Conclusion: Beyond Activity Theory

Conclusion: Beyond Activity Theory

Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4590-5.ch011
(Individual Chapters)
No Current Special Offers


The chapter begins with a discussion of the value of having adopted an Activity Theory perspective to write this book. It follows with consideration of the role of tradition and beliefs in transforming higher education. The subsequent sections summarize opportunities for expansion which readers may take away from this book as implications for policy and practice. These relate to expansion of conceptions of learning; control; support; tools; and boundaries. The chapter concludes with limitations of this book and of Activity Theory in general.
Chapter Preview

Beyond Activity Theory

As we indicated at the start of this book, theoretical and empirical perspectives on technology are not new, nor are they in short supply. What, therefore, does an Activity Theory perspective add to what exists already? In this book, we have shown that an Activity Theory perspective is broad and functions at a macro level. That is why, throughout the book, we have been able to focus attention beyond simple discussions of particular tools and their benefits and challenges for learning. The perspective we have relied on takes into account transformation over time (historically) and identification of the disconnects that must be overcome in order for transformations to occur.

We have emphasized that, first and foremost, Activity Theory sees activity as driven towards purposes or objects, with the ultimate object being actual (as opposed to proximal) development. The object lies at the top of a hierarchy with subjects and tools in its service. Subjects are constantly using tools towards achievement of objects. They do that, not in a vacuum, but with certain norms, community, and division of labour in an activity system. They are always in a zone or state of proximal development, working through disconnects in the system, adapting components, including tools that are forever being modified and refined, invented and reinvented.

Over centuries, humans have developed systems of activity around learning that have led to the formation of what we call education systems at the primary, secondary, and higher education levels. The system of higher education has developed its own objects, i.e., what we referred to as credentialized learning. This is a formal type of learning (as opposed to informal) with deeply-rooted components including: rules and conventions (norms); centralization of power (division of labour); sharing of the object (community); and means to achieve the object (tools). Over the centuries, this education system has also developed a set of subjects largely organized around age groups (e.g., higher education is for students approximately 18 years and older).

Over long periods of time, education, as an activity system, has developed norms and a division of labour that are highly stable and resistant to change. Even subjects themselves have developed beliefs that accept the norms and division of labour particularly because they may not be able to imagine any other type of norms or division of labour. Unlike the other components in an activity system, tools develop at a much faster rate because they are, most often, developed outside of the system and do not have deep roots in tradition as do the other components. They (e.g., personal networked devices) are not part of education. They are merely appropriated by education.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: