|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|
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In philosophy, ontology specifies the most fundamental categories of existence, the elementary substances or structures out of which the world is made. Ontology thus analyzes the most general and abstract concepts or distinctions that underlie every more specific description of any phenomenon in the world, e.g. time, space, matter, process, cause and effect, system. (Heylighen, 1995). It is sometimes confused with epistemology, which is about knowledge and knowing.
In a certain context the term ontology can be confusing. For example, in information technology, ontology can also be seen as a specification of a conceptualization in the context of artificial intelligence and knowledge sharing. This means that an ontology is a description (like a formal specification of a program) of the concepts and relationships that can exist for an agent or a community of agents. This definition is consistent with the usage of ontology as set-of-concept-definitions, but more general. (Gruber 1993)
From the paradigmatic point of view, an ontological definition of the research object is one fundamental aspect which differentiates sciences and branches of sciences. The idea of understanding fundamentally different ontologies in natural science, psychological science and social science was first suggested by Karl Popper (Popper, 1974). According to this tripartition, reality consists of three ‘worlds’. World 1, which comprises physical matter, World 2, which comprises the subjective experiences and World 3, which comprises the social facts. The worlds of Popper were considered different from each other.
Modern theory of social systems is based on the idea that the social systems, psychic systems and organic systems are qualitatively different systems, but meaningful experience always consist of them all. In this sense, from our experience point of view, they are more like dimensions of experience than separate from each other. The three systems can be seen to be dependent on each other’s existence but they are fundamentally different self-organizing systems (see Hagen 2000, Vanderstraeten 2000). This distinction is constitutive and ontological by nature where ontologically different entities are complementary for each other. In the framework of an ICT based operation environment, technology, learning as an individual practical process and education as a culturally defined institution can be seen to be ontologically different, but complementary. From the social systems theory point of view, these entities can be seen as an environment for each other (Vanderstraeten 2000).
The question in multidisciplinary research is whether there is any shared common ontological assumption about the research target among the different research. The ontology can be similar or complementary in order to form a common ground for the research. The interim understanding based on the context analysis is that there are different ontological assumptions in current research on ICT integration in education but without any integrating or complementary framework. The fact that there are so many different concepts and words defining the phenomenon of ICT integration in education tell us that there may be a different understanding of what they are researching. Not all concepts can be symbolic generalizations of the same phenomenon.
It is quite obvious that in many of the articles there are expressions related to ICT integration in education which are derived from technology itself or refer directly to technology as an object. The only difference in these expressions is the level of complexity. The very concrete expressions refer directly to the physical equipment, like “a PC”, “a computer”, “a CD-Rom”, etc.. The next level is to refer to a computer network, web or Internet, which can still be seen as referring to technology as such, directly without metaphors, but is not concrete any more. A more general expression related to the new operation environment in education is to refer to technology as a general substance by using words like “technology”, “ICT”. This style is used in the research to maintain relative neutrality and to give an impression of exact and scientific expressions.
In many cases the idea of referring to a physical device like a computer comes from a practical notion that there is new equipment in our physical world which changes the school’s or the classroom’s physical environment or the environment where the teachers and learner are living. One common concern for the research is what kind of the skills users need to cope with this new environment. According to this type of research, new technical devices are nothing more than advanced and demanding new objects or machines to operate with.
Many different expressions pointing directly to technology appear in the analysed articles. Those expressions that are not really describing ICT integration into education in a micro-context are not related to the topic of this research and therefore are not analysed. Only those expressions referring to the operation environments in education have been noted. For example, “The Integrated Service Digital Network (ISDN) is a high speed, fully digital communication technology used primarily for interaction of voice, data and image over telephone lines“ (EMI2000-1-1) is not related to the use of ICT in education and therefore is not included in the analysis. “… use of computers for undergraduate mathematics on the `stand alone’ scenario…“ (C&E2001-3-8) is using direct technical expressions and is describing the use of computers in education and therefore included in the analysis.
When referring to ICT integration in education, the research articles are often using quite generic expressions of technology. This could mean that the differentiation of the role and nature of technology in general is poor in the research of ICT integration in education. The other general expressions were using some other references to the technology like ICT, Computer IT, equipment.
In connection with directly referring to technical devices, a “system” metaphor was also extensively used. Especially those documents which were classified as technology oriented contained references to a “system”, which basically indicates that the “system” metaphor has been used as a synonym for technology in general. In socially oriented articles and learning oriented articles system reference was not so popular. Of course the number of the references does not tell us anything other than the frequency of expressions; there is still a need to look closer at the micro context of these expressions. The following chapters will analyse the system expressions more closely and will draw a conclusion on the nature of the metaphorical expressions in the research on ICT integration in education
The system metaphor is widely used in research on ICT integration in education. As is the case with the general reference to technology, the system metaphor is also used more often in research which is technically oriented. Technical orientation means that the research aims to develop new technical applications or uses primarily technical research to build the research framework. The system concept is also used in research which is institutionally and socially oriented. Therefore it is extremely important that we analyse the different contexts and meanings of the “system” metaphor used in research in the domain of ICT integration in education. This analysis has not only ontological but also epistemological consequences depending on the source domain of the metaphor: do the different layers of system metaphors form fundamentally different concepts of “system”, as Luhmann (1995) argues or are they all derived from a conceptual root metaphors of a “physical system” or “machinery”? According to Luhmann (1995), the three different systems: physical, psychological and social systems are fundamentally different and should have ontologically and epistemologically different approaches in research.
In some contexts “system” is a widely adopted expression or name of commonly used technology, like “video conferencing system” or “computer conferencing system”. These expressions are also commonly used in research which is socially or learning oriented. It is anticipated that this kind of usage comes from commonly accepted language concerning technical applications: system is an entity metaphor, which groups together other metaphors in a metaphorical expression. These expressions originate from the technical research which originally developed these applications. It is the same as with the more general “names” of technology, like “PC”, “Computer”, “ICT”, which have their own metaphorical references or targets in the “physical” world. These conceptual metaphors can be seen as layers of meanings, where the higher layers are “copying” or “projecting” meanings to more general use in educational systems.
The following examples of expressions define the essence of “system” as an entity: “the conceptual, technical and visual design of the system” (BJET2000-1-4);“a flexible system which can be used in its own right” (BJET2000-4-1);“Middleware is an integral layer of software in distributed systems” (IHE2001-1-6);“an analog/digital hybrid system” (ILE2001-1-3).
The system concept, with a technical or non-technical entity, is also described as an active element, unlike the concept of an environment, which we usually understand as passive element. This difference is ontologically a fundamental difference, opposition even, in the research and development, and defines the basic orientation of the research: from the system point of view (=system) or from the individual point of view (=environment) as following: “the system needs to know if some skill is a pre-requisite for the acquisition” (BJET2000-4-1); “The system prompts the user to identify related segments” (ILE2001-1-1).
While the system concept defines the basic orientation to be set from the system point of view, the next question is, what is the system like. Is it a technical system (machine), is it an organic system (cell, organ) or is it a social system (institution, communication structure). The following metaphorical expressions will show some sample expressions defining the essence of the system in more detail.
One fundamental way of defining the essence of the system is to relate it to electrons, which makes it very dynamic, but very vulnerable in the same time being dependant on electricity: “the potential flexibility of the electronic system” (JCAL2000-3-1).
