|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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This part of the thesis is setting up the broader systemic context of ICT integration in education. This context can be used for defining the domains of the research in ICT integration in education. The context analysis will be based on exploring the recent writings, research and development at all levels of the education system: global, institutional and individual levels.
The intention of the context analysis is not so much to create a systematic detailed analysis of the research field but setting an initial blueprint of the research approaches and structures of the research field. The context analysis will form also my subjective pre-understanding as a researcher that helps me to identify the appropriate research domains framing the research field, identify the appropriate research reports for the empirical analysis and finally offers the context testing and evaluation of my research findings.
For the reader, explication of the researcher’s pre-understanding is very important in terms of contextualizing the researchers thinking and also for evaluating the meaning and value of the research. By placing it in the empirical part of the research, it allows us to see the research field as a research object rather than my research framework. It also allows the researcher to better reflect on the research field as a system – not a starting point of the research. That is what I mean by choosing consciously different perspective to the research field than the first order observation – the empirical research in ICT in education.
The result of this contextual analysis is an exploration of the research domains in ICT integration in the education system from a research orientation point of view. It will help to choose the scientific journals and articles for the empirical analysis and it forms the conceptual basis to reflect on the research findings and draw conclusions about the paradigmatic structures of the field.
Theoretically, the research of communication structures can start inductively from scratch without any existing structures and base the theory on the empirical findings, or it can start deductively from the existing structures and pre-understanding of the researcher (Gibbs 2002). There are at least two reasons not to start from scratch: First, the recognition of the research field is the prerequisite for this specific research. Without any normative or subjective definition of the field, the research would not find any foundation to start. Secondly, the researcher has a pre-understanding of the field anyway, so it makes it more objective to explicate this subjective pre-understanding than leave it untouched. In this research a dialog between the pre-understanding of the researcher and the empirical analysis of the communication structures of the field will be utilized as a contextual research approach. This is one reason for presenting the description of the research field of ICT in education rather as a context than a research framework for this research.
The aim of the empirical analysis is to reduce the complexity of the research framework of the field and provide new paradigmatic “maps” for the future research to navigate rather than a normative research program or to execute new theory to be verified. This analysis can also be seen as self-reflection, or as a second order observation of the research field where the research communication in form of research documents in the field are the research objects (see Luhmann 1994). Although the analysis will be dealing with the theoretical assumptions of the research, it does not attempt to argue philosophically of the superiority of different theories of science. According to Luhmann (1995, 478), the idea of developing the theory of science first and separately before one can deal with the subject matters can be rejected. Instead, the theory of science can be seen as a belated product of science-in-operation. Therefore, all the research concepts will be considered theory laden: they are based on language and therefore relative to theoretical orientation they are originated from. By analyzing and explicating these concepts used by the researchers, the interest of this research is critical: the aim is not only to understand the paradigmatic structures of the research field but also to enable researchers to change the research in the field and critically re-consider the focus and assumptions of itself.
The identified sample articles of research reports will be analyzed from the point of view of usage of the language. This analysis will use a semantic analysis of the conceptual metaphors (Lakoff & Johnson 1980) used by the researchers for defining the applications of ICT integration in education. Also the rhetorical usage of language (Aro 1999) for convincing and persuading about the interests, usefulness and the scientific nature of the research will be analyzed because this information is an essential part of the communication structures forming paradigms in the research. The analysis results will be presented in such a way that the reader can follow up the reasoning, interpretations and the logic of the analysis.