Re: [xmca] Artifacts, Tools, Classroom and AERA

From: bb (
Date: Fri Jan 20 2006 - 09:56:42 PST

From: Mike Cole <>
> This representation of relations of built environment to dynamically
> changing
> structure of activity seems really useful to me. Might it help with the
> article
> under discussion?

Sure. three things about the paper. I'm just retyping this response, because I apparently deleted the first. damn fingers won't work right.

First, please consider the web page I created to be an *expression* of the relations between activity and built structure, not a "representation". Also, I'll be fixing an error I made and please note that blue highlight means activity occuring throughout the classroom. no highlight means outside the classroom.

Second, I find difference with the statement in the discussion section "The three artifacts had common effects on human functioning. They acted as controllers of behavior,demanding attention and channeling action." Control can be too strong of a word. "Channeling action" is more accurate. I'll draw upon my web page and Foucault for a better basis of discussion.

The built environment displayed on my web page includes in its design the consideration of sight lines for the teacher, who is coauthor on the paper describing her teaching and her children's learning. These sight lines allow her to see into every corner of the room while cooperative or independent lessons are occuring. Foucault has described the "eye of power" where a gaze can serve to regulate behavior, and this is why sight lines are important. They make surveillance possible -- to see when behavior is acting out of the synomorph (the actions appropriate to the context). The eye of power is a form of social regulation that is nessessary for the effective functioning of schools. While the teachers gaze can also be supportive, it can serve to help a child act in. The eye of power is silent and can be gentle. Most of the time it is only noticed by those directly involved. Children who are engaged in quiet conversations are not distracted when one of them falls under !
 the gaze of the teacher for talking too loud. But here the eye is not a machavellian control. The gaze, just as the artifacts, can be ignored, or the child can have her back turned from the teacher and not notice. The room itself still contains most of the activity, but there are doorways to get in and out, and children are frequently doing so, often independently, to manage their bodily functions or to see a specialist. The design of the room itself and alone does not exert power -- the reduction of one's choice/alternative actions by another -- but functions ecologically with other artifacts and people's actions to exert power.

Third, I also find difference with this statement from the authors:"The textbook used by the Vietnamese students offered affordances in that it defined the topics to be discussed and scenarios which required fresh thought. It also constrained thought and hindered understanding when it provided scenarios outside the studentsí own experience. For example, the Vietnamese students had seldom traveled and had never been abroad, and so found it hard to talk about going on a vacation, or laws in Britain, when the textbook provided these topics."

I would prefer to bring in Halliday's notion of meaning potential, thereby bringing in a very powerful framework for analyzing texts, rather than affordances, not because affordances have been taken by Don Norman to be his own, but because in doing so they have been turned into properties of the artifact, independent of activity. Basically, vacation and the laws in Britain were outside of the childrens' meaning potentials. To quote Halliday:

"Children will attend to text that is ahead of their current semiotic potential, provided it is not too far ahead. They will tackle something that is far enough
beyond their reach to be recognized as a challenge, if they have a reasonable chance of succeeding (cf. Vygotsky's zone of proximal development). What-
ever is too far beyond their powers of meaning they will simply filter out. "(Towards a Language-Based Theory of Learning p. 105)

Drawing from Jay's writing on intertextuality, children make meaning of a text with a background of meanings made from other prior texts, where "text" here is to include talk, and meaning is something that is shared.


> On 1/18/06, bb <> wrote:
> >
> > On Wednesday 18 January 2006 12:08 pm, White, Phillip wrote:
> >
> > > have you made a floor map - that would support the 360 degree shot.
> > >
> >
> > Better than that. Below is a URL for a a schematicized map which is color
> > coded, with a matching color coded day schedule, to indicate where lessons
> > occur in the room. The title of the schedule "May, Monday, 3, 2004" was
> > written the previous day by the student group who was assigned that job.
> > Schedule items that are not color coded either occur outside the classroom
> > or
> > throughout the entire room.
> >
> >
> >
> > cheers,
> > bb
> >
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> >
> >
> >
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