Complexity, Conflict, and Uncertainty: Smartphone Use and the Efficacy to Learning on University Students in EFL Classrooms

Lilian Ya-hui Chang


The use of smartphones among university students is like a double-edged sword (Qi, 2019), on the positive side, it can boost academic performance; on the negative side usage (or the restriction of it) can detract from learning. The studies offered seem to create a dichotomy: smartphone use during class is either positive or negative. This paper, however, aims to reveal how students’ smartphone use in the classroom is an intricate, conflicting picture that has several layers of complexity creating a confusing picture for the instructor as to how, when, or why to use smartphones in the classroom. In order to explore Taiwanese university students’ potential conflicting viewpoints on the smartphone uses during class time, this study collects both quantitative and qualitative data for data analysis. All the questionnaire respondents used their smartphones during class time. The main reason they do so is due to learning purposes (e.g., check English words online, participate in class activities). However, it is interesting to note that the most frequent uses for the students are for personal reasons, e.g., check the time, check personal messages. Moreover, quantitative data shows that 2/3 of the participants in this study believed that it is all right to use their smartphone during the class, because being able to check information online aids their learning during the class. On the other hand, about 1/3 of the students believed that cellphone use is a distraction for them during the class. Semi-structured interviews also reveal that the interviewees expressed that they have mixed feelings about the appropriateness of the use of smartphones during class. Hopefully, these data can shed light on how teachers approach students’ smartphone uses policy in class.

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