Hi Jenna,I would agree with Mike that you need to stand firm (and proud) in your position. How do the adversaries of "techological determinism" brand themselves? "Social determinists"? Or, simply by having less to say, do they manage to escape the fear-word "determinism" and call themselves advocates of "social choice"? But you can't let them do this; fight "ism" with "ism", if they insist.
But -- more productively -- I would just point out that you are sketching out a position that is much more finely honed than the hopelessly coarse "broad-brush" characterization of technological determinism. As your specific example of the blind man and the walking stick (which I remember discussing with Mike extensively 'back in the day') demonstrates, the specific nature of the technology "shapes" or "constrains" (not "detemines", for heaven's sake) behavior in specific ways through the specific affordances it provides to its user. Now, yes, I deliberately used the word "specific" four (4) times in the previous sentence, but that was to show that there are several places where you have the ability to specify (!) quite a bit of detail about the particular kind of shaping, affording, behaving, that is going on.
And Shirky's (ref?) observation is quite an interesting one, although I'm not sure I would say that the tool/instrument/technology has become "boring". I would say instead that has achieved a certain critical level of "transparency", by which one might mean that the user can coordinate with his/her environment directly while using the instrument. Instead of the (pre-learning, pre-'literate') system "organism <--> tool+environment", we've reached a point where a more meaningful decomposition is now "organism+tool <--> environment". So what does the skilled blind-man-with-walking-stick exploring a cave perceive? Not "the pattern of pokes of the walking stick on his hand", but "the structure of the cave".
Jerry On Sep 21, 2009, at 3:55 PM, mike cole wrote:
And Jennifer, who on earth would lead you think you cannot bridge between this discussion of artifact construction and mediation and media studies! You have one proud graduate of the IU psych department here who is a senior member of a communication department and who is perfectly happy to discusssuch matters.Don't let people scare you with the ghost of McLuhan's excesses!! Be ofstout heart. And give us a reference for Clay Shirky. Is a noob an apprentice youst2b? No pain, no gain? :-) mikeOn Mon, Sep 21, 2009 at 10:15 AM, Jenna McWilliams <email@example.com >wrote:As a doctoral student in a Learning Sciences program, I've been following the various recent XMCA threads with great interest. Of course I haven't weighed in with my thoughts on the field of learning sciences, because a) I'm a n00b, and b) as a n00b, I'm reading lots of foundational texts bymembers of this listserv.Right now, I'm neck-deep in Mike Cole's 1993 piece with Y.Engestrom, "a cultural-historical approach to distributed cognition." At the same time, I'm also immersed in readings about constructionism, esp. by Papert and Resnick. Because of this, I took great interest in Jerry Balzano's argumentthat:"Constructionism emphasizes the value of building interesting artifacts inthe world that can be shared and discussed with other learners;Constructivism emphasizes the value of building schemata one's own head. Asfor the computer, it is simply a vehicle. Who among us doesn't use a computer for at least some part of most of the things we create? AndPapert's mantra is, why should it be any different for kids? So computers are simply awfully good tools for creating interesting, shareable artifacts. But the focus is on the artifacts, e.g. programs to teach fractions to elementary school students (Harel & Papert, 1991, to my mind the "landmark" study in this area), and not at all on the computer science. In fact, the hope is that, as kids (and their teachers?) become more and more comfortable and "literate" with these tools, the "technique", like the technique of penmanship, of reading, etc., fades appropriately into the background."With respect to that last point, that the technique of working with newer technologies fades into the background with increased comfort and literacy, I wonder how this relates to Bateson's example cited by Cole & Engestrom ofthe blind man using a walking stick:"Suppose I am a blind man, and I use a stick. I go tap, tap, tap. Where do I start? Is my mental system bounded at the hand of the stick? Is it bounded by my skin? Does it start halfway up the stick? Does it start at the tip ofthe stick?" In fact, I'm wondering right at this very moment, as I type this verysentence, where my mental system ends and the tool begins. Materially, my fingertips are the end of me--but practically speaking, we might consider my keyboard as a tool much like a blind man's walking stick, so we could say I extend into my laptop. We could say that I extend into the screen that shows me what I've typed. We could say that when I send this email, I extend into the listserv to which this email is directed. And so on and so on, until oureyes