One quite usual metaphorical expression is to understand a system as a machine, a set of components or software working together, like: “computer system, with its screen, microphone and camera” (BJET2000-3-4); “Computer conferencing system” (BJET2000-4-2); “highly complex software systems” (JCAL2000-4-7).
A slightly advanced system is defined in metaphorical expressions relating the system to a network or networks, like: “Most uses of Web systems for student information” (C&E2001-3-1); “Web-based conferencing systems” (C&E2001-3-1); “Web-based instruction systems” (C&E2001-3-10); “ into the Internet and World Wide Web (Web) systems” (IJIM2001-1-5).
A very interesting group of metaphorical expressions of the system concept is those related to processes like communication, learning and management. These concepts are very commonly used, but they are no longer necessary all related to technical or machinery metaphors but are related to social systems and their operations, like the following list will show.
a learning related system:
“Such learning systems may use artificial intelligence to monitor and assist the students” (EMI2000-1-7).
“adaptability and evolutivity of the learning systems“ (ILE2001-1-3).
“The design of an e-learning system “ (IHE2001-3-13).
“network can be integrated with the distance education system “ (EMI2000-1-1).
“Third generation distance learning systems are flexible and allow teachers to continuously monitor overall progress of students“ (EMI2000-1-6).
“Learning design system (LDS) “ (IHE2001-3-13).
“Learning Support System“ (IHE2001-3-13).
“a performance support system (PSS) to support novice teacher-education students in learning and performing the complex cognitive task of lesson planning. “ (BJET2000-1-1).
a management system:
“instruction management systems“ (C&E2001-3-6).
“New terminologies such as learning management systems, learning content management systems, “ (IHE2001-3-11).
“to implement e-Learning will eventually move towards total automation of administrating the teaching and learning processes by means of a software known as Learning Management Systems (LMS) “ (IHE2001-3-9).
“a high-school’s instruction-administration subsystem“ (C&E2001-3-9).
a communication system:
“Satellite based analogue and digital transmission systems for training and development purposes” (EMI2000-1-1).
“a higher speed and larger capacity telecommunications system” (C&E2001-3-2).
“an expanding multimedia communication system has increased and diversified delivery mechanisms of quality education” (IHE2001-1-2).
“network-based communication systems have been discussed as a medium for more collaborative reflective dialogue between teachers” (JRCE2001-1-6).
“The Internet is a technology-based computer information system.” (JRCE2001-2-7).
Functionally very close to these systems for learning, management and communication but ontologically different is an institutional expression of the education system, as following examples show: “While technology has considerable potential to improve the current educational system “ (IJIM2001-2-8).“information technology into the system of school education“ (BJET2000-3-3).“The rise of the university systems we know today“ (EMI2000-1-9)“a global distributed post-secondary system supported by information and communication technology“ (ILE2001-2-2). “Instead, designers should seek to understand the basic components of what constitutes an e-learning "ecosystem" (IHE2001-3-13).
The analogue between a human system and machinery is still used in the research in some cases to copy the properties of humans to computer systems. This should not been mixed with the expressions related to social systems and institutions, like “by the expert system“ (EMI2000-1-8) and “if the system is `knowledgeable’ and intelligent enough, it can take into account the special needs of individual learners“ (C&E2001-2-3).
The important note related to systems metaphors is that the mechanical systems concept has been generalized towards more flexible and complex concepts; which is similar to the systems concept used by contemporary social theories like Luhmann’s social systems theory (Luhmann 1995). The common and fundamental similarity of the complex system concepts is that the system is considered dynamic and active unlike the “environment” concept, which is more passive in terms of defining the operations of educational institutions or individual teachers and learners. This active nature of the system concepts can provide a much more realistic view of the research on ICT integration in education because it can connect the research to larger societal systems like politics, economy and law, which are shaping the practical development of ICT integration in education anyway. The environment concept does not necessarily provide this, being a passive “surrounding” for the activities being researched and developed.
By coming close to the social systems concept like an institution, the system metaphor is considered to be also a kind of three dimensional entity: one can be in(side) of the system, it can be understood as a space, which can also be accommodated by humans, processes, tools and resources just like the environment concepts. The big challenge with the systems concept is to eliminate of the mechanistic connotations in order to be adaptable to the research of social systems like education.
Very commonly used and often associated with a static concept of content are metaphorical expressions related to objects like software, package and products. Referring to a concrete object rather than an abstract construction is one way of describing the essence of ICT integration in education. Using software, as a general concept for the learning environment is parallel with using hardware: it keeps the concept concrete enough to create, develop, reproduce and sell. The different generalised meanings and layered metaphors can be seen as results of interaction with different systems. The following short analysis will show with examples, how the software concept has been used in the research articles to describe the essence of ICT integration in education:
Software, as such, is a computer programme, which can be used for different purposes, from general tasks to educational processes. One can use different attributes to give a specific meaning to the software, like: “hypertext authoring software” (C&E2001-3-11); “conferencing software” (EMI2000-2-3); “mailing list software” (EMI2000-4-8)“exploratory learning software” (JCAL2000-1-4); “OLE software makes distance education possible” (IHE2001-2-3); “the development of children’s educational software” (IHE2001-3-3).
The software program can have a specific design and specialized features, like: ”educational software design” (C&E2001-1-3); ”Another element of the software which supports constructivist learning theory” (IJIM2001-1-7); ”the current generation of computer aided learning software” (IJIM2001-2-1); ”is aimed at teaching aspects of formal logic using purpose built software” (C&E2001-3-8).
An application is a specific piece of software which is applied or embedded in education; the software is “built into the learning application”. This allows the use of new metaphors which are more descriptive for the application, like groupware and courseware. These metaphors can also emphasize the commercial side of education, like “product” and “package” metaphors. “Package” is a very common metaphor used in conjunction with software, which can be understood as a concrete object, or a product. Educational software and a courseware can be understood also as educational objects, packages and products, which can easily be delivered or sold: as following examples show: ”educational computer software packages” (IHE2001-3-3);”An evaluation of an educational software package” (EMI2000-2-7);”courses taught will be in the form of CAI courseware packages” (EMI2000-3-8);”directed learning methods such as packaged courses in CD-ROMs” (IHE2001-3-10); ”educational hypermedia software. Educators use these software packages to create hypermedia learning environments” (IJIM2001-1-5);”most of us would not be comfortable assuming an educational product is a quality product simply because it is valued in the marketplace” (IHE2001-3-1); ”The current generation of e-learning products” (IJIM2001-2-1).
To summarize, we can say that the usage of the software metaphor with its variations emphasizes the concrete, packable and deliverable product meaning of ICT integration in education. It is very close to the meaning of “content” as a static package or book. It is not surprising that educational companies and e-learning businesses are concerned about inter-operationality of educational products. Together with political decision makers, the e-learning business has started to develop standards for e-learning products and learning objects (IMS Global Learning Consortium). The idea of standardized e-learning fits well with the idea of using software package derived metaphors. When you are able to pack and deliver educational products in standardized ways, it makes it possible to generate a sustainable IT business. (see IMS website: http://www.imsglobal.org/ for more information of standardization and the e-learning business.)
A very common concept in the research is the “content” related metaphor like material, book, document, resource metaphors, all of which are closely associated with the metaphors related to software, like package. Content is an essential part of studying and learning processes and it is a distinguishable concept because it is closely linked to epistemological presumptions of the learning concept that can be seen behind ICT integration in education. Fundamentally, two different concepts can be found behind the metaphorical expressions related to ICT based content (see Wilson 1996).
First, one common metaphorical expression is to consider content as materials or objects, which are based on a passive and rigid concept of knowledge, like the following: “content is understood to be: material” (C&E2001-3-6);“the contents produced by the teacher refer to material, a lesson, documentation, a bibliography, a webliography, an evaluation, a question, a task and a course as a whole.” (C&E2001-3-6);“Once the authoring process is completed, a set of structure-building objects have been developed which can access the hypertext knowledge store and automatically generate multiple views of the document to suit different instructional objectives” (ILE2001-1-1);“distributing centrally-mandated lesson plans and assessment materials” (BJET2000-2-1). These examples show how the traditional learning conception has often been transformed to the ICT context. Implicitly it proposes that the content is a static document, a book, which is produced by the teacher, which can be stored in a library. It is also often presumed that the learning process is based on those materials and it is possible to test if the content has been learned.
There are several other metaphorical expressions which are closely related to the content metaphor. These expression give a more understandable and concrete manifestation for the concept of content, like book, document and (web)page: ”material is placed on the site in a regular textbook format” (IHE2001-1-2);”a student could access all course documents. ” (BJET2000-1-4);”web-based textual materials such as study guides” (BJET2000-3-5);”The textbook metaphor (incorporating multi-media) is used, although the use of the electronic textbook is adapted and amended dynamically in the light of the student’s performance.” (C&E2001-3-8).
Because of the close association to books and documents, the content can have the same qualities as real books and documents, namely they can be considered as products so they can be delivered, sold, recycled, stored in a library, they can be searched and indexed, etc. These metaphorical expressions can be very helpful for the users and producers, but have also connotations linking the content metaphor to a static concept of knowledge, like the following examples: ”When a database is used to contain the learning content to be delivered to the students via the web” (EMI2000-1-7); ”learner’s (consumer’s) demands for quality content, delivery, and service within an evolving technological environment. ” (IHE2001-1-2); ”e-Learning content must be designed and developed in smaller manageable chunks known as learning objects (LO)” (IHE2001-3-9); ”information about educational content available in content servers.” (C&E2001-3-6); ”Centres also stock a wide range of learning materials including paper based, CD-ROM and videotape resources” (EMI2000-1-5); ”Pool can be used to store and retrieve materials which can readily be localized and re-used (or, in some cases re-used directly); support materials for tutors involved in distance learning (for example, guides and checklists) and exemplars of either particular pedagogic or technological approaches.” (EMI2000-4-8); ”The current generation of e-learning products were never designed to help organizations collect, organize, manage, maintain, reuse, and target instructional content.” (IHE2001-3-13).
A second fundamentally different consideration of content is a resource metaphor, which contains the previously presented materials metaphor, but also links the learning content to the processes of learning by including a tools metaphor within the concept. This link enables a more dynamic concept of knowledge by presuming that the contents can be modified and produced by the learner, like the following: “The Internet connects all the potential resources (learning materials, learning companions, resource personals, and cognitive tools, etc.) scattered all over the world” (C&E2001-2-3); ”The primary role of an LCMS is to provide a collaborative authoring environment for creating and maintaining learning content. ” (IHE2001-3-13); ”The resources needed for developing web-based learning environments are often categorized into two types: system and content” (C&E2001-3-7).
In addition to materials and tools, the resource metaphor can contain some other aspects of learning process like people, support, systems etc. as following:”There is no restriction on the nature of a resource. ” (ILE2001-1-2);”Virtual resources will provide performance support resources” (IHE2001-3-10);”bringing technology resources into their courses” (IJIM2001-1-3);”the credibility of sources of information, including print media, computer software, radio and television and experts, and information agencies” (IJIM2001-1-8);”Web resources provided user-friendly interfaces for the learners to engage in discussions” (JRCE2001-2-1).
Content related metaphorical expressions divide the ICT based resources into two different categories: those supporting a static concept of knowledge like material, book, page and those supporting dynamic concept of knowledge, like the resource related metaphors which combine the traditional static resources into tools and human resources. This division is very important to be considered, especially in discussions of educational content development. Most of the initiatives on content development are based on the static concept of content, which is easier to manage, store, recycle and sell and it is easy to adopt by the global information business.
The challenge in education according to the static content metaphor is to find the best content to be transmitted in the learning process. Once the best content is identified, it can be packed, delivered, recycled and sold effectively and globally. Content as an active entity challenges education to look at the processes of acquiring the content – not the content itself.
One very common and fundamental meaning grouping together some of the metaphorical expressions is an instrumental understanding of technology. This root metaphor groups together “tool”, “aid”, “support” and “assistance” metaphors. The instrumental understanding of technology, or of anything else we use in our everyday life, is so obvious for us that it is difficult to analyze it without any linguistic instruments that lead to circum deduction. The following micro context analysis explores these meanings more closely.
Tool: Together with a system metaphor, one of the most common metaphorical expressions connected to technology is “a tool”. This metaphor is widely adopted in all the research perspectives, thus it can be seen as a synonym for technology as well. In science technology can be seen as a scientific means of solving a problem (Ely 1999). In many cases, the research just reproduces this common understanding of technology by considering computers, software and web as tools. This point of view is often shared by information systems design and learning theories, which use the activity theory as a frame of reference for understanding human intentional action (Engeström 2000, Verrijn-Stuart 2001).
The interesting part in using this metaphor is how it is connected to education and what special meanings and associations it will suggest for technology in education. One of these meanings is that the researchers are estimating the role and importance of technology in education by referring to its nature as a tool. Sometimes technology is a “wonderful” tool to create something new and sometimes researchers even emphasize that technology is “only a tool” and nothing else. Both evaluations are based on goal-means instrumental rationality in education, where the means can be separated from the goals and the means are value free tools, as following: “these tools can provide greater benefit” (C&E2001-3-1); “While each of these tools is useful on its own ” (C&E2001-3-1);“Integrating technology tools into the curriculum is becoming an inseparable part of good teaching.” (JRCE2001-2-6);“technology itself is just another potent tool” (EMI2000-1-8);“Technology is only a tool for achieving our educational aims” (EMI2000-1-8).
The understanding described here emphasizes the value of educational aims but on the other hand, there is a belief that technology itself would not change the aims of education. This means that we will learn the same things with and without technology, but perhaps, more efficiently with technology. By understanding technology as a tool, we accept implicitly that technology itself is a neutral element in education and therefore does not change anything by itself – only the use of technology can change something. In the same way guns and bombs are just tools, and not harmful to anybody if not used. From this meaning of technology in education we can see a direct link to instrumental research interests where a neutral objectivity can be achieved by means of (natural) scientific research instruments.
