|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 research methods are based on the methodological framework of the nature of the paradigm as a selective structure of the communicative system of science described in chapter 2. The definition of the paradigm as a selective structure in the social communicative system of science implicitly defines that the communication within the system is language by nature. In this research, to separate it from linguistics, the focus is in the use of language, not in language itself (Aro 1999). This means that this research can use some practical methods of semantics (Luhmann 1995) in describing the way the research in ICT in education is using the language. In general, this research could use three different ways of analyzing the use of language: rhetoric analysis, which is related to argumentation, narrative analysis, which is related to discourses in the field and metaphorical analysis, which is related to ontology of the research (Aro 1999). In practice, this research will focus on qualitative metaphoric analysis for describing ontological assumptions of the research and rhetoric analysis of the articles, for analyzing how the research tries to convince the scientific community of the methodological appropriateness and the social relevance of the research.
There are many branches in qualitative social research, which are methodologically close to the analysis conducted in this research, though there are some fundamental differences. Many of the qualitative methods in education have accepted the content of human intention as the goal of the analysis. Phenomenography, for instance, concentrates on describing phenomena and concepts as they are conceived of by persons, and how these concepts will change during the learning process (Uljens 1991, 86; Häkkinen K. 1996, 16). In this thesis the unit of analysis is neither an intentional act nor the content of it, but the figures of speech as they exist in published scientific texts forming structures of communication in the scientific communicative system of science. There is no intention to interpret the “original” personal intention in a temporal act or the meaning behind the text. All that matters is the text itself and the way language has been used in texts. The following chapters will explain more closely the analysis and the units of the analysis.
The classical theory and practice of rhetoric was concerned with argumentation and persuasion. The separation of rhetoric and science at the Enlightenment implied a radical distinction between two contrasting sets of commitments. On the one side stand together science, reason, logic, methods and evidence. On the other side are ranged rhetoric, persuasion, opinion and ornamentation. The aspirations of modern scholarship were firmly rooted in such dualities. The separation of rhetoric from logic in the creation of modern disciplinary knowledge parallels a number of other, equally fundamental, separations and dichotomies. (Coffey, Holbrook, Atkinson 1996.)
If we look rhetoric from the point of view of the social communicative system, only what is communicated is part of the system. It reminds us that scientific accounts and texts have rhetorical qualities (Coffey, Holbrook, Atkinson 1996). The observer of science (a researcher of science, another scientists, etc.) can see only the communication, the texts, and is deemed to make all the judgements related to the communication based on the texts.
The analysis of the utterance and understanding (expressing the epistemic presumptions and research interest) can be seen rather as a rhetoric analysis than a discourse analysis although both are commonly used for analyzing the usage of language and patterns of meanings in texts (Aro 1999). In this research, the research interest is seen in connection with the social relevance of the research that is related to ideologies and the other systems of society rather than an interest of a certain group of people. Taking into account the epistemological assumptions of this research that the research interest is only one of the selective structures of the research communication, discourse analysis can be inappropriate as a method. Therefore the analysis will adopt a rhetoric analysis as means of the analysis and use the concept of discourse only in practical meaning, without the strict epistemological and historical meaning of the concept.
One practical means of the analysis is to see the text from a deictic point of view, where a researcher is using certain evidential markers in the text to build a perspective structure for the research text as a narrative (Mushin 1998). In practice, the overall compilation of the research report or an article gives a good understanding of the rhetoric aiming to “scientific” impression. In this structure, some parts like the introduction in the beginning of the research, and conclusions and discussion in the end of the research are “meaning intensive” in terms of building the scientific perspective for the research and the interests of the research. In the analysis of research orientations, utterance and interests, a special focus of the analysis will be on these parts of the research articles.
In this research the analysis of the conceptual metaphors is a semantic analysis of those expressions that explain the nature of ICT integration in education in research reports. According to Lauer (Lauer 2001) semantics is a study of how we perceive, make meaning of, articulate and communicate our experiences. When a researcher applies a word to an object or event to be researched, (s)he is not designating what the thing is. The word we use is only a symbol, like a map, which describes a territory. Words that the researcher uses to describe the research target are abstractions; i.e. they reflect a selection of features of the research target that they consider to be the most important. What one researcher abstracts (selects, notices, highlights) from his or her environment may be quite different from what someone else abstracts; yet, both may use the same label. (Lauer 2001.)
