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Leadership Al-Harthi #1, Mahmoud Emam*2 # Department of Educational

Leadership of Technology in Inclusive Practice

Aisha Salim Ali Al-Harthi #1,
Mahmoud Emam*2

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# Department of Educational Administration, * Department
of Psychology,

Sultan Qaboos University, P.O.
Box 32, Al-Khoud 123, Sultanate of Oman

1 [email protected],
2 [email protected]

 

 

Abstract— Leadership
of technology for inclusion is clearly emphasized in international standards
for educators. This paper describes the role and processes of leadership to use
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for inclusion of students with
disabilities in schools. As learning technology is becoming an indispensable component
of inclusive practice in modern educational system, it is imperative that
educators have a clear vision for infusing it through the processes of vision
setting, planning, implementation, organizational structure, and decision-making.

 

Keywords— technology leadership, learning technology, inclusive education, Oman

I.      Introduction

There
are many factors that affect the use of Information and Communication
Technology (ICT) for inclusion of students with disabilities in schools. The
beliefs of the school principals and teachers play a major role in adopting and
developing new leaning models for inclusion with technology. ICT has become
indispensable for supporting the learning of typically developing children as
well as children with disability. It can be used as a
tool for inclusion of students with disability by making learning more accessible to a wide
range of students and responsive to their different needs 1. Brodin 2
investigated the role of ICT in supporting inclusion in schools for students
with motor disabilities in Sweden. He concludes that the use of ICT has the
potential of providing equal opportunities for students with disability in
schools and emphasized the need for resource allocation and teacher training in
this area to make it successful. Furthermore, aiding/assistive technology such
as screen reading and magnification software, braille display, keyboard
enhancement and alternative pointing devices help students with disabilities to
access the computer but do not sufficiently support their needs to access
online content and resources 3. This requires using additional learning
technologies and pedagogical approaches to enhance student benefits from technology.
Therefore, teachers are key to enforce the inclusive practice and the use of
technology in it 1.

Furthermore, Brodin 2 explains how the leadership provided by school principals can facilitate resources for
using technology for inclusion and spreading a positive attitude towards that
from teachers. It can help by providing support to teachers throughout the
process of using technology from selecting the most effective ones for their
students to acquiring it and implementing it in optimal ways to support
students with disabilities. Then, finally assessing that process 4.

In Oman, inclusive education (IE) has
been growing rapidly in the last decade. Success in inclusive practices (IP),
however, requires the implementation of reform in relation to the teaching and
learning process at the district, school and class levels, which requires
specific set of knowledge and skills from district and school leaders. Leadership of technology and
leadership for inclusion are both emphasized in the international leadership
standards. For example, the Educational Leadership Constituent Council (ELCC)
Standard 2.4 focuses on the knowledge and skills about the most effective and
appropriate technologies school leaders need to not only use in the
administrative processes but to utilize for enriching the curriculum and
instruction in the school as well. In addition, Standard 5.5 requires school
and district leaders to have the knowledge and skills to promote social justice
so that the individual student needs inform all aspects of schooling. This
includes fostering acceptance and respect among students and faculty 5; 6 In addition,
the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards stress
both aspects, leadership and inclusion, in its Standard 2b by expecting
educational leaders “to advocate for equitable access to educational
technology, digital content and learning opportunities to meet the DIVERSE
needs of ALL students” 7, emphasis added by authors.

II.    Leadership of Technology in Inclusive Practice

To lead technology initiatives in schools, Anthony and
Patravanich 8, suggest that principals need to be engaged in five strategic processes:
vision setting, planning, implementation, organizational structure, and
decision-making. Table 1 summarizes the application of these processes to
inclusive practice.

TABLE I
Technology Leadership for Inclusive Practice

Administrative
Processes

Application to
Leadership of Technology in Inclusive Practice

Vision Setting

Technology
provides a supportive educational environment to maximize learning for ALL
student.

Planning

Prioritize adaptation of the
environment and implementation of new technology for ALL students attending
compulsory schooling

Implementation

Need for in-service teacher training
(technology, pedagogy for inclusion)

Organizational Structure

Create technology unit/committee.
Roles and responsibilities assignment.
Articulation and publication in the
organization.

Decision-Making

Constant monitoring, adjustment and
decision making; alignment of decisions with the vision; role of incentives
to technology champions

A.    Vision Setting

Schulz-Hamsa 9 envisions the role of
technology to assist in providing a supportive educational environment to
maximize learning for ALL students. Such a vision need to be created
collaboratively with all stakeholders to be involved in the process.

B.    Planning and Implementation

Once
a shared vision is created for the role of technology in inclusive practice, educational leaders can use collaborative and distributed leadership
approaches to diffuse that burden and to draw on the technology expertise in
the school. There is a double shift in this transformation. The first one is
using technology for inclusion and the second one is transforming normal
schools into inclusive schools, if they are not. Both of these require a shift
in educational practices and teacher attitude, which heightens the need for
teacher in-service training 10. In addition, the schools will need to address
the issues of acquisition of the appropriate technology for students with
special needs and building a good technology infrastructure.

C.    Organizational structure

Technology programs include complicated
details and involve different people at different levels with different
responsibilities. This may require changes in the organizational structure by
adding a new technology unit or a technology advisory committee and clearly
articulating the roles and responsibilities for them; then announcing them in
the school so everyone will know where to get help when needed. In addition,
this raises the accountability for implementation in the organization.

