|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|
|Prev||Chapter 7. Discussion||Next|
The challenges that still remain for the mainstream research of ICT in education in a global context are, among other things cultural diversity versus cultural globalization (local-global), accessibility to education in relation to equal opportunities in education and not only as a technical feature, virtual organizing and management of education in order to provide affordable and quality education that is contextual and meaningful for learners. As we could see from the analysis of the research domains, the social research framework in ICT integration in education is still an emerging structure, although the social is mentioned as an important context in learning theories. The problem may be that social research is different compared to traditional instructional technology in terms of interests, time span and the abstraction level.
The social dimension of ICT integration in education is not researched in its own right. By defining the social as a communicative system, which cannot returned to temporal intentions and interactions of individuals (Luhmann 1995), and knowledge as a formation of discursive practices (Foucault 1972), the social dimension will connect the meanings of our research concepts to our temporal practices and applications of ICT in education. The social framework or dimension embedded into the research and development of ICT integration in education reflects the development of our understanding of the nature of social in our life. This approach allows us to explicate the existing understanding of the social in the research paradigms, rather than start a totally new research paradigm. In fact, that could be even impossible, because the research as a communicative system will develop autopoetically anyway. This understanding is related to the broader development of communication technologies and the fact that our experiences in education are broadening to other cultures (Kubicek & Dutton1997).
McLuhan (McLuhan & Powers 1989) proposed more than ten years ago that we are living in a global village, meaning that we are exposed to a much wider range of experiences and cultures than any previous generation, thanks to the information technology. The current development of a multicultural and networked society (Castells 1998) is leading to a polarisation of local and global cultures, and the localisation of global products. Beck (1995) calls this development “glocalization”, where global distribution of products and information can be localised and transformed for the local cultures.
The idea of “glocalization” does not connect education to global cultural issues only. In multicultural societies, the diversity of different languages and cultures has been present in education for centuries. The history of recognition of cultural differences in education can be seen as a part of the recognition of the human rights of minorities. This development began from the liberation movement of the slaves in the 17th century lasting up to the end of the 1990’s (Becker 1999) and the collapse of the last society based on separation of people by race and culture by law in South Africa in 1994. Cultural sensitivity also in a local context will be one of the challenges in the future development and research on ICT integration in education.
It is obvious that cultural issues have a huge impact on education as a system but also on learning at an individual level as well. Based on the analysis of the research domains and conceptual metaphors, these issues have not really broken through yet in the research on ICT integration in education. However, a certain emerging awareness of other cultures can be seen in all the research paradigms explicated in this thesis. In the “object” paradigm of the research on ICT integration in education a discussion of cultural aspects in learning materials development and educational products can be seen an indication of the cultural awareness. It means that the technology providers, publishers and teachers developing the materials have to be aware of these social aspects which make the materials more suitable for broader markets and diverse customers and students. “ designers must choose course content in which the cross-cultural aspects are either of minimal relevance or integral to the content” (JRCE2001-2-8). The cultural aspect is also an important issue to take into consideration in teaching and interaction. It is obvious that the tendency to make technical products more standard and more suitable for local cultures at the same time can be a paradox.
The development of intelligent and adaptive agents can be seen as an example of cultural dimension in the “instrument” paradigm. A good example of this is the development of language learning tools that can take into account the cultural background of Chinese speaking people in learning English. The “flow” paradigm is naturally connected to intercultural issues via social interaction it emphasises in the research. Different delivery systems of education, cross border courses and international collaboration over the communication lines are good examples of this understanding of social. However, the social is considered quite narrowly and only from an interaction point of view: people are doing things together and talking to each other. Much of the mainstream research is taking the social dimension into account only as a context to be manipulated in order to get the individual and organisational performance up. The strong instrumental interest of learning and technology research together with the object and instrumental metaphors used by the research in particular may have had an influence on the development of a “social engineering” approach within the research field of ICT integration in education.
Much of the current research related to the “platform” paradigm and e-learning are based on learning theories emphasizing contextual collaboration. This means that each interaction should be understood in the cultural context. Context can actually mean any context related to the individuals being researched: institution, gender, ethnic background, language, etc. New on-line platforms for education are collaborative and networked in many cases. The “space” paradigm combines many of the previous features and aspects of social, as the metaphors usually inherit some of the qualities from the previous stages. The new aspect in social is that it can also be seen as an institution, community or broader social consciousness of education as part of society. Defining the learning environment as a social system or a virtual institution can basically bring global, social, cultural and organisational issues into a discussion of meaningfulness and contextuality in education.
Basically the current development of international networked institutions and virtual institutions, joint university programmes and reorganising the role of the universities in the Europe of Knowledge (COM 2003) can be seen as a part of the development increasing global, cultural and social awareness of education. The development can also be seen from a globalization point of view, when the same development of education is seen as a global information business. These different views can be brought together by the notion that education is one system among others in our society and it can be used for solving social, economic, political, etc. problems of societies. How much the research on ICT integration in education can take this in to account in the research depends very much on the research paradigm the research is following.