2003 Conference Proceedings

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TRAINING OF SPECIAL EDUCATORS IN THE ICT-FIELD
A national action program.

Jane Brodin & Peg Lindstrand
Stockholm Institute of Education,
The Disability and Handicap Research Group,
Department of Human Development,
Learning and Special Education
P.O.Box 47308,
100 74 Stockholm, Sweden.
Email: Jane.Brodin@lhs.se 
Email: Peg.Lindstrand@lhs.se 

Introduction

This presentation focuses on a study on special educators working with children with disabilities and in need of special support and their relation to ICT. The study is an evaluation of a National State Programme intended to train special educators in the field of ICT. The study is based on a questionnaire answered by 618 special educators, and interviews with twenty educators and ten head teachers. The results from the study show that there is a great need of basic and in-service training in the ICT-field and that the lack of time and financial resources affect the work in the schools. The training programme focussed on difficulties in reading and writing although most of the teachers desired a more specific knowledge about children with disabilities. It also appears that the knowledge within this area of special education is mainly based on how these practitioners understand their own work. New thinking and innovations in the area are assessed, accepted or rejected on the same basis. The results of the interviews with the head teachers showed that they lacked knowledge about the training and were not engaged in this special effort although they are responsible for the development in the schools. One conclusion is that the technology was stressed more than the pedagogy in the in-service training.

National Action Program in ICT in regular schools

The Swedish State's computer programmes in the schools began at the end of the 1960s when more and more computers entered the schools. The State invested from 1984 to 1991 about 215 million Swedish Crowns (21.5 million Euros), while the local authorities invested at least as much money. The purpose of this investment was to place Sweden in the front line with regard to ICT and to educate the young generation. The effort is unique and as far as we know no other country has invested that much money in ICT education. Voices were, however, raised against the benefit of this concentration of the resources (e.g., Riis & Jedeskog, 1997). In 1996 the Foundation for Knowledge and Competence Development (KK-foundation) invested in 27 large school development projects where the use of ICT was central. The investment continued until 2000. A problem, which emerged, however, was that the investments were not educationally founded. Among other things, the education of regular teachers was a primary need. The general view was that the goal was not reached and that neither the need for general education nor for cutting the edge competence had been observed (Bolander, 1998).

In 1999 the Swedish parliament appointed a Delegation for ICT in the schools with the task of planning and carrying out a national programme in the schools (ITiS). All of Sweden's local authorities chose to participate in the programme and an investment in the educational use of computers in the regular schools was carried out from 1999 to 2001. The idea was that 60,000 regular teachers in working teams should be offered in-service training with a focus on ICT as a teaching tool. ITiS is both an investment in school development and in ICT. It includes the whole school system.

The project consisted of the following parts:

Even if teachers working with children with disabilities were mentioned in this programme, only a few special educators were involved in the ITiS-project. The Ministry of Education therefore started a supplementary education for special educators.

Supplementary education for special educators

The supplementary educational programme for teachers who worked with pupils with disabilities was carried out from the fall of 2000 to 2002 (Brodin, Lindstrand & Sirén, 2002). The target group for this programme was special educators who work as consultants with colleagues. These teachers are expected to have more knowledge about ICT and children with disabilities than regular teachers. The purpose was that the special educators after in-service training should have deepened their understanding for and knowledge on:

Results

When questions about ICT as an assistive device for the child are posed to parents, school environments and teachers are almost always involved in the answers. Parents are concerned about possibilities and obstacles in the school. When the same question is posed to special educators, they seem to be concerned only with the school situation. The focus is often on the technical part of ICT and seldom on the child's whole life situation, which means that there is a lack of a holistic view on the child.

A total of 465 women and 50 men participated in the training. The result showed that 90 percent of the informants had students with reading and writing difficulties and 85 percent had students with learning difficulties. It appears from the study that training in the area is longed for, but behind. Both the complexity of the technology and the teacher's unfamiliarity with the technology appear in the answers. A majority of the educators (73%) thought even before the in-service training that ICT was a useful tool for students in need of special support; after the training the figure had increased to 79 percent. None of the educators expressed any enthusiasm for using the Internet. With regard to the headteachers, most of them had poor knowledge about the training program organized for their special educators.

The reality presented in this study shows difficulties and obstacles on many levels. The difficulties concern the ICT itself as well as the special educator's role, which becomes clear in the ICT context. There were few opportunities for reflection on what an educational approach can mean in confrontation with ICT. The risk is obvious, that ICT is used with old educational methods instead of developing new ways of working. The potential for change, which lies in using ICT for children in need of special support, must also be discussed from an organizational perspective. The interviews with the headteachers show insufficient communication in the organization. Political goals and political discourse govern the national programs. The goal of a school for all and more integrated types of education is unclear in ITiS. Today's schools have great difficulties in creating environments and arenas where children with different qualifications can meet. Ethics and democracy should be emphasized in the public debate on ICT in order to support the integration of all students. One conclusion is that more attention has been paid to technology than to pedagogy.

References

Bolander, L. (1998). IT och framtidens lärande. [IT and learning in future]. Stockholm: KFB & Teldok.

Brodin, J., Lindstrand, P., & Sirén, N. (2002). "Lyrisk, arg och frustrerad". Riktad kompetensutbildning för specialpedagoger/lärare inom ITiS. ["Lyrical, angry and frustrated". In-service training for special educators/teachers in ITiS]. TKH-report 31. Stockholm Institute of Education, Department of Human Development, Learning & Special Education, & Ministry of Education, The ITiS-delegation, http://www.itis.gov.se.

National Action Program from the Delegationen for IT in the school (The ITiS-delegation). Stockholm: Ministry of Education.

Riis, U. & Jedeskog, G. (1997). Pedagogik, teknik eller ekonomi? En baslinjebestämning av KK-stiftelsens kommunbaserade skolutvecklingsprojekt. [Pedagogy, technology or economy? A starting point for the KK-foundation's municipality-based school developement projects]. Uppsala: Uppsala University.


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