How Cell Phones Can Aid The Learning Process Education Essay

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In this review we look at mobile learning specifically at cell phone devices and if this can aid South African high school learners. It will look at what learning is and look deeper into some of the learning models supported by mobile learning. It will take a critical look at mobile learning: what it is, how it is defined, how it should be implemented and the critical success factors for implementation. Where cell phones are concerned as a learning medium it investigates three potential models to aid learning: SMS, MMS and Mobile Internet Models and support the models through case study examples, conducted across the world. The review takes a look at the state of education in South Africa through its teaching support and infrastructure and then looks towards an adoption theory of cell phone learning for South African learners.


Mobile technologies are networked, entrenched and everywhere. It allows for social interactivity, contextualisation and always available internet allowing for information at your fingertips. Technologies like this can make a great difference to learning. As learning is becoming more focused on the students and moving away from the rigid education infrastructures, into the secret worlds of students, learning has become meaningful. The task lies in finding ways to make learning so much part of a student's life where they would no longer classify it as learning at all (Naismith, Lonsdale, Vavoula, & Sharples, 2004).

As new technologies emerge, new possibilities are born and education is not left unchanged. Educators are looking for ways to deliver learning content that is not fixed by location or time. Imagine how to enhance the learning experience through online schedules, grades and homework, through collaboration and debate and immediate access to a world of online information wealth to contextualise the learning content. All of this available on a cheap wireless device: a cell phone (Ismail, Johari, & Idrus, 2010; Roschelle, 2003).

Cell phones are already seen as the more popular choice when it comes to voice communication technology. This is evident in the rise of new cell phone owners in developing countries. In South Africa it can be largely contributed to the increasingly popular prepaid subscriptions and cheap readily available cell phones devices (Kreutzer, 2009).

South African disadvantaged communities are broken down not only by poverty and job loss, but also by a lack of basic services. All though the issues of inequality in the education system of the apartheid era has been addressed, the lack of resources, access to qualified teaching staff and overpopulated classrooms remain key issues, hindering successful learning (Chrisholm, 2005).

Through mobile learning, learners are able to grow their knowledge base through different perspectives enabling them to build solid understandings of the learning content. It allows them the space and time to learn anywhere anytime without the restricitons of a building or equipment (Winters, 2006). These characteristics make mobile learning very suitable for the South African learning environment.

Learning Models

The information age has brought much change to education, of which the most important is the change in focus to learner-centred education as opposed to teacher-centred (Ismail, Johari & Idrus, 2010; Geddes, 2004). Therefore a theory of learning must be grounded in modern day practices, which in turn facilitates successful learning (Sharples, Taylor & Vavoula, 2005).

Cognotive psychologists see the integral parts of learning as: motivation; the ability to recall on previous learning experience; the ability to think; and the ability to reflect (Ally, 2005). All though there are plenty of learning concepts, models and theories, we will focus on the use of senses, contextualised, collaborative and informal learning which are some of the models addressed by mobile learning.

Learning - the dual coding theory

Research with reference to the brain and learning shows that when a new concept is learned, continued exposure and practice using various senses is required, so the neural network path for the concept can be developed and laid down. Psychologists suggest that learning happens internally and that the quantity of learning material absorbed is dependant on how much information the learner is able to process, the depth of that processing, the input attempted from the learner and the knowledge already obtained. The dual coding theory confirms that when learning material is offered in both visual and verbal formats it is remembered for longer. With enough repetition, the recognition of the concept will become routine. This type of learning is the objective especially when teaching concepts like a foreign language (Ally, 2005; Thornton & Houser, 2004; Genesee, 2000).

Contextualised Learning

Contextualised learning look for the significance of the content to real life. It takes a critical approach towards the study of the content and apply it with caution, drawing on experience already gained (Ramsden, 1997). Learning is most successful when it can be contextualised. This contextualisation is facilitated through mobile learning because of its personalised and roaming characteristics (Ally, 2005).

Collaborative Learning

Dillenbourg (1999) explained that pinning a definition to collaborative learning would be too restrictive as it has many different meanings depending on the context and field in which it is used. However he agrees that collaborative learning broadly explains a process of learning by two or more people. Gokhale (1995) adds that this learning must be towards an academic goal (Dillenbourg, 1999; Gokhale, 1995).

There are two major categories in collaborative learning: Communication and problem solving. When faced with a difficult problem with which the learner needs help answering, the learner can swop ideas with peers. This way, learners develop critical thinking through gaining insight into other peoples' opinions and ways of solving problems, but also find discrepancies in their own frameworks. These interactions can occur synchronously or asynchronously (Okamoto, Kayama, & Cristea, 2001; Gokhale, 1995).

Interactivity in the class room leads to a healthy learning environment, builds collaborating learning communities, serves the lecturer with feedback indicators and help to motivate students (Markett et al., 2006).

Informal Learning

Informal learning can be recognised as learning that happens outside the boundaries of a formal education. It is a personal experience and unique to each person as it is founded in their requirements, experiences and interests. It is independent, autonomous, voluntary and sometimes in a social environment. It is the type of learning, where knowledge is gained as and when it is required, in smaller quantities compared to that of formal learning (Bull, et al., 2008; Hoffman, 2005).

Informal learning can be categorized under four types as: accidental, intentional, non-formal and social. Accidental learning occurs when the learner reads or hears information he was not specifically looking for or not specifically looking for any information at all. Intentional learning is when the learner is looking for information on a specific topic and e.g. researches a book, the web or phone a specialist, but the learning does not occur in the structure of formal course content. Non-formal learning happens in the space where a learner would complete an online course on specific course content and social learning happens when the learner intentionally watch other people to learn their actions so in order to mimic them later (Hoffman, 2005).

Mobile Learning

Modern day classroom environments are faced with challenges of overpopulated classes, diverse differences in learner backgrounds, high pass rate requirements and a lack in student engagement, which makes traditional learning methods insufficient (Ng'ambi, 2005). Mobile learning addresses these issues through its motivational and collaborative qualities (Naismith & Corlett, 2006). But what is mobile learning and how can it be a successful tool in the learning process?

Towards a definition

Learning is the end result of a focused awareness and consideration with a facet of the world (Pachler, Bachmair & Cook, 2009). Mobile learning is the ability to acquire knowledge and skill in new and always changing circumstances. It is about creating a learning environment from our real-world experiences. It is about the mobility of learners, empowering them to interact with educational content while on the go - not limited by a physical location. Through mobile learning, students are able to access contextual knowledge and interact with each other and educators, without the limitations of geography and time (Pachler, Bachmair & Cook, 2009; Markett et al., 2006; Kukulska-Hulme & Traxler, 2005; Geddes, 2004).

Geddes(2004) describes mobile learning as a change in behavior through the "acquisition of any knowledge and skill" using mobile technology, which is not bound by place or time. Laouris and Eteokleous(2005) took this further by adding that this knowledge acquisition should happen in a learning environment with at least a paper and pen, a facilitator, contact to knowledge, a planned program with objectives and tasks and a competing "learning community". This is in contrast with Geddes'(2004) definition where he specifically excludes terminology such as teaching and training, not because he feels that it will disappear, but that there will be a shift of focus from facilitated learning, pedagogical, to self learning, andragogical. However Geddes agrees to the importance of a learning community and that it focus the learner's attention on the considered content. Figure 1 shows the primary level of learning i.e. physical contact with teachers, peers and content and that mobile learning gives learners a secondary level of access to learning that other learners have gained through their teachers, peers and content (Geddes, 2004). This contact with an international learning community would not have been possible without the internet which, in this instance, facilitates mobile learning (Laouris & Eteokleous, 2005; Geddes, 2004).

