Initiating ICT in the open distance learning of Gabonese teachers
Ndoutoume Mendene, Jean-Louis
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Gabon is a Sub-Saharan francophone country which has been independent since August 1960. Its Educational System is modelled on the French System. However, the Gabonese Education System currently does not have any guidelines or policies for the system-wide implementation, integration and use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) into the education system. The Gabonese Government committed itself to some ICT-related partnerships, but did not launch any programme or activity relating to those commitments. In addition, the Government provided funding to change the country’s Internet connectivity by satellite with the WASC/SAT3 sub-marine cable in order to make Internet access and connection ten times cheaper at the international level. Unfortunately, the benefit from this investment is not experienced in the country as the potential users, such as teachers, keep having challenges with Internet connection. After fifty years of independence, the government also does not offer sufficient opportunity for teachers to enhance their pedagogical knowledge and skill through teacher professional development (TPD). As a result, no research, guidelines or policies exist for the implementation and use of Open Distance Learning (ODL) for TPD supported by ICT. The aim of this qualitative descriptive exploratory research study was to explore, describe and understand the enablers and challenges of initiating ICT in the ODL training of Gabonese in-service teachers. Although the academic seat for this research was the School of Continuing Teacher Education on the Potchefstroom Campus of the North-West University in South Africa, the research project’s focus, conceptualisation, data-collection and data-interpretation were all based and conducted within the researcher’s heimat, i.e. the Gabonese Education System context. An interactive qualitative casestudy research design (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005; Merriam, 1998) was used in this investigation to obtain in-depth context sensitive data concerning the attitudes, fears, needs, expectations, infrastructure and readiness of the Gabonese Education teachers (at schools and training institutions) for the implementation and use of ICT for ODL training of Gabonese English (second language) teachers, collected through qualitative research methods, i.e. semi-structured open-ended individual and focusgroup interviews, as well as additional research artefacts in the form of photographs to visually record the unique contexts involved. The researcher decided to involve Gabonese English (second language) teachers in the investigation, as he has worked in this discipline for at least twenty years. To ensure sufficient participants, the researcher made use of a snowball strategy where participants in the research referred others. Participants were also selected according to specific selection criteria. Two English (second language) teachers, one school principal, four ICT specialists, one advisor of English teachers, and one inspector of English teachers (ICT specialist) participated in eight individual interviews. Nine English teachers and two advisors of English teachers participated in four focus-group interviews. All interviews were conducted in French. At the North-West University in South Africa, the researcher transcribed the interview data and used ATLAS.ti™ (qualitative data-analysis software) to construct an integrated data-set for analysis. Qualitative data-analysis was performed under the guidance of an expert researcher in qualitative data-analysis. The relevant research findings were translated into English for the purpose of this report. Qualitative data-analysis of the integrated data-set identified six categories of data related to three themes, i.e. (i) Gabonese Education, (ii) ICT in Gabon and (iii) ODL in Gabon. The six categories are: (i) Challenges of Gabonese Education, (ii) Enablers of Gabonese Education, (iii) Challenges to implementation and integration of ICT, (iv) Enablers of ICT; (v) Challenges of ODL, and (vi) Enablers of ODL. These categories supported by codes and quotations provide basic ideas on the research enablers and challenges of initiating ICT in ODL training of Gabonese in-service teachers. The discussion comprises thirty codes, and recommendations are made. The findings of this rich qualitative exploration could benefit and support the Gabonese Education Department, policy makers and academic institutions in their quest to implement, integrate and use ICT in the TPD of in-service teachers via DE and ODL.
- Education