Teachers' Perceptions Towards Technology Integration Into Inclusive Early Childhood Education: A Case Study in the Spanish Context

Teachers' Perceptions Towards Technology Integration Into Inclusive Early Childhood Education: A Case Study in the Spanish Context

Athifah Utami (EMJMD PETaL, Indonesia) and Francisco Javier Palacios Hidalgo (University of Córdoba, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2503-6.ch009

Abstract

The use of technology in formal and informal education is anything but new. It is easy to find it being integrated into primary, secondary, and higher education, yet few studies discuss how it can enhance the teaching/learning process in early childhood education, especially in the case of students with special needs. This chapter aims to explore teachers' attitudes on technology integration into inclusive early childhood education. To do so, a case study is described using data collected through classroom observation of five English-language lessons, as well as surveys and interviews administered to teachers of a private kindergarten school in Spain. Results show that most of the surveyed teachers have positive attitudes towards the use of technology in their classrooms and have already tried to implement it. Additionally, two main challenges are revealed: choosing suitable applications for children and maintaining their attention when using technological devices in the classroom.
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Introduction

The presence of technological tools in today’s educational context is considered significantly common almost at all levels (Guri-Rosenblit, 2018). Despite having become a trend, the use of technology is also raising some concerns, mainly related to whether it improves students’ learning experiences and whether students it really helps them develop and practice necessary technical skills, although worries may differ from one context to another.

It is quite easy to find technology being implemented from Primary to Higher Education levels (cf. Cadorin, Sommer, da Silva, Schardosim, & Bento, 2017; Huertas-Abril, 2020; Thannimalai & Raman, 2018), yet it is still rare to find it in the Early Childhood Education (ECE) setting, especially an inclusive one. A study developed by McManis and Gunnewig (2012) stated that only a few Pre-school teachers use technology tools and digital resources in comparison with Primary teachers due to the unavailability of facilities (e.g. computers and internet connection) in their classroom. Besides, the study also revealed that 50% of sample teachers agreed with the idea that sometimes the digital resources they found are not appropriate for ECE children and they do not match with their teaching objectives, also pointing out the fact that some of these resources, such as games, are not free.

The use of technology is not only common in ordinary classrooms but also in inclusive ones, where all students are addressed taking their specific needs into consideration (cf. del Cerro & Morales, 2018; Metatla et al., 2018). For instance, Balaji (2019) describes a school in India where students are provided with a robot teacher as an assistant to the human teachers, which can teach and answer questions from them. Having a robot teacher seems to help the human teachers (still the main teachers) in coping with a big-size class and allows to pay more attention to those students who need more support. Therefore, the presence of technology in the inclusive classroom can be considered necessary to assist both teachers and students and enhance the optimum skills that learners can achieve.

From 2015 to 2017, the Agent Forum of the European Union developed a project about Inclusive Early Childhood Education (IECE) in some countries of the continent aimed at identifying, analyzing and promoting the quality of inclusive ECE (European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education, 2016). The project collected data through observations of several IECE settings and proposed, among its many conclusions, that IECE students’ active participation needs to be fostered through quality policy-making that bears in mind the voices of children and their families (European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education, 2017). One of the main aims of inclusive education established in the project is to prepare students as fully prepared citizens, for they can engage and be involved within their community; in this light, technology presence in the classroom can help learners take part in any activity with their classmates, at the same time, it allows teachers to respond to the needs of all their students (European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education, 2016).

Considering teachers’ attitudes and opinions in any teaching and learning environment is essential, yet even more in inclusive ones (Ahmmed, Sharma, & Deppeler, 2012), since their perceptions and behavior can impact the teaching significantly (Koç, 2014). Bearing in mind all the aforementioned, this chapter aims to deepen on how technology is being used in IECE and, ultimately, to answer the following research questions: (i) What are teachers’ attitudes towards the use of technology in ECE?; (ii) How do teachers use and integrate technology into IECE classrooms and settings?; and (iii) Which are teachers’ opinions on the main opportunities and challenges of integrating technology into IECE environments?

Key Terms in this Chapter

Special Needs: A condition or conditions that require children to get special help in the classroom.

Technology Integration: Using or incorporating technological devices into the teaching and learning practices.

Adaptive Technology: Existing technologies or tools that have been improved so as to help individuals with a certain impairment perform a particular task.

Inclusive Early Childhood Education (IECE): Educational setting characterized by the acceptance to diversity; different family backgrounds, and cultural, personal and social situation.

Teacher’s Attitude: The way teachers perceive and think that may lead to the action they will take related to their teaching practices in the class.

Personalized Learning: Learning process that is adapted to students’ necessities, interests and abilities.

STEM: Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

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