Figure 1 A Learning Community- Primary and Secondary Levels of Learning (Geddes, 2004)

Laouris and Eteokleous(2005) also stress the significance of the curricula content and frameworks that are restructured. In his research Geddes(2004) refers to the philosophy that learning happens in a pracitcal manner where a student test a concept, fail and gain knowledge from that experience. This is supported by the study Bay'a and Daher(2009) did in Saudi Arabia, where mathematical concepts were taugt through sending real world problems, to be solved mathematically, to learners' cell phones. This was enabled by mobile applications, allowing them to enter different values to experience first hand what the change to a variable can have on their solution. The students found that they were able to learn with ease and efficiency by "visualizing mathematics and investigate it dynamically". In contrast Thornton and Houser(2004) followed a learning philosophy of learning by repetition in their study of learning a foreign language. They sent new vocabulary words to students' mobile phones every day. The students receiving their words via mobile phone learnt 6.5 new words each week compared to the three learnt by computer based, web mail students. Both these philosophies refer to the method in Laouris & Eteokleous' definition relating to the "delivery and interaction with content" (Baya'a & Daher, 2009; Laouris & Eteokleous, 2005; Geddes, 2004; Thornton & Houser, 2004).

Laouris and Eteokleous(2005) adds a mental component to their definition. This encompasses intelligence, experience, enthusiasm, attention span and preference. In past research it has found that students had an increased motivation and enthusiasm towards their studies with the introduction of mobile learning. Geddes(2004) refers to metacognition. This is the process of reconsidering a thinking pattern and to be in command of cognitive processes. In the shift of facilitated learning to self learning, it becomes important for learners to learn from their experiences so that they and other learners in their learning community can further their tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge that can be shared in a wider learning community (Learning Cultures Consulting Inc., 2006; Laouris & Eteokleous, 2005; Attewell & Savill-Smith, 2004; Geddes, 2004).

Early efforts towards defining mobile learning placed technology at the heart of the definition referring to the mobility of the technology used for learning. Laouris and Eteokleous(2005) argues that the device implication on the definition is to the benefit of mobile device manufacturers, which increase the digital divide. Due to the rapid rate at which new technologies come to market, future learners will have access to new and different devices, therefore arguing that a definition should move away from a device towards the learner himself. Learning is no longer restricted by the corners of a classroom; it is expanded into the everyday lives of learners with real-world examples. However the technical infrastructure affects the quality of the learning experience and therefore justifies merit towards considering a definition (Traxler, 2009; Laouris & Eteokleous, 2005).

There is a noteworthy increase of mobile technologies in high school education. It has an effect on learning and teaching and forms an integral link between informal and formal learning. This is due to the inexpensiveness of mobile devices relative to PC's and the unstructured entry into a wealth of educational resources on the internet. These learning activities can be regulated and supervised between settings when combined with wireless technologies. Mobile learning is one part learning and one part globalised mobile computing and is fast becoming an important ingredient of online learning (Ismail, Johari & Idrus, 2010; Kukulska-Hulme & Traxler, 2005).

Mobile learning can be categorised into four general themes: the technocentric perspective view mobile learning through the actual mobile technology used; the relationship to e-learning perspective looks at mobile learning as an expansion to electronic learning in a mobile environment; augmenting formal education as a form of distance learning; and learner-centred view which focus on the mobility of the learner (Winters, 2006). For this study we will follow a technocentric perspective.

The nature of mobile technology is complex (referring to the device, the supporting infrastructure and services). In recent years a great new range of mobile technologies have come to market, but there are important features to regard for a mobile learning device such as mobility, functionality, multimedia capabilities, ubiquity, ownership, collaboration capabilities, contextual relevance, locations based services and personalisation. Devices such as, but not limited to, PDAs, cell phones, smart phones, net books, laptops, tablet PCs and multimedia devices can be and are already used for mobile learning (Pachler et al., 2009; Traxler, 2009; Laouris & Eteokleous, 2005; Geddes, 2004). For the purposes of this study we will focus specifically on cell phones as a mobile learning enabler.

Requirement Models

The design of a mobile learning framework, suitable for the implementation context, involves elaborate and challenging activity planning. An impact analysis and estimation is required into new mobile technology (Kukulska-Hulme & Traxler, 2005). Taylor et al. name three core requirements for a mobile learning model: allowance for collaboration and communication; allow for description of current and future activities; and an activity analysis framework with clear definition of the relationship between activities and goals. The activities associated with the requirements include: the support for the social aspects of learning between all the stakeholders; information capturing support featuring all the parts associated with learning e.g. preparation, record, reflect; identification of content context and alternatives; and access to adequate resources (Taylor, Sharples, O'Malley, Vavoula & Waycott, 2006).

