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H809: Activity 9.2 - 9.4. Unscrambling the presumptions of research in e-learning educational practice

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 20 Oct 2014, 08:07

Activity Theory (AT) according to various authors .... , supposes a quest to solve a problem, an 'activity theorist' looking at certain kinds of research, understanding activity system as being driven by outcomes, would therefore annotated the six nodes of the AT pyramid with this in mind.

Fig. 1. Activity Theory (Engestrom, 2008)

In contrast, considering the same subject of research, a sociologist would be inclined to look for power structures.

In turn how might a management consultant, or psychologist approach this? And in relation to H809 and the MAODE, how differently would someone educated in each of the following theories approach the same subject matter: behaviourism, cognitivism, constructivism and connectedness?

The suggestion that the theory behind a piece of research or OER from H809 TMA02 predisposes a specific research response is like having an undefined medical problem. In turn each specialist offers a view based on the narrow perspective of their specialism.

By way of example, with sinus/earache like symptoms from which I have always 'suffered' I in turn visit a neurologist, immunologist and dentist. I discover from each in turn that I must be depressed/stressed, have an allergic response to something, need a tooth filled/crowned. In turns out that I have a pronounced response to house dust mite and due to physical damage to a channel in one part of the maxillary sinus it doesn't drain so the slightest infection, a mild cold, will cause inflamation and pain. The response that works is primarily preventative with self-medication of prescription pain relief at a dosage that works - co-codomol and occassional antibiotics. (The above over a 33 year period of investigations that included several other excitable consultants who each in turn gleefully hoped that I might have a very rare condition X or Y that they would investigate).

Just as medical specialists are inclined to come at a situation with too narrow a perspective, so too can we when wishing to study, in a learning situation, what is going on ... in there (the brains of each student) and externally, the context and situation of the 'learning' that they are doing (or having done to them).

Reference

Conole, G., and Oliver, M. (eds.) (2008) Contemporary perspective in e-learning research. Themes, Methods and Impacts on Practice.

Engestrom, Y (2008) From Teams to Knots

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H810 - How to turn 13 issues into 3 for our End of Module Assignment

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 6 Jan 2013, 21:13

Courtesy of browsing through my own and two other tutor groups, and looking at the lists produced by a couple of student friends who did H810 in 2010 and 2011 I've developed this 'long list' of 13 issues. I wanted to eliminate concepts and models, which were distracting me. I struggled repeatedly to get these in any order until I did two things:

1) put the issues into my context, knowing the set up and people, what could or would result in something happening for the better in relation to delivering any learning, let alone accessible e-learning for those for whom there are barriers from a variety of known impairments or disabilities

2) create a table of all 13 issues and compare one to the other as less or more important IN MY CONTEXT.

My chosen context is the coaching and teaching of swimming in the UK - with e-learning available for teachers, coaches, club officials, parents and athletes.

I particularly want to thank Simon Carrie who has my point 3 as his first issue - I hadn't given it a moment's thought but in my context, and no doubt in the context of most of us, it cearly is very important - people and tools cost time and money.

(The ones I am likely to pick for the EMA are highlighted - skewed by the needs and practices of my chosen context)

1 Objecti(ive) - The importance of and scoping of the objective as means to an outcome
2 Subject - Significance or role of the subject (student/lecturer) User Centred Design. Involve users in the design.
3 Incentives - Incentives to invest
4 Universal Design - Universal Design/Equity
5= Novice 2 Expert - The role of the novice to learn, participate and develop expertise.
5= Framework for change - A framework for change - An Activity Systems as a model for analysis and action
7 Tools - Role of tools - assistive, web pages, equipment and 'design for all'.
8 Contradictions - Contradictions , conflicts of problems with the actions between components of a recognised activity system
9= Rules - The role of rules (legalese and guidelines) - informal and formal
9= History - What the history of such efforts says about what should be done next and what can be achieved in the future.
11= Division of labour - Division of labour - who is responsible, who is the broker?
11= Community - The community as a ‘community of practices’ or a constellation of connections that engage and participate.
13 Game-like - Game-like play between institutions

What are your thoughts? In your context? How would you prioritise or word these issues? Are there more still (probably).

The two other contexts that interest me are from the point of view of an e-learning agency and from a client point of view.

