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Preservice Teachers and Challenges to Mobile Phone Integration

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Listen and learn : Research paper
Roundtable presentation

Tuesday, December 1, 12:30–1:15 pm PST (Pacific Standard Time)
Presentation 1 of 3
Other presentations:
Analysis of AR Pedagogy: Empowering Students as Content Creators and Curators
Storytelling as Design Metaphor for K-12 Augmented Reality (AR) Science Applications

Dr. Kevin Thomas  
Dr. Michael Hylen  
Dr. Beth Carter  

We'll present findings from a study of 183 preservice teachers’ perceptions of the challenges to the classroom use of mobile phones. Research questions examined the impact of phone policies in the participants’ high schools, content area and grade level on their perceptions of challenges to mobile phone integration.

Audience: Teachers, Teacher education/higher ed faculty
Attendee devices: Devices useful
Attendee device specification: Smartphone: Windows, Android, iOS
Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Tablet: Android, iOS, Windows
Topic: Teacher education
Grade level: Community college/university
Subject area: Preservice teacher education, Inservice teacher education
ISTE Standards: For Educators:
  • Advocate for equitable access to educational technology, digital content and learning opportunities to meet the diverse needs of all students.
  • Mentor students in safe, legal and ethical practices with digital tools and the protection of intellectual rights and property.
  • Stay current with research that supports improved student learning outcomes, including findings from the learning sciences.
Additional detail: ISTE author presentation