D.   Decision-Making

Constant monitoring, adjustment and
decision-making is expected from the school principal to assure the staff are
using technology for inclusion according to the announced vision 11. A shared
vision and implementation reflect a shared decision-making process throughout
the technology initiative; however, that does not mean, as Anthony and Patravanich 8
clarify, the principal is not actively involved in the process to ensure that
financial, staffing, space, resources and incentive mechanisms are adequate.
The authors also suggest using and an advisory committee to guide the
decision-making process.  

III. Inclusive Education In Oman

In 200, the Omani government was one of the first Arab countries to sign the  the UN’s Convention on the
Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and its Optional Protocol, both of
which were put to action in 2008 12. The UNCRPD emphasized the removal of all
the barriers to the education of children with disabilities. In addition, it
called for the provision of early intervention services in inclusive schools at
an early age 13.

The UNESCO report provided information
on the situation of IE in Oman. It documented the expansion and improvement of
special education program which the Sultanate has witnessed in the last two
decades. The target of such expansion was to meet existent needs and reach
international standards which were set forth by the Salamanca Statement and
Framework for Action on special needs education as well as the UNCRPD14. In
particular, Oman has experienced improvement in its education system and
legislation to fulfil the educational needs of all students in school by giving
them the opportunity to access a quality education system which caters for the
needs of all learners. This required a similar improvement of of  the capacity of facilities and the provision
of better opportunities. This, in turn, led to a dramatic reduction in and an
increase in attendance in schools 15. Furthermore, the trend of admitting
student from an array of different disability categories such children with
physical disability, deaf and blind in public schools was a paradigm shift in
the provision of educational services in Oman16. Two factors have had an
impact on the number of included students with SEN in Omani schools. These
include the large geographical space of 309 thousand square kilometers and the
weak societal awareness of a comprehensive education concept 14; 17. In
addition, there is a shortage of human resources and inadequate provision of
training for general educators and other school professionals related to the
support of students with SEN. Finally, it is argued that resources related to
the availability of appropriate classroom and school environments are also
insufficient 18; 19. However, Oman has exerted efforts to overcome the
identified challenges by reviewing the design of learning environments, the
training of in service teachers on inclusive practices, and by allocating
resources more efficiently.

Generally, children with disabilities
in Oman have become the target of a number of national policies and initiatives
which supported embracing IE as a strategic venue for providing them with their
rights. The aforementioned International declarations were reflected in similar
national official Omani documents and decrees. Two most notable examples that reflect
such developments and which are always cited on literature on IE in Oman
include: (1) the Omani Children with Disabilities Care and Rehabilitation Act
in 1996 which was reauthorized in 2008, and (2) the Inclusion Mandate in 2002
which was issued by the Ministry of education. The former set the stage for
drastic changes in the Omani educational system for students with SEN. According
to Article 24 of the 2008 Act “educational opportunities should be offered
equally to pupils with disabilities within an inclusive education system”.
However, there is a long way to remove all barriers to learning in Oman and
this negatively impacts on the expectations of the families of children with
disabilities. Second is.

The policy developments have been
echoed in similar implemented practices on the real ground. Three practical
examples of notable importance are noteworthy to mentions in this regard. These
are: (1)the establishment of the learning disabilities program which was
initiated in 2002 in grades 1-4 in elementary schools in Oman, and (2) the
placement of children with intellectual disability in specialized classes in
mainstream schools, allowing them to mix with typically developing children
during school activities for some time during the day 20, (3) the initiation
of the “National Scheme for Children with Autism (NSCA)”. The NSCA is a collaborative
initiative which was initiated in 2015 between Oman and the UNICEF to respond
to societal pressure regarding the development of a national strategy for the
education and care of children with autism. It was developed as a result of the
increase in the number of diagnosed children with autism in the last two
decades. 21. Recently Emam 22 developed an action framework for the enhancement
of IE in Oman. The framework was based on empirically collected qualitative
data from 25 school leaders. The data were analysed to examine the tensions and
challenges which impede such enhancement. The framework identified the areas of
improvement at three levels: fundamentals level, index level, and best
practices level. At the index level, the author argued that the provision of
support is important for successful IP. Part of this support is the use of assistive
and learning technology at the classroom level.

IV. Conclusions

When the leadership is involved, it more likely to have a whole school
approach to assure that no child is left without the support assistive and
learning technologies can provide. As Scout, Cooley-Nichols, Brinson, and Legard 23
explain that not all teachers will have the knowledge or skills to use
technology for inclusion as it might not have been part of their teacher
preparation programs and professional development. Therefore, for the successful management of assistive and learning technology in IP
in the Omani schools, a framework for action has not yet existed and therefore
the assumption that its practices need a long time to be infused on a large
scale continue to dominate the governmental and public discourses. Attempting
to explore ways to infuse assistive and learning technology in IP in Oman is expected
to be a daunting task. However, the suggested role of leadership can diffuse
this task to schools and speed up the process.

 

References

1      
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2      
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4      
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7      
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for Technology in Education (ISTE). (2017). ISTE Standards for Educators. Online.
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8      
A. B Anthony and S.
Patravanich, S. , “The technology principal: To be or not to be?”,  Journal of Cases in Educational Leadership,
vol. 17, no. 2, pp. 3-19, 2014.

9      
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13   
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22   
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23   
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