Re: [xmca] Re: Questions: multiple objects

From: Elaine Mateus (
Date: Thu Oct 20 2005 - 04:13:26 PDT

you wrote:
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).

They sure could and that´s what they are looking forward to (in a positive
sense). However, they can only do less (as they say, teach as their teachers
used to do 30 years ago in a well-behaved class, to deeply motivated
children, in a cozy atmosphere) if they overcome some of the present
contradictions. In this sense, computers are believed to be a promissing
tool towards which teacher´s effort is worth it. It may be true...

----- Original Message -----
From: "Mabel Encinas" <>
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <>
Sent: Thursday, October 20, 2005 8:01 AM
Subject: Re: [xmca] Re: Questions: multiple objects

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

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
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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