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Academic use of smartphones among secondary school students.

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This study explores the academic use of smartphones among secondary school students at Harare High School with the aim of contributing to new educational trends in Zimbabwe. It employs the interpretive paradigm and is informed by the Actor-Network Theory. It explores how students use smartphones for academic purposes, examining the various perceptions on academic use of smartphones, and analysing reasons for students at Harare High School to use smartphones for academic purposes the way they do. Qualitative research methods were employed using a case study research approach. Semi-structured in-depth interviews, questionnaires, an observation schedule, and documents were used to generate data. Questionnaires were also used for sampling purposes. Miles and Huberman Framework for Qualitative Data Analysis was used for analysis of data. Findings reveal that students at Harare High School use smartphones for research, downloading and storage of learning materials, and collaborative learning. Most students perceive smartphones as convenient learning tools in view of the newly introduced education curriculum, which emphasises research and innovation. Students also use smartphones for social networking and entertainment. Challenges of distraction, abuse, addiction, and other behavioural challenges were revealed, raising the need for close monitoring by teachers and parents. This study recommends that: 1) the Ministry of Education in Zimbabwe should formulate a policy that makes it mandatory for schools to use smartphone technology, 2) schools should consult with ICT experts offering strategies that regulate academic use of smartphones, curbing abuse, 3) teachers should be trained to be smartphone-literate so that smartphone technology may be adopted as a compulsory learning tool, 4) teaching of media literacy and character education should be adopted to empower students to use smartphones profitably, and 5) schools should levy parents in order to raise funds to buy smartphones for students. This study has added new knowledge to the understanding of the academic use of smartphones in the Zimbabwean context. It provides methodological and theoretical contributions through data-generation methods employed, and in its use of the Actor-Network Theory. In conclusion, despite the challenges mentioned, all Zimbabwe schools should embrace the academic use of smartphone technology because the benefits outweigh the challenges.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.