For the latter - Object(ive) as everyone works to the brief once this is written with clear objectives, universal design for those for whom design as an expressions of creativity and problem solving is important. Tools as agencies are expected to come up with a 'clever' technical response. Framework for change - as in a consultancy capacity the agency will be expected to offer some actionable plan.

For the former - Incentives (as performance Improvement), Rules (legal and mission compliance) and division of labour (who does what) are likely to be significant.

 

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A note here on the learning process and the online learning experience

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 12 Jan 2013, 13:33

I'm still thinking this through so share it here - actually I'm finding support from fellow MAODErs who did H810 in 2010 and 2011 as our tutor group is so exceptionally quiet sad.

I've also been following other tutor groups and can't wonder why some of these groups weren't merged some time ago for the benefit of all - putting us in silos isn't working, which shows the lack of flexibility in this 'system'. One caveat, I know from past experience that there will always be some who care to be more active online than others - I recall being part of one tutor group where some six of the 12 were highly engaged online on other platforms anyway so that anything any of us posted was immediately picked up by the others.

Just a note here on the learning process and the online learning experience

Having the opportunity to share thoughts, get it wrong, be corrected, think through the complexities and come to your own conclusions is surely a vital part of learning online? Indeed, using tools such as this, the blog ... and the wiki are what differentiates online learning in 2012/2013 compared to distance learning of a decade ago or more when you got a box of books and DVDs through the post with some instructions on what to read and when to hand in an essay. (Decades ago I've had a file insert sent in the post each month, or an audio cassette - self-directed learning requiring a huge amount of will power).

So, for anyone who wishes to consider why some issue are more important than others, and to clarify the difference between an issue, a model or a concept, here are my thoughts on what to take from Chapters 11,12 and 13.

Having cut out the duplications and overlaps and categorised the 'issues' I can only find ten. I would have thought one way or another THREE can be selected for the EMA from these. The next step is to rank them. I've loaded these into a table and cross-referenced each. I could write 500 words on each - the problems is to write 1800 or so on each of three.

From Chapter 11

1 Game-like play between institutions
2 Investment
3  The role of rules  (legalese and guidelines) - informal and formal


From Chapter 12

4  Role of tools
5 Significance  or role of the subject (student/lecturer)
6 The importance of and scoping of the objective as means to an outcome.
X Rules (see above)
X Community (see below)
7 Contradictions , conflicts of problems with the actions requires between components of  a recognised activity system
8  The role of the novice  to learn, participate and develop expertise.
9 What the history of  such efforts says about  what should be done next and what can be achieved in  the future.


From Chapter 13

10  The community  as a ‘community of practices’ or a constellation of connections that engage and participate.

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H810 Using an Activity System to improve accessibility to e-learning by students with disabilities.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 20 Dec 2012, 09:45

 

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Fig.1. The consequences of an activity system - loads of action. Here a tutor group over a period of 27 weeks. 'Activity' is represented by messages in a tutor forum. H810 is an Open University postgraduate course in Education. Technology-enhanced learning: practices and debates

Visualizing actions between people, concepts and things required more than words - models and metaphor start to create meaning.

Why use any model?

A model should be a well-founded visual simplification of an aspect of a complex reality that communicates its concept clearly, is based on thorough research, and is easily shared for feedback and review. Users should find that a model, like an experiment, is repeatable so that in time a body of work including case studies and a critique of the model builds credibility. A conceptual model such as an Activity System is ‘particularly useful when one wants to make sense of systemic factors behind seemingly individual and accidental disturbances, deviations, and innovations occurring in the daily practices of workplaces’. Engeström (2008:27)

Conole and Oliver (2011) mention four levels of description:

1. Flat vocabulary
2. More complex vocabulary
3. Classification schemas or models
4. Metaphors

The vocabularly is inevitable, though talking this through to an audience would be my prefered approach, so that with engagement reponse is invited. The models used here, from Vyogtsy and Leon'tev to Engestrom may appear familiar and set - they not. There is a group that likes to see everything 'triangulated' - diamonds and stars, though evident in the literature on education - maybe akin to complex rather than plain language. From models we move to various metaphors - and you are certain to have your own. While Engeström himself moves on to ideas of 'knotworking' and fluid, organic representations.

