Tools for Entertainment or Learning? Exploring Students’ and Tutors’ Domestication of Mobile Devices

  • Magdalena BoberEmail author
  • Deirdre Hynes
Part of the Research in Networked Learning book series (RINL)


This paper presents findings from a research project at a school of humanities, languages and social science at a UK university that investigated attitudes towards and uses of mobile devices (smartphones, tablets and laptops) by students and tutors. It applied the domestication of technology approach (Silverstone and Hirsch, Consuming technologies: Media and information in domestic spaces. London: Routledge, 1992) to understand how mobile devices have been appropriated by users in their everyday lives, how they have become part of daily routines and spatial arrangements and what rules are being negotiated around their use. This approach can be enriching to research in networked learning but has so far not been applied in this area before. It focuses on the ICT aspect of networked learning and on the multiple contexts in which networked learning takes place. Data was collected via in-depth interviews with 18 teaching staff and 6 focus groups with a total of 19 students across different departments in the school. The research identified distinct uses of different devices in terms of university-related and personal uses but also areas of overlapping use. Students and tutors associated important symbolic meanings with their devices, had incorporated them into daily routines and spatial arrangements in new ways and attempted to self-regulate use in different situations. While tutors were starting to make use of mobile devices in their teaching practice in innovative and meaningful ways, students had a less well-defined understanding of the educational benefits of mobile devices.



This research was funded by a Scholarship of Teaching and Learning grant from the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at Manchester Metropolitan University. The authors would like to thank all staff and students who gave up their time to take part in and contribute to this project. Special thanks go to Anshul Lau for carrying out the student focus group interviews.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Audiences North, BBCManchesterUK
  2. 2.Department of Languages, Information and CommunicationsManchester Metropolitan UniversityManchesterUK

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