If technology will not change our goals, but rather is a neutral tool to achieve already established goals, it is worth analysing what these goals are and what are the processes where ICT is a tool? ICT is a tool for what? In the sample research articles, there are at least the following processes where ICT can be seen as a tool: data manipulation and communication as general ICT processes; management, collaboration, cognition, learning, education and emancipation as derived social processes, as the following examples will show:
a) Data manipulation and management: “The tool provides a simulated map of the computer’s memory” (BJET2000-4-7);“At present, the tool can only deal with syntactically correct C code” (BJET2000-4-7);“Coupled with database software the microcomputer offered history a totally new set of resources and powerful tools with which to explore these resources.” (EMI2000-4-6). Data manipulation and management is related to understanding of ICT as a technical object and content as information objects and resources. This connotation comes clearly from a technical framework and IT theories, and emphasizes the computing part of ICT, one of the general meanings for information technology.
b) Communication and collaboration: “As telecommunications tools become more available in schools” (JRCE2001-2-8); “students are comfortable with it and enjoy using it as a communication tool” (JRCE2001-1-3); “such rich and varied communication using Internet tools” (JCAL2000-3-9); “The software support includes different cooperation tools: a white board, an application sharing tool, an audiovideo conferencing tool and a virtual classroom tool using different coordination services for session management and activity coordination.” (ILE2001-1-3); “Communication and co-operation tools” (BJET2000-2-2); “use of simple tools for carrying out a collaborative activity” (BJET2000-2-3); “the ideal use of the world wide web as the main communication tool within the course” (BJET2000-3-5). This connotation emphasises communication as a technical function of the information and communication technology which can be used for collaboration and co-operation in human action.
c) Cognition and learning: “ability to use the computer as a cognitive tool” (JRCE2001-2-2); “to believe that ICT are useful and easy learning tools” (IHE2001-3-5);“Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are valuable tools for learning“ (IHE2001-3-3);“Using Internet- and Intranet-based learning tools” (IHE2001-3-10);“the Web site serves as an electronic performance support system, providing tools, resources, and support systems designed to fit the specific learning environment” (IHE2001-1-2);“choosing the most effective tools to facilitate learning” (IHE2001-1-2);“We suppose that a computer, as a hand-made "brain", should be regarded by teenagers as a necessary tool helping them to receive required information, to get in touch with other people, to take a decision, to process the information” (BJET2000-3-3). This connotation emphasizes the notion of technology as an extension of the human brain. This understanding is closely related to cognitive psychology, and specifically to the theories emphasizing technology as a cognitive tool, which can release the cognitive load of the brains for more efficient performance, like the following examples will demonstrate:
Teaching and education (and different sub processes): “using technology as a tool in a variety of instructional projects” (JRCE2001-2-6); “teachers now need to develop a level of proficiency in using these tools to support teaching” (IJIM2001-1-3); “Internet as an educational tool” (JRCE2001-2-9’);“provide tools for e-Learning” (IHE2001-3-9); “the Internet as a tool for delivering education” (IHE2001-3-5); “A number of criteria for successful online evaluation tools are proposed” (IHE2001-1-5); “use of ICT as a tool for school management” (EMI2000-4-1). This understanding of technology as a tool emphasizes again the information management capabilities of technology and sees technology as a tool for the management of different educational processes from delivery to evaluation.
Social change and emancipation (not very common): “the Web as a social tool” (EMI2000-3-2);“the Internet is "a tool of empowerment"” (IJIM2001-2-2);“Developers of educational tools, like so many others, have tended to focus on the single-user, ignoring the impact of technology on custom, community, and the way people work together.” (IJIM2001-2-1); “the immense potential of e-learning for educational purposes and the inherent changes that widespread adoption of its associated tools will catalyze” (IHE2001-3-4). There is an emerging understanding of technology as a tool for social change. This notion is not very common, but can be seen related to societal functions of education and can be related to critical theory in education.
Aid, assisted, support: Another instrumental meaning for information and communication technology is to understand it as a supporting or an assisting element in learning. These expressions are very often used simultaneously with a tool metaphor and are usually related to metaphorical expressions of communication, collaboration and cognitive tool metaphors. The interesting difference is that the assistance metaphor links the meaning to a human assistant and support. Beyond these links we can see the influence of different psychological theories of learning: socio-cultural theory and constructivism.
Some of the metaphorical expressions have achieved a status of common language, which no longer need any explanations. These generally accepted expressions have a profound influence in our understanding of ICT integration in education by becoming so obvious that nobody call them in question any more, like: “Computer aided learning” (CAL) tools (BJET2000-4-7); “computer-assisted instruction” (CAI) (C&E2001-1-2). And their further developed versions:“intelligent computer-aided learning (ICAL) applications” (BJET2000-2-8); “as the internet-based version of the Computer Supported Intentional Learning Environments (CSILE)” (C&E2001-2-1).
The advantage of instrumental metaphors describing ICT integration in education is again the ease of adopting the metaphors because the theories of learning and teaching and the didactical modes are – being scientific – instrumental by nature. The didactic tradition emphasising a “goal-mean” approach in education is very strong. This instrumental thinking is also very distinctive for business, administration, medicine, technology and the other disciplines based on or influenced by natural sciences.
The challenge of an instrumental metaphor is to be logical. Instrumental thinking is based on extreme rationality. The problem is that education is not only a rational but also a moral process related to politics and other social processes related to values. The neutrality and objectivity of the tools in education have been challenged many times by educators and philosophers.
Enhancement: Some of the articles prefer to use the word “enhance” instead of “assist”. It gives a more passive role to technology and is not so instrumental. “Enhance” emphasizes the physical environment as a prior resource for learning and ICT only enhances this, following examples: “technology-enhanced learning environment” (BJET2000-1-5); “Computer-enhanced learning.’ use of computers and Web-based courseware to enhance the traditional face-to-face classroom environment by exposing students to content-specific information and allowing application and expansion of personal knowledge” (JRCE2001-1-3).
Reference to “enhance” also puts ICT into the role of a resource for the teacher which can be used for changing the teaching methods, as the following examples do: “actually enhance learning compared to "static" tutoring systems or educational hypermedia” (BJET2000-2-7); “implementation of IT to enhance learning” (IHE2001-3-12), “interactive multimedia for learning and teaching and its potential for enhancing teaching methods.”(IJIM2001-2-8); “faculty use of technology-supported enhancements in their teaching“ (ILE2001-2-2).
Enhance seems to be a diplomatic word to use, if one wants to avoid too metaphorical expressions. It keeps ICT understandable for traditional teachers and gives an understanding that it is a good resource to use, because it enhances the possibilities and resources that are available. The challenge in enhancing is to break the barriers of the existing learning arrangements and environment. This associates it to the interest of change, making something better thus it is used with the same connotation as “assisted” and “aided” related instrumental metaphorical expressions.
This category is very diverse in terms of reference to technology but the unifying rule is that these metaphorical expressions contain an idea that the essential quality of that technology is that it can transport information, ideas and learning from place to place. This quality is easy to explain with the fact that in ICT the communication element is the most important part of that technology.
When the communication feature was integrated into computers in the 80’s, it united conventional communication forms to computing. This can be seen from the metaphorical expressions, which use these conventional transportation and communication technologies in explaining this more abstract feature, like following: “teleconferencing systems may become a valuable vehicle“ (BJET2000-2-3); “cyberspace has truly opened an information highway“ (JRCE2001-2-9); “one of several avenues of communication“ (BJET2000-4-2); “media are simply vehicles that carry instruction“ (C&E2001-3-5): “posted on the web“ (C&E2001-2-1); “by post and Internet students by electronic mail“ (BJET2000-1-3); “video channel“ (BJET2000-3-4); “internet audio streaming, or traditional telephony“ (BJET2000-3-5); “exchange messages via mail, email, phone, voicemail“ (EMI2000-1-7).
