Student uses of technology in learning: two lenses

Margot McNeill (Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia)
Ming Ming Diao (Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia)
Maree Gosper (Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia)

Interactive Technology and Smart Education

ISSN: 1741-5659

Publication date: 19 April 2011



In their 2007 article, “Miranda in the brave new world: learning in a Web 2.0 millennium”, Barnes and Tynan tell the story of an imaginary British student who uses technology seamlessly to stay connected almost 24×7 with friends, peers and teachers in a global learning environment. Whether she is representative of the majority of university students is a topic of debate in the literature. This paper aims to explore how students use technologies in their everyday lives, whether on‐ or off‐campus, to support their learning.


There were two phases of the study; a photo ethnography to enable a detailed exploration of ten students' technology uses and then a university‐wide survey in which 1,104 student responses were gathered.


The findings of both phases of the study suggest that students' use of technologies for their learning and in other facets of their lives is largely conservative, with a predominance of familiar and easy‐to‐use tools such as e‐mail, text and mobile phone. For their learning, their preference is for tools to provide access, efficiency and connectedness.


This paper contributes to the development of a better understanding of student issues in the context of their overall IT experience at the university, suggesting a more holistic approach to designing technology infrastructure. There are also insights into the power of mixed methodologies in research, with significant parallels between the qualitative and quantitative results.



McNeill, M., Ming Diao, M. and Gosper, M. (2011), "Student uses of technology in learning: two lenses", Interactive Technology and Smart Education, Vol. 8 No. 1, pp. 5-17.

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