Proposal summary


Review of Literature
Educators have long recognized the instructional benefits of technology, including improved students’ engagement, motivation and learning (Roblyer, 2016); however, these benefits are contingent upon teachers and students using technologies appropriately. Research has demonstrated that when used appropriately in the classroom, mobile phones provide a number of instructional benefits (Thomas & O’Bannon, 2015; Thomas & Muñoz, 2016). Likewise, when used inappropriately, mobile phones create a number of challenges in the classroom (Thomas & O’Bannon, 2015; Thomas & Muñoz, 2016). While many schools have acquiesced to parental pressure to allow students to have access to their phones in schools, school administrators and classroom teachers continue to struggle with this decision and with good cause. Mobile phones provide a number of instructional challenges for schools.
Distraction and Disruption
Historically, the most common complaint against the use of mobile phones in the classroom has been the disruption they cause (Lenhart, Ling, Campbell, & Purcell, 2010). Thomas, O’Bannon, and Britt (2014) found that approximately 81% of teachers perceive mobile phones to be classroom disruptions. One of the primary disrupters has been ringing phones. Burns and Lohenry (2010) found that 72% of students indicated that their phones rang during class. Teachers are not the only ones distracted by phones. Thomas and Muñoz (2016) surveyed 628 high school students about their perceptions on allowing mobile phones in the classroom and found that one of students’ primary concerns about allowing mobile phones in the classroom was the disruption caused by ringing phones. In fact, 30% of students felt the negative impact on the classroom was sufficient to warrant banning them. Shelton, Elliott, Lynn, and Exner (2011) examined the impact of ringing phones in the classroom and concluded that the interruptions could negatively influence student attention and performance.
Negatively Impact Attention
Some schools have established policies that allow students to bring phones to school but do not allow them to have them out during instructional times. Such a policy satisfies parents who want to be able to contact their children and administrators and teachers who do not want them to disrupt their classrooms. However, research suggests that even when phones are out of sight, for example in a pocket or book bag, they are a focus of many users and can adversely affect students physically, emotionally, and cognitively. Stothart, Michum, & Yeahnert (2015) found that even when phones were put away, student awareness of a missed text message or a phone call would impede their ability to sustain attention and thus impair their academic performance. Similarly, Ward, Duke, Gneezy, & Bos (2017) conducted a study with 548 undergraduate college students. The students were randomly assigned to one of three phone location groups: phone left outside of the room, in their pocket, or face down on the desk. All phones were turned off. Next, the researchers had the participants complete a number of tests. Results indicate that participants in the “’desk’ condition (high salience) displayed the lowest available cognitive capacity; those in the ‘other room’ condition (low salience) displayed the highest available cognitive capacity” (148). Likewise, separation from their ringing phone can cause students to report a decrease in enjoyment on tasks (Isikman, MacInnis, Ülkümen, & Cavanaugh, 2016) and an increase in anxiety both of which negatively affect performance (Clayton, Leshner, & Almond, 2015).
Negatively Impact Grades
Recent research on the use of electronic devices, like mobile phones, in the classroom can reduce grades. Glass and Kang (2018) conducted a study on the impact of electronic devices on 118 college students in two sections of a psychology course. In one section students were permitted to use electronic devices (e.g., laptops, mobile phones, etc.), and in the other section, they were not allowed to use these devices. Results indicate students in the sections that allowed electronic devices did not perform as well on exams as their counterparts in the class where no devices were allowed resulting in a 5% decrease in their final grade. The researchers concluded that the electronic devices divided students’ attention, which lead to impaired long-term retention of the lesson.
Contribute to Cyberbullying
Mobile phones have also been linked to cyberbullying. The NCES defines cyberbullying as occurring “when willful and repeated harm is inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, or other electronic devices” (391). A 2018 report the National Center for Educational Statistics indicated that cyberbullying has been on the increase. Principals reporting daily/weekly cyberbullying increased from 7.9% in 2010 to 12% in 2016, and monthly cyberbullying increased from 9.4% to 14.9% between 2010 and 2016 (Jackson et al., 2018). During the same time period, principals reporting occasional acts of cyberbully increased from 45% to 54%; however, the most alarming finding was that the number of principals reporting that that they never experienced cyberbullying decreased by 18.7% from 37.7% in 2010 to 19.1% in 2016. Interestingly, schools with rules prohibiting the use of mobile phones during the school day had a higher percentage of principal reported daily/weekly cyberbullying. Sixteen percent of schools that prohibited the use of mobile phones reported daily/weekly cyberbullying compared to 9.7% of schools that did not prohibit their use. Building on this, schools that prohibited mobile phones and had less than 20% nonwhite students experienced higher rates of daily/weekly cyberbullying, 17.9% compared to 8.6%. Likewise, schools with 20 to less than 50% experienced daily/weekly cyberbullying 20% compared to 7.6%. Pew Internet (February 2018) reported that 59% of teens ages 13-17 experience some type of cyberbullying.
Used for Sexting
The use of mobile phones for sexting is also a concern of administrators, teachers, parents and students. A 2018 meta-analysis of 39 international studies conducted between 2009-2016 with over 110,000 participants found that 14.8% of youth (average age 15) have sent a sext and 27.4% have received one (Madigan, Ly, Rash, Van Ouytsel, & Temple, 2018). Additionally, 12% of participants reported forwarding a sext without consent and 8.4% have had a sext forwarded without their consent. Madigan et al. also found that sexting increases with age with older teens more likely to send sext than younger ones. Additional research by Pew Internet (February 2018) found that 25% of U.S. teens ages 13-17 have received explicit images that they did not ask for and that 7% have had explicit images of them shared without their consent.
Used for Cheating
The use of mobile phones for cheating is another concern of teachers and students. Thomas and O’Bannon (2015) found that one of the primary concerns teachers had about allowing phones in the classroom was their use for cheating. The 685 students surveyed by Thomas and Munoz (2016) shared their concern. Research indicates that their concerns are not unfounded. A 2017 survey of 1,201 U. S. students in grades 9-12 conducted by McAfee found that 29% of students use technology to cheat in school (Noguchi, 2017). The survey also found that 62% of students have seen or heard of another student using a technology to cheat (Noguchi, 2017). A similar study conducted by CommonSense Media in 2009 found that 35% of students used their cell phones to cheat (CommonSense, 2010).