It is again the communication feature of ICT which has introduced the idea of comparing ICT to more traditional electronic mass media, like movies, video, broadcast, etc. This feature of ICT involves new research views of communication and media, as the following examples show: “with media messages“ (BJET2000-2-1); “Computers can be understood as media“ (BJET2000-2-6);“The film contains associative and montage-style elements as well as narrative, and seeks to convey what the producers called the “ambivalent feelings of love” (JEM2001-3-3); “some schools can use several channels for broadcast purposes“ (JEM2001-1-1).
The features mentioned above give an idea of flow and one way transportation and delivery of information, ideas, feelings, messages, etc. This idea had been adopted in education a long time ago in the form of correspondence distance learning. The learning content had to be packed into books, letters, videos, etc. and delivered via postal service, fax, or any other transportation or communication medium for the students. This perspective is very institutional and very similar to the commercial retailing business: delivery of goods. In current research, this understanding is very dominant. If it is understood from an institution point of view, it is quite natural. If it describes the learning process, it may carry old fashioned concepts of learning (see Wilson 1996). The problem is that these views are difficult to separate in most of the metaphorical expressions, like the following examples demonstrate: “a medium for the delivery of courses“ (BJET2000-1-2); “the messages are delivered“ (BJET2000-2-1); “Distance learning through ICT“ (BJET2000-2-4); “web is simply being used as a medium for the delivery of instruction“ (BJET2000-3-5); “how knowledge transmits from one person to another“ (C&E2001-2-3); “comparing multimedia with conventional delivery of material“ (C&E2001-3-5); “technological tool for transmitting information“ (EMI2000-1-4); “the learning content to be delivered to the students via the web“ (EMI2000-1-7); “A DL system enables the transfer of knowledge from one place to another“ (EMI2000-1-8).
The feature that is said to separate ICT from most of the conventional technologies is bi-directionality: although the nature of communication technology is to deliver and transport information and ideas, it works in both directions. It is the same feature which separates a telephone from the radio, correspondence from delivery of messages, discussion from speaking.
Reciprocal communication was possible via conventional technologies like phone and mail. Therefore it is more a matter of the idea of the process than a feature in the technology. This idea is now coming through in metaphorical expressions especially when describing the learning process and not so much the functions of institutions, like the following quotations demonstrate: “a communication medium in distance education“ (BJET2000-1-3); “conversations through audio conferencing, internet chats, and, potentially, via video conferencing“ (BJET2000-3-5); “communicated via both synchronous and asynchronous on-line connections“ (C&E2001-2-1); “correspond with each other through the network“ (C&E2001-2-3); “the discussions carried on via the network“ (EMI2000-1-2); “interaction via interactive multimedia“ (EMI2000-1-7); “its synchronous and asynchronous nature, computer-mediated communication (CMC) “ (EMI2000-2-3); “will deliver information and will also provide a channel for interaction“ (EMI2000-2-6); “Students never learn from the technology. They learn from the way instructors communicate through the technology“ (IJIM2001-3-3); “intercultural communication by video“ (JEM2001-3-5).
The expressions above describe more the process of learning than a new feature of technology. The important quality of this process seems to be a “flow”. The essence of ICT is that it makes the flow possible. It is like riverbanks, which make the flow of water possible and a highway, which makes the flow of traffic possible. Different metaphors are used and different technologies are pointed to, but the common quality is a “flow”. Castells (1996) emphasises this quality as one of the major qualities, explaining the modern information society. He argues that the static understanding of places as areas or platforms is changed to “places of flows”. The flow can be a one directional delivery or bi-directional transaction, but still it is a flow of ideas, products, materials, money and so on.
The quality referring to flow became a quality of computer technology together with the invention of networking. First the idea was simply to connect computers together in the form of line with a cable, which allowed exchanging information from one computer to another. The next step was to centralise services onto a server, and connect the computers around the server. This network reminds one of a star in a way that the lines were connected together with a centralised server or a router giving better performance for the flow of information from computer to computer. Then the local networks were joined together (see chapter 4.1; TCP/IP protocol) to form a very complicated network of networks, still having this simple idea of flow as the main feature. This very simple technical innovation to make the flow of information possible worldwide has changed the environment of educational institutions for delivering its services via ICT. It has also made it possible for educators to emphasise reciprocal communication as the main medium in the learning process. These qualities are not necessarily always separated from each other in metaphorical expressions of ICT integration in education, as they are not necessary separated in conventional educational settings. Educators are still delivering their lectures in classrooms irrespective of being in a virtual or real classroom.
In the semantic analysis of metaphorical expressions, electricity based expressions related to electronics plays an essential role in technology-based applications in education. Etymologically “electric” can be rooted to "amber," which is electrum in Latin and elektron in Greek, because the force was first generated by rubbing amber (Harper 2001). It is quite surprising that it has been adopted by the research as well. In every day speech the names of electronically operated equipment like a TV, radio, telephone and washing machine are not usually connected to electricity, although all this equipment needs electricity for operation as well. So there has to be a special reason for using electricity or simply “e-” for describing the special nature or function of ICT: the communication transmission is based on electricity circuits and electrons and NOT on material delivery. This means that everything that is important in ICT, flows like electricity from place to place. Accordingly “e-“ refers to a special delivery method of the service, which is not concrete, material or tangible any more. E-metaphors can be grouped together with “flow” metaphors having sometimes slightly more advanced meanings.
The most common expression combining electronic and a function of ICT is electronic mail or Email. Email is such a common expression that nobody will call it in question any more. Email has adopted an easy to understand metaphor of ordinary mail combined with electricity. The metaphor works very well in opening the meaning of the concept and people have adopted it. The only change seems to be that a letter has been changed to a message and package to an attachment. Other name candidates like web-mail, computer-mail, etc. cannot compete with this simple metaphorical expression. On the contrary, many new expressions have adopted the same simple way of placing “e-“ at the beginning of the word for expressing the distinctive method of delivery of the service.
E-learning is one of the hybrid metaphors combining “e”, coming from electronic, and learning. This is a very important metaphor because it gives the impression that traditional learning has been changed to a new kind of learning – electricity is the delivery method. ICT is no longer seen as a tool. ICT is changing learning or creating a new form of learning, e-learning, especially in higher education as the following examples will show: “The main difference between an e-learning situation and the traditional classroom is the medium over which instruction is transmitted. ” (IHE2001-3-11); ”the advantages of e-learning can help resolve some of the challenges of lifelong learning raised earlier” (IHE2001-3-14); ”e-Learning is another way of teaching and learning” (IHE2001-3-9); ”an e for electronic is added to education or learning - e-education or e-learning - for education or learning experienced online via the Interne” (IHE2001-3-14).
Although the e-learning concept is related more to higher education, it is worth examining this phenomenon more closely, because it is adopted very widely. The concept of e-learning is closely related to institutional and societal needs of organising education and can be rooted in the distance learning concept. In the e-learning concept, on the one hand the delivery mechanisms of content, and on the other hand, the individual need and freedom of regulating learning process, time and place seem to meet each other, as the following quotations shows very clearly:“E-learning in particular, with its ability to render time and place irrelevant” (IHE2001-3-1); ”e-learning also provides temporal freedom - the freedom of learning anytime.. ” (IHE2001-3-14); ”e-Learning has enabled people to learn at their own pace and at a time and venue which is most convenient to them. ” (IHE2001-3-10); ”majority of e-Learning occurs at the workplace (IHE2001-3-10); ”e-Learning has been identified as the enabler for people and organisations” (IHE2001-3-10); ”electronic and enhanced version of distance learning.” (IHE2001-3-14).
