Scholarly article on topic 'Teacher Training in the Use of ICT for Inclusion: Differences between Early Childhood and Primary Education'

Teacher Training in the Use of ICT for Inclusion: Differences between Early Childhood and Primary Education Academic research paper on "Educational sciences"

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{"teacher training" / ICT / "inclusive education" / "early childhood education" / "primary education"}

Abstract of research paper on Educational sciences, author of scientific article — Ma del Carmen Pegalajar Palomino

Abstract The Spanish education system considers the principle of educational equity and inclusion as a way of ensuring equal opportunities for students, serving as a compensatory approach that addresses personal, cultural, economic and social inequalities. Moreover, the impact of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) has led to changes in the teaching-learning process, taking into account the principles of universal design and accessibility; this plays a key role in moving towards methodologies that enable improvements in educational quality. Thus, this study aimed to analyze the perceptions that prospective Early Childhood and primary teachers have about using ICT for inclusion in the ordinary classroom. An ad-hoc questionnaire was administered to a sample of fourth-year students reading undergraduate degrees in Early Childhood and Primary Education at the Catholic University of Murcia (n=231). Results demonstrated positive attitudes by university students towards the inclusion of pupils with special educational needs using these types of learning resources. However, significant differences were observed in the “Professional teacher development in ICT” dimension depending on the degree programme (Early Childhood or Primary), with more favourable assessments reported by the first group. This has helped identify the teachers’ attitudes and teaching needs in the field of ICT in order to improve training by making curriculum changes and by adapting the teaching-learning process to higher education students.

Academic research paper on topic "Teacher Training in the Use of ICT for Inclusion: Differences between Early Childhood and Primary Education"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 237 (2017) 144 - 149

7th International Conference on Intercultural Education "Education, Health and ICT for a Transcultural World", EDUHEM 2016, 15-17 June 2016, Almeria, Spain

Teacher training in the use of ICT for inclusion: differences between Early Childhood and Primary Education

Ma del Carmen Pegalajar Palomino*

University of Jaén, Paraje "Las Lagunillas", s/n. 23071. Spain

Abstract

The Spanish education system considers the principle of educational equity and inclusion as a way of ensuring equal opportunities for students, serving as a compensatory approach that addresses personal, cultural, economic and social inequalities. Moreover, the impact of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) has led to changes in the teaching-learning process, taking into account the principles of universal design and accessibility; this plays a key role in moving towards methodologies that enable improvements in educational quality. Thus, this study aimed to analyze the perceptions that prospective Early Childhood and primary teachers have about using ICT for inclusion in the ordinary classroom. An ad-hoc questionnaire was administered to a sample of fourth-year students reading undergraduate degrees in Early Childhood and Primary Education at the Catholic University of Murcia (n=231). Results demonstrated positive attitudes by university students towards the inclusion of pupils with special educational needs using these types of learning resources. However, significant differences were observed in the "Professional teacher development in ICT" dimension depending on the degree programme (Early Childhood or Primary), with more favourable assessments reported by the first group. This has helped identify the teachers' attitudes and teaching needs in the field of ICT in order to improve training by making curriculum changes and by adapting the teaching-learning process to higher education students.

© 2017 The Authors. Published by ElsevierLtd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of the organizing committee of EDUHEM 2016. Keywords: teacher training, ICT, inclusive education, early childhood education, primary education

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +34953211804. E-mail address: mcpegala@ujaen.es

1877-0428 © 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of the organizing committee of EDUHEM 2016. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2017.02.055

1. Introduction

The OECD study entitled "Learning to Change: ICT in Schools " (2001) clearly demonstrates how ICT is changing the face of education and the students' learning experiences, seen as a priority when it comes to the education of pupils with specific support needs (Lozano, Alcaraz & Bernabeu, 2012). Thus, we are dealing with "tools that enable personal development, successful activity completion and enjoyment of situations that call on one's own individuality, as well as fully and actively participating in activities in one 's environment" (Chacón, 2007, p. 261). What is more, devices of this type facilitate the development of varying forms of expression and knowledge enhancement, allowing different processes to be developed in order to discover information and internalize concepts (Moss, Hay, Deppeler, Astley & Pattison, 2007; Parker & Chao, 2007; Prensky, 2011).

