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H809: Activity 8.3 and 8.5: Reading 9: Crook and Dymott (2005)

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Crook, C. and Dymott, R. (2005) 'ICT and the literacy practices of student writing' in Monteith, M. (ed.) Teaching Secondary School Literacies with ICT, Maidenhead, Open University Press.

Notes from course website

Mediated learning: Vygotsky proposed that everything we do is 'done through', or mediated by, cultural artefacts:

  • We count with numbers that are culturally developed
  • We cut down trees with axes that are culturally developed
  • We talk to each other and think using language that is culturally developed
  • We remember by making lists or by grouping things into categories that may be different from those used in other cultures
  • Our institutions, such as schools, are developments of our culture.

Distributed learning: Vygotsky (1981) wrote that 'by being included in the process of behavior, the tool [artefact] alters the entire flow and structure of mental functions' (p. 137). This conceptualisation of cognition argues that artefacts are not a feature of the backdrop (separate context) against which mental functions take place, nor are they just something that facilitates mental life; they are a fundamental part of the mental function itself. In this way, mind becomes not something bound by the confines of the skull but instead extends 'beyond the skin' (Wertsch, 1991, p. 27). Cognition is 'spread over' (Lave, 1988) the artefacts present. An example of distributed cognition is Cognition in the Wild (Hutchins, 1995), which explores a US navy navigational team and its artefacts as a system of distributed cognition.

Situated learning: A seminal text in situated cognition was Brown, Collins and Duguid's article in Educational Researcher (1989). The authors described an apprenticeship model of learning closely related to the work of Lave (1988) and the idea of 'legitimate peripheral participation'. Socio-cultural theory does not focus on measuring learning with ICT in terms of what is in an individual's head or in terms of learning outcomes. Instead the focus is on individuals-using-technology-in-settings (Crook, 1994). Learning is conceptualised as a social endeavour and qualitative research methodologies have been adopted to investigate this area because the focus of inquiry is on the processes of learning and on meaning making in social settings.





  1. What part do the five aspects of writing (text on the screen; text on the network; text as electronic traffic; text and the website; and the dialogue around text) play in describing the activity of writing? Do they 'effect' writing or 'constitute' it? How?

I believe that the five aspects constitute writing in that they describe different facets of the writing process that may be used individually or together. People may have individual preferences due to context such as past experience, current purpose etc.

  1. Do you think that the learning involved in writing the assignments, or carrying out the other tasks described, is located in the head of the students? Or do you think it is distributed and situated?

I believe that learning is mediated by tools and that, by using these tools, we alter our learning experiences. To that extent I concur with distributed learning but I also believe that learning is situated in a historical and social context and effected by our past experiences with similar activities and tools.

  1. Crook and Dymott discuss the fact that there were substantial differences in the ways in which individual students used resources in one of the tasks (p. 103). What does this tell us about the mediated, situated and distributed nature of the activity?

The mediating tools, whether they are pencil and paper or computer screen, can be used in a multitude of ways. Learners will use the tools in the way that suits their current purpose and context as well as according to their past history with the tools and past experiences with similar assignments i.e. the learning is situated, and it can be distributed over several technologies in that notes can be taken from screen to paper or one window to another.

  1. If you were given the opportunity to assess some of the students' assignments that are described in this chapter, where would you focus your attention: on the end product or on the process of writing, and why?

It would depend on the research question that was being addressed but I would be interested in the process of writing as part of my job is to work with students to assist them with academic literacies. I would also be concerned that there were too many influences on the end product of the writing to be able to form any conclusions as to how that end product was achieved.

  1. Which methodologies would you use to carry out your assessment of the students' assignments, over and above those described in the chapter, and why?

It would be interesting to look at the process of academic writing by a mixture of diary and video format which recorded the process of writing, followed by semi-structured interview where the perceptions of the students could be elucidated.


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