Engeström (1987) took a current model - that of Vygotsky (1978) and made it his own and has since offered a metaphor to explain it further.

Why use an Activity System?

Activity Systems derive from a century of analysis of the way people construct meaning (Vygotsky, 1978. Leon’tev, 1978) that later researchers applied not simply to how people think, but how groups of people (Engeström, 1987) act in collaborative ways.

 

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Fig.2. Application of Engeström’s (1987) systemic model of activity featured in Seale (2006)

There are two parts to an Activity System - upper and lower. The upper part is the triangle drawn to represent the interaction of Subject, Tools and Object.

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Fig. 3.  Vygotsky.L.S. (1978) from Mind in Society.

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Fig.4. The structure of a human activity system. Engeström 1987.

Historically this is where Vygotsky began in Moscow in the late 1920s (Fig.3) Engeström and others turned the experssion of Vygotsky's model the other way up. This split of upper and lower serves another purpose - Yrjö Engeström likens this expression of an activity system to an iceberg where the top triangle - Subject - Tools - Object is what we see, while the other actions, that give the system context - he added when developing Vygostky’s (1978) original model, are beneath the surface. Engeström. (2008:89). (Fig.4) It's worth remembering that Vygotsky was working on how people create meaning, while later thinkers have adapted this to help scrutinise how communities or groups of people, tools and sets of guidelines create (as Engeström puts it above, 'sense meaning' Engeström 1987).

When is the construction of an Activity System useful?

Engeström (2008:27) suggests that it is particularly useful ‘when one wants to make sense of systemic factors behind seemingly individual and accidental disturbances, deviations, and innovations occurring in daily practices of workplaces’. Someone needs to think it is necessary to study the status quo - perhaps because there is an awareness that something, somewhere is going wrong, or that there has been an actual downturn in business or collapse in profitability, or a desire simply to look at things in a different way to understand where improvements can be made, a change in policy and law, or a reinvented or renewed.

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Fig. 5. Engeström.Y (2008) From Teams to Knots: Activity-theoretical studies of Collaboration and Learning at Work.

Engeström (2008:207) suggests that there are five principles in relation to theories of activity systems.

  1. Object Orientation
  2. Mediation by tools and signs
  3. Mutual constitution of actions and activity
  4. Contradictions and deviations as source of change
  5. Historicity

DSC01597.JPG

Fig. 6 A White Knight from a Lewis Chess Set (replica) playing the role of the Object - the purpose, motivation and idea behind the activity in the system through whom sense is made or an outcome is derived.

1) Object Orientation

The Object is a problem, the purpose, the motivation and opportunity - the modus operandi behind the activity. ‘Object orientation’ (Engeström 2008:222) is a crucial prerequisite of working with an activity system. In the context of accessible e-learning Seale (2006:165) creates an Activity System in which the object(ive) is ‘to make e-learning accessible for disabled students’. As an exercise considering its widest application this object definition suffers because the object is so broad it embraces a myriad of issues and circumstances, each word is open to interpretation - what, for example, is meant by ‘e-learning’, what is meant by ‘accessible’ by ‘disabled’ and by ‘student’. Rather than an object as an opportunity or goal as Seale uses, a fix, the desired outcome, is more likely to be found where, at least in the first instance, we identify a particular context and a tightly defined problem.

Not only that, but to contain the likelihood of ‘ruptures’ across the activity system clarity and agreement is required on the problem that needs to be fixed. In relation to accessibility to e-learning for students with disabilities there are multiple problems, many unique to a student with a particular disability or, where feasible and appropriate, a group that can be identified by the nature of their disability, for example, deaf students who are seen as, and many want to see themselves as a ‘minority language’ group. What is more, a disabled student may have several impairments and the degree to which these are a barrier to e-learning is fluid, perhaps ameliorating with treatment, or getting worse, transmogrifying, or simply being intermittent. As these are known issues that would cause problems or clashes within the activity system and prevent its working it seems futile to build an activity system on this basis - knowing that it will fail.

