Enhancing Educational Outcomes and Promoting Social Inclusion Through Technology - Essay Sample

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1659 Words
Date:  2023-03-28


This paper provides a critical overview of current policy efforts to use technologies to enhance educational outcomes and promote social inclusion in education. Using the UK as an example the paper identifies two trends in current policymaking, i.e. i) educational provision focussed policies which seek to use technologies to promote equality educational opportunities and outcomes; and ii) technological access focussed policies which seek to use education to ensure social inclusion in terms of technological opportunities and outcomes. Through a discussion of the social, economic and cultural limitations of these approaches the paper considers a number of issues which lie at the heart of more effective technology and education in the future

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This paper - as the symposium as a whole - is rooted in the premise that there is a pressing need for policymakers to respond to ICT use in twenty-first century society. It is important to recognise from the outset that this need is social, economic, cultural and political as well as technological. We live in a fast-changing 'runaway world' where the social, economic, cultural and political foundations of society are being redefined on a continual basis (Giddens 2000). The much heralded globalisation of society is now manifested in a variety of ways, such as an apparent acceleration of time, shrinking of space and reconfiguration of social relations along international lines. Although traditional structures such as the nation-state retain a significant importance in the governance of society, their influence is increasingly being challenged by other entities such as the transnational corporation. Most commentators agree that this recasting of social relations is borne not only of economic, cultural and political changes but also of the changing technological world in which we are living. This is perhaps most clear in the rise of the information society and the attendant knowledge economy, where the production, management and consumption of information and knowledge are seen to now be at the core of economic productivity and societal development. Clearly, one of the key accelerators of these new forms of society and economy has been the rapid development of new telecommunications and computerised technologies over the past three decades. The global flows of data, services and people which characterise the global knowledge economy have been underpinned by information and communications technology (ICT). From e-commerce to e-learning, ICTs such as the internet and other global telecommunications systems are major conduits through which contemporary society is acted out.

This technology-based reconfiguration has been evident in the transformation of most, if not all, areas of society over the past decade. Employment, education, health, welfare, politics, leisure and entertainment all now take place in ways and in locations which would have been unimaginable a generation ago, often with technology at their heart. Of course, we should be wary of seeing these developments as heralding a total transformation of society. Many of these 'online' developments replicate rather than replace existing 'offline' practices and activities (Woolgar 2002). Yet one noticeable shift has been the increasingly decentred and individualised nature of life in this globalised, networked, knowledge-focused world. Free to live beyond the confines of the nation-state, local community or family, the onus is placed on the individual citizen to make their way in the world. For some commentators these changes are wholly beneficial, 'freeing' societies and their citizens from the interference of the nation-state and other regulatory bodies and allowing the (re)distribution of services and wealth along more efficient and market-driven lines (see Stromquist 2002).

Whilst the globalised nature of contemporary society can prove empowering for some individuals and groups, it also undeniably has led to increased fragmentation, marginalisation and dis-empowerment. The global opportunities of the twenty-first century such as low cost air travel and deregulation of international trade barriers belie the persistence and reinforcement of many distinctly twentieth century inequalities, limited opportunities and social problems. Whereas some individuals benefit from their new-found agency, others fare less well from being decoupled from the familiar anchors of the welfare state, nuclear family and so on. We cannot afford to see contemporary society as offering homogenous benefits for all. Individuals, groups, organisations and countries can be as connected or isolated, as advantaged or disadvantaged in the globalised technology-driven age as before. Crucially these inequalities are also being reconfigured along different lines - in particular within as well as between social groups.

New Practices for New Times?

Whilst debate rages over whether society in the early twenty-first century is necessarily better or worse than before, we can be certain that we are experiencing a different form of society. In particular the changes outlined above imply a vast set of expected new practices and ways of operating within a less linear, structured and predictablelogic of society. In education individuals are expected to now learn different skills and knowledges in different ways as their situation dictates. Regardless of their age or stage of prior education, individuals are expected to cast themselves as lifelong learners, willing and able to engage with learning as and when appropriate throughout the life-course. This can involve learning through formal educational institutions, remote learning, or learning from others in non-formal and informal settings. Some educational opportunities will be personalised and tailored to the individual's needs and requirements, whilst others will take the form of mass instruction. The notion of 'finishing one's education' at the age of 16, 18 or 21 years is now a thing of the past. These educational changes mirror changes in the world of work where the expectation of a 'job for life' has long passed. An individual's employability is seen to rest on their ability to adapt to different demands and circumstances on a 'just-in-time' basis. Employees are expected to be flexible in their working practices - operating when and where required, as opposed to clocking-in from nine-to-five in the same location. Practices such as remote teleworking, video-conferencing and flexi-time are now common features of the workplace.

