|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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There is no doubt that the research on ICT integration in education is a multidisciplinary research area. The evidence for this comes from the notion that the change of education as an institution is framed by globalization and the information society as we have learned in previous sections. The observations that the research area may be incoherent in terms of the change in the focus of the research and even the research paradigm (Wills, Thompson, Sadera 1999, 30; Driscoll, Dick 1999) means that different disciplines may exist on the research field side by side, maintaining their distinctiveness, but not forming any shared understanding of the area. The research, which tries to integrate the multiple disciplines to effectively form a new unified discipline or approach, is defined as an interdisciplinary research (Kostoff 2002).
Science can be described as a technique of agreements (Hayakawa 2001). In interdisciplinary research a semantic agreement on the nature of the research target is a prerequisite for collective research. It is essential to understand that all research objects are theoretically and culturally laden, thus each piece of research differs in terms of theoretical intentions and may have pure aims of basic research. It seems to appear that in research on ICT and education, the same concepts can be understood differently and different concepts sometimes mean the same thing. Different approaches like instructional technology, educational technology, media education, technology education, information systems research, etc. are bringing their own conceptual definitions into the common research area. It is obvious that applied research and development would benefit more from the interdisciplinary research, starting from a common conceptual understanding of the practical problems in the education system.
The problem with recent analytical research on researching these phenomena has been that it tends to reduce the system to its elementary elements in order to study in detail and understand the types of interaction that exist between them. By modifying one variable at a time, it tries to infer general laws that will enable one to predict the properties of a system under very different conditions (de Rosnay, 1979). This has lead to confusion among researchers, designers, teachers and evaluators in defining the essential elements and research domains of these technical environments that should be considered in research and development work (Pea et. al. 1999).
The elements of research are usually defined two-dimensionally from an instructional design point of view. For example, Kozma (2000, 14) suggests that understanding the relationship between media (meaning ICT) design and learning should be the unique contribution of this research to education. These two dimensions have been represented quite well in recent research and development. Technology is also often considered to be a neutral tool rather than an active component that enables or influences the educational processes. It has been also typical that cultural and organizational aspects have been ignored or considered as a context for the individual learners, not as an environment in which we are living, or a social system with which we are interacting. Of course there are some signals that the field may be changing. Richey (2000) claims, for example, that in discussions related to learning environments there is now a tendency to broaden this research area to organizational problems and social issues too.
Eraut (1989) affirmed long ago that educational technology necessarily involves social and political processes too. This social dimension of education, the cultural and organizational aspects, is neglected quite often in the research on learning environments and instructional technologies. When this dimension is mentioned, it is usually referred to as a context for the learning process (e.g. social constructionism) or socio-economical issues like cost effectiveness of ICT based learning environments in an organization context. According to Pulkkinen and Ruotsalainen (2001) the basic considerations of ICT integration in education consist of at least learning, technology and culture (in meaning of organizational and institutional and cultural aspects) theories, which can connect the research also in the different ontological dimensions of reality. Namely, in comparison with Luhmann’s dimensions of temporal, physical and social dimensions, we can see that in context of ICT integration in education learning theories corresponds with Luhmann’s temporal dimension being an application of psychology, technology as research domain is close to physical dimension being an application of natural science and culture can be seen as a synonym for social containing of aspects of organization and institution.
If we summarize the previous contextual analysis of current practice, research and development in ICT integration in education from the research domain point of view (methods, theories and philosophies) the research area is complex and multidisciplinary but have some common aspects that makes the research domain recognizable. In this research the core of the research field of ICT integration in education is seen in the intersections of the following three research domains: Learning, technology and social.
There are many different research issues and problems to be studied depending on the level of the education system and the research interest of the researcher. It is notable, according to the systemic understanding of education, that changes at any level of the communicative system have an impact on other levels of the system (sub-systems) and also on other communicative systems in our society. The changes in the environment of the system and the other social communicative systems will influence the education system. Research considering only one research domain of the communicative system in education, or one theoretical viewpoint, will never attain an understandable picture of the reality of ICT in education.
In the research field of ICT integration in education some intersections of the overlapping research domains or some of the research orientations or paradigms can, of course, be dominate research and development of practices, as is the case with other educational research areas (Pezza, 1993). The dominating structures in the research (knowledge structures, methodological structures or other structures in the field of study) usually define what we can research but also what we cannot. An analysis of current research and its structures can help us to see these logical “blind spots” and alternative research views on the research target. It can also show us alternative ways of defining the ontological nature of the research target. Without a holistic view of the research phenomena, it is difficult to see where there is a need for further research.
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