A problem well stated is a problem half-solved’. (Charles Kettering)

This may be an aphorism, but it rings true. Problem scoping is necessary but where a problem remains elusive, or is ‘messy’ rather than ‘tame’ (Rittel and Webber's 1973, Ackoff 1979, Ritchey 2011) a variety of creative problem solving techniques (VanGundy, 1988. Griggs, 1985). Knowing what the problem is enables innovation - identifying the problem and devising a fix, and in communications, where, for example, advertisers prepare a creative brief that begins by clearly identifying the problem.

‘Object orientation’ and in this context, problem definition and refinement, is the first in five principles set out by Engeström (2008:207) for using activity systems. The drive, purpose and motivation for all the actions between the six identified nodes depends on the object ‘that which is acted upon’. A key component of activity theory is the transformation of this object into an outcome i.e. to solve the problem. If solving a problem is the goal, and recognition of a successful enterprise undertaken, then all the more reason to get the definition of the object correct - the process can be repeated for different problems, at different scales and over time. Without absolute clarity over the object you may find that different people in the system have differing interpretations of what it is. Kuutti (1996) found that having more than one object under scrutiny was a reason for an activity system to fail.  An answer where there are two distinct problems may be to treat them as such and attach them to separate activity systems. Whilst for the sake of scrutiny it is necessary to isolate an activity system, they do of course interact - indeed it is by looking at how two activity systems interact that you may reveal how problems are solved or innovations produced. However, if the object is wrong, or ill-defined or ambiguous then the motives may be out of kilter and it would therefore be necessary to transform all of the components of the activity system, especially and including those at the bottom half of the ‘iceberg’. Engeström (2008:87)

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Fig. 7. The black Queen from a Lewis Chess Set representing 'Tools'

2) Mediation by Tools and Signs

Tools might be evaluation and repair tools and assistive technologies, software or legislation, guidelines or staff development. Tools are a mediating factor between the Subject (student, lecturer, facilitator of the desire outcome) and the Object - the purpose of all this activity.

Tools play a significant role in the history of tackling accessibility issues, to undue, out do or transform resources or interpret platforms in a way that communicates their meaning offering some if not all the affordances of the tools as designed for students, who, having gained a place to study a degree  in Higher Education might be thought of as some the most able’, not simply the ‘able’.Tools in this role at the apex of the Activity System and can include guidelines and legislation where they are an applied ‘tool’ rather than a rule or standard. ‘ A functioning tool for the analysis of teams and organisations’. Engeström  (2008:229) Of course the category includes evaluation and repair tools, assistive technologies and software and equipment. Tools ‘mediate’ between the Subject - the facilitator of change through activity and the outcome of the activities - the Object. ‘To build a website that complies to level AAA’ may be achievable whilst ‘to make e-learning accessible for disabled students’ Seale (2006smile sounds like wishful thinking, rather ‘to build an e-learning module that when scrutinised by a representative range of people with dyslexia’ receives a grading of ‘satisfactory’ or above’. This would suggest the involvement therefore of dyslexic students in the testing of a navigation interface for the virtual learning environment as an ‘action’ between subject and object.

There is a particular congregation of ‘contradictions’ stemming from the relationship between Tools and both Subject and Object:

  1. The array of design and evaluation software applications (Seale, 2006)
  2. The mastery of external devices and tools of labour activity (Nardi, 1996)
  3. No rules of practice for use of that tool (Isscroft and Scanlan, 2002 )
  4. Tools that are overly prescriptive (Phipps et al, 2005)
  5. How do you choose from amongst such a plethora of tools?
  6. The context in which tools are introduced (Seale, 2006:160)

3) Mutual constitution of actions and activity

The links between each component - object, tool, subject and so on - should equate to a burst of electricity or perhaps a chemical induced response between a synapse and a neuron - Engestrom (2008) goes as far as to liken an activity system to a type of fungi - mycorrhizae like formation  Engestrom (1997).

 

Capture%2520Chondrus%2520Crispus%2520as%2520a%2520visualisation%2520of%2520a%2520Social%2520Media%2520Network.JPG

Fig.8. Mycorrhizae - one way Engeström sees an Activity System

An Activity System should be seen not as a concept of a static entity, but rather a living and growing thing. The actions, the double-arrows between each concept, are what gives an activity system structure  - it’s the management  of the disturbances, contradictions and conflicts along these lines of action that disturb effective flow where the role of an activity system comes in - identify then fix these and you move towards achieving the object orientation or outcome. Knorr-Cetina (2003) talks of 'flow architecture' and if neither of these concepts ring true for you in realtion to activity systems then Zerubavel (1997) talks of 'a mindscape' while Cussins (1992) talks of 'cogntive trails'.

