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Vygotsky. Ann Jones Institute of Educational Technology. Why ?. Research practices developed based on his writings: sociocultural studies distributed cognition; situated cognition (and communities of practice) activity theory (Vygotsky & Research, Harry Daniels, 2008).

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Ann Jones

Institute of Educational Technology

Why ?

Research practices developed based on his writings:

sociocultural studies

distributed cognition;

situated cognition (and communities of practice)

activity theory

(Vygotsky & Research, Harry Daniels, 2008)

trajectories of inquiry learning littleton and kerawalla 2012
Trajectories of inquiry learning(Littleton and Kerawalla, 2012)

The focus in this chapter is on understanding how connections are made between ideas and events over time. Specifically, we will explore how connections, between known and new (Rogoff 1990) and between everyday and scientific understandings (…) are negotiated in talk and interaction between learners and their their teachers, and how this process is mediated by representations and technologies



Main concepts from Vygotsky’s work

Brief examples of work where used

Further resources


Vygotsky worked mainly in the 1920s in Russia

Charged with developing a system for educating pedagogically neglected children

Developed psychological theories

Work translated into English in 1970s


“Vygotsky’s..theory ..resembles a city. .. with broad new avenues and ancient, narrow backstreets known only to longtime residents, with noisy crowded plazas and quiet, deserted squares………………The city changes, grows, and is rebuilt. Whole neighbourhoods are demolished. The centre is sometimes over here, and sometimes over there. And so it goes” (Puzyrei, 2007)

“The Vygotsky described in the books of J. Wertsch (1985a) does not resemble the Vygotsky in the works of A.V. Brushlinskii (1994) or V.P.Zinchenko (1996)….”

….(Koshmanova, 2007) Also in Daniels, 2008 (p2)

some key concepts and emphases in vygotsky s work
Some key concepts and emphases in Vygotsky’s work
  • All learning is mediated, distributed (social) and situated
  • Importance of language
  • Vygotsky’s ZPD
mediated learning
Mediated learning

Everything we do is ‘done through’, or mediated by, cultural artefacts:

  • We remember by using lists or by grouping things into categories
  • We talk and think using language
  • Web 2.0 tools
learning is social distributed
Learning is social - distributed
  • Learning is inherently a social activity, taking place through social interaction:

…learning presupposes a specific social nature and a process by which children grow into the intellectual life of those around them (Vygotsky, 1978)

  • Cognition is ‘spread over’ (Lave, 1988) the artefacts present
learning is social distributed1
Learning is social - distributed

Every function in the child's cultural development appears twice: first, on the social level, and later, on the individual level; first, between people (interpsychological) and then inside the child (intrapsychological).(Vygotsky, 1978)

learning is situated
Learning is situated

A concern with the processes of learning and on meaning making in social setting.

In investigating learning the focus is on individuals-using-technology-in-settings (Crook, 1994).

language as a social tool for learning and communication
Language as a social toolfor learning and communication

Seen as having two main purposes:

  • Social, communicative or cultural tool for sharing and jointly developing knowledge
  • Psychological tool for organising our thoughts, reasoning, planning, reviewing

Children learn with the help of their speech, as well as their eyes and hands (Vygotsky, 1978 )

It enables people to share and consider new ideas and to reflect together on their actions” (Mercer, 2000 Words and Minds)

zone of proximal development zpd
Zone of proximal development (ZPD)
  • What we are able to do with the help of others – that we cannot do alone
  • "the distance between the actual development level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development …. under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers." (Vygotsky, 1978)
examples of use approaches
Examples of use & approaches
  • Timmis,Joubert, Manuel & Barnes (2010) sociocultural approach to studying students’ use of digital tools for communication
  • Rose Luckin’s work with ZPD and Learner Centric Ecology of Resources
timmis joubert et al 2010
Timmis, Joubert, et. al (2010)

studied use of multiple digital tools for communication in HE (collaborative learning)

grounded in socio-cultural theories of learning

understanding practice

analysis looked for different kinds of communication: transmissive, ritual and transformative

Transmissive – go beyond common body of knowledge or ‘expand the ways of knowing’

Refer to challenges of building social presence, trust and commitment to task

timmis joubert et al 20101
Timmis, Joubert, et. al (2010)

… how can communications be understood as transmissive, ritual or transformative and what are the different roles of these different communication forms?

Communications data from the module; student-led group interviews; preparatory questionnaires; VLE discussion postings

timmis joubert et al 20102
Timmis, Joubert, et. al (2010)

Choice of tool related to friendship groups and home context, access and economic factors rather than task

Transformative communications mainly in instant messaging conversations but were scarce

luckin s work on zpd
Luckin’s work on ZPD

I…. came up with a design framework that operationalised the 'Zone of Proximal Development'. The key thing .. was to .. quantify the nature of the assistance that you were giving peopleSo we built a Bayesian belief network model of the ZPD, and quantified the amount of assistance that people got. It's a piece of software called Ecolab. It offered learners domain-level help.

rose luckin s work
Rose Luckin’s work

Develops notion ZPD of and contextualised learning

Software developed to help learners understand Science concepts

Help offered on basis of the learner model

Identifies the context and the resources

BUT how do we scaffold learning in a connected world where resources no longer tied to desktop

Learner generated context enabled through technology might support learners in collecting data, offering information resources, local resources, communication support

examples of use approaches1
Examples of use & approaches

Rose Luckin’s work with ZPD

  • Greg Kearsley:Theory into Practice Database http://www.instructionaldesign.org/index.html
  • James Atherton: Learning and Teaching website (no Vygotsky though) http://www.learningandteaching.info/
  • Rose Luckin see http://www.lkl.ac.uk/cms/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=114&Itemid=115
  • Practise based learning in Educational Technology



Crook, C. and Dymott, R. (2005) in Monteith, M. (ed.) Teaching Secondary School Literacies with ICT, Maidenhead, Open University Press.

Littleton and Kerawalla (2012) Trajectories of Inquiry Learning; in (eds Littleton Scanlon and Sharples) Orchestrating Inquiry Learning, Routledge

Mercer,N (2000) Routledge Words and Minds

Vygotsky and Pedagogy (2001) Daniels, H. Routledge

Vygotsky and Research (2008) Daniels, H. Routledge

Luckin, R. (2008) Computers & Education 50 (2008) 449–462 461

Timmis, Joubert, et. al (2010) Transmission, transformation & ritual: an investigation of students’ and researchers’ digitally mediated communications and collaborative work, Learning Media and Technology