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Sustainable Teacher Training in Refugee Camps: Social Media Networks and Gender Equity

Tue, April 16, 1:30 to 3:00pm, Hyatt Regency, Floor: Bay (Level 1), Bayview B


The question of sustainability for the much-needed support of teachers in under-resourced refugee camps is dire. Technology holds a tempting position in the social and economic landscape of education, within the parameters of having a wide reach across community members who own and use mobile phones regularly and considering the relatively low cost of mobiles in the landscape of education and technology resources. And yet, understanding the potential for sustainability requires clarity around not only economic implications, but also social, cultural, and political realities to using mobile technology among educational communities. This is particularly so in relation to the 2030 Sustainability Goal #5 focused on Gender Equity. This paper addresses how mobile phones and social networks are being used to support gender equity in education among refugee teachers in Kenyan refugee camps.

Our study focuses on how refugee teachers are using instant messaging to transform educational practices in Kakuma and Dadaab Refugee Camps in Kenya. This work developed from our previous research identifying the crucial role both mobile phones and social networks have in the educational landscape of refugees in this region, particularly among secondary school graduates who often proceed to become teachers in the camps. In this earlier work, we highlight sociotechnical transformations among refugee teacher communities that focus on peer networks mediated by instant messaging and SMS that support access to higher education.

In our current study, we ask three pertinent questions with a focus on refugee teachers in-practice professional development opportunities and how they impact gender equity in education. These questions involve inquiry at the local level of teacher practices and the transnational level of how teacher training programs are structured. In this case, the teacher training programs underway were designed and delivered by Kenyan and Canadian facilitators, instructors, and Faculty looking to maximize on expertise and economize on resource distribution and expenditures in a context where travel for global Instructors to teach in Dadaab and Kakuma is fraught with economic, political, and cultural challenges.

Our guiding research questions for this study are:

" How are refugee teachers in camps using text and instant messaging on mobile phones to support their learning and professional development (teacher training)?
" What is the nature of text-based communication on mobile phones by and between refugee teachers in camps (e.g. topics of discussion, technical specifications of devices, etc.)?
" How are instructors, Faculty, and program administrators working with refugee teachers using text and instant messaging for program delivery and course instruction in refugee camps?

We apply a gender equity lens to this study at multiple levels. First, we do the basic work of attending to the differential responses of female and male identified survey respondents. Second, we focus on refugee teachers enrolled in teacher training programs that are focused on gender equity, offering training to enhance opportunities for girls to go to school, and adopting gender-inclusive practices in terms of enrolment of female refugee teachers. Finally, we draw on theory from feminist science and technology studies and research in gender and development to frame our analytical discussion. Specifically, we consider to what extent Western theories of Feminist STS apply in the context of a Kenyan refugee camps, examining power relations and the role of technology in them, and to support and sustain greater gender equity initiatives in education in the camps.

In 2016, our research team collected 203 surveys with refugee teachers in Kakuma and Dadaab, conducted five group interviews with refugee teachers and community educators in Kakuma, and completed 14 semi-structured interviews with instructors, Faculty, and administrators directing professional development programs for refugee teachers in Kenya and Canada. Our survey and interview questions were structured to understand the nuanced ways in which participants were using one-to-one communication and group chats to support their teacher professional development in post-secondary training programs and in-practice in their work as teachers.

Our inquiry digs into the sociotechnical particulars of how instant messaging and SMS are used among this population of refugee teachers and in relation to gender equity. With whom do refugee teachers communicate more in one-to-one format compared to in group chats, and what are the subjects of those communications? What are the differences in the use of SMS and instant messaging across refugee teachers in-practice and within their teacher training programs, with each other and with program instructors transnationally? Importantly, how can teacher training programs be enhanced and sustained using this tool?

Our thematic coding of FGDs and interviews has surfaced interrelated findings at the local level which we describe in relation to information seeking behavior, time, in practice use and needs, and collaborative networks. At the transnational level, our codes center on direct instruction and efforts or examples of how collaborative networks are coordinated by teacher training program instructors. Survey data has been analyzed both qualitatively and quantitatively, the latter using simple linear regressions and t-tests.

The focus of our discussion is on the affordances and limitations of transnational communication networks for formal teaching and learning, and in relation to the rich and emergent peer-to-peer local networks. Cross-cutting this ecosystem are unique opportunities to support girls' education, such as communicating with fathers and brothers in WhatsApp groups about the importance of girls going to school, and, hidden detrimental factors in the use of mobile technology such as on teachers' time and in relation to online participation. Cost and infrastructure are critical factors in relation to the sustainable future of mobile text and instant messaging as educational tools.


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