EUROCALL 2014

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Is ICT really essential for learning? Perceptions and uses of ICTs for language acquisition in secondary level environments.

During the past 20 years the use of ICT in education had a rapid development placing some pressure on schools to renovate their approaches and benefit from its educational potential. ICT expectations appear to be very high both at policy and institutional level. Many studies on the use of technology in education consistently found that students in technology rich environments experienced positive effects on performance in all subjects’ areas (Lau and Sim 2008) and that the use of ICT in education seems to promote deep learning allowing schools to respond better to the varying needs of the students (Barak 2006). Despite all the apparent benefits of the use of ICT in educational environments, it has been argued that the learning potential of ICT is not fully exploited. Furthermore, even considering all the changes in society as a result of ICT, it is not widely integrated into the educational system and, where it is present and available, there is no evidence that it has affected teaching approaches (Levin and Wadmany 2005).
The purpose of this paper is to reflect and understand the current uses and expectations of ICT for learning and to present some of the findings of a major case study. The research here introduced was carried out in two secondary schools with a completely different orientation towards technology. Classroom observations, semi-structured and focus group interviews were held to investigate students’ and teachers’ access and use of digital technology and digital information for language learning. The information gained was subjected to a qualitative analysis. The empirical results suggest that although there is a general enthusiasm for the integration of ICT in the education system, it is not always necessary and preferable to a more traditional teaching approach. Several teachers and indeed students reported in fact that, whilst technology use was very effective in some cases it was not always essential to learning. This should force us also to re-think the Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants terms which have so often been blindly accepted when describing the divide between today's teachers and students. This paper thus proposes a more critical and leveled approach when considering the adoption of New Technologies, including social media. It also suggests that we are not restricted or limited by technologies, but only by our pedagogical motivations and creativity. The results of this study are pertinent to future developments in school practice and national policies.

Author(s):

Silvia Benini    
School of Languages, Literature, Culture and Communication
University of Limerick
Ireland

Silvia Benini is a PhD researcher and an Italian language teacher. She has a Laurea in Lettere Moderne (University of Florence) and the postgraduate diploma DITALS 2 in Teaching Italian as Foreign Language (University of Siena). She has been involved in various research projects on Language Learning Strategies and Theatre and Italian Teaching Pedagogy. Her main research interests are: SLA, CALL, Blended Learning, Language Policy and Planning, Language Revitalization.

 

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