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RE: [xmca] Might we pause to consider? Imitation and the Zoped
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- Subject: RE: [xmca] Might we pause to consider? Imitation and the Zoped
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- Date: Thu, 30 Dec 2010 13:50:32 +0000
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- Thread-topic: [xmca] Might we pause to consider? Imitation and the Zoped
What strikes me as most significant about your characterization of the
processes involved, is that it makes clear that teaching in a zoped requires
that the teacher as well as the student develop.
My apologies for this long paste-in, which is taken from a book chapter I've written with Carmen Martinez-Roldan (former student of Moll's) about an after-school program that Carmen designed based on Olga Vasquez's adaptation of the 5th Dimension for Latin@ students. (Vasquez developed La Clase Magica at USCD; Carmen developed Amigos Clase Mágica at Texas-Austin.) Anyhow, rather than reinventing the wheel (or rewriting my lecture notes), I'll just paste in the text that Carmen and I wrote, taken from: Martínez-Roldán, C. M., & Smagorinsky, P. (in press). Computer-mediated learning and young Latino/a students' developing expertise. In P. Portes & S. Salas (Eds.), Advances in cultural historical theory and praxis with non-dominant communities. New York: Peter Lang.
Mediation in the Zone of Proximal Development
Vygotsky's (1978) cultural-historical theory of learning and development provides a useful framework for examining children's learning as they interact with different people and different tools and artifacts, such as computer games in joint activity with adults and peers. Two themes relevant to this study are Vygotsky's argument that individuals' higher mental processes have their origins in social processes and cultural practices, and that mental processes can be understood only if observers understand the cultural-historical nature of the tools and signs that mediate them (Wertsch, 1985). Vygotsky (1978) described interactions between children and adults or more capable peers as central to children's learning and development. His concept of mediation in the zone of proximal development highlights such a role: "what a child can do with assistance today she will be able to do by herself tomorrow" (p. 87).
Teachers and adults undoubtedly have a crucial role as mediators of children's learning, yet differential levels of digital expertise across generations complicate conventional notions of who is teaching whom what. Although there is an agreement on the crucial role teachers and adults play, the nature of the assistance and mediation has been the subject of debate, and researchers are still trying to understand how much assistance and under which circumstances this assistance supports students' learning (Smagorinsky, 1995b). The research we report in this chapter lends credence to sociocultural constructivist conceptions of teaching and learning relationships that allow for considerable agency on the part of learners-as-teachers. Dyson's (1990) rejection of the "scaffolding" metaphor in favor of a "weaving" metaphor illustrates this more interactive, mutually instructive conception of the ZPD, one that we found at work in the Amigos Clase Mágica.
Rejecting reductionist interpretations of the concept of mediation in the ZPD, Moll and Whitmore (1993) underscore that the ZPD involves "the child engaged in collaborative activity within a specific social (discourse) environment" (p. 20). The ZPD is thus not what Wilhelm, Baker, and Dube (2001) describe as a "cognitive region, which lies just beyond what the child can do alone. Anything that the child can learn with the assistance and support of a teacher, peers, and the instructional environment is said to lie within the ZPD" (p. 16). It is, rather, an interrelated set of social contexts that are deeply rooted in cultural and historical traditions, practices, and artifacts (Moll, 1990). ZPDs thus lack the sort of containment asserted by Wilhelm et al. and involve more of the "weaving" implied by the etymology of the term "context" (Cole, 1996) and recognized by Dyson (1990). Moll and Whitmore (1993) propose that the key to understanding learning in classroom contexts is to attend to the social transactions that make up classroom life: "Within this analysis the focus of study is on the sociocultural system within which children learn, with the understanding that this system is mutually and actively created by teachers and students. What we propose is a 'collective' zone of proximal development" (p. 20).
The notion of a collective zone of proximal development is related to the concept of distributed cognition (Salomon, 1993), since knowledge is shared among participants in sociocultural activity and manifested in the artifacts of human production (Rogoff, 2003), each with unique affordances and constraints available both through the material form of the artifacts themselves and the social practices that guide action in particular settings (Wertsch, 1991). Individuals, for instance, would find it materially difficult to eat a thin soup with a fork, and be socially discouraged from combing their hair with a fork at a formal dinner, possible though it might be.
Moreover, an apt definition of the ZPD applied to classroom practices for Moll and Whitmore (1993) must include the active child appropriating and developing new meditational means for learning. Shifting the emphasis from the adult/more-competent-peer and child dyad to what an individual can accomplish through participation in joint sociocultural activity opens up possibilities to understand the kinds of learning and dynamics that occur in computer-mediated environments in which the participants play games and use digital resources. Although gaps between those assigned different formal roles such as teacher and student might remain superficially in place, these gaps can mask other ways in which task-and-setting appropriate knowledge can be distributed more equitably across relationships.
This sociocultural perspective enables researchers to study people's use and transformation of cultural tools and technologies and their involvement and participation in the social, discursive, and cultural practices of their families and communities. Such practices are not fixed, but rather change in relation to the protean dynamics of interpersonal and intrapersonal action and the teleological goals toward which action is directed in relation to task, setting, and participant factors (Rogoff, 2003; Smagorinsky, 2001; Wertsch, 2000). Two contexts that have experienced much change in the last decades involve literacy and play, which have prompted the "digital turn" in literacy research. Next we review briefly some studies about learning in computer-mediated environments.
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