Critical Success Factors

Niasmith and Corlett (2006) refer to five key success factors in mobile learning. They are the availability of technology, the institutional support, connectivity, integration and ownership (Naismith & Corlett, 2006).

The availability of technology is an import success factor. Studies have always looked at providing learners with technology instead of using the technology already available to the learners. Even though mobile technology is in the hand of the learner, institutional support is still an important factor. These include training of staff, resources to support the initiative and the maintaining of used technologies. The lack of device to network connectivity can harm the success of mobile learning. It can either hold the class back while waiting for everyone to connect or deny those without connectivity an equal opportunity in learning. Mobile learning must not be seen separate from the learning process, but be integrated with course content and context. The ownership of technology increases learning motivation, where learners can brand their devices according to their tastes and so, creating a favorable learning environment (Naismith & Corlett, 2006).

While all these factors are critical, it is important not to lose sight that the implementation of technology must be so, that it can have an effective outcome for the students' learning efforts (Ng'ambi, 2005). There must be buy-in to the technology from both teachers and students and it is also important that learners take responsibility for their own learning, only then can learning be truly successful (Colley & Stead, 2004a).

Cell Phones as a learning medium

In a school, learners move from class to class, however their cell phones are with them all the time - in fact far longer than the hours they are at school. The use of cell phones as a learning medium, have need of little technical or monetary help. Most learners already own a cell phone with the necessary software and communication happens through established service provider networks. Generally students are confident cell phone users and would therefore not require any additional technical instruction on the devices (Markett et al., 2006).

Technology terminology associated with cell phones

There are various technologies associated with cell phone learning. In Table 3 we look at some of the technologies and definitions associated, discussed in this paper.




Short Message Service used to send text messages


Multi Media Message Service used to send picture or video messages


Allow you to view websites from your cell phone

Java ME

A programming language, mobile edition used for writing applications for cell phones


A Java ME based application that run on cell phones

Table 1 Technologies definitions in cell phone learning (Baya'a & Daher, 2009;Colley & Stead, 2004)

Cell phone Models

We will look at SMS models for in class and outside of class as well as how MMS can be incorporated into students' learning experience.

The SMS model

Academic content is largely presented in text and as Short Message Service (SMS) is text based it makes sense to explore the ability of SMS in learning environments (Ng'ambi, 2005). SMS models can be used in class and after class for the use of course work or clarification between the learner and teacher and collaboration between learners. The SMS model for student support services and teacher - parent communication, facilitates comment and administration of course enrolment (Vucetic & Odadzic, 2010; Markett et al., 2006).

SMS has a lot of potential as an in class model, assisting with the taught content. It allows for quiet and unobtrusive communication as part of class discussion, two way service interfacing, model for language taught vocabulary components and as a study and learning support service (Markett et al., 2006).

In a similar study, to that of Markett et al., (2006), conducted by Ng'ambi (2005) he observed that learning was positively effected through the shared experiences of concept questioning and answering, that it created a non intrusive learning environment where students could remain anonymous, that students could keep track of their learning development and the teachers were provided with valuable response information (Ng'ambi, 2005).

Shortcomings of the SMS model

In some of the studies conducted, students identified the following shortfalls when using cell phones as a mobile learning device for the in class model: credit availability on their phone; remembering to bring their handset to class; limiting keypad of cell phone makes typing cumbersome; cell phone reception; and sending SMS in class was distracting. Most students make use of a pre-paid model rather than a cell phone contract. However, using a free SMS number can circumvent this. Very few students actually forgot to bring their handsets to class. 58% of learners brought their handsets 100% of the time, the remaining 42% reported to have their phones with them 75% to 100% of the time. Most cell phones only have a 12 button keypad, which makes typing slow and difficult when it comes to the use of special characters. Smart phones come with a full QWERTY keyboard and in future we will have the ability to plug a keyboard into a phone which would eliminate this problem. Cell phone reception is a difficult problem to work around, there are some things one can do, like opening windows and the classroom door, but even then it is not a certainty that reception will increase. Each student will be connected to their choice of service provider and will be bound to the reception provided (Lindquist et al., 2007; Markett et al., 2006).