One special meaning of e-learning is to understand this new form of learning and education as business. E-learning enables new delivery channels for education and educational products, and changes the educational markets. On-line learning especially is the enabler for education as e-business. As a business and information industry, there is a tendency for “taylorism” in a sense of developing the e-learning concept towards conveyer belt industry of learning materials: “because of the very nature of e-learning, learners (or customers) are able to choose from a multitude of educational offerings” (IHE2001-3-1); “The current generation of e-learning products were never designed to help organizations collect, organize, manage, maintain, reuse, and target instructional content” (IHE2001-3-13); “The profit and growth potentials of e-learning as a business must be evaluated first” (IHE2001-3-14); “e-Learning content must be designed and developed in smaller manageable chunks known as learning objects (LO)” (IHE2001-3-9).
E-learning is connected to on-line learning and electronic networks like the Internet and Web. One specific usage of “electronic” together with “networking” is to make a distinction between human networks and electronic networks, as following: “Use of electronic network and the Internet in education…” (EMI200-2-3); “the electronic networking in professional development..” (IHE2001-3-2); “use of such electronic-mediated networking for learners and trainees…” (IHE2001-3-2). It is worth mentioning that the concept of networking combines these two meanings quite seamlessly: electronic networks make it possible for people to create human networks.
The excellence of e- related metaphors, “e-metaphors”, is the easy way it can group different operations and functions from different contexts together and form a kind of “new” version of them. It is very powerful in combining meanings related to electronic, fast delivery of the operation and the original meaning and function of the operation.
The challenge of the e-metaphors is the fact that it is fragile and untrustworthy in its dependency on electricity. How we can trust that the service will be delivered, the operation will be done and the function fulfilled, if we cannot see the thing? What if the electricity is cut of? We trust only something we can see.
One aspect in ICT integration in education is the computer – human interface, which gives one concrete point to tap into for research. Interface is a complicated research area in computer science and it is obvious that researchers in educational technology will be influenced by this. Some of the research simply continues that research but some researcher will use that point of view more generally when speaking about learning environments.
The following examples of metaphorical expressions will enlighten how the computer science point of interface has been generalized to explain the essence of ICT based learning environment: “Typically, tools such as browsers search engines, concept maps, guide tours, and metaphors are all user interfaces in hypermedia instruction“ (IJIM2001-1-5); “the `classroom atmosphere’ is embedded in the human-computer interface scenarios“ (C&E2001-1-3); “an online writing environment that connects teachers and students by way of a user-friendly interface“ (C&E2001-3-7); “This research is based upon the premise that a friendly interface, using clear signs, must be designed in order to extract the educational potential of computers in education “ (JCAL2000-1-6).
The examples above give an understanding that the computer interface is one, which allows the user to interact with all the resources (human and others) and tools that are available for the user. The interface “mediates” everything, even the atmosphere of the classroom. This understanding of a computer interface shows the semiotic side of the interface: metaphorical interface design mediates the essence of the ICT based operation environment for users of ICT.
It is worth of saying that the all these expressions emphasize the visual sense as the main sense in information inquiry. The following example will underline this side of the interface metaphors: “It is assumed that the static visuals and narration along with increased animation would provide additive codes leading to more effective encoding and knowledge transformations of the information being presented“ (IJIM2001-2-5).
A specific connotation of interface related metaphors is that the essence of ICT in learning process is seen as a presentation. This understanding is traced back to the beginning of instructional media research, which was based on the displaying of educational pictures and materials. The following examples will show clearly this side of the metaphors: “"Teaching on the Internet" is presented entirely over the Net“ (C&E2001-3-4); “allowing for the display of content matter of the lecture on the screen of each students’ personal computer“ (EMI2000-1-6); “We could classify the content presentation distance education media and communications technologies available“ (EMI2000-1-7); “new and more effective presentations need to be constructed and delivered“ (IHE2001-3-12); “but the new technology allows the presentation of material that would be difficult or impossible to study with conventional printed materials and has the potential to greatly enhance the student study experience “ (JEM2001-2-3).
The interface metaphors are closely connected to the “flow” root metaphor by emphasizing the mediation and communication sides of the ICT based operation environment. The difference in meanings of different variations lies in what the interface is mediating: the content (presentation) or the context (semiotic).
One minor, but not necessarily less important expression linked to ICT integration in education is a service metaphor. This metaphor could be found from articles related to higher education, which is probably in more financial turbulence than the other levels of education. Service links the ICT based operation environment in education to business in two different ways: education as a commercial service and an ICT based application as a service for education.
It is not very common for the educational research to consider the learner as a consumer and education as a commercial service. Recent developments in higher education have led us to consider also this side of education by emphasising decreasing public funds and increasing demand for external funds. In these samples, not only an ICT based operation environment has been seen as a service, but also education as whole. It associates education to global information markets as following: “learner’s (consumer’s) demands for quality content, delivery, and service within an evolving technological environment” (IHE2001-1-2;)“e-Learning in its full glory will be implemented in this service” (IHE2001-3-10); “has a vision to be a global leader in providing lifelong learning services“(IHE2001-3-14).
In connection with the global information market development in education, also the division of work is more distributed. New roles will emerge in the education business. Technology service providers are facilitating educators and content providers, which can outsource some of the technical services to commercial partners, like the following examples show: “It also provides a developers and application programmers service interface (DAPSI), which allows educational resource developers to concentrate on content, by supplying commonly needed system services” (ILE2001-1-2); “those who produce educational products or supply educational technology services “(ILE2001-1-4).
As we know that ICT together with globalisation has changed the economics of education, it is quite incredible how little research is involved to explore these changes. Since the service can be considered as a sequence of actions or a process, it is related to flow metaphor. Service is also something you can deliver.
In opposition to the system metaphors is the very commonly used “environment” metaphor as learning environment or working environment. It can be also seen as another perspective on system: the system environment perspective. There are two different types of metaphorical expressions pointing to technology as an environment for a learner (as a system), teacher (as a system) and education (as a system) in general. One is to consider the environment as a platform, a 2-dimensional site or stand. Another one is to consider the environment as 3-dimensional space rather than a stand. In many cases these metaphorical expressions are used together without conflict. This is understandable from an “environment” metaphor, which allows us to see our environment as flat, 2-dimensional “map like” area, or as the real world with people in it.
Platform: The platform metaphor is commonly used in the computer hardware or programming context to create the foundation for applications. For example the Windows and Linux operation system, or “IBM” and “Mac” are often called platforms. In the same meaning the term platform is used often when speaking about learning environments. Sometimes even the World Wide Web and the Internet are called platforms despite the dynamic nature of the “web” and “net” metaphors. In this analysis, this general and technical meaning of platform will be understood as the origin of this metaphor to be used in an educational context. Further historical analysis of why we call different computers and operation systems platforms is beyond the scope of this analysis because of the limited focus of the source articles.