4) Contradictions and deviations as source of change

I would have opted for Subject as the third issue, but reading Engeström made me think again. Subject, Tools, Object reduces the Activity System to the far simpler upturned triangle Vygotsky devised to explain how people create meaning (Vygotsky, 1978:86)  without further thought to the deeper and wider issues once learning is put in context, that Engeström (1987, 2008, 2011) added by broadening this way of showing how ‘meaning is created’ in the workplace by adding Rules, Community and Division of Labour.

Rather than picking one more of these concepts at the expense of leaving the others out I think that the ‘Actions’ the double arrows that indicate something happening between the elements is of interest. I believe this would be the fourth of Engeström's five principles - Contradictions and deviations as source of change. This after all is, literally, where all the ‘action’ takes place, what Seale (2006:164) describes as ‘problems, ruptures, breakdowns or clashes’.  (I need to go back and to understand what is meant by Engeström's third principle - ‘Mutual constitution of actions and activity’) I think this is the principle that the Activity System has to be seen as a complete, self-contained entity, that any break or failure or misunderstanding in the system would call it to fail so you’d be better of starting again from scratch until the scale or context works. Engeström uses the metaphor of a very particular kind of lichen (‘mycorrhizae’, Engeström, 2008:229) to describe Activity Systems - he doesn’t suggest however that you attempt to work with this kind of complexity, rather it is a reminder that an activity system is fluid and changing and depends on activity taking places between the defined nodes.

5) Historicity

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Fig. 9. A discontinuous series of Activity Systems ... like Toblerone at Christmas.

'Historicity' - Engeström's experssion (2008) - is a term referring to 'the historical actuality of persons and events',(Wikipedia, 2012) suggests the need to see an Activity System as a snapshot, a sequence and a discontinuous one at that. So take the familiar equilateral triangle of the Activity System model and run a line of them. Seale (2006) suggests there is value to be found by doing some 'archaelogy' - I think 'historical research' would be an adequate way to think of it, for what this may reveal about how these 'rupture, conflicts' Seale (ibid) or 'contraditions and devistions as a source or change' Engeström (2008:223) along the lines of activity. Seale (2006) talks of how an activity system 'incesstanly reconstructs itself. Engeström (1994) talks of an ideal-typical sequence of epistemic actgions in an expansive cycle.

Subject

By definition here the ‘non-disabled’, particularly in the cognitive sense though sometimes with athletic promise too. Ironically whilst ‘non-disabled’ is not a favoured term it does at least relate to a homogenous group, while ‘disabled’ does not given the range, scale and potentially shifting nature of impairments to learning from hearing, to visual, cognitive and mobility.

Subject to be of most importance - this is the person, actor or lecturer, indeed a student - anyone who is responsible for facilitating and supporting the student’s learning experience. This may be a practitioner who works with a Higher Education Learning Technologist or the digital media access group if there is such a thing. Engeström (2008:222).

Any of the team members may be a novice, which may be a positive or negative influence for the actions in the system. A novice is inexpert, on the other hand they are free from the habits that may be causing problems and creating barriers. Because of the way a novice learns they are more inclined to innovate as they are not bound or even aware to rules, guidelines and beliefs that may hold them back.

Rules

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Fig. 10 A collection of pawns from a Lewis Chess set representing 'Rules'

These can be formal, informal or technical rules. They are institutional and departmental policies and strategies. These are rules of practice, and legislation, as well as strategies and research. They are explicit and implicit norms. These are conventions and social relations. These in the context of accessible e-learning are the various guidelines related to web usability and legislation related to accessibility and equality. Universal Design and User Centred Design are rules too. Rules mediate between the subject and the community. The actions, the 'doing in order to transform something' or 'doing with a purpose' are the activities that link Rules with Subject, Rules with Object and Rules with Community.

Community

DSC01594.JPG

 

Fig. 11. An Activity System represented by chess pieces.This 'Community' comprises the King and two bishops from replica of the Lewis Chess Set.

