|How can I encourage multi-stakeholder narrative and reflection on the use of ICT in Teacher Professional Development programmes in Rwanda?
This is an action research enquiry into how I can improve my practice to encourage multi-stakeholder narrative and reflection on the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Teacher Professional Development (TPD) programmes in Rwanda.
I set out my own context working within the mission of my organization, the Global eSchools and Communities Initiative (GeSCI), in assisting developing country partners to develop their own visionary thinking, strategic capacity and sustainable solutions to manage, deploy and integrate ICT in Education.
I examine the complexity of the ICT-TPD landscape in the Africa Region. Fundamental to the complexity is the myriad of initiatives and schemes for new technology integration that have emerged over the last decade.
In my research account I describe two action cycles to encourage reflection on ICT in professional development in Rwanda. In each cycle I explore the potential of an Activity Theory lens for probing the issues and examining the perspectives of the stakeholder community of teachers, teacher educators, curriculum developers and researchers affiliated to national ICT in TPD programmes and initiatives. I integrate a ‘Most Significant Change’ narrative technique to engage participants in telling stories of significant change in their practice with technology integration. Thus I describe the adaptation of a hybrid approach combining narrative and activity system tools and frameworks to encourage critical reflective discourse among the stakeholder community in Rwanda.
Through the rigour of the action research living theory approach I come to a number of conclusions about my own values and how I actually live my values in practice as I engage with partners in discourse and reflection for mutual learning on the issues of ICT integration in TPD.
Keywords: Teacher Professional Development; Action Research; Living Theory; Activity Theory; Activity Systems; Most Significant Change.
My Research Context
The context of my study is Rwanda and specifically the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) landscape for Teacher Professional Development (TPD) in Rwanda. The Government of Rwanda has set a national goal that the country will achieve middle income status by 2020 based on an information-rich, knowledge-based society and economy, achieved by modernising its key sectors using ICT (Farrell and Isaacs 2007). Rwanda Vision 2020 identifies the strengthening of teacher development in an ICT-rich environment as one of the top government priorities for the achievement of its national socio-economic development goals (MINECOFIN 2001). The target is that each primary and secondary school should have a computer-literacy teacher by 2010 (Mukama and Andersson 2008). With respect to training structures to support the development of ICT in the educational system, higher educational institutions are required to make computer studies and basic computing an integral and a compulsory subject within their teacher education programmes (ibid.).
The drive to utilize ICT as an integral feature in all professional learning programmes has led to the emergence of a myriad of national and international initiatives and schemes for new technology integration over the last decade (Farrell and Isaacs 2007). The current development of a Rwanda National ICT in Education policy represents a timely process to create a regulatory and governance framework to shape ‘the interventions and initiatives that are taking place and for those needed in this sector’ (MinEduc 2008 p12).
I am an Education Specialist working for the Global e-Schools and Communities Initiative (GeSCI), an International Non-Government Organization (INGO). GeSCI was set up under the auspices of a United Nations (UN) Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Task Force in 2004 as a designated body to provide demand-driven assistance to developing countries seeking to harness the potential of ICT to improve access to, and the quality and effectiveness of their education systems.
I am also affiliated to the creative space of the Action Research Living Theory Collaboratory set up by Dr. Margaret Farren in Dublin City University (DCU), Ireland – a space designed ‘to enable practitioner-researchers provide evidence-based accounts of how they are improving work practices within their organisations and generating new knowledge through the use of ICT’ (Farren 2007).
In my practice within the framework of GeSCI’s organizational mission, we seek to work with Ministries of Education in developing countries to address fundamental causes of poor quality and access to Education provision and to assess how ICT can be used to address these problems at different system levels.
Currently over 75 million children worldwide are not in school (UNESCO 2008a). Countless millions more are dropping out of school systems due to the seeming irrelevance of education to their lives (Ainscow and Miles 2008). Yates (2007) sees the Education for All (EFA) agenda as a Global Social Justice (GSJ) Project and asserts that the concept of quality is fundamental to its achievement.
A quality education is dependent on the development of high quality teachers (Haddad 2007). The challenge is momentous in a global context of ever more complex demands on systems for educational provision coupled with acute shortages in the supply of suitably qualified and experienced teachers north and south (Davis 2000; Leach 2008). Eighteen million new primary teachers are needed to achieve Education for All (EFA) by 2015 (UNESCO 2009). Meanwhile regional disparities in quality provision accelerate as richer countries lure qualified teachers from less favoured regions with incentive packages (Davis 2000).
The challenge is in almost all respects greatest in sub-Saharan Africa where a third of existing teachers are untrained. Of the thousands recruited each year, they largely have inadequate subject knowledge and little if any pedagogic training (Evoh 2007; Bennell 2005 cited in Leach 2008). Leach together with many experts in the field of Teacher Professional Development and ICT believes that the evidence makes clear the incapacity of existing institutional structures to cope with the scale and urgency of the issues (Swarts 2006; Evoh 2007; Dhlala and Moon 2002, Moon 2007 cited in Leach 2008). In this context she believes that the thoughtful use of new forms of ICT can be exploited to strengthen and enhance TPD programmes and improve the quality of education in general (ibid.).
One of GeSCI’s partner countries of engagement in sub-Saharan Africa is Rwanda. At a meeting between GeSCI and members of the Teacher Education Services (TES) of the Ministry of Education (MinEduc) of Rwanda in October 2008, discussion focused on a need for development of a framework for the use of ICT in TPD in an effort to coordinate programmes and improve school support towards a more productive integration of new technology. A prelude to developing an ICT for TPD framework would be an analysis of current programmes and initiatives in order to understand the challenges, opportunities and lessons that are being learned from the different levels, perspectives and contexts of programme implementation.
The process of enabling discourse among teachers, teacher educators, curriculum developers, partners and policy makers to trigger deep reflection on the various possibilities for ICT integration in professional learning in Rwanda constitutes the focus of my research.