The educational system in St.Vincent and the Grenadines has gone through metamorphic changes over the last ten (10) to fifteen (15) years. These changes were triggered by the educational revolution. Assistive Technology (AT) is one area that has seen vast improvements compared to that of years gone by. Wong (2016:195) cites IDEIA 2004 definition of assistive technology as any item, piece of equipment or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified or customized, that is used to increase, maintain or improve functional capabilities of a child with a disability, assistive technology can be looked at as any device or service which contributes to students with disabilities’ success in the classroom. Assistive technology is that tool which assists teachers to meet individual learner’s needs as Ogirima et al (2016:22) explains “assistive technology is that tool which can be marshaled to meet each learner’s need.” In other words assistive technology equalizes the platform for students with disabilities. In St. Vincent and the Grenadines one such assistive technology (AT) advancement took place with the one laptop per child initiative. Each child from grade one to the tertiary level (community college) was given a laptop. This was seen as a great milestone in our educational system as each child would now be exposed to the technology. To ascertain the information needed for this context the following are the research topic and questions which the researcher would be using to direct the research path.
Topic: Teachers’ perception of the implementation of AT in inclusive schools in SVG.
The research questions are:
- What are the teachers’ perception and/ or attitudes to assistive technology in an inclusive classroom?
- What do the teachers perceive as constraints that affect assistive technology?
- What are the effects/ implications of the implementation of AT in schools?
The research findings would provide information to all stakeholders in our educational system on assistive technology. This research would add to the little information which exists on assistive technology (AT) in this context. The researcher hopes by identifying the possible constraints to assistive technology (AT) that solutions can be implemented to limit issues in AT. Overall this research significance cannot be overlooked being one of the first to examine this field (that is assistive technology) in this context thus from this research the data obtained can influence further policy making.
The research will be carried out at one of the largest elementary schools in the country. The teachers have all been exposed to the one laptop per child initiative. The participants would be selected by purpose sampling, this is because although each student and teacher were given a laptop, not all teachers have embraced the technology’s use in the class, thus the research would use persons in the sample who utilize any form of assistive technology devices/ services in their learning and teaching process. Researchers such as Montrieux et al (2015) reveals for there to be a successful implementation or integration of technology into the teaching and learning environment the teachers willingness to adopt the innovations is key. From the sample selected the researcher would acquire a lot of information as these participants will be more proficient on the topic. Lodico et al (2006:140) explains that “the logic and power of purposeful sampling lies in selecting information rich cases for study in depth”. The research would observe teachers over the course of two weeks to a month to assess if any assistive technology (AT) service/ device was used in the teaching and learning process. Ninety percent of the staff has been teaching more than five (5) years and are between the ages of twenty-one (21) to sixty (60) these educators live in neighboring communities.
When considering research ethical considerations help to shape the design of your work. The researcher is aware that all identifiers must be removed thus participants’ real names would not be included in the research. Bera (2018) speaks on confidentiality and anonymity as being common in research nonetheless participants must be granted this right. Although this ethical consideration is common it would be pivotal that participants are not able to identify each other as it can create a burdensome path for future research. Along with removing identifiers, the data collected will be coded.
Another ethical consideration is that of written consent. The participants in the research would be approached and given the consent form to review. The researcher can use this opportunity to clarify the path of the research even further so as to ensure participants are informed do not feel coerced and are willing to sign the consent knowing. Denscombe (2010) affirms the view that with any research a written consent is always required. The researcher also examined the fact that the research would be carried out at my place of employment and although I am not supervising teacher, my colleagues can or may feel pressured to take part in the research. Participants would be reminded that right to opt out at any time. Bera (2018:9) authenticates “it should be made clear to all participants they can withdraw at any time or any or no reason.”
The phenomenological approach would allow the research to describe the participants “lived experiences” to complete this. The data collected would be analyzed using Lodico et al (2006) six step process to the analysis of qualitative data. These steps include
“Preparing and organizing the data”
“Reviewing and exploring the data”
“Coding data into categories”
“Constructing descriptions of people, places and activities”
“Building themes and testing hypotheses”
“Reporting and interpreting data”
Critical Literature Review
A critical literature review not only allows the researcher to position his or her work in existing literature but it also allows the researcher to position his/ her work in existing literature but it also allows the researcher to consider present and prior knowledge on the topic and to guide the path of the present research.
This critical literature review is divided into two parts the first part positions the research in the current literature and secondly the theoretical framework of the research.
Theme 1: Teacher perception and attitude to assistive technology (AT)
Research has revealed that teachers’ attitude is central to the success of AT in the classroom. Garcia (2005), Ogirima et al (2017) and March (2017) all agree that a positive attitude on the part of teachers is essential for the successful implementation and utilization in inclusive classrooms. Garcia (2005) and Ogirima (2017) employed qualitative methods while March (2017) used quantitative. They all deduced that once a positive attitude is imparted AT will be successful however each researcher recognizes that central to the issue of AT is that of competence and utilization on the part of teachers. Ajuwon et al (2016:132) points out in their research that “more than half of the comments were related to the need for more education in the field of AT.” This speaks not only to in service teachers but pre service too, for a programme must be implemented with teacher training to equip teachers with the knowledge they need to employ AT devices and services. Ajwon et al (2016:132) concluded that “appropriate training at the pre service and in service levels for teachers of students with disabilities regarding technology instruction is necessary. Thus, we can support Maich (2017:17) view that “the barrier between attitude and practice appears to be training.” It has been consistently shown in spite of the mythologies researchers employ that teachers generally have a positive attitude towards the inclusion of AT in the classroom however their lack of confidence and knowledge on using the technology hinders the use of the device or service in a teaching and learning process.
