It seems to me that one of the obvious contrasts between zoped and the idea of "meaning potential" is that zoped is really intended to describle not all meaning making, and not even all learning, but only learning which leads to the revolutionary restructuring of psychological functions.
One of the reasons why many of the uses of the zoped are vacuous is that we have tried to make it describe all instances of learning. But I think Vygotsky probably knew that much learning is actually developmentally inert. To take a simple example, a baseball playing child who learns to play cricket has learned something, but he is not really at a different stage of development (else we would have to say that British children somehow stand at a higher level of development than Americans).
On the other hand, a child who has been playing "house" or "hospital" or war games where concrete discourse roles are dominant and abstract rules are only implicit might then begin playing games where abstract rules are explicit and the discourse roles are only implicit (say, Chess). That child has developed, because he/she has not only learned a new game but a whole new way of playing.
In the same way, I think Vygotsky would argue that some forms of learning are restructuring and others are not. When a child learns a few extra words, the child is very apt to forget them. But when a child learns to read and write, or when the child learns a foreign language, the child's whole language system is systematically reanalyzed and restructured, and the child has not just learnt a new thing, but a new way of learning. That's what the zoped means to me: a gate between microgenesis and ontogenesis. That's why, as Seth Chaiklin points out, it's not just called a "Zone of Proximal Learning".
Seoul National University of Education
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