveys of staff and students were conducted about their usage of personal smart devices. Respondents were invited to describe how their devices are enhancing their practice.

The results are being analysed, however based upon earlier work (e.g. Nortcliffe et al., 2013; Nortcliffe & Middleton, 2012) a steady growth in the use of devices like iPhones and iPads by staff and students is expected.

Many will not use the devices directly for teaching and learning, but will use them to manage all aspects of their life or to make arrangements with peers to do course work. Some will have changed important aspects of their academic practice or study life: using email, accessing Blackboard, for example. Some will report using photographs taken on their smart phones or audio feedback recorded as they mark work on their tablets.

For others, smart technology will have changed teaching and learning significantly. Many staff report using the Socrative app to muster student feedback in presentations, for example. Other affordable apps are being used to provide augmented reality simulations. Other innovative students report using video apps to record and post reflective commentaries. Social media, such as Twitter, Facebook and blogging is now a regular part of a student’s informal or formal engagement with university life.

Our previous research has shown that students are embracing the smart devices to support their learning by seeking out useful apps to help them be more organised, productive, collaborative and scholarly (Woodcock et al., 2012a; Woodcock, 2012b).

The 2014 survey of staff and students will create a rich picture to inspire others and to help the University meet their needs.

Hand outs will be provided to share good, emerging practice.