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[Xmca-l] 3rd generation activity theory


I have not posted in a very long time. I am hoping that someone can help
out with my question(s).

I am working with data from a group of 4 students, they are collaboratively
working on a project. Most of their collaboration is done using an online
forum, although there is some-face-to-face time. They are working in the
L2, English, their L1 is Japanese. Their project was to investigate pet
bottle use on campus and give a poster presentation on their findings.

They have done some preliminary work, such as a survey to students, some
interviews, some general research and have begun to work on their poster.
(all dialogue is being shared in the online forum).

The dialogue in the forum looks something like this:

1. Student A: 'Let's begin working on our poster'
2. Student B: 'I made my poster, please check' (poster1 file an attachment
in the forum)
3. Student C: 'I've made some small changes, and I added some information'
(poster2 file an attachment in the forum, originally poster1)
4. Student D: 'Student C's ideas are good, I made some changes too.'
(poster3 file an attachment in the forum, originally poster 2)
5. Student B: 'I think that we should put the following contents in our
poster (suggesting a list of topics concerning pet bottles and pet bottle
use) Please give me your opinion.
6. Student C: 'I made a poster about (topic a), please check' (poster4 file
an attachment in the forum, originally poster3)

And so forth. This occurs the bouncing back and forth of the file, each
student adding or changing something, expressing what they have done in the
online forum. There are about 120 lines of data, with over 80 files being

I have used Longacre's analysis to prove that this is procedural dialogue,
and Bereiter's discussions of progressive dialogue to prove that this is
progressive dialogue, but I have gotten stuck on the concept of 3rd
generation activity theory to show that this is a joint construction of the
object of the activity, and that there are a number activity systems at

What I want to show is that there is evidence of dialogue that pushes the
creation of content. The learners are working from basically nothing, they
only have been given a project of what to investigate, but the rest of what
they do is up to them. They decide content, they decide what to present,
and they decide who does what within their group. So, as someone makes a
suggestion, as in 1 and 5, content follows based on the suggestion.
I also want to show that there is evidence that the content created also
causes more dialogue to occur. So as content is uploaded, as in 2, 3, 4,
and 6, students respond with evaluation, changes to the content, and
additions to the content.

I can understand what happens between 1 and 2. This is a simple case. But
between 2, 3, and 4 it becomes complicated. In 2, B uploads a file and
requests evaluation. C downloads the content, makes changes, and uploads it
in 3. The language in the forum in 2, I would like to argue that it is a
tool, to inform the others that there is content for them to look at, but
that this is actually a case of the content in 2 creating the reason for
dialogue in 3. But at the same time, content is changed and uploaded in 3.

In my efforts to understand this data, I have turned to two places,
Engestrom's chapter from 1999, Innovative learning in work teams, and
Daniels book 2001, Vygotsky and Pedagogy, mostly chapter 3, the discussions
of Activity theory 3rd generation as a starting point.

I want to argue that the learners are jointly constructing the object of
the activity, and that object is what Bereiter and Wells refer to as the
improvable object. The dialogue influences the content and the content
influences the dialogue. Can this be argued as 3rd generation activity
theory? I am thinking it can be, I actually think it is a perfect fit to
the model, but I am alone reading these materials without anyone to bounce
these ideas off of. My confusion lies in that this is with second language
learners in a general English course, and most of the instances of language
learning discussions center around the structure of the language, not the
use of the language.

Eventually, my final argument is that through this interaction, instances
of dynamic assessment occurs between learners, because not only are they
sharing files and constantly changing them, but occasionally Student B may
upload a file with content and Student A (or other) will make a suggestion
to Student B who will then change their poster file again and upload it.
Again, much of the discussion of dynamic assessment and language learning
occurs around the structure of the language, so I'm certain that this is a
new field of study with respect to joint construction of an object coupled
with instances of dynamic assessment in a language learning environment.

I know there is probably much more I can write, but not to bog down the
readers here, I am interested in thoughts or opinions on what is happening
with the data.