All of these new practices and 'ways-of-being' imply a revised set of expected competencies and abilities which are required if one is to be an 'effective' and successful member of society. In a physical sense, individuals are required to be more mobile now than ever before (Urry 2000). Alongside the basic skills of numeracy and literacy, individuals are required to develop different forms of information and technological literacies (Bawden 2001). Successfully negotiating the ever-changing opportunities and choices on offer requires the development of a capacity for constant self-evaluation and self-awareness (Beck-Gernsheim 1996). The successful individual is therefore required to be reflective and reflexive, building upon and learning from past experiences and reacting to new opportunities and circumstances. Crucially ICT is seen to be an integral element of these new ways-of-being, playing important roles in underpinning an individual's reflexive judgement and social action. The life of the reflexively modern individual is likely to be bound up with an array of technological possibilities from mobile-phone based communication to the online sharing of information. Through these technologically-facilitated channels, reflexivity is therefore "no longer about distanciated decision-making [now] there is no distance at all between knowledge and action" (Lash 2002, p.156). Of course many of the competencies seen as essential to contemporary life - such as communication, reflexivity, team-work, adaptability and so on - are underpinned by decidedly non-technological practices and contexts. Nevertheless, the fact remains that ICTs provide an integral context for these actions. Whilst ICT use is certainly not a pre-requisite to surviving in twenty-first century society, it is almost certainly an integral element of thriving in twenty-first century society. For many commentators, this is felt to nowhere to be more applicable than in the area of education and learning.

Using Technologies to Promote Social Inclusion in Education: The UK Policy Approach

The use of technologies to enhance educational outcomes and promote social inclusion in education takes two main forms. Firstly, is the use of technologies to promote social inclusion in terms of educational opportunities and outcomes.ICTs have long been promoted as a particularly apposite means of allowing citizens to play active roles in enhancing educational prospects and, crucially, offering ways in which 'previously marginalised' individuals "might better participate" in education (Schofield Clark 2003, p.98). All told, "intrinsically equitable, decentralised and democratic" forms of education (Graham 2002, p.35) are anticipated by many commentators, with individuals - especially young people - technologically re-positioned at its core rather than periphery. Secondly, though, is the use of education to ensure social inclusion in terms of technological opportunities and outcomes. IN this sense educational institutions such as schools, colleges, libraries and museums are used to provide access to ICTs, which training in technology skills and expertise are seen to provide individuals with the information literacy required to make the most of ICTs

In this UK there has been more than a decade's worth of policy attempts to address these two issues. Perhaps most prevalent has been policies seeking to use of education to ensure social inclusion in terms of technological opportunities and outcomes. Such policy drives have been usually built around the increased resourcing of public and municipal institutions such as schools, libraries and community centres, the development of formal computer education and support programmes, and even the subsidising of IT equipment purchases by those on low incomes. In terms of policies based around learners' ICT use in educational institutions, the UK has witness a sustained agenda of policymaking throughout since 1998. In practical terms, then, New Labour can claim rightly to have made an unprecedented and sustained political commitment to technology in education since 1998. This is perhaps most evident in their deployment of over PS5 billion of funding towards schools ICT infrastructure alone. Most notably the schools sector was subject to the 1998 to 2002 'National Grid for Learning' initiative and associated NOF-funded teacher training programme. Post compulsory and adult education was subject to a range of initiatives from the University for Industry and associated learndirect programme. These flagship initiatives were complemented by a succession of smaller programmes and schemes - such as the provision of laptop computers to head teachers and 'PCs for P...

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Enhancing Educational Outcomes and Promoting Social Inclusion Through Technology - Essay Sample. (2023, Mar 28). Retrieved from https://proessays.net/essays/enhancing-educational-outcomes-and-promoting-social-inclusion-through-technology-essay-sample

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