Re: [xmca] Re: Questions: multiple objects

From: Mabel Encinas (
Date: Thu Oct 20 2005 - 03:01:33 PDT

Hi, Mike, Martin and Elaine. Hi, everybody.

Thanks Mike for pushing my answer... :) In fact, I have been thinking and that is why I had not written. I will answer in parts.

First of all, I am Mexican, though as my flatmate is Brazilian, I can understand Brazilian Portuguese much better than average Spanish speakers... but I still can express definitely much more in English.

Now, in relationship to my questions and the e-mails posted in relationship to them, Martin, you asked: "The difficulty, perhaps, is choosing an analytical approach to enable you to articulate this understanding?. What questions are you trying to answer in your thesis".

My research questions are related to learning in the workplace. What do teachers learn? I went into a school that was starting in SEC21 (Secondary for the XXI Century) project, in which Mexican state schools receive a LAN with computers for the subject classrooms and for one or more media classrooms (depending on the size), digital videos, some audios, calculators and other equipment for the science laboratories. Additionally, teachers receive workshops. However, most of the Spanish teachers (consider please that it is the mother tongue) do not use the computers.


My intention is to investigate what teachers learn while working. So I considered two things: first, that if they were starting to use the computers I could "easily" find "learning" in what they did; second, that I should do some things to support that they could use them as they were not using them almost at all. Then, by chance I went to this school (I will not explain how) and the head teacher had been my mother's colleague and he was quite open to support that I proposed changes. After some time of difficulty at doing so (I will not give details of this either) including my decision of not using AT for the "intervention" (other day I could write about that), I gave workshops to all the teachers, worked with the media teachers and we had a plan and a schedule for organising their attendance to the media classroom for the teachers in different subjects. I started then observing (and video recording) the four Spanish teachers both in the Spanish-classroom (which is an innovation in Mexico) and in the media classroom. I talked as well a lot with them in the corridors. I took notes of many things (I could not claim that "everything" of course). Then, I wrote "narratives" of the classes in both spaces. Moreover, I had interviews with the teachers at the beginning of the period and at the end. My literature reviews have been in relationship to: sociocultural and AT research, teacher development and learning at work in general and with technology.

My concerns in relation to multiple objects is:

Engeström refers to multivocedness in the activity system, but possibly one of the limitation of the triangles in the impossibility to include this aspect of the subject graphically (as much as times, by the way), and particularly in the classroom, the "object" is quite difficult to define. Elaine points out that "it seems to me that the most evident motive for most of them (the teachers), that is, what apparently engages them in the same network of activity systems is the need to survive school: teachers need a job and will do anything to please children and in some really violent schools not to be threatened by them; children must be in schools and won't do much as they know that "no child must be left behind" (which in Brazil means no school failure at all). Additionally, I would say that students need to do "something" as at their age they have to go to school (motive: avoid fighting their parents or not being bored at home), and a very important motive seems to be meeting friends and having fun with others. Sometimes, learning school things could be important for them or maybe getting along well with some of the adults there. Additionally, teachers could also have the motive of supporting students learning or development or something like that (not only because I asked them, but because I observed that they used different resources to make this happened and I do not think anyway that surviving and keeping their jobs is less important, but they could survive doing less, for sure). So, in relationship to the multiple objects, "polysemy" would not express this huge differences and contradictions. However, Sofía, one of my teachers, was very good at promoting joint action. She even used my camera ("the camera is there, the camera is there") and she "defended" the students when I asked something when they were presenting a subject, and students supported her (I was kind of an "intruder" in that relationship). It seemed as well to me that Sofía was enjoying the classes. There was a pleasure in her job (and I am not psychoanalytic). Possibly is like the pleasure of writing when you know that you are going to be read :) There seem to be affective relationships and power relationships there. In fact Sofía had a lot of power -"influence in others"- over the students. And I have the question, Martin, if pleasure can exist in spite of alienation... (this is not my point, the idea just popped-up).
In relationship to the questions: What would the tool be for if not for implementation of object oriented action? How could the object be acted upon in the absence of a mediating tool?
For the second one, it is clear that the object, for being acted upon, needs the tool. It does not matter if the object is to make the school survive (teaching and students' results could be the tools, or pleasing, etc.), meet friends or learning (the school would be a tool, then). My main doubt is about the first question: if in an activity system the object can be so ill-defined, then the tool could be used for supporting the negotiations towards constructing the object. Another pathway, what if the tool is used, as in a "disglosic" way to beat relational things as well. We tend to divide time in "westernised" cultures in working time and leisure time, though, could not be possible that joint activity engaged towards and object and towards the relationships, for example in terms of exercising power and caring others?
I will come back with more of the ingredients that I am stirring for my cake, and I will answer your question on Elaine's reflections, Mike. Additionally, I still have not yet arrived at all at "learning", that is supposed to be my question.
See you soon,
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