Research Article

Educational Technology Research and Development

, Volume 59, Issue 4, pp 465-486

First online:

Socioeconomic strata, mobile technology, and education: a comparative analysis

  • Paul KimAffiliated withStanford University Email author 
  • , Teresita HagashiAffiliated withCETYS Universidad
  • , Laura CarilloAffiliated withCETYS Universidad
  • , Irina GonzalesAffiliated withStanford University
  • , Tamas MakanyAffiliated withStanford University
  • , Bommi LeeAffiliated withStanford University
  • , Alberto GàrateAffiliated withCETYS Universidad

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Mobile devices are highly portable, easily distributable, substantially affordable, and have the potential to be pedagogically complementary resources in education. This study, incorporating mixed method analyses, discusses the implications of a mobile learning technology-based learning model in two public primary schools near the Mexico-USA border in the state of Baja California, Mexico. One school was located in an urban slum and the other in a rural village community. Empirical and ethnographic data were collected through a series of achievement tests, observations, surveys, and interviews involving 160 s grade school children recruited by convenience sampling. The general technology infrastructure, distinctive features of mobile learning to supplement literacy development, profound contextual phenomena arising from the two uniquely underserved communities, and social factors possibly influencing the educational experiences are discussed. The findings suggest that students in the rural village, seriously lacking educational resources and technology exposure, may have benefited substantially more from mobile technologies than urban school students possibly due to their relatively higher socio-economic status and higher parental involvement and interest in education. In contrast, there was no evidence of interaction with parental education levels, the experience of teachers or school principals, or the teacher’s perception or preparation of the technology. Overall, the mobile learning technology adoption was rapid, seamless, and actively driven by the students rather than the teacher. The challenges of the phenomenal migratory nature of most families in this unique geographical region are also discussed to benefit future studies.


Mobile learning Rural Urban Mexico Literacy development