Examples of using platform in the software-programming context: “This program, provides a platform to evaluate the effectiveness” (C&E2001-3-5); “more comfortable with IBM platforms and more than one-third are dual-platform literate” (JRCE2001-1-7).
The platform is also a place where different activities can happen. It is worth mentioning that these activities are not a part of this metaphor, but only the platform make these activities possible if one wants to do so. The fact that processes are missing from this metaphor makes it a static place metaphor, as following examples demonstrates: “ using the e-Learning platform” (IHE2001-3-10); “Content delivery platform” (IHE2001-3-12); “LiveLearning takes advantage of being developed on top of Livelink, a powerful knowledge management platform” (IHE2001-3-8); “On-line forums: new platforms for professional development” (C&E2001-3-4);“corporate university also plays a critical role as a discussion platform for sharing best practices within the company” (IHE2001-3-8).
By using the platform metaphor, one can give an understanding of more general applicability and usability of the application or inter-changeability of objects within this platform, like: “we have designed not a course or a curriculum, but a platform”. So on the base of platform, the user can build also their own applications” (C&E2001-3-7); “A platform for exchanging different DTDs may be found at the forum schema.net” (IHE2001-2-1).
One metaphor used quite similarly to “platform” is the “site” metaphor, which is commonly used to describe a web server availing access to resources, more specifically web pages. A “site” is used to describe the location of certain resources or services. For example a course can be located in “a course site”, meaning the location or the address of the web server. The difference is that the “site“ is more like a location and the platform is more like a base and foundation.
One way of using “platform” is to use it together with some other “space” metaphor to give more extensive meaning for the metaphor. One can say for example “EduCities: integrative platform of learning models” to give an impression that “EduCities” is the cornerstone or the foundation of some other place metaphors used in the concept: “EduCities which is the headquarter of the entire system is the first layer. EduTowns which is the second layer comprises of the servers of the participating schools. EduRooms which is the third layer comprises of the servers of the "classrooms" of the participating schools. EduCitizens which is the fourth layer comprises of personalized systems for individual citizens who can be students, teachers or any one who is interesting in learning or teaching.” (C&E2001-2-3).
To summarize, a platform is a static “base” or foundation where one can find resources and tools for learning, teaching and programming. One can also construct some other place metaphors by using a platform as the foundation. Ideally, a platform is a solid ground rather than a dynamic space and is easy to adopt if we don’t want to accept the unpredictable chaos of some other space metaphors like “cyber space”. Manuel Castells (1996) speaks about spaces of places to describe the space metaphor of the industrial age and spaces of flows to describe the space in the information age. The platform (and a site) metaphor carries a meaning of stability from the industrial age, a place where the productive processes, resources, even the actors, can be located. Platform is not yet the space of flows, because it does not contain any processes or dynamics of change in itself. The platform metaphor can be seen as a generic metaphor for a group of other metaphors, where the user understands the environment as two dimensional levels which can be used as an extension of the desktop – the real one or the computer desktop.
Space, room: The three dimensionality of the environment metaphor comes from the notion that our environment in real life is actually 3-dimensional. In the beginning of the development of 3-dimensional environments in education, the metaphor was demonstrated with 3-D graphics. If we look closely at the metaphorical expressions, we can realise that the three-dimensionality has properties of the real world: understanding the learning environment as a physical space where one can navigate and understanding that people and communities can populate this space and even form an institution.
The following metaphorical expressions emphasises the three dimensionality as a space: “open learning environments“ (BJET2000-2-2); “immersive virtual environments“ (BJET2000-2-5); “the TC world is three-dimensional“ (BJET2000-2-6); “a degree of freedom in navigating in the hyperspace“ (BJET2000-2-7); “The ‘Information Centre’“ (BJET2000-4-2); “‘chat-rooms’“ (BJET2000-4-2); “3D virtual worlds“ (C&E2001-2-1); “to build a "universe" for educational purposes“ (C&E2001-2-1); “the virtual houses in Euroland“ (C&E2001-2-1); “the web provides an experiential space for learners“ (C&E2001-3-11); “an educational environment based on an interactive virtual reality environment“ (C&E2001-2-1).
The following metaphorical expressions emphasise the property of space, which can be populated by people: “MOO is a "place" inhabited by these people and their creations. This place is a kind of virtual world“ (IHE2001-3-7); “Web-based conferencing venue for the students / teachers“ (IHE2001-3-2); “The structure and operation of EduCities adopt the structure and operation of a real city“ (C&E2001-2-3); “Citizens in this cyber city“ (C&E2001-2-3); “the main marketplace within which individuals operate“ (BJET2000-2-1).
If we can create a place or a space, which can be populated by people, it seems to be possible to create virtual communities, which are operating these environments, as the following expressions indicates: “a constructivist-learning environment as a place where learners can work together“ (C&E2001-2-1); “students to form learning communities in cyberspace“ (C&E2001-3-11); “the Internet, or the WWW, becomes the "place" for the community“ (IHE2001-1-4); “Metaphors of traditional places enable electronic communities to be established: discussion forums, repositories, "rooms," etc. “ (IHE2001-1-4); “in an asynchronous online "class"“ (IHE2001-3-1); “a social space that must be managed for the teaching and learning“ (IHE2001-3-13).
Establishing a virtual community is not very far from the idea of having a virtual institution, which combines all the qualities mentioned of three-dimensional environments, like the following examples: “Virtual Summer School“ (JCAL2000-3-5); “the provision of digital libraries“ (JCAL2000-3-5); “Global universities, virtual and corporate universities“ (IHE2001-1-1); “to create an online institution“ (BJET2000-3-5).
To sum up, with the environmental metaphorical expressions, there can be seen qualitatively two different roots for the metaphor. 1) A two-dimensional platform, a base or a site metaphor, where the platform can be seen as a descriptive root for all the variations. 2) Space like metaphors, which can be rooted in experiencing the real three-dimensional world as it is with people, communities and institutions. The root metaphor is either space or the world experienced as three-dimensional space.
Very closely connected to spatial three-dimensional space metaphors, research articles commonly use concepts related to social groups accommodating these spaces or social activities happening in these spaces. Although these concepts can be seen also as explanatory extensions for spatial metaphors, it is worth of analysing these communities and social activities, because it offers some alternative conceptual metaphors for understanding different aspects of ICT integration in education.
If the technical implementation of an ICT based operation environment is considered as a transparent layer and the idea of learning prevalent in the operation environment is based on interpersonal communication, the people taking part in learning can form a learning community. This community can also be a formal organization such as a school or a more freely formed networked community, a community of practice. The emergence of a community or an institution does not always necessarily require highly immersive technology, as even text-based mailing lists can create communities that have their own action cultures (Wild 1998). The actual name of the community can vary from virtual community to learning community and a community of practice depending the case, like the following quotations show: “Telematics has the potential to transform Higher Education through creating a distributed community of tutors and students“ (BJET2000-2-4); “illustrate how this virtual "community" integrates various communication formats“ (C&E2001-2-1); “This network community will be exciting and fun where students can post their masterpieces to be viewed and critiqued. “ (IHE2001-3-12); “ Learning is seen from the perspective of participating in a ‘knowledge-building community’“ (JCAL2000-1-1); “we aim to build a learning community of practitioners, administrators, researchers, tutors and students where they can distribute their experiences and expertise in the module website“ (JEM2001-1-2); “Constructing an educational network society“ (C&E2001-2-3); “The knowledge ecosystem, comprising students, teachers, administrators, parents, partner institutions, employers, and the community at large, forms the KDU e-Community Network“ (IHE2001-3-12).
