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Activity Theory Presentation TIELAB


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Quick overview of activity theory as a framework for investigating educational technology innovation

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Activity Theory Presentation TIELAB

  1. 1. Activity Theory Analysing technology mediated learning in social context Michael Paskevicius
  2. 2. The evolution of activity theory Origins • Vygotsky's notion of mediation • Triangular model of complex mediated act, triad of subject, object, mediating artefact – The limitation of the first generation was that the unit of analysis remained individually focused
  3. 3. Leont'ev’s contribution (1981) • Leont'ev introduced the crucial differentiation between individual action and collective activity • Considered historically evolving division of labor impacting activity • Defined the hierarchical structure of activity – The limitation of the second generation was not explicitly taking into account cultural diversity
  4. 4. Yrjö Engeström (1987) • Expansion of the basic Vygotskian model to include the social/collective elements in an activity system • Elements of community, rules, division of labour and object • Emphasises the importance of considering and analysing these elements interactions with each other
  5. 5. Yrjö Engeström (1987) • Subjects are the individual or group whose viewpoint is adopted. • Object “refers to the ‘raw material’ or ‘problem space’ at which the activity is directed and which is molded or transformed into outcomes. It precedes and motivates activity. • Tools mediate the object of activity. They can be external, material (e.g., a textbook, a computer) or internal, symbolic (e.g., language). • Community refers to the participants of an activity system, who share the same object. • The division of labour involves the division of tasks and roles among members of the community and the divisions of power and status. • Rules are explicit and implicit norms that regulate actions and interactions within the system
  6. 6. Yrjö Engeström (2014) • Networks of interacting activity systems
  7. 7. Five principles of activity theory Hierarchical structure of activity Object-orientedness Internalization/externalization Mediation Development
  8. 8. Object-orientedness • “Any activity of an organism is directed at a certain object; an objectless activity is impossible” (Leont'ev, 1981) • Suggests we seek an understanding not only of what people are doing, but also why they are doing it (Kaptelinin, 2005)
  9. 9. Hierarchical structure of activity • Activity - motivating object carried out by the community - regulated by motives • Action - action level goals carried out by individuals or groups - regulated by goals • Operation - operational conditions become routinized by humans or machines - regulated by conditions
  10. 10. Internalization/externalization • Internalization - transformation of external activities into internal ones • Externalization - transforms internal activities into external ones
  11. 11. Mediation • Human activity is mediated by tools which have socially and culturally developed properties (Kaptelinin & Nardi, 1997). • The use of tools is an accumulation and transmission of social knowledge • Tool use influences the nature of external behavior and also the mental functioning of individuals (Wartofsky 1979 quoted in Russell, 2002). • The learning of higher cognitive functions are necessarily mediated using tools, while lower elementary functions are innate Image from Ng'ambi, D. (2010) Mobile Learning in Africa: a case of anonymous SMS
  12. 12. Development • Activity is a key source of development of both the subject and the object • Activities change over time through systemic contradictions leading to transformation and expansion • “An expansive transformation is accomplished when the object and motive of the activity are reconceptualized to embrace a radically wider horizon of possibilities than in the previous mode of the activity”. (Engeström, 2001, p. 137)
  13. 13. Applications of AT: Contradictions within activity systems The teachers' absence in the [online] discussion conflicted with learners' expectations in two ways: their learning process was severely inhibited on the net and both their individual and group work was seriously impaired. Since there was no interlocutor for student questions, no discussion partner or any online guidance, etc., the students felt abandoned by their teacher and this led to a loss of confidence in them. (Dippe, 2006) “The introduction of the computer as a tool has required a new division of labour due in part to the novelty of the tool but also due to the fact that the teacher is unable to assist all students with the computer tasks. Hence, students have become teachers of other students.” (Hardman, 2005)
  14. 14. Applications of AT: Describing activity systems Exploring systems of activity around the creation of open education resources and how they expand potential outcomes
  15. 15. Applications of AT: Exploring how objects become tools Exploring how outcomes related to one system of activity may be used as tools for other systems of activity
  16. 16. Adapted from Murphy & Manzanares, 2008 Applications of AT: Comparing systems of activity Comparing systems of activity which draw upon different tools and environments for the purpose of understanding systemic changes
  17. 17. Applications of AT: Comparing systems of activity Comparing systems of activity which aim for different objects for the purpose of understanding systemic changes Bozalek, V., Ng’ambi, D., Wood, D., Herrington, J., Hardman, J., & Amory, A. (Eds.). (2014).
  18. 18. Discussion
  19. 19. References • Blin, F., & Munro, M. (2008). Why hasn’t technology disrupted academics’ teaching practices? Understanding resistance to change through the lens of activity theory. Computers & Education, 50(2), 475-490. • Bozalek, V., Ng’ambi, D., Wood, D., Herrington, J., Hardman, J., & Amory, A. (Eds.). (2014). Activity Theory, Authentic Learning and Emerging Technologies: Towards a Transformative Higher Education Pedagogy. Routledge. • Daniels, H., Edwards, A., Engeström, Y., Gallagher, T., & Ludvigsen, S. R. (Eds.). (2013). Activity theory in practice: Promoting learning across boundaries and agencies. Routledge. • Dippe, G. (2006). The missing teacher: Contradictions and conflicts in the experience of online learners. Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Networked Learning 2006. Lancaster: Lancaster University. • Engeström, Y. (1987). Learning by expanding: An activity-theoretical approach to developmental research. Helsinki: Orienta-Konsultit. • Engeström, Y. (2001). Expansive Learning at Work: Toward an Activity-theoretical Conceptualization. Journal of Education and Work, 14(1), pp. 133-156. • Engeström, Y. (2014). Learning by expanding. Cambridge University Press. • Hardman, J. (2005). An exploratory case study of computer use in a primary school mathematics classroom: New technology, new pedagogy? Perspectives in Education, 23(4), 99-111. • Kaptelinin, V., & Nardi, B. A. (1997, March). Activity theory: basic concepts and applications. In CHI'97 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 158-159). ACM. • Kaptelinin, V. (2005). The object of activity: Making sense of the sense-maker. Mind, culture, and activity, 12(1), 4-18
  20. 20. References • Kaptelinin, V., & Nardi, B. A. (2006). Acting with technology: Activity theory and interaction design. MIT Press. • Murphy, E. & Rodriguez-Manzanares, M. (2014). Activity Theory perspectives on technology in higher education. Hershey, Pennsylvania: IGI Global. • Murphy, E., & Manzanares, M. A. R. (2008). Contradictions between the virtual and physical high school classroom: A third‐generation Activity Theory perspective. British Journal of Educational Technology, 39(6), 1061-1072. • Murphy, E., & Rodriguez-Manzanares, M. A. (2008). Using activity theory and its principle of contradictions to guide research in educational technology. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 24(4), 442-457. • Russell, D. (2002). Looking beyond the interface: Activity theory and distributed learning. Distributed learning: Social and cultural approaches to practice, 64-82. • Saljo, R. (1999). A sociocultural perspective on the human-technology link. Learning with computers: Analysing productive interaction, 144.
  21. 21. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.. To view a copy of this license, visit Prepared by: Michael Paskevicius Learning Technologies Application Developer Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning Follow me: Presentations: