|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|
The following sections will explore different theoretical orientations to ICT integration in education. The contextual analysis forms the basis for the definition of the multidisciplinary research field on ICT integration in education and selection of the sample articles to be analyzed more closely in this research. The exploration will start from the convergence of technologies affecting to globalization and information society and the impact of ICT on the different levels of the education system. This explicates also the perspectives that research could take in principle. According to Aro (1999, 121), information society discourse can take at least three different perspectives: philosophical – theoretical, socio-economic and as a tool for political and cultural analysis. These debates could also be seen as a macro research program, where the philosophical basis should be researched first, then make empirical research about the society and finally analyze and evaluate the changes. In the context of this thesis, the only research point of view is the analysis of structures of current research knowing that the philosophical and theoretical basis of the research field might be incoherent at the moment. In fact, the incoherent basis of the multidisciplinary research on ICT integration in education can lead into a fragmentation of the research field if the research will not reflect itself and build coherence into the field.
The term “ICT” (Information and Communication Technology) has been commonly understood as meaning that it combines and merges two different branches of technology: information technology and communication technology. It is a convenient term for including telephony, broadcasting and computer technology in the same concept.
Although ICT is quite a widely adopted term at the moment and used by many researchers and other instances, in some cases the terms “information technology”, “IT” and “Telematics” are used as synonyms for ICT. For example, the TechTarget Web site (http://whatis.techtarget.com/) gives a definition for most of the terms used in modern technology and it defines “IT “ (information technology) as a term that encompasses all forms of technology used to create, store, exchange, and use information in its various forms. In Europe, the term “Telematics” (Fr. télématique) was commonly used in the late 90’s, when the biggest funder of the research in this area, the European Union, used that word. Now these terms have often been replaced by ICT (see for example, a glossary at the EU’s Fifth Framework Programme IST website: http://www.cordis.lu/ist/ka3/glossary.htm ).
The short history of computing, telephony together with digitalization of TV and radio broadcasting in the 90’s shows that the technologies described here are very young and highly convergent.
According to White (2002) the history of computing can practically start from the invention of the first electronic computer ENIAC (electronic numerical integrator and calculator) in collaboration of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Penn State University in 1946. It weighted 30 tons, was 2,7 meters high, size of a gym, and consisted of 17 480 vacuum tubes and was capable for 100 000 calculations per second. It reminded Philadelphians of its dependency on electricity, because the lights of Philadelphia were flashing when it was turned on. (White 2002.)
The next steps in computer technology were taken in 1947 when the transistor was invented in Bell’s laboratory, New Jersey, which made it possible to reduce the size, consumption of electricity and increase the capacity of calculations of computer dramatically. In 1971 the first microprocessor was integrated on a silicon ship at Intel lab, Silicon Valley which made it possible to build the first micro sized computers and finally, the PC – Personal Computer by IBM in 1981, which was the first commercial breakthrough in computer industry. (White 2002.)
Parallel to the development of computer technology, communications technologies were developed for computers. In 1969 the architecture of a self-rerouting network was defined in the ARPANET project (US Defense Department’s Advanced Research Project Agency electronic communication NETwork), which provided better architecture for computer communication in the case of war or some other disaster destroying the infrastructure partially. After that, in 1974 the invention of TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) Interconnection Network Protocol gateway technology made it possible to connect different networks together. This made it possible – technically – to create the network of networks, the Internet. (White 2002.)
The next breakthrough was in 1993, when the graphical interface for Internet services and resources was invented. The text-based and menu based systems like Gopher remained only for academic use. The graphical Web (World Wide Web, WWW) was adopted for commercial use very rapidly. The user explosion and the increased traffic due the graphical information made the academic version of the Internet very vulnerable. In 1998 the Internet II was launched for creating a broad bandwidth Internet that makes it possible to integrate real-time interactive multimedia on a network. The idea was to integrate digital telephony, broadcasting and information technology, but in practice it has been possible since 2000. (White 2002.)
According to Becker (2002), the history of digital telephony also leads to a convergence with other technologies. In the beginning in the 1960s, the telephone system gradually began converting its internal connections to a packet-based, digital switching system. The original recommendations of ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) described some initial guidelines for implementing digital telephony. In the early 1990s, an industry-wide effort began to establish a specific implementation for ISDN in the United States. Members of industry agreed to create the National ISDN 1 (NI-1) standard so that end users would not have to know the brand of switch they are connected to in order to buy equipment and software compatible with it. Most recently, ISDN service has largely been displaced by broadband internet services, such as xDSL (different variations of Digital Subscriber Line) and Cable Modem service. One of the most important branches in digital telephony is wireless communication (Mobile phones); its technology is now being integrated to hand held computers and other devices. Mobility and ubiquitous technologies are now under vigorous research and development globally. (IST 2003.)
If we look at the development of technologies from the broadcasting point of view, the same convergence and digitalization can be seen as a result of that development (TVhandbook.com 2002). In the year 1983, network radio distribution started by satellite (companies like ABC, CBS, NBC and RKO) using a digital format. The digital TV receiver was introduced by ITT-Intermetall in Germany. In the year 1986, scrambling of satellite-fed cable TV programming started and the sale of decoders and program subscriptions to home dish owners began. Europe’s Eureka 95 HDTV (High Definition TV) system demonstrated at the IBC Company in Brighton, England in 1988. The first television program (Computer Chronicles) was delivered via the Internet in 1995 and the first television station (KOLD 13, Arizona USA) uses a networked digital video server in its daily on-air operations. At the same year, interactive cable modem trials with consumers started. In the year 1996, HDTV was broadcast and received live at the WHD-TV commercial station in Washington, D.C. At the same time set-top boxes were plugged into the TV and telephone and that allowed viewers to surf the Internet’s World Wide Web via their remote control. Agreements between broadcasters, TV manufacturers, and PC makers sets inter-industry standards for digital HDTV and makes digital broadcasting an integral part of ICT. (TVhandbook.com 2002).
If we look back at the history of digital technology, it easily seems that the technical innovations just matched together by accident. However, from a commercial and political point of view, the development is no longer an accident. According to Castells (1996), the technical innovation is always also a techno-economic and social innovation. Only those technologies that are commercially viable and accessible will be developed. If we look at the technical development from a social and political point of view, the major economies (Europe, USA) have had massive political programs promoting the so called information society (COM 2002). To understand the impact of ICT on the education system, it is important to look at the development from a systemic point of view that takes these different dimensions of innovations into account.