In Table 2 Markett et al. (2006) show that 42% of students read their text messages in class as the message arrives and 16% of students sent SMS either to someone in class, or to someone outside of class. Markett et al. (2006) argues though that this distraction replaces other distractions and that students quite possibly are not more distracted than they were before. However, students noted that using the SMS to comment or ask a question for example inhibited them from listening attentively to what the lecturer was saying or taking notes as they were concentrating on the text message (Markett et al., 2006).

Table 2 Percentage of students using cell phones for non-class purposes (Markett et al., 2006)

The MMS Model

Investigations into computer assisted learning shows the usefulness of multimedia content in learning. Its effectiveness was noted when the media contextualized the study material, when the taught content had visual modules or allowing for rich presentation when learning a foreign language (Thornton & Houser, 2004). The use of video through Multi Media Messaging (MMS) can improve the result of learner outcome where: the visual aid forms the basis of tangible problem; a visual model assists learning; it can review work completed to lay a foundation; and where real world artifacts are incorporated into formal taught curricula (Pachler et al., 2009;Sharples et al., 2005; Thornton & Houser, 2004).

Shortcomings of the MMS Model

Some remote areas do not have a strong enough connection to their service provider, which makes the use of MMS unfeasible and MMS typically costs more to. Students also raised concern on the relevance of the content sent (Lindquist et al., 2007; Benta & Cremene, 2004; Colley & Stead, 2004a).

The Mobile Internet Model

The internet provides a flexible and dynamic infrastructure and accessed with a cell phone it is capable to do almost anything. As cell phones are a cost effective device to provide learners with access to the internet, it is also able to address the divide between those who have and those who don't have readily access to information (Naismith, et al., 2004; Roschelle, 2003).

Mobile internet will allow learning to move, away from the classroom itself, with the learner into their surroundings. It allows for the contextualisation of content and the collaboration with peers, turning learning into a richer experience. It further allows for learners to note their experiences down as they occur, so they can reference it later and share in collaborative learning efforts (Naismith, et al., 2004).

Shortcomings of the Mobile Internet Model

There are a few practical implications with the use of internet over a cell phone. First off is the small size of cell phone screens which makes it difficult to browse the internet. Secondly it could be that not all learners' cell phone devices have browsing capabilities or a strong enough connection in their area to access the internet, especially true for rural areas. There is also a cost implication - as the data usage usually incurs a high cost (Motlik, 2008; Roschelle, 2003).

Access to the internet is also cause for unruly behavior and allows for dishonest behavior in testing environments. This is of great concern to educators (Roschelle, 2003).

Examples on the use of Cell Phones in learning

There are many examples of formal use of cell phones in learning. There seems to be gap in the studies that look into the informal use of cell phones for learning outside the formal structures of education. In this section we will discuss some of the studies conducted.

Thornton and Houser (2004) conducted an experimental study in Japan with learners studying English as a foreign language. In the study, vocabulary course work was sent to the learners via SMS and MMS videos were used to explain idioms. The study found that students who received their vocabulary work via their cell phone were able to learn 6.5 new words per week compared to the three learnt by students who pulled their course work from internet email via a PC. They also found that informal learning occurred where 25% of respondents used a dictionary from their phone and 70% used the web from their phone, but not necessarily for learning purposes. Emails and SMS were also sent via cell phone devices, but only sometimes to confirm lecture times, lecture location or homework assignments (Thronton & Houser, 2004).

Baya'a and Daher (2009) conducted a study in Saudi Arabia looking at mathematical models taught with real-world problems with the use of cell phones as a teaching medium. The students used midlets for linear graphs and could see how the graphs changed when they changed the variable values. Students could also collaborate by sharing their results via MMS. The students found that through the use of cell phone technology they were able to learn with ease and efficiency by "visualizing mathematics and investigate it dynamically" (Baya'a & Daher, 2009).

BBC Bitesize is a program based in the United Kingdom. The program offers revision material via cell phones, using a Java game and SMS. The program has been running since 2003. Despite its original rapid growth it has recently seen a decline in users as the originally free SMS service is now charged for by the BBC. Other criticisms include the cross device compatibility of the application, despite the Java platform. Learners also complained about the lack of detail on responses of questions posted. This is due to cell phone screen size and memory capacity constraints (Naismith, Lonsdale, Vavoula, & Sharples, 2004).