The common feature is that these communities, even societies, are designed and created by using ICT. This means that despite the human element in the community, they are technical constructions by nature: engineered communities.
The communal perspective is very strong in some of the commonly used expressions and names of ICT applications, which are used in education. These technologies are not created for education, but the applications seems to fit very well community based metaphors. This is only one example of the broader phenomenon that, although these applications and concepts are argued from learning theories in education, they are used with the very same meaning in all the other sectors of society which are not related to learning.
Belonging to a community is one of the basic needs of human beings. The educational concepts just reflect these broader phenomena and fill the demand of social innovations for certain technologies in education sector. These communal applications used in education are for example the following, which use “conference” as a root metaphor:“benefits and dynamics of Web-based conferencing“ (JRCE2001-2-1); “A natural application of computer conferencing and ALNs is in the creation of a learning community for students studying off campus“ (JRCE2001-1-5); “ATM videoconferencing is also popular, whereas desktop videoconferencing is seen to be fun to play with“ (JCAL2000-3-9); “The tutor group conference continued with a low but steady volume of traffic“ (JCAL2000-3-1);“a Web-based online conference“ (IJIM2001-2-2);“Learning was clearly taking place in the asynchronous TL/CMC conferences we examined “ (IJIM2001-2-1).
Some other descriptive metaphors are also used to connect the application more closely to educational processes: “Videotutoring is central to telematics, enabling personal tutoring to occur at a distance“ (BJET2000-2-4); “discussion forums--both synchronous (live, real-time) and asynchronous (distributed in time) “ (BJET2000-3-5); “The ‘Course Choice Fair’ is designed as an exchange of information and experience between students“ (BJET2000-4-2); “The primary advantage of EOH (electronic office hour - jp) over traditional office hours is an increased opportunity for the students to directly communicate with the teacher and/or with other students “ (C&E2001-3-1); “most of it still take the form of "virtual lectures"“ (C&E2001-3-4).
All these communal applications of ICT are very closely connected to the creation of spaces for new communities and societies, and are therefore connected to conceptual metaphors related to space and social systems in general.
The benefit of metaphors related to communities is their applicability to other contexts in addition to education. In fact, it usually goes the other way around; the metaphor is used for seeing educational situations from the community perspective.
The challenge of the metaphor is to invent the logic of designing social groups or communities. It is challenging social theories by assuming that communities can be established and managed.
There are several metaphorical expressions, which are related to roles usually taken by individual people – not a community. These metaphors show very clearly, how technical systems are designed to take some responsibilities from people, like the following examples:“creating an intelligent teaching assistant“ (BJET2000-4-5); “the computer should act as assistant rather than director! “ (BJET2000-4-5); “the numbers of artificial agents simulated in the computers“ (C&E2001-2-3); “a software agent observes the conversation between a learner and a native speaker“ (C&E2001-3-3); “the typology evaluates learners’ interactivity with instructional content or with a ‘virtual’ instructor in the media“ (EMI2000-3-5); “design of computer-based tutors“ (JCAL2000-4-1);“Neclle consists of three modules: a communication tool, an Ankle agent, and a server “ (C&E2001-3-3).
This expression is closely related to the instrumental understanding of technology, because the metaphors understand the roles given to technology as assistants or servants: somebody can make it to do something on behalf of themselves.
The metaphorical expressions work also the other way around: real people get qualities from technology: “E-learners just need to log on to the e-learning providers’ websites“ (IHE2001-3-14);“online instructor“ (IHE2001-2-2);“We recommend that web-instructors should counter these tendencies” (C&E2001-3-11);“Internet students felt that they had gained valuable experience in using the Internet and its associated tools“ (BJET2000-1-3).
These expressions work differently because the technical part of the expression is an adjective relating a real person to a technical context rather than giving these qualities to them. Sometimes not only people but also parts of human body can be used for metaphorical expressions describing ICT integration in education, like “IT is at the heart of the knowledge economy“ (BJET2000-2-1) or “a computer, as a hand-made "brain"“ (BJET2000-3-3).
Metaphorical usage of human organs links ICT to systems thinking by using these complex analogies. It also describes the importance of ICT by comparing it to the most important organs like brains and heart.
There is a specific metaphorical expression in education: “being on-line”. This metaphor expresses one of the essential characteristics of ICT integration in education: being always available somewhere – but not here, not face to face, not in this place, time independently, like the following examples will demonstrate: “An online course is one which is primarily internet based“ (BJET2000-3-5); “It needs to be recognized that online education is a specific medium in its own right and thus, it will have its own design considerations for effective instruction. “ (BJET2000-3-5); “This has led to a rush in finding and adopting a new way of delivering training known as "online learning." “ (IHE2001-3-11); “Online education refers to any form of learning or teaching that takes place via a computer network“ (IHE2001-3-6); “One of the biggest advantages of online courses is the fact that they allow for interaction in both synchronous and asynchronous modes, that is, they allow for place and time independence“ (EMI2000-2-3).
On-line education or on-line learning differs from traditional classroom learning and teaching; it has got different methodologies in delivery, teaching, learning and evaluation. The usage of the expression “on-line” has become an adjective attribute describing education processes, which are different and are based to Web technology as following: “the online study guide“ (BJET2000-3-5);“an on-line tutorial“ (BJET2000-4-7); “Online courses are those courses that are completely online or have several scheduled online meetings “ (EMI2000-2-3); “All the online discussions were structured around a problem or a series of questions that students needed to answer. Online interaction occurred mostly during ‘class time’ and was not linked to an assessable task.“ (EMI2000-2-7); “the use of online evaluation methods“ (IHE2001-1-5); “Online delivery of these resources, activities, and interactions“ (IHE2001-1-5).
On-line is a new way of delivery in education like e-learning but even more than a delivery method: it tries to simulate processes of real classroom education. It is easy to note that on-line metaphors have created the basis for the creation of on-line institutions in education. On-line it self is not yet a three dimensional social institution but rather like a platform (on which one can create more advanced space and institution metaphors): “To simulate classroom interaction, we can resort to real-time online chat. “ (IHE2001-3-14); “online learning courses have been attempting to replace traditional learning and teaching media without making any changes to the method of delivery and mode of assessment“ (JEM2001-1-2); “institutions are expected to acquire and integrate online learning systems so as to enculturate students to be lifelong learners“ (JEM2001-1-2);“taking advantage of the Internet/Intranet/Extranet to put whole academic programs of the college online. “ (IHE2001-3-12);“The online classroom is a flexible environment“ (IHE2001-3-11).
The advantage of the on-line metaphor is that it has made it possible to develop e-learning as a separate mode of learning and teaching which is not only a process or delivery channel any more: it is “on” all the time. Together with “e” it has been creating the new generation of learning – which did adopt the name of e-learning rather than on-line learning, which is a simpler and more generic relating this new mode of learning to other commercial modes of delivery of e-services.
The challenge of this metaphor in education is to show the excellence of this mode of learning compared to traditional modes. Much of the current research can be seen from this perspective. The problem with this perspective is that on-line education is still considered as a method and the comparisons are not related to the social context or social challenges of learning and education.
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