Research Design
Researchers at Asbury University and Bellarmine University in Kentucky and Methodist University in North Carolina used a quantitative descriptive research method to investigate the perceptions of preservice teachers regarding mobile phone usage in the classroom. This study utilized a validated survey for data collection (O’Bannon, Dunn, Park, 2017). Survey research was the preferred method of data collection because of its economy, rapid turnaround, and the standardization of the data (Babbie, 2012). Participants had the option of either completing the survey in a hard copy format or online. The online survey program used for this study was QuestionPro.
The subjects for this study consisted of candidates enrolled in the Preservice Teacher Preparation programs at three small liberal arts universities: Bellarmine University and Asbury University in Kentucky and Methodist University in North Carolina. Overall, 367 subjects viewed the online survey with a total of 183 (49.9%) providing some level of participation in the study. Of these participants, 158 (86.89%) completed the study.
The preservice teachers who comprised this sample were distributed between the states, with 126 (69%) located in Kentucky, 41 (22%) located in North Carolina, and 16 (9%) located in other states. The 16 candidates located in others states were comprised of students enrolled in an online degree program and most often lived in a bordering state (e.g. Indiana and Ohio). Of the 158 participants who completed the survey, one hundred and twenty-two participants (77%) were female, and 36 (23%) were male.
One hundred and twenty-six (79.75%) were Caucasian, 12 (7.59%) were African American, six (3.8%) were Latino/Hispanic, five (3.16%) were more than one race, four (2.53%) were Asian, one (.63%) was American Indian/Alaskan Native, and four (2.53%) were other. The greatest percentage of students were between 18 and 21 years of age (N=97, 61.4%), with the overwhelming majority (N=129, 81.6%) reporting they were under the age of 30. The mean age was 24.21. All one hundred and fifty-nine participants (100%) owned smartphones.
Data Source  
The survey used was developed by Thomas and O’Bannon (2014). The survey gathers data on participants’ demographics, phone ownership, and mobile phone usage as well as support for the use of mobile phones in the classroom, opinion on use of mobile phones for school-related work, allowing students to use mobile phones for school-related work, and the ability of mobile phones to support student learning. Data was also collected on participants’ perceptions of the benefits and barriers associated with mobile phones in the classroom. The survey contained a variety of question types including Yes/No, checklists, open-ended, and Likert-scaled questions using 5-point scales (SD = strongly disagree, D = disagree, N = neutral, A= agree, and SA = strongly agree). Likert scaled items were classified in themes.
Participants had the option of taking the survey in hard form or online. The online survey was created using QuestionPro, and a link to the anonymous survey was shared with participants in person during class.
Data Analysis
An email requesting student participation in the study was sent to all faculty teaching initial certification courses in the education programs at each of the three institutions. Once a faculty member agreed to allow her/his students to participate in the study, the researcher at that institution attended the class and explained the purpose of the study to students. Participants then selected which format they would use to complete the survey. Students selected either a hard copy of the surveyor a handout which provided the URL and a QR code to the survey. Both forms of the survey required participants to provide consent.
Accordingly, the independent variable is pre-service teacher perception of mobile phone usage in the classroom. To analyze the data in this study, a number of statistical tests were utilized. In order to characterize the data, descriptive statistics (reported below) were first generated on each question. The descriptive statistics were used to assist in describing and summarizing the data.


Data analysis is underway and will be completed in November 2019. The Discussion and Implications for Practice sections will be completed in December 2019.


Data analysis is underway and will be completed in November 2019. The Discussion and Implications for Practice sections will be completed in December 2019.


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Campbell, S. (2006). Perceptions of mobile phones in college classrooms: Ringing, cheating, and classroom policies. Communication Education, 55(3), 280-294.Clayton, R. B., Leshner, Clayton, R. B., Leshner, G., & Almond, A. (2015). The extended iSelf: the impact of  iPhone separation on cognition, emotion, and physiology. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 20(2), 119–35.
CommonSense Media. (2010). Hi-tech cheating: Mobile phones and cheating in schools: A national poll. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia. org/blog/cheating-goes-hi-tech
Glass, A. L. & Kang, M. (2018). Dividing attention in the classroom reduces exam performance. Educational Psychology. 1–14. On-line first publication.
Isikman, E., MacInnis, D. J., Ülkümen, G., & Cavanaugh, L. A., (2016). The effects of curiosity-evoking events on activity enjoyment. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 22(3), 319–30
Jackson, M., Diliberti, M., Kemp, J., Hummel, S., Cox, C., Gbondo-Tugbawa, K., Simon, D., & Hansen, R. (2018). 2015–16 School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS): Public-Use Data File User’s Manual (NCES 2018-107). U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, DC. Retrieved [date] from
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Lenhart, A., Ling, R., Campbell, S., & Purcell, K. (2010). Teens and Mobile Phones. Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. Washington, DC. Retrieved from
Madigan, S., Ly, A., Rash, C. L., Van Ouytsel, J., & Temple, J. R. (2018). Prevalence of multiple forms of sexting behavior among youth. JAMA Pediatrics, 172, 327–335.
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Dr. Kevin Thomas, Bellarmine University
Dr. Beth Carter, Methodist University

Beth Carter is a professor of education at Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where she teaches undergraduate and graduate education courses. She also serves as associate vice president for academic affairs overseeing the evening and e-learning programs. Her research interests include adult learning and technology including mobile learning. Please address correspondence to Beth Carter, 5400 Ramsey Street, Methodist University, Fayetteville, NC 28311. Email:

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