ICT tools are enablers in the learning dynamic, in terms of not only content appropriation when developing students' key competences, but also when creating appealing spaces that invite interaction and information exchange (Albion, 2008; Carvalhoy & Morais, 2011; Livingstone, 2012). These technology-based resources make it possible to tailor the teaching-learning process to the characteristics, interests and needs to the student (Arnaiz, 2003; Luque, Rodríguez & Romero, 2005), promoting their active participation to help reach the academic goals and achievement targets previously established by the teaching professional (Mehlinger & Powers, 2002; Rose, Meyer & Hitchcock, 2005; Vázquez & Sevillano, 2011), while facilitating individual, cooperative and interactive work in class (McFarlane, Triggs & Ching, 2009), In turn, the space-time barriers are removed, thus enabling teacher-student communication (Cabero & Llorente, 2008).

Understanding and analyzing how ICT has impacted on the school setting is an area of study that has garnered considerable interest (Paredes, Guitert & Rubia, 2015). The teacher's positive attitude towards the use of these devices, as well as being suitably trained in their use and pedagogical possibilities, are the main factors behind the correct use of ICT in educational settings (Ballesta & Céspedes, 2015). Furthermore, teachers' commitment towards inclusive education generates self-motivation, and it helps them to consolidate the application of varied methods, techniques and strategies based on the use of ICT tools (Fernández, Reyes, Piñero & Japón, 2013).

Various research (Bozdogan & Ozen, 2014; Roblizo & Cózar, 2015) has highlighted the favourable perceptions held by student teachers concerning the frequent use of ICT in the classroom. In general terms, teachers show to be suitably willing to take the necessary measures that allow for ICT to be properly implemented in the school setting, although they regularly find themselves overwhelmed by the sheer number of responsibilities that come with developing other improvements across the system, not to mention the lack of external reinforcements that support its use in this environment (Marín & Romero, 2009). It is therefore not enough to simply include this technology in the classroom; this must also be reflected in the curriculum and when developing new teaching approaches (Amar, 2008).

To achieve this, student teachers must receive robust training equipping them with the skills to pedagogically use these tools to the best of their abilities (Davis, Preston & Sahin, 2009); this process should focus on the presentation and exploration of software and devices as well as on promoting positive attitudes and teacher efficacy to successfully transfer information to students (Gegenfurtner, 2011). From this perspective, and analyzing the established approach in higher education, Pérez & Vílchez (2012) draw attention to the curriculum's failure to include technology-based subjects in initial teacher training; this should be addressed cross-curricular so that it encompasses digital competences in different subjects and prompts the student to shift from a "digital user" to being "digitally competent" in the didactic use of ICT tools in the inclusive classroom. As such, and as stated by Mir (2010), digital competence entails a combination of knowledge, skills and abilities, together with values and attitudes, to effectively and efficiently meet objectives using digital tools in digital contexts. Furthermore, Ortiz, Almazán, Peñaherrera & Cachón (2014) refer to teacher training centred around the creative integration of ICT in the classroom, whereas Domingo & Marqués (2011) deem the contextualization of teaching training to be essential in accordance with real needs, the exchange of experiences and best practices, as well as developing cooperative and expert-led work.

2. Method

Taking into consideration the aforementioned studies and research, this study aimed to analyze the perceptions of prospective teachers at early childhood and primary education stages regarding the use of ICT for inclusion in the ordinary classroom. A further objective was to identify the presence of statistically significant differences in the

student teachers' assessments of their professional development in ICT depending on whether we are dealing with Early Childhood or primary education level.

