Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Graduate School

Major Professor

Elizabeth Shaunessy-Dedrick, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Howard Johnston, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Janet Richards, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Deirdre Cobb-Roberts, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Sarah Kiefer, Ph.D.


online learning, smartphone technology, student reports, pandemic


In March of 2020, many schools including the high school where I teach in the southwest United States, shut down and moved all students to online learning due to a coronavirus. At the time, this virus (referred to as COVID-19) was just starting to pose a significant threat to the United States, yet had already claimed lives in other parts of the world including Europe and China. In an effort to slow spread of the virus, many school districts in the United States closed school buildings and abruptly shifted to online learning.

My inquiry was designed to discover how my students reported smartphones to affect learning while learning online. I have been an educator in a brick-and-mortar setting for over a decade and have seen first-hand how students use smartphones for academic and nonacademic purposes in a school setting. I have also read extensive publications about smartphone use and adolescents which I present in Chapter Two. After the switch to online learning, I wondered how my student’s use of smartphones would affect their learning while learning online.

I developed a qualitative descriptive exploratory study to analyze eight artifacts which I selected out of 137. The artifacts were my students’ submissions in English II Honors relating to their use of smartphones during online learning. I used these eight artifacts to investigate how students reported smartphone use to affect their learning during an unprecedented time where students were required to learn online due to COVID-19.

Findings included an increase in smartphone usage and social media consumption, smartphones as a distraction to learning, the use of smartphones for academic purposes, and smartphones as a tool for interaction and communication. I recommend continued study by incorporating students’ perspectives on how smartphones affect learning while learning online.

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