These are 'people who share the same objective' - their being in this activity system is dependent on their wishing to engage with the object, the opportunity, to strive to achieve the stated outcome. Any ruptures are therefore not a consequence of having the wrong person in this community - this grouping, this loose gathering of like-minded people, is what Engestrom has come to describe as a knot and the actions these people take as 'knotworking' Engeström (2008:194) - latent, informal, sometimes impromptu gatherings of people who assemble to address a problem or to take an opportunity - what Rheingold (2002) describes as 'smart mobs'.

Division of Labor (sic)This concept, or node as an ethereal entity is 'how people are organized to realise the object'. Not one to represent by a chess piece and one may think that this ought to be the link that joins people together ... this is where working with a model as the beat of a heart, not the heart itself, requires acceptance of the way a model is designed to work. Division of labor (US spelling for a Finnish academic ... who has bases in Helsinki and San Diego). This is planning and funding, designing and developing, implementing and evaluating, using, specialists vs. the mainstream).

Conclusion

Digitization of assets is akin to the creation of an ocean in which the binary code are the molecules of water - apt then with the shift from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 and our adopting the use of ‘the Cloud’ and ‘Cloud Computing’ to take this metaphor into a more dynamic form and think of it as a water-cycle. This system is shifting continually horizontally with currents and tides, but also vertically - the exponential growth in computing speeds and memory capacities the energy that drives the system. This global system hasn’t taken adequate account of people with disabilities - as in the real world there are barriers to access caused by visual, hearing, mobility and cognitive impairments - just as these have been addressed in a piecemeal way through legislation, funding, programmes and promotions, by disability groups or holistically, so too with adaptations or changes to the digital world - there is no panacea that will remove all barriers for all people with any disability, of any kind, type or stage of deterioration or amelioration.  Stretching the metaphor further I wonder if at times this digital water-cycle, again like the real one, is polluted, that translucence as well as flotsam and jetsam in this ocean are the barriers - on the one hand the pollutants have to be removed - the barriers taken down - but at the same time, cleaner purer water, in the form a universal design that is simpler and usable would gradually cleanse some of system. Once again, a mirror to the real world responses, specialist schools and associations, say for those with dyslexia are blind or deaf, become an oasis or island in this digital system. 

‘Those not engaging with technologies or without access are getting left further and further behind. We need to be mindful that the egalitarian, liberal view of new technologies is a myth; power and dynamics remain, niches develop and evolve. Applications of metaphorical notions of ecology, culture and politics can help us better understand and deal with these complexities'. (Conole. 2011:410)

FURTHER  READING

Cecez-Kecmanovic, Dubravka, and Webb.C (2000) "Towards a communicative model of collaborative web-mediated learning."Australian Journal of Educational Technology 16. 73-85. Towards a communicative model of collaborative web-mediated learning  (last accessed 20 Dec 2012) http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet16/cecez-kecmanovic.html

Hardman, J (2008) Researching pedagogy: an acitivty system approach Journal of Education, No. 45, 2008. PP65-95 (last accessed 20 Dec)  2012 http://joe.ukzn.ac.za/Libraries/No_45_Dec_2008/Researching_pedagogy_an_Activity_Theory_approach.sflb.ashx)

Engeström’s (1999) outline of three generations of activity theory (last accessed 20 Dec 2012) http://www.bath.ac.uk/research/liw/resources/Models%20and%20principles%20of%20Activity%20Theory.pdf

Engeström.Y (2008) From Teams to Knots: Activity-theoretical studies of Collaboration and Learning at Work. Learning in doing: Social, Cognitive & Computational Perspectives. Cambridge University Press. Series Editor Emeritus. John Seely Brown.

Engeström.Y (2011) Learning by expanding: ten years after (last accessed 19 Dec 20-12) http://lchc.ucsd.edu/mca/Paper/Engestrom/expanding/intro.htm

REFERENCE

Ackoff, R.L. (1979) The Art of Problem-Solving, New York: Wiley

Conole, G (2011) Designing for learning in a digital world. Last accessed 18 Dec 2012 http://www.slideshare.net/grainne/conole-keynote-icdesept28

Conole, G. and Oliver, M. (eds) 2007 Contemporary Perspectives on E-learning Research, Themes, Tensions and Impacts on Research. London, RoutledgeFalmer.

