|The paradigms of e-Education: An analysis of the communication structures in the research on information and communication technology integration in education in the years 2000–2001|
According to this thesis, we can separate theoretically two different approaches on ICT research in education: one defining technology and the social innovations on ICT as an environment for an individual learner, and the second, which defines the social as a communicative system that is shaping technical systems where a person can operate (learn, among other activities). According to Stichweh (2000) this distinction can be seen as a constitutive element between action theories and communicative system theories. The first element connects research to an individualistic approach that is related to a causal, uni-directional relation between action and actor. Stichweh (2000) argues that the action theory is germane to industrial society – and therefore to modern science. The latter element connects the research to communication that requires at least two participating systems and is bi-directional by nature. One cannot say that communication is done by actors or effected by observers. Communication can also be understood recursively and it is a constitutive element of social systems. Stichweh (2000) claims that the communication theory and social systems theory is more adequate for understanding the post-modern information or knowledge society than action theory.
Considering ICT as a context for learning or as an environment for the learner, we are applying individualistic perspectives in the research. From that point of view, it is difficult to perform any systematic research, which aims at understanding the dynamics of technology as part of the education system or even part of communities of learners. The environment appears to the research as chaos – different unique contexts in which the research tries to apply the natural scientific approach and tries to control and manipulate (design) selected aspects of environment at time. Usually the controlled aspect is one of the contextual factors like the technical application. This is visible also in the naming of the phenomena in the field, like e-learning, web pedagogy and online learning. The rapid development of technology and incoherence of society makes the research into a cycle of repeating the experiments endlessly with hardly any transferability to the other contexts.
In traditional educational research, the learner as an individual has been the focal point. This has been enforced by those interpretations of constructivism, which are based on the idea that the social structures and communities can be created intentionally by designing and facilitating the learning processes (e.g. teaching). For example, the instrumental understanding of the research findings indicating that communities of practice exist, and people can learn the conceptual structures of such a community has lead to an impression that these communities can be simply created and designed as appropriate learning environments.
As the concepts of context and environment consider technology (technical context) and social (social context) outside of the learner as an environment or a variable in an environment, they cannot alone provide solid basis for the further research and development of information and communication systems in education. The description of educational systems in the information society should also seek other alternatives like communication theory and systems theory.
Considering applications of ICT as a part of a socially constituted system integrating meaningful communication within an education system, we can start analyzing the processes, structures, meanings and functions of ICT in education. Currently, this research approach has been adopted by some of the research emphasizing “space” related metaphors, like virtual community or virtual university, in defining the research objects for the research. This research is not a very well established paradigm yet in the research communications of ICT integration in education while the individualistic, action oriented instructional technology and instrumental learning research are dominating the field. The communication theory and especially the social systems theory could be taken as the foundation of the research of virtual institutions and virtual communities in education as well as the research of information and communication systems in education.
It has to be noted that some of the research referring to systems is influenced by mechanistic or cybernetic interpretation of the concept of systems design inherited from technical systems, which has not been very favorable among the other education researchers. However, if we understand the very nature of social systems as self-referring, emerging communication systems, and the information and communication technologies providing new forms for social communication in education, we can include these technical subsystems into the research in their own rights. From this perspective ICT can be seen a fundamental element in the emergence of new information and communication systems in education. It is also obvious that ICT will be an essential part of the emerging new education system (through integration of ICT into education and through discourses on ICT in education) and therefore, part of emerging learning and teaching practices as essential processes in education. Does this mean the emergence of new “e-education”? From education system point of view, ”e-” could mean “enhanced” education rather than “electronic” education and the problems of e-education research and development could be educational rather than “e-problems”.
|The challenge of the research on ICT integration in education||Implications for further research|