In semantics the concept of meaning is usually divided into two categories: intended meaning and conventionally agreed meaning (Risjord 1996). In the research of the communicative system the intended meanings of researchers are not so important, as we know that the communication is bi-directional where the understanding of the meaning goes backward (Stichweh 2000, 10). Therefore, an etymological analysis or a semantic analysis trying to define the original meaning of the concept is useless. The analysis can capture the conventionally agreed meanings only as they are embedded into the metaphorical concepts that are described in metaphorical expressions.
The approach of this research is based on understanding that the research on modern ICT integration in education is a practical and multidisciplinary research area where the concepts are derived from different scientific approaches and paradigms. Each researcher is deemed to define the research object differently depending on the concepts, the paradigm and the scientific discipline of the research and therefore is also restricted to that approach.
The aim of the analysis is to reduce the complexity of the research field by identifying the paradigmatic structures of the research and to clarify the diverse meanings and usage of the concepts for the future research. It is not an intention to create, test or validate any new theory explaining any phenomenon at the empirical level of ICT integration in education. One theoretical advantage of the concept analysis is to help researchers from different disciplines to grasp the concepts and problems of the cross- disciplinary field and establish a shared understanding for the research in different disciplines.
In this thesis, the ontological analysis of ICT integration in education will be based on the understanding that these operation environments being abstract and difficult to understand, have been described metaphorically and the conceptual root metaphor can be explicated from these expressions. It is also supposed that these metaphors can be layered in such a way that the metaphors can be used to explain new metaphorical concepts. Ontologically this means that the research is creating the research object by using metaphorical expressions, not only acquiring information from it.
De Vries et al. (1995) suggest that in the analysis the content could be broken down into smaller units of meaning. Each unit of meaning can represent a separate idea or part of the information contained in the content. The idea of breaking down the content into units of meaning and then dealing with these rather than with whole messages arises from the belief that expressions vary considerably in nature: some may contain a single concept, while others convey a wealth of information and ideas.
In this thesis the following practical way of analyzing metaphors will be applied (Schultze & Orlikowski 2001): The sections of texts containing ontological metaphorical information will be first identified, then broken into smaller units, which form meaningful metaphorical expressions. The expressions can be a short sentence or a phrase, depending on the context.
Once the metaphorical expressions has been grouped according to similarities and differences in terms of meaning, the practical analysis will follow the logic of questions to be asked ( see Schultze & Orlikowski 2001):
What aspect is being highlighted in describing ICT integration in education?
What are the source domains of this metaphor (if not already described in the previous question)?
What is the possible “opposition”, if any?
What are different meanings and micro-contexts?
What affordances does the metaphor grant?
What is the challenge in education according to this metaphor?
These metaphorical expressions can then be further analyzed critically in a micro context and the root metaphors crystallized by comparing the differences and similarities in the references to the ontological origins of the expressions ( See Lakoff and Johnson 1980)
The following chapters will describe the empirical analysis step by step in practice. The major part of the analysis was done with qualitative analysis software called Nvivo. In this research only the practical part of Nvivo will be presented with some limitations and advantages. Also the analysis process is described here in practical terms with a notion, that in most of the cases, the qualitative analysis will follow almost the same practical steps and only the interpretation part is different.
Qualitative analysis software called QSR NVivo was used as a tool in the empirical analysis of the research articles. NVivo is software which has been used widely across methodological barriers and paradigms in social research although its development has been strongly influenced by so called grounded theory. It therefore suits ideally research which is inductive rather than deductive (Gibbs 2002, 162-165). It is not based on automatic analysis of data but it supports the interpretations and constructions of the researcher by organising and reorganising the data according to the interpretations. It also allows modification of the original data while analyzing. So the data does not necessary remain as a static text but changes over the analysis if needed.
Although of researchers usually emphasise that they make the interpretation process, not the software, there is also a consensus amongst qualitative researchers that analysis packages such as Nudist (forerunner of NVivo) and NVivo are not neutral tools. They affect to a moderate degree on the process of analysis (Buston K. 1997) as do all the tools we are using to extend our thinking.
