An investigation of ICT use for Italian and Irish language learning in a secondary level school environment: new perspectives on the digital natives/digital immigrants claim
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AbstractThis study investigates the use of technology for Irish and Italian language learning in two secondary schools of the Republic of Ireland. The targeted schools are characterized by different technological orientations: School A has a strong commitment to innovation and heavy use of ICT in its pedagogies whereas School B offers a more traditional book-based approach and poor technological equipment. Qualitative and quantitative data on students’ and teachers’ attitudes towards the use of ICT within the two languages were collected through a mixed-methods approach. Furthermore, an analysis on the Digital Natives/Digital Immigrant claim was provided in relation to the gathered empirical data. The participants were specifically 3rd and 5th year students and their Italian and Irish language teachers. The findings of the study confirm a general positive attitude towards the use of ICT as a pedagogic method, yet there were school level barriers addressed by both students and teachers which affected its integration. As regards the current perceived status of instruction for the two languages, this study provides some evidence of a more negative attitude among Irish students due to the continued presence of deep-rooted stigmas still attached to the language which are absent in the case of Italian. It is proposed that technology could reverse these destructive attitudes towards Irish and indeed be beneficial for the promotion of the two languages. The digital divide does not appear to be as clearly defined as Prensky has argued. While there are differences in how generations engage with technologies, there are also similarities across generations mainly based on how much experience people have with using these tools. Generational distinctions between natives and immigrants are not reflected in the empirical data and the uncritical use of these terms could have negative implications for a number of issues, chief amongst them, teacher and student interactions. This study aims to reflect and understand the current uses and expectations of ICT for learning in general and language learning in particular offering suggestions pertinent to future developments in school practice and national policies.