To this end, the study population was defined as fourth-year students reading either Early Childhood or Primary Education at the Catholic University of Murcia (Spain), with 231 students participating in the study by completing an ad-hoc questionnaire. 79.1% of the sample are female, whereas 20.9% are male subjects; ages range from around 25 years in 85.1% of cases to 26 years and over in 14.9% of cases. 52.2% of the sample are students enrolled on a Early Childhood Education Degree at the Catholic University of Murcia, whereas 47.8% are Primary Education Degree students at the same university.

Data collection was conducted using the survey technique from the "Questionnaire on the perceptions of prospective teachers on the use of Information Technology and Communication in developing inclusive practices" (Pegalajar, 2015). This involves a Likert-type scale with responses ranging from 1 to 4 (1= totally disagree and 4= completely agree) comprising 36 items distributed across four dimensions:

• Factor 1: Didactic implications of ICT for inclusive education (13 items)

• Factor 2: Professional teacher development in ICT (10 items)

• Factor 3: Teacher attitudes towards inclusion using ICT tools (7 items)

• Factor 4: Inclusive teaching practice using ICT (6 items)

This study presents the results corresponding to the second factor, that is, professional teacher development in the use of these types of tools in the classroom. In order to perform data analysis, the statistical software IBM SPSS (version 21) was used, carrying out statistical analyses with significance set at p<.05.

3. Results

3.1. Prospective teachers 'perceptions of professional development in ICT usage.

The results of the descriptive analysis reveal favourable perceptions held by future teachers regarding the contributing role that ICT can play in their professional development when it comes to inclusive education and attention to students with specific support needs (Table 1). As such, students studying degrees in Early Childhood education and primary education are of the opinion that tools of this kind in the classroom improve teachers' digital competence which can be put into practice (M=3.4; SD=0.67); this implies a methodological updating process corresponding to teaching tasks (M=3.4; SD=0.672) which contributes to their professional development (M=3.33; SD=0.682) and demands professional recognition by the competent authority (M=3.39; SD=0.669).

The prospective teachers surveyed reported that ICT tools foster curiosity among students about certain topics that they deem interesting (M=3.33; SD=0.719), generating new communication channels and collaborative work among teachers (M=3.3; SD=0.674) as well as reflexive and inquisitive participation models for classroom practice (M=3.08; SD=0.73). To achieve this, the education authority needs to invest more money and provide more ICT-based materials (M=3.32; SD=0.735); advice should also be available on how to search for, select and assess these tools in order to develop the students' teaching-learning process (M=3.31; SD=0.696) as well as specific training in ICT and inclusive education (M=3.25; SD=0.716).

Table 1. Descriptive analysis of the factor "Professional teacher development in ICT"

Invites reflexive and inquisitive participation by teachers in the classroom Requires teachers to have received specific training

Generates new communication channels and collaborative work among teachers

3.08 0.73

3.25 0.716

3.3 0.674

Requires advice on how to search for, select and assess ICT resources for the teaching-learning process 3.31 0.696

Requires more ICT-based materials and investment from the education authority Fosters curiosity among students about certain topics Contributes to professional teacher development Requires professional recognition

3.32 0.735

3.33 0.719

3.33 0.682

3.39 0.669

Implies a methodological updating process 3.4 0.672

Involves improving teachers' digital competence 3.4 0.671

3.2. Statistically significant differences in Early Childhood and Primary Education students 'perceptions of professional development

The Student's t-test (comparison of means) has made it possible to identify the presence or not of statistically significant differences between the questionnaire dimensions depending on whether the student is studying for a Early Childhood or Primary Education degree. Furthermore, the t-test procedure for independent samples also gives us the Levene's test for equality of variances, allowing us to decide whether or not we are dealing with equal population variances.

