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H809: Activity 8.1 and 8.2: Reading 8: Tolmie (2001)

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Tolmie, A. (2001) 'Examining learning in relation to the contexts of use of ICT', Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, vol. 17, no. 3, pp. 235-41.


The individual as being the focus of research into learning (Shweder, 1990).As the focus is on the individual and what is happening in their head, this perspective views the individual's context as surrounding them. The individual is surrounded by, for example, books, computers and a classroom that exist separately from themselves; therefore, the context is theorised to affect things that individuals do. A computer affects the way a pupil learns, the classroom environment affects the behaviour of children within it, etc. This cause-effect model is an aspect of a positivist approach to learning.

  1. Take particular notice of how 'context' is conceptualised in Tolmie's paper and make notes of, or highlight, the words and sentences that do this.
  2. In the study about gender effects, discussed in the section headed 'The effects of context', note the links between the theoretical perspective, the way in which gender is conceptualised as context, and the way in which learning is assessed quantitatively.

Following well-established patterns of interactional behaviour wrt conflict management p.237

  • Where is the learning located? 12-15yrs, school
  • Where is the focus of enquiry? Physics- trajectory of falling objects
  • How is learning assessed? Pre-test and post-test performance

Also note how gender is conceptualised. Is it something that surrounds a person? Is it something that a person 'has'? Or is it a set of cultural expectations enacted by that person?

Hard to tell from this but it seems to be suggesting that the pupils are performing to expected cultural norms.

  1. The section headed 'Context effects and unintended consequences for learning' discusses the presence or absence of software prompts. In this study:
  • Where is the learning located? 9-14yrs, school
  • Where is the focus of enquiry? Fair testing with five factors
  • How is learning assessed? Pre-test and post-test performance
  • How are the software prompts discussed in terms of context?

Computer positioned alongside the apparatus suggesting that it is included as part of the equipment, rather than an addition. In test, warning prompts were issued but in control there were no warning prompts although data were still input to the computer reinforcing the fact that the technology is part of the context.




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