|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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Miles (1996, 42) claims that ICT in not only a new product, or even a radical transformation of a particular economic sector, but it is a revolutionary technical application across all sectors of society. ICT has become a personalized commodity and the environment we are operating in is more and more based on information and communication technology. The commercialization of the Internet through the World Wide Web (Web, WWW) service has had the advantages of bringing ICT to the ordinary people and to education. It is, indeed, this affordability and availability which has triggered the new generations techno-economic innovations in our society (Castells 1996). This development was boosted in 1993 when the graphical interface for WWW was introduced. Along with this development, the digitalization and convergence of other communication networks like telephone networks and digital broadcasting (TV and radio) took place. Now, about ten years later, there is no sector in our society where ICT has not changed the way we are operating.
What do we actually know about this change and how is the education system part of this change? Is current educational research in educational applications of ICT able to help us to solve new problems related to education and ICT? Do we have a correct map in our research for navigation so that we can find new “lands” for education with the help of ICT and avoid colliding with globalization?
ICT has also been seen as a driving force for globalization, which is changing the possibilities of citizens to influence their lives. According to Smith and Smythe (2002) this development is disempowering and empowering people and organizations at the same time, and is by no means homogenous in its effects. It has also divided the world into those who have and those who have not, information rich and information poor (Dutton et al. 1996, 399). The “digital divide” is not only dividing people in terms of the availability of ICT but also in terms of the availability of education and wealth. As part of this development, education systems all over the world are trying to cope with these changes and sometimes even trying to lead the change.
ICT is generally presumed to represent two important global dynamics: the shift from the use of materials as the key economic input (raw material) to the use of information (Castells 1996); and the change from the use of passive information to the use of active knowledge or symbolic/analytical information skills in economic processes (May, 2000). This means that knowing and learning has become one of the key factors in the process of globalization. Information is not only a goal for people any more but also a subject of trade (Aittola & Pirttilä 1989). This transformation is usually linked to the de-industrialization of the major developed economies and to discussions on the possibilities of this new mode of economic and social activity, the information society. (May 2000)
Unlike the rather deterministic globalization approach, the development can be seen as an explicitly developing and policy based approach at different levels of the education system. This approach is concerned with issues like equity of access (educational policy), curriculum relevance in technology (technology and technology education as subject), methodological development in technology (ICT and learning) and cultural sensitivity (cultural globalization) (Farrel 1999). According to Williams (1997 300), technology can be seen merely as a social product rather than a technology which is separate from society. Each step on the way to developing new technologies is connected to social, economic and political factors.
According to Kubicek & Dutton (1997) the technical development is usually supported with massive research and development programs initiated by ministries and research funding agencies, which aim at creating new ICT based services and business in our society. In the USA, former President Clinton’s government initiated the Information Highway policy in the NII (National Information Infrastructure) initiative in 1993, which challenged the European Union to compete with this initiative. More recently, for example the e-Europe program initiated by the European Commission promises the following:
“e-Europe is providing opportunities for people to participate in society and helping the workforce to acquire the skills needed in a knowledge-driven economy. It is bringing computers and the Internet into schools across the Union, bringing governments on-line and focusing attention on the need to ensure a safer online world.” (COM 2002, 3)
According to Alasuutari and Ruuska (1999, 17) these global processes can be understood only from the co-existence of the uncontrollable economic development, its cultural consequences and the policy-based development related to these phenomena. These processes are influencing the education system at the same time, but not necessarily in the same direction. Therefore it is important to analyze these different perspectives together in order to gain more comprehensive understanding of what kind of changes ICT is bringing along to the education system globally and at institutional and individual levels particularly.