The results reveal statistically significant differences for the dimension linked to prospective teachers' perceptions about their professional development regarding the use of these tools in the classroom (t(220)=.726, p=.034), in contrast to the didactic implications of ICT for inclusive education (t(215)=-.303, p=.165), teacher attitudes (t(2i9)=-1.614, p=. 144) and development of inclusive teaching practice using ICT (t(214)=-1.123, p=.565). What is more, when comparing the students' assessments according to the different educational stages in which they will be expected to undertake their daily classroom tasks, more positive perceptions are observed among those studying for a degree in Early Childhood Education. They should therefore put learning experiences into practice which are related to inclusive approaches for students in the 0 to 5 age group.

Table 2. Variance analysis. T-test for independent samples.

Sig. Early Childhood Education Primary Education

Factor 1. Didactic implications of ICT for inclusive education .165 3.12 3.14

Factor 2. Professional teacher development in ICT .034* 3.33 3.28

Factor 3. Teacher attitudes towards inclusion using ICT tools .144 2.72 2.81

Factor 4. Inclusive teaching practice using ICT .565 3.02 3.09

*p<.05

4. Discussion

This study has made it possible to analyze prospective teachers' perceptions about their professional development regarding the use of ICT for inclusive classroom practice and in offering an educational response to students with specific support needs. From this perspective, and following the analysis of the obtained results, positive assessments by future teachers at early childhood and primary education stages have been confirmed. This has important consequences for teaching practice and the education system as a whole, as it affects day-to-day classroom tasks as well as the educational response given to students with educational needs. What is more, the findings of this study support those of previous research (Bozdogan & Ozen, 2014; Roblizo & Cózar, 2015) which adress student teachers' positive perceptions towards frequent ICT usage in a classroom setting.

Those surveyed understand how the use of these tools in an inclusive school context fosters reflexive teaching practice, generating new communication channels and teamwork, methodological updating and improvements in digital competence. These assessments coincide with the view expressed by Chacón (2007), who explains how ICT tools are well-placed to encourage personal development in students with educational needs, and when it comes to them carrying out activities and activity participating in their environment. It could therefore be described as a process that involves specifying and adapting the teaching-learning process to the students' profile (Arnaiz, 2003; Luque, Rodríguez & Romero, 2005).

However, student teachers acknowledge that there is a need to undertake specific training in ICT and receive guidance in order to use these tools appropriately, and for the education authority to invest more and promote professional recognition in this area. Thus, and as Ballesta and Céspedes (2015) argue, being suitably trained in the

use and pedagogical possibilities of ICT is one of the main factors behind its usage in an inclusive context; teacher training needs to make the right to learn for the entire school population a reality, geared towards helping students develop the key competences (Valdés, Bolívar & Moreno, 2015).

When assessing the differences from a statistical standpoint, students taking Early Childhood Education were shown to report some more positive assessments about their professional development in ICT usage with reference to inclusive practice in comparison to their Primary Education peers. This could be due to their own personal attitudes as well as to any first-hand experience they may have acquired during the teaching-learning process across compulsory education. Furthermore, and when considering the different curricula for the Early Childhood and Primary Education degree programmes, the students enrolled in Early Childhood Education may have accumulated more ICT-based learning experiences than their Primary Education counterparts, with more focus on understanding the didactics and procedures to assist in the teaching-learning processes across the different subjects.

There are, however, limitations to this study. The use of the questionnaire can lead to sincerity and social desirability problems among those surveyed. What is more, by inviting only students studying Early Childhood Education and Primary Education at the Catholic University of Murcia to participate in this study is a limiting factor when generalizing the data to other populations. For this reason, future research would involve widening the sample, by studying the perceptions of ICT held by student teachers from other universities (public and private) and across different educational levels, as argued by De Moya & Cózar (2013):

"it is more than justified to include digital competence in curricula pertaining to different educational levels, given that the students, a reflection of their time, are loyal users of technology, but they are not competent in the use and handling of ICT. As such, there is a great need to equip them with the skills to become digitally competent in all aspects and activities of their adult life. And, in this respect, the school and teachers play a vital role " (p.10).

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