cross and we get too perplexed to continue. It's all a thought experiment--all fun and games--until learning getsinvolved. Clay Shirky writes that it's not until a tool becomes technically boring that it becomes socially interesting. We can say this is true of the blind man's walking stick: Once he becomes accustomed to using it, once hestarts to experience it as part of his being, then things really getinteresting. The networked computer, still a novelty to many older membersof our culture, is 'boring' to young learners--which means that itsremediation for creative and pedagogical purposes begins to be possible.With the walking stick, we can try to climb mountains.In the field of media studies, this approach to tools and technologies is often at risk of being dismissed as "technological determinism." Argue too loudly that tools play a part in shaping practice, and you get into hot water faster than you can say "Marshall MacLuhan." I wonder, then, how others think and talk about these issues: How can we talk about tools, practices, activity systems, and distributed cognition in ways that cross the divide between learning theories and media studies? Is there value in trying to bridge these fields, or in considering these issues for learning?Oh, what's a young learning scientist to do? ~~ Jenna McWilliams Learning Sciences Program, Indiana University ~ http://jennamcwilliams.blogspot.com http://remediatingassessment.blogspot.com ~ firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com On Sep 19, 2009, at 6:46 PM, mike cole wrote:Sounds right to me, Jerry. When properly implemented, Papert's approachhas a lot of attractive features from a cultural-mediational, activity-oriented approach to development.That was a big conditional WHEN back there. Too many copy cats with onlythe cat's whiskers. mike On Fri, Sep 18, 2009 at 7:57 AM, Jerry Balzano <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote: Michael,I wouldn't call Papert's Constructionism "computer science heavy". Ithinkthe most important thing about it, in these days where folks in cognitive science are debating "externalist" and "internalist" views of cognition,is that Constructionism is explicitly externalist and social, where Constructivism is internalist and "schematic". Constructionism emphasizesthe value of building interesting artifacts in the world that can besharedand discussed with other learners; Constructivism emphasizes the value of building schemata one's own head. As for the computer, it is simply a vehicle. Who among us doesn't use a computer for at least some part ofmostof the things we create? And Papert's mantra is, why should it be anydifferent for kids? So computers are simply awfully good tools for creatinginteresting, shareable artifacts. But the focus is on the artifacts,e.g. programs to teach fractions to elementary school students (Harel & Papert,1991, to my mind the "landmark" study in this area), and not at all onthe computer science. In fact, the hope is that, as kids (and their teachers?)become more and more comfortable and "literate" with these tools, the "technique", like the technique of penmanship, of reading, etc., fadesappropriately into the background. Jerry On Sep 18, 2009, at 6:23 AM, michael a evans wrote: David,I agree wholeheartedly with your point below - again, that's why I'vefound it necessary to bring Vygotsky to the forefront in mycourse...currently, it appears that learning scientists either refer to a "situativity" or "constructionist" position when they talk about research goals - I've mentioned that I'm not quite clear what is meantby "situativity" and the "constructionist" movement took off with Papert and his interpretation of Piaget being too individual-centered...I kind of like the "constructionist" position, but can'tfind any theoretical ground for their work - it is, indeed, very applied and computer science heavy... I obviously picked the *wrong* time to think about reducing my contributions to the list - I'll continue to lurk but do need to discipline my focus ;^)... Again, thanks for the great discussion! Michael~ On Sep 18, 2009, at 9:14 AM, David H Kirshner wrote: Michael,Sorry to be losing your voice, but the tenure packet demands cannot beignored--good luck.The methodological stricture you noted in connection with design-based research is laudable: "theory must be tested in real-world (mainly in- and out-of-school) environments." But it is the goals of the research that need attention with respect to those of sociocultural theory. Theory is instrumental in design science. The interests are centeredon creating and understanding effective learning environments, notorganizing an extendable coherent theoretical approach. Here's the opening paragraph of a section titled "A Design Science" from Keith'sintroduction to the Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences: "As scientists who are focused on creating effective learning environments, learning scientists ask questions like: How can we measurelearning? How can we determine which learning environments work best? How can we analyze a learning environment, identify