Re: Educational activity and school

From: Peg Griffin (
Date: Sat Oct 02 2004 - 10:12:54 PDT

It is true the vignette was woefully underspecified and not at all annotated
so I can see anyone's "difficulty getting to educational activity in the
PS91 example." Thanks for bringing it up some more, Mike.

Way back then, I was blown away by "seeing" it -- sort of naturally
occurring pre- and post- indicators of how the task tokens were initiated
and proceeded, and the "staring into space," the space just a minute ago
occupied by other people and their talk and other moves.
Unfortunately, in my note I left out what made it a scene for educational
activity (at the beginning a "failed" one, at the end a "working" one).
And, unfortunately, too much time has passed and I cannot describe the
specific mathematics nor its place in the full set/curriculum that motivates
that specific mathematics program. This short shrift for content makes the
vignette of little interest as a serious example of educational activity.
I mean that most seriously. But I valued then and value now the "eureka" of
really seeing "exteriorised" some parts of educational activity that are
hard to see -- not just because educational activity is rare but also
because so much of it is fast and variable and interiorised. (In the other
vignette, the little patting of the magnet board with the mathematics on it
that Tanis and Donita do and everyone's sighs is another such moment that
just makes me misty with hope.)

But about the PS 91 vignette, and for what it is worth:
Within the activity, the motive-object (in this case, mathematics) is a
historical cultural domain ripe for mutual appropriation in social cultural
scenes -- students appropriate tools for living and the society appropriates
students to (a) contribute to the domain's future and/or (b) for the
culture's functioning and future. The computer program that was being used
"has" some of the mathematics for the student to appropriate and some
techniques for appropriating the student.
At first it is a massive failure as an educational activity: The student
operates by taking in what was on the screen and punching keys, but he shows
no mathematic influence on what he does (no mathematical
mind/goals/actions); It is up to the computer to move the actions along and
to say when the token is finished and whether it was any use and when
another one could be undertaken. The mathematics is not a subjective object
for the student. It is "only understandable" to him that he is doing
mathematics, it is not "really effective." (As many kids would actually
tell us they loved "doing computers" not mathematics or science or whatever
specific programs were.)

When the huddle of students arrive, the mathematics potential in the
activity is liberated and is actually an object that motivates actions that
account for operations in variant conditions. The focal student gets to
"incidentally" "interpsychologically" do mathematics while it is yoked with
peer activity or play activity that has a place for him.
Finally, he actually does mathematics in educational activity: As Leontiev
said [forgive the repeat from the post under the identity thread]: "The
really effective motive ... now is a motive that was previously 'only
understandable' for it. How does this transformation of motive come about?
The question can be simply answered. It is a matter of an action's result
being more significant, in certain conditions, than the motive that actually
induces it. ... A new 'objectivation' of its needs come about, which
means they are understood at a higher level."
He volitionally ends and opens tokens of the mathematics when he needs a new
token; He interiorises what he had done earlier in concert with the others
just when he needs to; A mathematical action/mind/goal governs the
operations, over-ruling the ordering and timing of the computer designer,
taking over when "enough is enough;" He ignores the computer generated
evaluation of his success; he is ready to exteriorize and drag mathematics
into peer activity with himself a more "mindful" participant.

Does this help or hinder?

----- Original Message -----
From: "Mike Cole" <>
To: <>
Sent: Friday, October 01, 2004 3:40 PM
Subject: Re: Educational activity and school

> Phil -- I am never sure about things I write on email concerning events
> occurred 30 years ago. And I am (well almost) never upset when evidence of
> my erring memory is pointed out by colleagues who wish me well.
> Peg --- I had some difficulty getting to educational activity in the PS91
> example, but thought the example from Griffin and King showed a lot of
> features of educational activity. I promise not to broadcast it until
> its in print!
> mike

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