The following is a review of this research article:
Onivehu, A. O., Ohawuiro, O. E., & Oyeniran, B. J. (2017). Teachers' Attitude and Competence in the Use of Assistive Technologies in Special Needs Schools. Acta Didactica Napocensia, 10(4), 21-32.
Data synopsis: Teachers’ Attitude around Assistive Technology
This article discusses the findings made from the administration of a questionnaire created for the purpose of discovering the attitude and competence of teachers of special needs toward assistive technologies. The research was conducted in Osun State, Nigeria and included 100 teachers within that state who taught students with special needs exclusively. The findings revealed that attitudes surrounding assistive technology among those teachers were positive, but competence was lacking. One recommendation was that teachers receive regularly repeated training on the use of assistive technology.
In the preliminary research, before the questionnaire had even been constructed, a significant portion of study was dedicated to defining and understanding the use of assistive technology for students with varying disabilities. A minimum of 6 definitions were cited from experts of several countries. Based on my own knowledge, these definitions contained accurate statements including one key comment which honed in on the crucial understanding that every single student requires an individualized assessment in order to determine the appropriate assistive technology needed.
Another significant amount of preliminary research was dedicated to the effect of attitude on behavior. The research revealed that teachers’ acceptance and attitude toward a specific type of assistive technology (AT), whether negative or positive, greatly influenced its use in the classroom resulting in the students’ potential for success in the classroom.
A third strength of this research was the preliminary work which revealed the need for this study in this particular state and country at this particular time. Research showed that a considerable percentage of the population was living with disabilities and that evidence should be collected and acted upon to shine a light on possible solutions for their education and hence improve that society.
The study determined that the attitude of teachers towards the use of assistive technology was generally positive based on the questions shown on the following questionnaire:
A Likert scale was used and those mean scores above 2.5 were determined to be positive.
The study also determined that the teachers’ competence was below what it should be.
The hypotheses of this study were confirmed: Gender and amount of teaching experience had no bearing on the attitudes and level of competence with assistive technology.
An assumption was made by this study that the teachers surveyed could have positive attitudes towards assistive technology because they were selected from urban schools and therefore had more exposure to them. The urban schools were better funded. This was also the explanation used for the competence found with technology used for students with learning disabilities and lack of competence in all the other categories. The technology cited as best used for those with learning disabilities such as iPads, smartphones, graphing calculators and digital recorders was the same type of technology the urban teachers would have used in their jobs for other purposes.
The study listed the implication of the lack of correlation between attitude and competence levels was due to a lack of training programs for teachers on those specific technologies.
In my opinion, this study should have also considered the percentage of types of disabilities amongst the students in the typical classrooms. Some of the teachers’ competency in the use of technologies for students with learning disabilities might also be due to the large proportion of that student population amongst all other students with disabilities. Teachers are likely to have encountered considerably more students with learning disabilities as opposed to those with speech disorders for example that they learn on the job how to best work with them.
What these teachers may lack is training when the need arises. Rather than regularly scheduling training every few years for teachers, consideration could be given to creating assistive technology training geared specifically for one type of disability and have it made available upon request. Recorded videos or other just-in-time media learning opportunities might be a preferable method of training for teachers needing these competencies.
The questionnaire findings could be used as evidence that the majority of special education teachers in Nigeria lack the technology skills that might be called up on in their professional careers. Is it too much to ask that teachers who have expertise in the social and educational aspects of students with disabilities be skilled in all current assistive technologies as well? Maybe it is.
The Nigerian special education system could mirror university practices in the United States where an assistive technology specialist is hired to assess individual students with disabilities for the most appropriate technology needed. Once a determination is made, the student and teacher could be trained to utilize that particular technology in the classroom.
This study could also inform a further study after training has been created on assistive technologies used for students with disabilities other than learning disabilities. The later study might show improvement after training when compared to these scores.