This post explores analysis and findings in research literature that points to a need for more flexibility and attention to culture in the process of instructional design and integration of instructional technology in emerging economies.
In reflecting on a previously conducted survey, Zhang and Shin (2002) compare the open and distance education models of China, India and Hong Kong. This study considers types of courses, delivery methods, student demographics, including gender and access, funding and staffing. They also show that India’s flagship open learning institution (IGNOU) is primarily staffed by part-time adjunct faculty and that ICT initiatives lag behind the other two countries. These researchers conclude that the China’s program is indigenous and Hong Kong and India’s are imported.
In “Taking Ownership: Strengthening Indigenous Cultures and Languages Through the Use of ICTs” Lieberman (2003) considers the dynamics of using ICTs for the benefit of indigenous cultural causes. He develops this overview by starting from the broad perspective of the impact of globalization on indigenous cultures then narrowing his focus to the impact of ICTs. Though Lieberman acknowledges both actual and potentially negative consequences of ICTs on indigenous cultures, his aim in this article is to identify examples of positive initiatives and explore the potential for further use and benefits. He highlights indigenous culture ICT initiatives for community building, language revitalization, education, commerce and environmental protection and considers these initiatives with attention to policy, capacity building, usage and implementation. Throughout the article, Lieberman emphasizes the imperative of indigenous empowerment, self-determination and ideological sustainability in order to reach positive ends through ICTs.
Lieberman does not only focus on the use of ICTs in education, yet his examples of political and economic uses still lie in a form of education- the dissemination of information. By grounding his examples in the broader discussion of the impact of globalization and ICTs on indigenous cultures, Lieberman (2003) highlights some of the central questions about the socio-cultural implications of educational technology. Does widespread use of ICTs: Encourage homogenization of cultures? Replace indigenous forms of learning or the wisdom of tradition and elders? Reinforce detrimental economic hegemonies? His answer to these questions seems to be, “Possibly”; however, he states, “it is preferable to take a pro-active and culturally sensitive approach to technology introduction.” The argument he makes in this article is that 1) the use of ICTs is already widespread and inevitable, and 2) policies towards productive and positive uses of ICTs may mediate the potential for negative consequences.
In the context of higher-education, Ezer (2006) interviews faculty and students in India to get an impression of the attitudes towards ICTs and ICTs in education in India. Ezer explores what Indian faculty and students believe to be the purpose of ICT. In particular, he poses the question of whether ICT and ICT education should work towards the benefit of individuals or society. He lays the groundwork for his findings about attitudes towards ICT and ICT education by discussing the authority dependent roots of the educational system in India. He concludes that students and faculty show optimism about ICT and seem to have whole heartedly adopted the Western model of individualistic, rational and imperialistic success. He uses his conclusion to claim that this model does not follow Ghandian philosophy. Ezer’s research is particularly relevant to the case in this research because attitudes towards ICTs by faculty and students in India interact significantly with the purpose of the training program, the students’ experience in the training program and the potential market for the i3Dv product.
In a chapter on African Education Perspectives on Culture and E-learning Convergence, Kinuthia (2007) highlights the complexities of encountering culture in e-learning environments while stressing its importance as a factor in design decisions. Resistant to prescriptive models, she proposes acknowledgement of the multiple perspectives involved for “jointly-negotiated advances” in e-learning.
Research on distance education in the global context also provides insight from nations with developed economies, revealing the same need for attention to culture (Marchessou, 1999). For example, in a chapter for the Handbook of Distance Education reviewing literature on “Learning in a Global Society,” Visser (2007) characterizes cognition as a complex “ecological phenomenon” (p.641). He explores implications of global diversity on learning networks and discusses implications for interinstitutional collaboration. Albrechtsen, Mariger and Parker (2001) review the history and current trends of distance education in Europe and Japan and emphasize the challenges of language and cultural differences in Europe, calling it a “Babel effect” (p.109).
Albrechtsen, K., Mariger, H. & Parker, C. (2001). Distance Education and the Impact of
Technology in Europe and Japan. Educational Technology Research & Development, 49(3), 107-114.
Ezer, J. (2006). Gandhi’s third assassination: Information and communications technology education in India. Information Technology for Development, (12)3, 201-212.
Kinuthia, W. (2007). African Education Perspectives on Culture and E-learning Convergence. In A. Edmundson (Ed.) Globalized e-learning cultural challenges (pp. 60-72). Hershey, PA: Information Science Publishing.
Lieberman, A.E. (2003). Taking ownership: Strengthening indigenous cultures and languages through the use of ICTs. Retrieved February 11, 2008 from Learnlink website:
Marchessou, F. (2001). Some ethical concerns in ed-tech consultancies across borders. Educational Technology Research & Development, 48(4), 110-114.
Visser, J. (2007). Learning in a global society. In M. G. Moore (Ed.), Handbook of Distance Education (Second Edition ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.