Background: Although many medical learners and teachers are using mobile technologies within medical education, there has been little evidence presented describing how they use mobile devices across a whole curriculum.
Methods: The Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) introduced a new mobile device program in 2010. Incoming undergraduate medical learners received a laptop and an iPad and learners entering year three of the four-year program received a laptop and an iPhone. A survey was sent to all learners to gather information on their use of and attitudes toward these devices. A combination of quantitative and qualitative methods was used to analyze the data and to generate a series of themes that synthesized student behaviors, perceptions and attitudes.
Results: Context and learner autonomy were found to be important factors with learners using multiple devices for different purposes and adopting strategic approaches to learning using these devices. The expectation that school-issued devices would be regularly and enthusiastically used to replace more traditional study media was not reflected in practice.
Conclusions: Learners' approaches to using mobile devices are heterogeneous as is the extent to which they use them. Learners adapt their use of mobile devices to the learning cultures and contexts they find themselves in.