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Social Factors of Education

Social Factors of Education

12 February, 2016

There are some issues about the lack of connection between the school environment and the real-life experience.

Formal education confronts children with many demands that are not a regular or frequent characteristic of their everyday experience outside the classroom. The practice of education confronts children with meaningful and necessary discontinuities in their intellectual, social and linguistic experiences (Wood, D., 1995).

However, according to Bernstein children from ´the middle class´ social background find it easier to accommodate to the school system than ´the working class´ one, because of the language and social norm of the school serve better their comprehension. David Wood (1995) does not agree with Bernstein in this respect he says: “..it is a mistake to think of schooling simply a preserve of one social group. It is not, I suggest, profitably seen as a ´middle-class´  institution, for example.  It may well be populated by adults from such social backgrounds, but simply viewing school as a continuation of experiences that are typical of one social group is, I believe, a gross oversimplification.  Such a view ignores and belies the many specific demands that are ´special´ to schooling.  Put it another way, schools have a culture of their own”.

At different time and in different part of the world teachers have had the role of being distributors of literacy, guardians of culture, vicars of morality, architects of the ´good citizen´  and agents of the Gods.  In more recent times, schools have been allocated the task of achieving social equality, overcoming material disadvantage and eradicating prejudice. Teachers and instructional designer need to be capable of diagnosing the needs of the individual learner and know how to meet these when discovered (Wood, D., 1995). The technological developments in recent years have equipped teacher and instructional designers with more variety of tools to meet this new era, but the underlying theories of instructions must be an addition to the use of the tools.

Some future perspectives in educational technology

When reading through the literature concerning educational technology and instructional design the development in information technology and communication technology is of a great importance.

Reigeluth (1996) feels the most significant new directions for research in educational technology include advancing the instructional prescriptions should be:

1)   Facilitating understanding, generic skills application, and affective learning,

2)   Utilizing the unique capabilities of new technologies,

3)    Structuring and sequencing a course or curriculum,

4)   Selecting mediational systems,

5)   Designing instructional-management systems, and

6)   Motivating learners.

Other vital new directions include:

7)   Developing expert systems as job aids for, or even replacements for, instructional designers, and

8)   Providing more help to the public schools, especially by applying systems thinking to the design of structural features that are more appropriate for the educational needs of an information society.

The argument for why we should want to introduce technology into education is often that “We should want to prepare workers for the competitive global economy” (Kerr, 1996, p.7). Educational technology is almost everywhere discussed in terms of method, which is seen as having direct effects that are meaningful to national purposes or the formation of citizens able to contribute in specific ways to the society and the economy (Kerr, 1996).

The changes occurring today are the courses of new way of looking how the curriculum works, with new demands from the economic. M. Young (1996) talks about it in the article  “A curriculum for the twenty-first century”.  He points out the division between the academic and vocational curriculum and takes the curriculum of English and Wales system of post-compulsory education and training as an example of “a highly industrialised country which combines low participation, deep social class divisions and a curriculum which, structurally, has changed little in a half a century or more” (p.107).  He refers to the academic/vocational system and says it is “characterised by a continuing cleavage between social classes, a deeply divided system of qualifications, and a narrow and elitist academic curriculum” (p.108).  He argues that the existing curriculum needs to adopt to new emphasis from the economic sector.

The productivity of industrial capitalism up to the middle of this century rested on the division between mental and manual labour as the professional engineers and managers designed systems of manufacture which depended less and less on skills and knowledge of the majority of employees.  This system became the most productive one that the world had ever witnessed and specialisation was applied to more and more areas of manufacturing and services.  It is this system of production and its dominant form of divisive specialisation that is under challenge from systems that depend on maximising the innovative contribution of all employees.  There are two courses for these changes: the globalisation of economies and the massive growth in the potential for competition that goes with it, and the transformative potential of information-based technologies (Young, M. 1996).  Young uses the term connect specialisation when he talks about a new way to go beyond the traditional forms of divisive specialisation.

“..connective specialisation is concerned with the links between combination of knowledge and skill in the curriculum and wider democratic and social goals.  At the individual level it refers to the need for an understanding of the social, cultural, political and economic implications of any knowledge or skill in its context, and how, through such a concept of education, an individual can learn both specific skills and knowledge and the capacity to take initiatives, whatever their specific occupation or position” (p.121).

Young identifies the current curriculum in England and Wales as:

° sharp academic/vocational divisions;

° insulated subjects;

° absence of any concept of the curriculum as a whole.

He suggests a curriculum which has:

° breadth and flexibility;

° connection between both core and specialist studies and general (academic)

and applied (vocational) studies;

° opportunities for progression and credit transfer;

° a clear sense of the purpose of the curriculum as a whole.

Modifying a curriculum depends on the future vision of politic and economic, whether the society will be based on mass production or flexible specialisation.

The question about how the computer technology will influence learning and instructional design is often asked.  Salomon and Perkins talk about it in their article “Learning in Wonderland: What Do Computers Really Offer Education?”  They recognise two things;

“First, computers in and of themselves do little to aid learning.  Their presence in the classroom along with relevant software does not automatically inspire teachers to rethink their teaching or students to adopt new modes of learning…..Second, it has also become evident that no single task or activity, wondrous as it may be, affects learning in any profound and lasting manner in and of itself. Rather it is the whole culture of learning environment, with or without computers, that can affect learning in important ways (Salomon, Perkins 1996, p.113).

It is looking at what learning demands not what technology can do which is the best way of seeing the potential contribution of technology (Kozma, 1994).  The new paradigm based on the cognitive and constructive learning and goes together with the new ideas about the curriculum which Young suggested, make us think about how we can accomplish it with information technology.  Computers are a prime tool in accomplishing learner in what Young called connect specialisation. For instance, computers and attendant resources such as CD-ROMS or network- accessible databases can provide quickly accessible and efficiently searchable information resources.  Through E-mail, computers can support a social network beyond the limits of the classroom.  In a number of ways computers might enable the kind of cognition and interaction called for by connect specialisation and the design of learning environments that foster these processes.  These environments which call for a networking conception and allow it to play out are varied, although  sharing  basic attributes.  Learning is driven by real-life problems and calls for genuine and purposeful knowledge construction and design, thus inviting understanding performances and high level thinking.  Formulating and posing a question play a central role shifting the focus from knowledge recitation to knowledge gathering, selecting, and arranging.

“The information collected for the solution of a problem or the design of some entity is very often multidisciplinary, affording the creation of understanding as networks of meaningful connection, as well as mindful (“high road”) cross-domain transfer. It is a process based on team work and collaboration, with its joint appropriation of meaning, its opportunity for internalizing other-regulated learning so that becomes self-regulation, and its facilitation of the social distribution of thinking.  And it is a process aided by a variety of high level technical tools for design, communication, information retrieval, and simulation, which enable the realization of a networking pedagogy while serving as the stage on which it can be usefully played out” (Salomon, Perkins 1996, p.125).

These new features of learning can be found in many pioneering projects and illustrate how instructional uses of technology can be justified on psychological and pedagogical grounds that are independent of technology.

Today’s technologies allow the realisation of new styles of pedagogy.  But, according to Salmon and Perkins, technology is more that just the means of making a pedagogical dream come true; often the dream is influenced by what the technology affords, thus leading to the modification of the rationale. The easy asses with technology to vast bodies of information, libraries, databases, archives, discussion groups, and bulletin boards, seems to affect our conception of knowledge.  For if all these information are so accessible and easy to gather and manipulate by technology, it may well be that knowledge stored in students’ minds is less valid today than in the past.

Salomon and Perkins refer to March that has argued that the real change in education will take place only when our conception of knowledge changes.  They also refer to Herbert Simon who has suggested that such a change  occurs once we come to perceive the concept of knowledge not as a noun denoting possession but a verb denoting access:  knowledge as a process of accessing and manipulating, not as a matter of “having” or not “having” it.  According to Salmon and Perkins this theoretical change, encouraged as it is by new technological possibilities, has important ramifications for the rationale introduced earlier.  Technology not only helps to translate the rationale into practice but has also triggered the development of that rationale.