The Application of ‘Activity Theory’ in the Design of Educational Simulation Games

The Application of ‘Activity Theory’ in the Design of Educational Simulation Games

Paul Peachey (University of Glamorgan, Wales, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-195-9.ch510
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As you read this text you perform an activity. Activity is literally everything we do and yet we are unaware of most of our operations. In this chapter, I will describe activity through a psychological lens and explain how this relates to the process of learning. The conceptual instrument used for analysis is ‘activity theory’; a cultural-historical concept that was formulated in Russia during the 1920s. I will offer suggestions as to how activity theory may be used in the design of computer simulation games directed at education and highlight its conceptual underpinnings. In the latter part of the chapter, I offer possible directions for further research in this field.
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Background On ‘Activity Theory’

Activity theory (AT) is a historic-cultural conceptual model that was introduced primarily by the Russian psychologist Vygotsky (1896-1934) and was further developed mainly by Leont’ev (1903-1979) and more recently Engeström, but is influenced by the philosophies of Marx, Engel, Hegel, Kant and Luria. AT is essentially not a theory but a descriptive representation of an activity. AT initially emerged from a totalitarian environment that was highly structured and externally controlled and this powerful cultural antecedent has indelibly permeated the underlying concept. This influence led to Lektorsky’s (1999) description of AT as ‘one-sided’ but the polarization is conceivable given Vygotsky’s belief that the development of the mind is profoundly affected by the cultural and societal environment within which it exists.

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