|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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The first and the most important note that can be made of the needs for further research is that different disciplines need to be included in the field of ICT integration in education because of the different ontological roots of the conceptual metaphors defining the research object in the field. It is difficult to name all the disciplines to be involved because of the wide variety of different research. Each of the research projects should make these considerations themselves, though one significant issue can be mentioned. There is a need to create common understanding among the disciplines of technology, learning and social research representing here the dimensions of material, temporal and the social (Luhmann 1995). In order to create meaningful interdisciplinary research frameworks and models, these considerations are essential. Otherwise the research approaches will remain separate and the benefits of involving multiple disciplines can remain apparent and artificial. A good starting point for the development of a common, shared multidisciplinary research framework is the framework presented in this research (chapter 5.3.3. table 11 and figure 14).
It is essential to consider the conceptual metaphors we are using for naming our research objects and constructing our research frameworks. In everyday discussion it may sound rather trivial to discuss whether we should consider the concepts of tools, media, learning environments, information systems or virtual universities. If we look at these conceptual metaphors more closely, we can realize that they are connected to ontological differences in research assumptions and different paradigms of research. It is worth mentioning that each of the conceptual metaphors and research paradigms seems to be developing in its own right. Further empirical research is needed to explore the internal logic of the emergence of these metaphors and research paradigms in order to understand the development of multidisciplinary research domains.
Education is one system among the other social systems in the society and educational science is one system among the other systems of science. These systems always interfere with each other and therefore influence each other. From the definition of the research field of ICT integration in education as a social system of science we can derive some issues for the further research. One important aspect to be studied are the consequences of funding mechanisms to the emergence of a research field. This discussion has been omitted from this thesis but it is anticipated that other social systems like finance are interfering with the structures of research communication.
If we consider the argument presented by Platt (1996), that the development of empirical research could be negatively influenced by patterns of research funding, most probably it can work other way around too. The real interdisciplinary research groups could be supported more in the research funding structures. For example, the Academy of Finland (the major academic research funding body in Finland) has emphasized multidisciplinary research of the social impacts of technology in education in the last call for research projects called “Life as Learning”. It is still too early to say if the research funding can fundamentally promote interdisciplinary research in ICT integration in education. There is no doubt that different research domains and disciplines can also remain separate work packages or intentions of collaborations in some of the projects. More follow up studies are needed to discover, what the real impacts of these multidisciplinary research programmes are at the paradigm level. Real and fundamental changes in the research are always there.
Exploration of the funding mechanisms of research would involve studying the links between politics and science too. What are the discourses in politics which are influential in the science, especially via the funding mechanism? The discussions on the information society and e-Europe are influential in the allocation of funds for the research without any doubt. The influence can already be seen in the research metaphors used in the field. In the fourth framework research in Europe the research of ICT was called “telematics”, and that concept had to be adopted in the research in order to get funding from the research program. Now the leading concept is ICT and “e-“derived concepts. This kind of influence could be studied more from the perspective of how the concepts adopted by the research programmes will link the research to certain epistemic and ontological definitions via metaphorical understanding of the concepts.
One fundamental research need is emerging from the interference between the education system and the economic system of society. Information systems in education are outcomes of the processes of the economic and industrial production systems. This means e.g. standardization of the technology and the technical systems applied in education. As we know, technology is not a neutral tool in education but a fundamental element of the social system of education enabling new emerging forms of communication. Therefore we should ask what the consequences of standardization into education really are. As far as standards are concerned only the physical layers of technology, the implications may be not so enormous, but once the standards are related to the semantic, pragmatic and social layers of information and communication systems, there can be fundamental consequences that should be studied.