Cussins, A. (1992). Content, embodiment and objectivity: The theory of cognitive trails. Mind, 101, 651–688.

Engestrom (2008-04-30). From Teams to Knots (Learning in Doing: Social, Cognitive and Computational Perspectives) (p. 238). Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition.

Engeström, Y. (1987) Learning by Expanding: An Activity-theoretical Approach to Developmental Research. Helsinki: Orienta-Konsultit.

Engeström, Y. (1994). The working health center project: Materializing zones of proximal
development in a network of organizational learning. In T. Kauppinen & M. Lahtonen (Eds.) Action research in Finland. Helsinki: Ministry of Labour.

Engeström.Y (1999) Learning by expanding. Ten Years After. http://lchc.ucsd.edu/mca/Paper/Engestrom/expanding/intro.htm

Engeström.Y (2008) From Teams to Knots: Activity-theoretical studies of Collaboration and Learning at Work. Learning in doing: Social, Cognitive & Computational Perspectives. Cambridge University Press. Series Editor Emeritus. John Seely Brown.

Griggs, R.E. (1985) 'A Storm of Ideas', reported in Training, 22, 66 (November)

Issroff, K. and Scanlon, E. (2002) Using technology in higher education: an Activity Theory perspective. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 18, 1, 77–83

Knorr-Cetina, K. (2003). From pipes to scopes: The flow architecture of financial markets. Distinktion, 7, 7–23.

Kuutti, K. (1996) Activity theory as a potential framework for human–computer interaction research. In B. Nardi (ed.) Context and Consciousness: Activity Theory and Human–Computer Interaction. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, pp. 17–44.

Leon’tev.A.N. (1978) Activity, consciousness, and personality. Englewood Cliffs. NJ. Prentice-Hall.

Moessenger, S (2011) Sylvia’s Study Blog (Last accessed 19 Dec 2012) http://sylviamoessinger.wordpress.com/2011/02/26/h809-reading-oliver-et-al-chapter-2-a3-6/

Phipps, L., Witt, N. and Kelly, B. (2005) Towards a pragmatic framework for accessible e-learning. Ariadne, 44. Online. Available HTTP: <http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/ issue44/ phipps/> (last accessed 19 Dec 2012).

Rheingold, H. (2002). Smart mobs: The next social revolution. Cambridge, MA: Perseus.

Ritchey, T. (2011) Wicked Problems - Social Messes: Decision support Modelling with Morphological Analysis.Springer.

Rittel.W.J., Webber.M.M. (1973) Dilemmas in a general theory of planning Policy Sciences, June 1973, Volume 4, Issue 1,

Seale, J. (2006) E-learning and Disability in Higher Education: Accessibility Research and Practice

VanGundy, A.B. (1988) Techniques of Structured Problem Solving, 2nd ed, Van Norstrand Reinhold. Techniques 4.01, 4.06, 4.57

Vygotsky.L.S. (1978) Mind in Society. The development of higher psychological process. Cambridge. MA.

Wikipedia (2012) Definition of 'Historicity' - (last accessed 19 Dec 2012) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historicity

Zerubavel, E. (1997). Social mindscapes: An invitation to cognitive sociology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

 

 

 

 

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H810 : Conflicts in an Activity System

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 May 2014, 13:23

Fig. 1 Seale (2008) chapter 12 on activity systems in relation to accessibility in e-learning as an Activity System

The six potential areas of conflict Seal identifies occur, from the Activity System, between:

  1. Objects and tools - if we agree that the tools currently available are weak (or too many of them, or too specialist or too expensive)
  2. Objects and division of labour - a fragmented division of labour that is pulling the different stakeholders apart and preventing them from working together to meet the objective.
  3. Community and division of labour - a contradiction could be perceived to exist between community and division of labour if the rules that the community develop divide labour in such a way as to mitigate against the objective of the activity being achieved
  4. Community and rules - a conflict with the community whether guidelines are seen as tools or rules. A contradiction may be perceived to occur between community and rules where the community cannot agree on the rules and how they should be applie
  5. Rules and subject - where the rules or guidelines are not specific to the object, or difficulties in interpreting the results having used tools. A contradiction may be perceived to occur between the rules and the subject where the rules are non-existent, weak or inconsistent and so not good enough to enable the users of the rules (subjects) to meet the objective of the activity.
  6. Tools and subject - If the subjects of an activity system are unable to use the tools in the way they were intended, then conflict or contradiction may occur.

