Monday, 22 August 2011

Computers can act as a catalyst to transform pedagogical practices in classrooms

In her case study on the use of computers in a primary school Mathematics class, Joanne Hardman is of the opinion that the computer can act as a catalyst to transform pedagogical practices in classrooms (Hardman, 2005:02).

According to her, most researchers embarked on a quest to research as to how the computer is transforming pedagogy. She in particular, concentrated on how computers were made available to the economically disadvantaged learners of developing countries (Hardman, 2005:02).

Her research is driven by the understanding that a tool such as a computer can lead to conflict within the context into which it was introduced, and how it contributed to the transformation of practices within the environment (Hardman, 2005).

Her article uses the Activity Theory as an analytical tool to investigate how the introduction of technology can transform pedagogy.  

One of the foundations of the Vygotskian theory is that elementary processes are changed into higher cognitive functions by using cultural tools such as language during interaction(Hardman, 2005).

A growing child develops within his social world. His basic processes are transformed by his interaction with his social world, where his mother and other adults are guiding him. "Higher cognitive functions develops firstly as interpsychological functions, with the help of another person, by guiding the child's activity before being internalised as intrapsychological functions" (Hardman, 2005:02). Vygotsky refers to this area of activity as "the Zone of Proximal Development.  Within this zone the child acts with the aid of another person to understand problems.

Hardman also refers to ZPD as the "zone of potentially", where mediation instruction provides an trend for learning and consequently change. She also stated that Vygotsky's theory shows clearly an understanding of how learning is distributed. Vygotsky's theory also does not develop an analytical framework capable of situational learning in the wider context (Hardman, 2005:02).

She furthermore states that the first generation of the Activity Theory concentrates on the notion of mediation, that is located on the level of the individuals actions. but does not develop into an analytical framework capable for situational learning within a wider context (Hardman, 2005).

She concentrates on the third generation Activity Theory, and expresses that contradictions may arise when a computer requires a new division of labour, and by uncovering these contradictions helped her to formulate a hypotheses on possible shifts between systems. Alhough Vygotsky's learning theory is used in this paper, it is looking at understanding mediation in the wider social context(Hardman, 2005). 

Hardman, J. 2005. An exploratory case study of computer use in a primary school mathematics classroom: New technology, new pedagogy? University of Cape Town. Perspectives in Education, Volume 23(4). December 2005.

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