Original Research - Special Collection: Digital Literacy

Use of mobile phones as supplementary teaching and learning tools to learners in South Africa

Nandipha Ngesi, Nhlanhla Landa, Nophawu Madikiza, Madoda P. Cekiso, Baba Tshotsho, Lynne M. Walters
Reading & Writing | Vol 9, No 1 | a190 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/rw.v9i1.190 | © 2018 Nophawu Madikiza, N Landa, M P Cekiso, B Tshotsho, Nandipha Ngesi | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 11 December 2017 | Published: 25 September 2018

About the author(s)

Nandipha Ngesi, Department of Arts, Walter Sisulu University, South Africa
Nhlanhla Landa, Department of English, University of Fort Hare, South Africa
Nophawu Madikiza, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Fort Hare, South Africa
Madoda P. Cekiso, Department of Applied Languages, Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa
Baba Tshotsho, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Fort Hare, South Africa
Lynne M. Walters, Department of Teaching, Learning and Culture (TLAC), Texas A&M University, United States


One of the major challenges in teaching English to speakers of other languages is the issue of inadequate contact time between teachers and learners and between learners and comprehensible English language input. This paper emanated from a burning desire to help learners in South African educational institutions, especially those in remote areas, increase the opportunity for learner-teacher-content contact. The deployment of mobile phones, as tools to supplement teaching and learning off-campus and after school hours, is presumed in this study to be one attempt to increase contact time for learners. A qualitative research methodology, which is interpretive in nature, was used. The study used a descriptive case study research design. It used a sample of 44 learners, drawn from Grade 9 English First Additional Language learners in one school in the Eastern Cape. The participants were sampled, using purposive and volunteer sampling techniques. Mobile phones were used to collect data, which was in the form of short message services (SMSs) and Mxit messages. A questionnaire with open-ended questions was also used to collect data about learners’ perceptions of the use of these devices in the educational process. The data were analysed by incorporating elements of both content analysis and discourse analysis. Despite the fact that some participants were of the view that SMS would corrupt their language and spelling, findings indicate that most SMS and Mxit texts produced by participants displayed full sentences, punctuation marks, correct spelling of most words, acceptable grammar and proper sentence use. Further, findings indicated that while SMS and Mxit communication were largely characterised by short hand and informal writing, when learners were aware that they were using these platforms for learning purposes, the traditional rules of formal writing applied. We conclude that mobile devices can improve the language acquisition of second language learners. We recommend consideration of the official inclusion of mobile devices as supplementary learning tools in the learning programme in South Africa.


mobile phone; teaching; learning; supplementary instruction


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Crossref Citations

1. The innovative use of social media for teaching English as a second language
Christopher Rwodzi, Lizette de Jager, Nhlanhla Mpofu
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa  vol: 16  issue: 1  year: 2020  
doi: 10.4102/td.v16i1.702