Broadening Language Learner Perceptions of "Actual, Proper Study" to be More Inclusive of Smartphones in Irish Secondary Schools: ‘‘For Like Actual Like Proper Study, and Schoolwork, I Wouldn’t Use My Phone at All Really’’
Keywords:Smartphones, CALL, language teaching, social media
New digital and mobile technologies are appearing at an ever-increasing rate, and there are potentially valuable educational applications of many of these smartphone-mediated resources. In Ireland, although the Department of Education and Skills (DES) has long advocated for a role for technology into the classroom, an educational focus on integrating these new mobile resources into the daily practices of language learners remains the exception rather than the norm. This paper aims to describe the findings of a study conducted with third-level learners of modern languages at an Irish university, which involved surveys, case studies, and a group interview, and which revealed the limited and tangential role that smartphones play in the learning habits of the participants. The paper will also describe how interpretation of the data identified a clear perception among learners of a narrow range of resources and practices that constitute "actual, proper study", a perception in which there is little space for the kind of spontaneous, multimodal, autonomous learning afforded by smartphones, with learners instead displaying a clear preference for more traditional practices such as writing out lists of verbs, and traditional materials such as grammar books. This paper will argue that firstly, the teaching practices and the lack of focus on smartphones that exist at secondary school levels play a key role in learners’ developing these attitudes and perceptions towards language learning, and secondly, that there is a clear need to foster a broader perception of what constitutes language learning that encompasses a balanced approach to smartphone-enhanced language learning. This is important not only to help the students as language learners, but also to develop the digital literacy skills which are increasingly important across all aspects of Irish and global society. The paper concludes by providing a series of steps which teachers can take which will help both to broaden perceptions of what constitutes language learning, and to allow for supervised, structured use of smartphones in the classroom to allow learners develop their learning-related smartphone literacy and wider digital literacy.
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