Theme 2: Barriers to AT (Assistive Technology)
Today technology has become an integral part of our lives thus we cannot put it on a back burner due to the host of benefits to be derived. Despite, the many benefits there are several barriers to assistive technology in our classroom. Ahmed (2008) discusses in his article uses an online survey to gather the data. Prior to this research a pilot study was created. It was from this questionnaire the survey took shape. He identifies the barriers to AT as “funding, training and insufficient assessment.” Although he explains the barriers are not limited to those factors only. Coleman (2005) summarizes the barriers as assessment, training, timeliness, and consistency of implementation, psycho social, cultural and environmental factors and motivation and effort.” Schock and lee (2016) ascertained their data through qualitative methods and learned the opinion of children by conducting a focus group. They described the identified factors as the failure of equipment, ownership and upkeep lack of physical space to set up and maintain the equipment, lack of teacher preparation of electronic material and lastly a lack of continued training o existing and new software and hardware for both students and teacher. This qualitative study allows the students opinion to be heard. The barriers which the student pointed out were in some way related to the equipment. It must be noted that Schock and lee (2015) had to consider the ethical issues involved with students as participants to ensure the validity and the reliability of the research. These researchers share common barriers one being that of training as stated by Schock and lee (2016) training not only for teachers but also for students. This showcases the significance of teacher training in assistive technology. Connor and Beard (2015) joins the debate and discerns a barrier to AT as teacher lack of knowledge on the technology, in other words not knowing how the technology works. This brings to light how crucial it is that training be an ongoing process. Connor and Beard (2015) reveals to resolve the issue of training schools took advantage of professional development workshop, although these workshop did seem more to have a “one size fits everyone” and this approach must have issues as we learn differently. AmalaJansi and Govinda Raju (2016) conducted a mixed method study which explored four research questions on teacher perceptions in reference to AT. They too confirmed that training is pivotal to AT success. AmalaJansi and Govinda Raju (2016:303) revealed the importance of professional development its connectivity to teacher knowledge and skills as well as how it could increase teacher use of AT.
Theme 3: The benefits of AT (Assistive Technology)
Research has shown why it is so critical to include assistive technology device/service in our teaching and learning experience. Assistive technology holds many benefits to students with and without disabilities. Several researchers have conveyed some of these benefits. Ahmed (2018) conducted an online survey which helps to communicate benefits of AT such as allowing students to participate in the class due to the successful use of the equipment. Secondly, students with disabilities are able to gain the same benefits as their peers in the classroom. Thus students with disabilities can become independent of task and gives them greater control as they are now more responsible for their own learning. Lawerence and Beard (2013) in their paper examines the benefits of AT and pinpoints areas of disability in students and suggest possible devices/services which can help to resolve the issue. The benefits as proposed by Lawrence and Beard (2013:113) are
The work by Lawerence and Beard (2013) showed commonality with Adebsi (2015) who expounds AT builds students “cognitive potential” and facilitates the learning and teaching process by making it possible for the syllabus objectives to be achieved. These researchers all proclaim there are varying benefits to be had when AT is involved. Erdem (2017) complied a brief review on literature of the use of AT, benefits and implementation models were also assessed. Some of the benefits which were found by Erdem (2017:128) are
· AT builds confidence and allows learners to become independent.
· Students with disabilities are able to access education thus they can now participate in the learning experience.
· It serves to improve and maintain “functional performances” and “academic success” of students.
The evidence presented by researchers has made it easy to conclude that AT benefits in the classroom outweigh the option of using traditional teaching methods which do not encompass AT services and devices. From this we glean educators must be cognizant of their role in students life and recognize through AT they can harness students potential.
Theme 4: Effects/ Implications of Assistive Technology
Through many of the literature presented certain factors continue to arise. The use of AT holds vast implications for our educational system, these include training, funding. Adebisi (2015) proposes a list of challenges to the use of AT for children with disabilities. He identifies the lack of ICT personnel to guide the implementation process for both teachers and students. Furthermore, he explains training should be flexible. This means AT can be implemented in inclusive classrooms worldwide. Stakeholders of education must implement a plan to allow for pre service and in service training in using them AT, these teachers would then be kept abreast of the new technologies and be competent in using them with students. For example there are simple AT devices such as an enlarged keyboard that might require no added training on the other hand there are those high tech devices that require teachers to constantly keep abreast of the upgraded information. This would shatter the gap between teacher practice and incompetence of AT.
Students with disabilities need AT devices or services to complete a variety of task. The ease at which they are able to do this with AT devices or services can only build confidence and motivate each learner. AT needs to be present in all inclusive classrooms, which brings to bear the issue of funding. Stakeholders of education must recognize the importance of AT and ensure that with planning funding is assigned. Teachers, parents and administrators should complete a needs assessment with a clear plan on how to ensure students with disabilities are exposed to the needed device or service.(Erdem2017)
Howard Gardner explains every learner is different and proposes (8) eight different intelligences or ways of learning. They are linguistic-verbal, logical mathematical, bodily kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalistic. He proposes seeing that we all learn differently educators need to provide the opportunities needed to ensure learning takes place. Although Gardner has been critique (his findings are not seen as empirical) many individuals can relate with his theory. Assistive Technology provides different opportunities for students with disabilities to use the service or device to enhance the way in which these learners learn best. In many instances it is through AT that these students can have some autonomy in there learning.
Additionally, learning by doing a theory founded my John Dewey would contribute to the framework of the research. This theory is based on the assumption that people learn best when they are involved in the learning experience.
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