Markett et al. (2006) suggests a model where students would send the SMS to a service number. An application will run, picking up all incoming messages and deliver it to the lecturer via web based application in a spreadsheet like interface. If the lecturer was unable to answer during class time, the lecturer can log on after class, view and respond to messages at their leisure. It will also allow further discussion by the participating class members. In Table 1 Markett et al. (2006) show an analysis of a study conducted on an in class SMS model. The table shows the type of questions raised and an example of such SMS content. The percentage column indicates if the lecturer answered their question in class (Markett et al., 2006).

Table 3 Analysis of in class SMS model content (Market et al., 2006)

Ng'ambi's (2005) study also looked into the development of a SMS to Web system at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. The Mobile Dynamic Frequently asked Questions (DFAQ) system would allow students to interact with their teacher and peers via SMS anonymously. This would allow for questioning and clarification outside of the restricted time allotted for student-teacher meetings. Learners will SMS a question to the service number which will then post the question on the registered website for the service. Teachers or students can then answer and / or discuss either via the website or SMS (Ng'ambi, 2005).

Benta and Cremene (2004) tested a model for a biology lesson. In this model, the learners received a SMS text based message with a description of a plant followed with a MMS picture of the plant. The students then had to recognise the plant. The model platform allows for collaboration between peers and teacher, allowing them to share pictures and discuss the subject matter. In future the model will allow learners to send pictures to an artificial intelligent encyclopaedia system which will recognise the plant species and allow them to track the plant's growth in a particular area through a location based information system. The learners were positive about the collaboration capabilities, but had concerns around the significance of the content itself (Benta & Cremene, 2004).

Education in South Africa

The new South Africa has seen a lot of change. For education it has obliterated an unfair and discriminatory educational system and developed a new system for 12 million learners of which the majority is schooled in rural areas. However, the opinion amongst South Africans is that nothing has really changed and that the new system has made matters worse (Chrisholm, 2005).

Compared to other countries, South Africa spends the highest percentage of its budget on education. However, contrary to the budget percentage, the infrastructure percentages look bleak: 79% have no library space; 60% have no laboratory space; 25% have more than 45 learners per class; 56% have no desks and / or chairs for more than 10% of its learner corps; and 97% have no access, ramps and / or facilities for differently able learners (Department: Education Republic of South Africa, 2007). On 22 March 2007, the Cape Times reported that 1,000 out of 33,000 teachers in the Western Cape, South Africa, were on leave in the first seven weeks of school. In addition some classes were reported to have between 50 and 75 learners. This has a definitive impact on the quality of teaching provided (Kassiem, 2007).

Some of the most important factors of learning is the ratio of student to teacher and the level of teaching excellence received by learners. In an effort, by the South African Department of Education, to evenly spread the teaching resources, teachers failed to relocate to the under resourced areas in the education system. The schools in affected areas were obliged to hire new teachers, numerous of them being under qualified (Chrisholm, 2005). In 2000 a sufficiently qualified teacher should have had a three year qualification; in 2007 a teacher must have a four year bachelor in education degree or a three year junior degree followed up by a one year postgraduate diploma to be deemed as sufficiently qualified. In 2004 less than half (47.9%) of the teachers in South Africa had obtained the necessary levels of education, 37.4 % were still on par with the 2000 standard and 14.7% were below any standard and deemed them as under qualified. The 14.7% equals to 50,000 teachers in the South African education system (Carnoy, M., Chisholm, L., et al., 2008).

Cell phone accessibility amongst youth

A third of the world's population is teenagers (age 12 to 18). They are growing up in a world with technology readily available and they are exposed to the fast growing market of cell phones and other wireless technologies. The social aspect of humanness is a deep-seated need for teenagers and cell phones facilitates the connection and communication between peers (Schiano et al., 2002).

When rating technology over the last twenty years, cell phones are seen as one of the most successful with the International Telecommunications Union reporting, that more than a half of the people on earth (3.3 billion) having a cell phone (Pachler, Bachmair & Cook, 2009). Ownership amongst European youth range from 91% to 95% (Markett et al., 2006), in the United States there has been an increase in teen ownership from 45% in 2004 to 71% in 2008 (Lenhart, 2009) and in South Africa, studying ownership amongst low-income Cape Town youth show that, at least 77% of respondents own a cell phone (Kreutzer, 2009).

