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V. Lang, A. Šorgo

University of Maribor, Faculty of Natural Sciences and Mathematics (SLOVENIA)
According to many, scientific literacy is one of the most important personal competences (Hurd, 1998). To be scientifically literate in biology and related life sciences, a person should acquire not only content knowledge but also skills and attitudes. The development of smartphones has brought many changes and challenges to our lives and also has a great impact on education. The impact of smartphones on youth, for better or worse, has been well researched (Rather & Rather, 2019), but much less is known about the impact of devices on teaching and learning (Martín-Gutiérrez, Mora, Añorbe-Díaz & González-Marrero, 2017). Even less is known about the use of smartphones and their impact in the subject of biology, where teachers can incorporate a variety of digital teaching materials, learning environments, and the use of different functions and sensors of a smartphone, and even less is known about the use of smartphones in lower secondary education.

In the study presented in this article, we examine how students learned practically in a distance learning course in biology or science during the closure of elementary schools due to the COVID -19 pandemic. In the following, we focus on smartphone usage, their average daily use for specific activities such as using office tools, playing games, searching for information, social networking, taking photos, recording and watching videos and reading e-books and articles. Survey participants were also asked their opinions about using a smartphone in the classroom and using a smartphone independently for learning.

A questionnaire was developed with five different sets of questions. The four sets of questions are related to the use of a smartphone for learning and teaching. In one set of questions, we ask students how they did practical exercises in biology or science during distance learning. Here we were particularly interested in how often the practical exercises were carried out using a smartphone and involving measuring devices. In the pilot study, 85 students from 28 different Slovenian elementary schools participated.

The results show that 43.5% had never used a smartphone for teaching and learning purposes. In distance education, practical exercises in biology were most frequently performed by receiving written work instructions and performing the exercise themselves (68.3%). However, they never or rarely performed virtual laboratory exercises and never performed exercises using a smartphone and involving measuring devices (67.1%). 88.2% of the respondents reported owning a smartphone, of which 65.9% used the smartphone several times a day. Only 17.6% of respondents use a smartphone independently for learning and finding explanations or educational content. Less than half (45.9) of all respondents expressed average satisfaction with the use of smartphones in teaching or learning a biology subject.