mobile devices, self-directed learning, middle school, technology and engineering


Today’s students are growing up in a world of constant connectivity, instant information, and ever-changing technological advancements. The increasingly ubiquitous nature of mobile devices among K–12 students has led many to argue for and against the inclusion of these devices in K–12 classrooms. Arguments in favor cite instant access to information and collaboration with others as positive affordances that enable student self-directed learning. In this study, 706 middle school students from 18 technology and engineering education classes worked in groups of 2–3 to complete an openended engineering design challenge. Students completed design portfolios and constructed prototypes in response to the design challenge. Classes were divided with some allowing access to mobile devices during the study and others not allowing access. Additionally, randomly assigned classes completed the design portfolio electronically, and others completed the portfolio on paper. Final student portfolios and products were assessed and assigned a rank order using a method of assessment called adaptive comparative judgment. Thirty student interviews were conducted as well as 6 teacher interviews. Statistical analyses between student access, portfolio type, student self-directed learning, and student achievement were conducted. Findings showed that student self-directed learning was independent of mobile device access during the study. Mobile device access was significantly correlated with higher student scores on the design portfolio, but mobile device access was independent of student scores on design products.

Original Publication Citation

Bartholomew, S. R., Reeve, E., Veon, R., Goodridge, W., Stewardson,G., Lee, V., & Nadelson, L. (2017). Mobile devices, self-directed learning, and achievement in Technology and Engineering Education classrooms during a STEM activity. Journal of Technology Education, 29(1), 2–24.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Journal of Technology Education




Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology



University Standing at Time of Publication

Assistant Professor