In a motivational study done by Chigona, Kankwenda and Manjoo (2008) tertiary students noted that entertainment was only their second biggest motivation for having a cell phone. Their biggest motivation for owning a cell phone was for safety purposes: in case a car broke down or when out at night to call someone in an emergency (Chigona, Kankwenda, & Manjoo, 2008).

Cell phones enjoy vast popularity with South African youth, because of access to cheaper phones and prepaid subscription packages. They use cell phones for calling, texting and make use of the Internet. Internet usage on cell phones is on the rise, due to the shortage of access to computers linked up to the web. The majority of respondents reported that they configured their phones for internet usage mainly for the purposes of access to MXit [1] and downloading of music and videos (Kreutzer, 2009). Only 5% of respondents in both Kreutzer (2009) and Chigona, Kankwenda and Manjoo's (2008) studies had access to internet via a personal computer at home. One of the respondents (Chigona, Kankwenda, & Manjoo, 2008) noted that mobile internet was convenient as no subscription was required, and could be accessed via a cell phone as and when it was needed (Kreutzer, 2009; Chigona, Kankwenda, & Manjoo, 2008).

In Chigona, Kankwenda, & Manjoo's (2008) study into the internet content accessed via mobile phones, they have identified four themes: Research, Access to Information, Entertainment and Education (Chigona, Kankwenda, & Manjoo, 2008). When we look at Table 3 from Kreutzer's (2009) study, 67% used Google Search, 60% accessed for information on Movies, Music etc., 59% for news and 38% for health of medical information, 82% downloaded content for entertainment purposes and 61% of respondents noted that they have used their phone for educational purposes (Kreutzer, 2009).

Download songs, videos, games or ringtones


Browse or 'Google' for no reason


School research


Movie, TV show, music, or sports fan site


Online news


Facebook or other Social Networking site


YouTube or other video site


Health or medical information


Table 4 Internet content accessed via mobile phones (Kreutzer, 2009)

Towards Mobile Learning Adoption

In Figure 2 Foley (2004) describes an ICT adoption Framework for internet usage. The same model can be applied to mobile learning. The awareness speaks to the consciousness of a mobile learning platform. This will include knowledge on the device and application requirements. Access will have to be gained to a suitable device and application loaded or accessed via the device. Through skills and training the user will gain confidence to finally effectively use it to have a positive impact (Foley, 2004; Foley, 2002).

Figure 2 ICT Adoption Framework (Foley, 2004)

We already know that South African youth have access to cell phones and with multi-media capabilities (Kreutzer, 2009), that the necessary skill set exist to use the capabilities (Kreutzer, 2009; Markett, et al., 2006) and that 61% of learners use cell phone technology for some form of educational gratification (Kreutzer, 2009). The gap in analysis and research lies in the awareness, how they have gained access to the and the impact of mobile devices and learning on South African high school students lives.


As shown by this review mobile learning address some of the core learning models in that it allows for dual coding, contextualised, collaborative and informal study. Where the majority of learners in South Africa already have access to a cell phone it is the perfect low cost solution to a learning methodology of mobile learning, in a country where the education infrastructures seem non-existent or falling apart. The collaboration efforts would give learners in rural disadvantaged communities' access to resources in advantaged communities through secondary levels of learning. It would also contextualise the learning content which they might experience only for the first time especially in schools where there are no science laboratories. Mobile internet gives learners access to information for assignments where they don't have access to libraries and learners who are differently able, can have access to a world of learning they would not otherwise have had access to.

Teenagers are resourceful beings, overcoming unimaginable restrictions, rules and shortcomings. There seems to be gap in literature on how South African youth are currently using their cell phone devices in overcoming the issues they have around learning, the lack of educational infrastructure and access to qualified educators. There are also no case studies available on the informal learning that occurs and the impact it has amongst South African learners. Furthermore it would be good to have a look at how learners from poorer communities fund these cell phone learning activities and how they gain access to their devices.