the innovationsthat work well, and separate out those features that need additionalimprovement? In other words, how can we marshal all of our scientific knowledge to design the most effective learning environments? These questions are fundamental to scientific research in education." (p.13) David -----Original Message-----From: email@example.com [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org ]On Behalf Of michael a evans Sent: Friday, September 18, 2009 7:13 AM To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity Subject: Re: [xmca] From Keith Sawyer on learning sciencesI think David (and Tony) have raised some wonderful questions about the learning sciences and have called out inconsistencies that demandfurther investigation - as I believe I've hinted, I'm going to identify a couple of these as I work through my course thisfall...nevertheless, I thought Keith's contribution was accurate as far as I understand the history and position of this new domain...A methodological principle, based on a technique that is referred toas "design-based research," that I resonate with in the learningscience literature is that theory must be tested in real-world (mainly in- and out-of-school) environments - as I tell my students, no "arm chair, purely descriptive" theory is allowed...I take that a bit to the extreme for demonstrative purposes, but want to convey the idea that the learning sciences are pragmatic (and so some might label it"applied)...I'm going to caution again that neither How People Learn nor a Googlesearch result can fully capture the principles of the learning sciences - I highly recommend a close read of Sawyer's chapter forwarded by me via Tony...One last thing: I'm going to have to reduce my contribution to the list as I prepare my dossier for promotion and tenure - it's been adifficult choice, but absolutely necessary...If anyone would like to take up my offer for a symposium on this topicat ICLS 2010, please drop a line off list... Cheers, Michael~ On Sep 18, 2009, at 7:02 AM, David H Kirshner wrote: Mike,Thanks for bringing in Keith's authoritative voice. I think there is a natural way in which socioculturalists are insympathy with learning sciences goals. Both are interested in dealing with learning in a full-bodied way that honors the complexity of thefull human being. And I suppose it is a kind of good news thatVygotskyan scholarship is considered fundamental to the LS effort.But the differences of purpose may be more significant than the commonalities. Learning scientists are interested in managing theoretical heterogeneity. As you pointed out earlier, the methodological co-development of "design experimentation" is animportant window into the learning sciences. Missing from LS is thecentral effort toward theoretical synthesis that characterizes sociocultural psychology.This raises broader questions about the status of these enterprisesas socio-historical movements. The sociocultural movement, broadlyconsidered, is a scientific search for explanation--well, perhaps wearen't quite deeply enough determined by data to be a science-- maybe ablend of science and philosophy. The status of LS is more ambiguous.Perhaps "applied science" would be the correct rubric. Perhaps apostmodern variant of science. Or perhaps an (unwitting?) hegemonicextension of cognitive psychology.It really is unclear the extent to which the computational metaphorremains central to LS, particularly when the status of the enterprise isunclear--perhaps ambiguous. In Keith's construal, computation is just one of the orienting theoretical tools. But as Martin noted a coupleof days ago:"further Googling discloses 'three principles [of the New Science ofLearning] to guide the study of human learning across a range of areasand ages: learning is computational- ...; learning is social-...; andlearning is supported by brain circuits linking perception and action.'I suppose two out of three aint bad, but the fact that the first isfirst speaks volumes." David Kirshner -----Original Message----- From: email@example.com [mailto:xmca- firstname.lastname@example.org] On Behalf Of mike cole Sent: Thursday, September 17, 2009 4:03 PM To: eXtended Mind, Culture,Activity Subject: [xmca] From Keith Sawyer on learning sciencesKeith is not currently subscribed to xmca. Here is his response tosome ofthe recent posts. I will collate relevant replies and send along tohim as seems useful. mikeI read through the thread. But rather than subscribe (I have been subscribed before and I can't afford to have that many messages in myinbox)I will send you this note which you have my permission to post on mybehalf.If in a week or two you think I need to return to the thread again,please email and let me know. <Beginning of quotation for you to post>The most comprehensive view of the interdisciplinary field of thelearningsciences is the 2006 handbook that I edited, THE CAMBRIDGE HANDBOOKOF THELEARNING SCIENCES. This follows on and is compatible with the 2001HOWPEOPLE LEARN book, but that earlier book is more directed towardseducation practitioners and policy makers. My