I feel like Sisyphus when I’m doing my PhD on technology, SEN (Special Educational Needs) and professional development in Nigeria!
I am passionate about teaching and I am also keen to make an impact in the world of academia, especially with SEN in rural areas of Nigeria. It is this zeal that led to my quest for higher education degrees abroad, with the hope of reflecting on the challenges of reaching a globally balanced perception of SEN practice within the Nigerian educational sector. Interestingly, the MA degree programme I completed at the University of Sunderland became the first small step in my journey into the research world within this area. This studious episode resulted in me taking my next and very bold steps towards a PhD in this area. During my research on the MA programme I became increasingly passionate about education, inclusion, and the use of AT (Assistive Technology) in pedagogy to support the education of children and young people with SEN. My current PhD title is: “Assistive technology for inclusive education: an exploration of TEL (Technology Enabled Learning) with children with SEN in Nigeria”.
In reflecting on this area, there is a need to improve not just inclusive practice, but also professional development. It is important for schools to develop new and inclusive pedagogical approaches with technology, in the knowledge that technology is a potential enabler of opportunity (Ekin 2015). In addition, technology use is best when it is applied to pedagogy to develop creative thinking (Ingleby 2016). It is emphasised that ICT (Information and Communication Technology) has the potential to enable learning, and this pedagogical process may be of benefit to the processes of teaching and learning (Kirkwood and Price, 2014). Despite this argument, there is a lack of sufficient evidence to ascertain the effectiveness of technology application to pedagogy in inclusive classroom practice in Nigeria.
Nigeria is considered to be on the wrong side of the digital divide when it is viewed from a global perspective. Like many African countries today, Nigeria experiences an inadequate technological infrastructure. This situation is a consequence of ICT facilities not being universally available, alongside years of chaotic approaches to policy. A complex range of personal, professional and social factors seem to be influencing the application of technology to pedagogy in general (Ingleby and Wilford 2016). This certainly applies to Nigeria.
Currently, it appears that the challenges that are confronting classroom instructional delivery in many Nigerian schools are not being resolved by the government and other educational stakeholders. In consequence, the Nigerian teachers are not adequately equipped to provide technology-supported learning opportunities for their students. Against this backdrop, the effective and appropriate use of assistive technology tools in inclusive education remains a ‘wicked problem’ within the Nigerian educational sector in particular and in Sub-Saharan Africa in general.
My research therefore explores the current practice in the use of technology to promote inclusion. I am adopting a qualitative inductive research approach that is based on developing interviews via visual methods. Smart phones are of massive appeal in Nigeria in 2018, so I am getting my research participants to capture images that represent inclusive education with children with SEN on their mobile devices. The study considers the implications for CPD (Continuing Professional Development) in this area. After all, there is growing and widespread recognition that the pedagogical and technical capability of the educators is imperative in this field. In order to raise educational standards, the governments in Sub-Saharan Africa are emphasising the importance of teachers’ professional development. CPD is regarded to be of key importance if there is to be an effective implementation of policy and curricula in enhancing teaching and learning processes. The successful utilisation of technology in schools depends upon the availability of ICT resources- a factor beyond my control. So, my PhD can sometimes seem to be like a boulder rolled by Sisyphus to the top of a hill only for it to roll back down again!
Ekin, A. (2015) The changing face of special educational needs: impact and implications. London: Routledge
Ingleby, E. 2016. “We don’t just do what we’re told to do!” Practitioner perceptions of using ICTs in early years. International Journal of Early Years Education, 24 (1), pages 36-48.
Ingleby, E., and B. Wilford. 2016. Technology Enhanced Learning and the implications for professional development in higher education. Paper presented at The IPDA Conference, November 25-26th 2016, Stirling, UK.
Kirkwood, A., and L. Price. 2013. Missing: evidence of a scholarly approach to teaching and learning with technology in higher education. Teaching in Higher Education, 18 (3), 327–337.