Affordances and Constraints of Scaffolded Learning in a Virtual World for Young Children

Affordances and Constraints of Scaffolded Learning in a Virtual World for Young Children

Rebecca W. Black (University of California, Irvine, USA) and Stephanie M. Reich (University of California, Irvine, USA)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1864-0.ch005
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In recent years there has been a marked increase in the number of virtual worlds aimed at populations between the ages of 6 to14 years. This article examines the content and design of one such site, Webkinz World, as a sociocultural context for informal learning. Focusing on the design and activities of this site sheds light on the ways in which Webkinz World supports learning, especially for nascent users, and the apparent limits of these support structures as users gain more expertise.
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Sociocultural Theory And Scaffolded Learning

This article is grounded in a sociocultural perspective that stresses the centrality of social and cultural resources to processes of thinking and learning. Sociocultural theory posits that a child’s mental functioning emerges from the manipulation of cultural material and development of psychological tools (Karpov & Bransford, 1995). This includes play that is mediated by tools and artifacts, as well as symbolic systems such as language. From this perspective, a space such as Webkinz World may serve multiple roles in children’s learning. For instance, the computer provides the sociocultural context for activity and interaction as well as many of the cultural artifacts and tools that are used in such activities. In addition, the computer also serves as the more capable or expert other that structures learning experiences within the virtual world. Thus, the design of such environments plays a significant role in shaping children’s learning experiences therein.

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