introduction chapter to the handbook,based on interviews with several founding figures of the learningsciences,answers a lot of the questions that have appeared in this thread.Here are my answers to some of the thread questions:1. In the early 1990s, the learning sciences emerged from severalhistorical trends:(a) the Artificial Intelligence and Education conferences that weretakingplace through the 1980s. These were very much production systems intheAnderson mold. Those who became learning scientists rejected the AIandEducation approach for the most part, so the concern with productionsystems in some XMCA thread postings is misplaced. The AI and Education conferencescontinue to take place today but there is basically no interchangewith the learning sciences. (b) cognitive developmental research (conceptual change, continuations of Piagetian studies of developmental stages of various cognitive abilities; think Lauren Resnick, Andy DiSessa)(c) the broad 1980s shift in the cognitive sciences from a narrowmentalist focus on cognition, to a more situated/distributed notion of cognition.Vygotsky was only one of many influences in this movement, which waspartof the 1980s zeitgeist in AI and in cognitive science; that may bewhy youdon't see more explicit citation to Vygotsky in the Handbook. (Ichose not to have a series of "theoretical foundations" chapters in the handbook; if Ihad, Vygotsky would have been one of them.) So situativity has beenbuiltinto the learning sciences from its very beginning almost 20 yearsago. 2. It's a complicated question to ask, what distinguishes the learning sciences from educational psychology more generally (or, from cognitivedevelopment, or from instructional design, or from constructivism inIT, orfrom situated cognition, or from human-computer interaction, or fromserious games research, or from science education research, or from math educationresearch). Learning sciences has links to all of these. So whatunifies it as a distinct perspective warranting its own name? That's not a simple answer, but my handbook introduction attempts to answer this question bysummarizing the epistemology that is generally shared by those whocallthemselves learning scientists. If I try to elaborate that here myposting will get too long. 3. LS is absolutely not the same thing as neuroeducation. Most learningscientists do not neuroimaging, and most of us are quite skeptical ofthepresent capabilities of cognitive neuroscience to impact educationalpractice. (See John Bruer's "A bridge too far" ER article.) However, weare receptive to benefiting from neuroscience, once the methodologiesbecome more advanced...perhaps unlike some LCHC-ers whom I suspect in principle are opposed to neuroscience and education. The NSF news story about Meltzoff that started off this thread may have given some of you an unfortunatemisimpression of the field. Meltzoff is one of the co-PIs of the NSFscience of learning center along with John Bransford and Roy Pea (Stanford)and several others, and none of the other PIs are doing neuroscience.Thereason why the story refers to the "science of learning" rather thanthe"learning sciences" is because the NSF grant program had that name.And yes, I am the same Keith Sawyer that does research on creativityand collaboration. My own chapter in the handbook (other than the introduction and conclusion) is titled "Analyzing collaborative discourse." mike coole wrote: Keith-- A discussion of learning sciences, its history and itsfunctions,has eruptedon xmca. You are right there in the middle. It would be great if youcouldfind time tohelp in the discussion and educational process. mike --R. Keith Sawyer Associate Professor Washington University Department of Education Campus Box 1183 St. Louis, MO 63130 www.keithsawyer.com _______________________________________________ xmca mailing list email@example.com http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca _______________________________________________ xmca mailing list firstname.lastname@example.org http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca_______________________________________________ xmca mailing list email@example.com http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca _______________________________________________ xmca mailing list firstname.lastname@example.org http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca_______________________________________________ xmca mailing list email@example.com http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca_______________________________________________ xmca mailing list firstname.lastname@example.org http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca _______________________________________________xmca mailing list email@example.com http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca_______________________________________________ xmca mailing list firstname.lastname@example.org http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca_______________________________________________ xmca mailing list email@example.com http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca