The mounting use of information and communication technology (ICT) is observed as the process of social progression. Many commentators believe that ICT has the capability to transform the society into network society (Castells, 2005; Cardoso, 2005). They are the impetus for creation of knowledge society (Cardoso, 2005; Valimaa & Hoffman, 2008). The rapid dissemination of new technology will definitely have a broad impact on literacy and learning. For instance, the advent of printing press brought almost a revolutionary process in education. Similarly, it is believed ICT too will bring forth a tremendous change in education system (Warschauer, 2007).
Network societies created through the new technology has helped in creation of a secondary identity for users and when educators and teachers understand the extent of online content created by students and the profound range of competencies. The social identity of learners and educators in traditional knowledge dissemination process is well documented (Hughes & Oliver, 2010); however, the development of identity in the network society created for learners as well as educators remains unexploited. With the advent of network societies, learners and educators are increasingly associating themselves to learning communities through the Internet and it is an important theme for both the educators and researchers.
ICT has provided help to educators in many areas such as distance learning programs, library organization, knowledge sharing, etc. This paper undertakes an understanding of how this technology and the advent of network society are set to change the face of learning, education, and knowledge.
Before understanding the impact of advent of network society on education system, understanding the concept is important. It is believed that the sociability among individuals has changed greatly and that is not due to the advent of the Internet or new technology, but due to the appearance of “networked individualism” (Castells, 2005, p.12). Therefore, ICT has actually helped in emergence of a new form of individualism where people interact with one another on a self-selected network and depending on personal likes, dislikes, moods, and preferences (Castells, 2005). Therefore, as Castells (2005, p.12) defines network society as “a society of networked individuals.”
In a network society, it must be understood, that the arena of communication is not constricted to two individuals but also extends to the media through which the communication takes place. With advancement in technology, the social structure of technology-based communication has moved from mass communication to fragmented individualistic communication. As the new technology is less centralised, it allows greater degree of social communication (Castells, 2005).
The increasing advent of social networking websites like Facebook and MySpace are demonstrative of the social communication power of the new technology. The explosion of blogs, social networking, etc. is demonstrative of the self-initiated and steered social communication process that aids in horizontal communication. This new media has successfully created networked public space for interaction and creation of a knowledge society wherein socialized communication emerges. Therefore, the new technology has created networked states that help in creating a connection between individuals on a personal level even though there is an element of individualism in the process.
Education and Network Society
Since the 1990s the relatively fast diffusion of the Internet led to the discourse of “digital divide” (Meneses & Momino, 2010). As many in the society were deprived to adopt the full utilization of the new technology and consequent knowledge gap emerged, in the new millennium, there was a renewed interest to gradually diffuse ICT in society. Further, with this, there was a boom in the usage of personal computer and therefore the use of ICT in education.
As more and more individuals were connected through the new technology, there was a renewed need among educators and researchers to adopt the use of it in order to remain better informed. This new technology threw the educators and academicians at the throes of many problems. One such issue is the availability of information. The new technology made information available to all. Therefore the knowledge that was earlier available solely to the “elitist” academician has become available to all having access to the new technology (Dennison, 2009). Therefore, the main alteration that had to be done was in traditional form of knowledge making and verification of the same. The new technology has provided for a bigger public sphere for sharing and interchange of scientific knowledge (Dennison, 2009).
Websites like online encyclopaedias or Wikipedia where input of information and editing of it can be done by anyone. However, educators warn students against such unverified sources of information, but the sheer existence of such sites are interesting source of research for academicians.
Castells (2005) points out that the open knowledge provided by the internet to the all is a revolution in its own accord as this provides information openly to all. But he also advocates that one must not forget that these informations are not put by the technology. The technology creates network society that is ultimately individuals and these individual minds put in the knowledge (Castells, 2007). The appearance of the “mass self-communication” through SMS, e-mails, blogs, etc. due to the development of horizontal networks. As these mass communications largely are of personal nature and are targeted to their audience, these communications can be used in a different manner and in unknown ways (Castells, 2007).
As this mass self-communication is a self-directed communication and is received by those who intend to gather this information, is a source of power to both the giver and receiver (Castells, 2007). This becomes a source of individual expression and individual revolution as the new technology gives users the platform to communicate what they want to whom they want in any manner, thus creating an individual identity online. Therefore, the knowledge that is presented in the sites depends on the minds as to what information they want to impart rather than all the information to choose from. This is so because the networks are not programs created by the technology but are done by the individual minds, therefore making it to be the battle of minds.
This points out that the power of the technology lies in the hand of those who create the network in a network society. Applying the theory of hegemony by the Italian sociologist Gramsci in this aspect shows that in a traditional environment the educator had a superior control over the pupils as the former held hegemonic power over the latter (Dennison, 2009).
As schools help in making of these social groups, one must think of the change in the equation between students and teachers due to the advent of the new technology wherein, neither has an upper hand over the other. The use of blogging or social networks puts both in a platform where exchange of knowledge as equals is possible. Therefore, dissemination of knowledge no longer is in the hands of academic elites. Rather, it has been dispersed to a wider range of people who were in the receiving end in a traditional public sphere. Nevertheless, the new technology has created a network society that has transgressed the receivers to the end of givers along with the givers changing the power equation completely. Therefore, there is a tremendous link between network society and new education policy (Gamarnikow, 2009).
Educator-Student relationship in Network Society
There is a dramatic change in the traditional social structure as the sphere of interaction and transaction changed with the new technology. The network society has changed the arena of interaction between the students and teachers, and therefore raised a number of complexities for the traditional role.
Clearly, the change in the space of interaction and the system of imparting education calls for changes in the education policy (Stoer & Magalhães, 2004). As there are changes all over the education system due to the changes and openness of the new technology, education policy would aim to adopt the network society and mould its discourse accordingly rather than resist it. In this relation, much pedagogy has been altered or is undergoing changes.
In art education ICT and the network society has changed the social structure of transaction between the teachers and students (Sweeny, 2008). The visual culture has been transformed by the new technology through simulations and their interaction done online. This has created the need for a separate understanding of the visual culture among educators to impart art education to the students in the network society.
In secondary science education in the US, there is a surge of reform the teaching method. It is observed that a more student-centric and inquiry based pedagogy is more relevant in the present network society (Luehmann & Tinelli, 2008). It is believed that the like-minded reform oriented educators can meet in a space in the network society and deduce a method of changing the face of education in schools. Many advocate the digitization of the whole library nationwide in order to make more authentic sources of knowledge available to all (Harris, 2005). Therefore, these arguments advocate the use of network space as an alternative arena for knowledge transaction. However, there is an emergent counter argument to the use of the new technology. Therefore, the learner would also associate with the educator in designing the pedagogy (Dennison, 2009).
The new technology is believed would lead to commoditization of knowledge. Further, adoption of ICT for education dissemination has faced failures in many developing countries making it a risky affair (Brunello, 2010). Apart from this fear of commoditization, there is an increasing belief that the network society created would transform the way education is imparted (Warschauer, 2007). Digitized schools are the upcoming norm in the education arena where education is being disseminated with relative rate of success (Krumsvik, 2009). Increasingly digitized education in higher education too is becoming the norm.
However, the question here is not the adoption of the new technology, but the way it is affecting the traditional social structure within educational environment. to answer this question one must look into the change in power relation between a student and a teacher and the space of interaction between them. The traditional role of a teacher is changing, as she becomes more of a facilitator and not the ultimate disseminator of knowledge. As knowledge is easily available in the network society, there is need for teachers to validate these sources, and to direct the students to the right information. The power relation is changing as the space of social interaction changes.
Further, the network society has also changed the social, political, and economic relation of education with the rest of the world as education through the new technology has become a commodity ready to be marketed. Network society has brought forth immense changes to the education system in not only how education is imparted but in the traditional roles and relations within the system.
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