One practical problem may be that the use of analytical tools like NVivo can make the management of a huge quantity of data relatively easy, but in practice, only a small part of this data can be fully analysed ( Buston 19997). In this research, this problem can be demonstrated relatively easily, because the total mass of articles is huge. 194 articles with approximately 10 – 20 pages of text, makes easily 3000 – 3500 pages of text. It is practically impossible to cover all the texts and give exactly the same emphasis on all parts of the texts. Partly because of this problem and partly because of the fact that some parts of the articles are more “meaning intensive” from the research problems point of view, it is noted that some parts of the text may remain marginal in the interpretation process. The following parts of the articles have been emphasized in the analysis: abstract, introduction, research design and problems, discussion and conclusions. All the other parts of the articles have been read through and the relevant parts have been selected for further coding.
Before the analysis, the selected articles had to be prepared for the analysis technically. This means that the original formats of the articles have to be converted into a suitable format and we have to make it sure that no information is lost. In this analysis the following steps were taken.
The articles were copied from Web portals and stored in a specific folder in a PC containing QSR NVivo, version 1.3.146. All the articles were either in PDF format or in HTML format and therefore they had to be converted to RTF format (Rich Text Format) accepted by the QSR NVivo software. The conversion was done by copying the text from the original document to the windows clipboard, and then pasting it into an MSWord document and saving the text in RTF format.
During the process all the pictures and tables had to be removed because QSR NVivo accepts only text. The tables in the text usually converted automatically to text during the process but lost the nice format for displaying the data. Those tables which were coded or selected during the coding process, and were fixed to resemble the original format. Because all the meaningful information related to pictures and tables was also described in the text, the loss of information was minimal though notable. Technically the researcher could have linked any information from pictures, tables, etc, if it was necessary for the analysis, but that was not the case in this research. The RTF documents were imported to the QSR NVivo database to be included in the analysis. A total of 194 documents were imported.
After the documents were imported to the Nvivo database, the analysis continued by reading, fixing, coding and analysing the documents. In the event of the importing process altering the structure of the article, it was fixed during the first reading round. For instance, titles and subtitles were recovered in the original format in order to restore the original structure of the article. The articles were coded and analyzed in three different steps:
Each of the articles was first read through and categorized according to the theoretical approach it takes in terms of research domains. Three categories have been used according to the contextual analysis: Learning, technology and social (institutional). Attributes (NVivo features) indicating the main approach, secondary and tertiary approach were attached to each of the articles for division of the articles into three main categories and for further analysis of the articles in step 3. These categories provided a macro context for the interpretation process of the outcomes of the analysis of the de-contextualised metaphors or concepts. This is necessary to establish a broader context than a journal, because each of the journals seems to publish multidisciplinary articles.
In step 1 each of the article was coded to belong to only one category, e.g. the main approach of the article is learning, technology or social, but a secondary and tertiary approach is also identified where possible. In most cases, all three approaches are identifiable, but there are also articles with only one or two research domain approaches. This indicates that the research on ICT based learning environments is really a multidisciplinary research area.
Each of the articles was analyzed in terms of identifying all the sections of text expressing the main analyzing units of this research: sections containing metaphoric expressions, metaphors and other reference to ICT based learning environments, sections containing an utterance with epistemic information and sections containing information on the purpose or final aim of the research. The section of text can vary from a short clause to a few sentences. The criteria for selection were that each section should provide a micro context to understand the conceptual metaphor (research problem 3) or rhetorical expressions related to research problem 2. These sections were coded also as “placeholders” (Gibbs 2002, 131) for the further analysis of the meanings expressed on these sections.
In the metaphor analysis each of the coded sections of text was critically analyzed, and new categories were formed based on the similarities and differences in metaphorical expressions and the ontological reference in the text. This round of analysis is fundamental for the final analysis, where all the findings and sections of the text with metaphorical expressions are reflected on together and the rules of creating the root metaphors will be identified.
The last step of the analysis is to test how the findings of rhetoric expressions and defined root metaphors and categories fit back to the original context of the sample articles. This is to validate the categories and ensure the representativity of the root metaphors and rhetoric categories in the original context. The results of the analysis are reflected on and the paradigms as communication structures synthesized. The applicability to a broader context of this research field is considered in the conclusions.
In step 2 and 3 each of the text sections can be coded by using more than one category. The reason for this is the fact that each expression can consist of many different metaphors as combinations referring to different ontological dimensions of ICT integration. The expression can be understood differently depending on the emphasis in the text.