There are a further 8 discussed tangetially in relation to the Activity System, some within individual nodes. In total the full list looks like this:

  1. The array of design and evaluation software applications
  2. The mastery of external devices and tools of labour activity (Naardi 1996)
  3. No rules of practive for use of that tool (Iscorft and Scanlon)
  4. Tools that are overly prescriptive (Phipps et al 2005)
  5. How do you choose a tool?
  6. The context in which tools are introduced (Seale, 2006:160)
  7. The array of guidelines and standards and lack of information on how to use these.
  8. Constraints caused by formal, informal and technical  rules and concentions of community (Seale, 2006:161)
  9. A framework for desscribing current practice both individual and social (Seale, 2006:160)
  10. More than one object (Kuutti, 1996)
  11. When different but conntected activities ahre an object or an artefact but place a very different emphasis on it (McAviia and Oliver, 2004)
  12. Conflict over who does what within 'Divisions of Labour'
  13. Novice or expert ... good thing or bad? The novice is more likely to be the innovator - if brought in from outside the system, while the expert in the system may be too set in the ways of the 'community'.
  14. Excuses about the lack of information. Steyaert (2005)

I like Seale's concluding remarks - Subject and object, object and community, subect and community - Contradiction in any or all of the relationships described in the previous section has the potential to threaten the central relationships between object and community, subject and object and subject and community.

And the over all thought:

‘Design for all’ probably requires a commitment to ‘design by all’.

According to Activity Theory, any or all of the contradictions will prevent accessible e-learning practice from developing and therefore accessible e-learning will not develop or progress unless these contradictions are resolved.

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Activity Systems are repeated, uneven and discontinuos

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 17 Dec 2012, 17:51

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Fig.1. Activity Systems as a chronological, though broken sequence. Fruit & Nut Toblerone (Kuutti 1996)

To understand Activity Systems I produce tables and charts - I annotate these then revise initial drawings until I have something that is clear. I may fill several sheets. My conviction is that Activty Systems have a great deal to offer when it comes to trying to understand how actions are playing out, producing contradictions and confict.

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Fig.2. A detail from an annotation of the Activity Sytem I am working on in relation to accessibility and e-learning.

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Fig. 3. Detail showing where the idea of the half-eaten Toblerone came from. An Activity System has to be seen as a broken chronology of Activity Systems.

REFERENCE

Engeström, Y (2008) From Teams to Knots. Activity-theorerical studies of Collaboration and Learning at Work. Learning in doing: Social, Cognitive & Computational Perspectives. Cambridge University Press. Series Editor Emeritus. John Seely Brown.

Kuutti, K. (1996) Activity theory as a potential framework for human–computer interaction research. In B. Nardi (ed.) Context and Consciousness: Activity Theory and Human–Computer Interaction. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, pp. 17–44

Seale, J. (2006) E-learning and Disability in Higher Education: Accessibility Research and Practice

 

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H810 : Accessibility in e-learning as an activity system

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 4 Jan 2013, 16:32

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Fig. 1 Seale (2008) chapter 12 on activity systems in relation to accessibility in e-learning as an Activity System

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Fig. 2 From the chapter - annotations, animation and notes

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Fig.3 Another way of looking at Activity Systems 1

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<Fig.4 Another way of looking at Activity Systems 3

REFERENCE

Engeström , Y (2008) From Teams to Knots. Activity-theoretical studies of Collaboration and Learning at Work. Learning in doing: Social, Cognitive & Computational Perspectives. Cambridge University Press. Series Editor Emeritus. John Seely Brown.

Kuutti, K. (1996) Activity theory as a potential framework for human–computer interaction research. In B. Nardi (ed.) Context and Consciousness: Activity Theory and Human–Computer Interaction. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, pp. 17–44.

Seale, J. (2006) E-learning and Disability in Higher Education: Accessibility Research and Practice

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