The course has come to an end. We have spent quite some time on thinking, reading, analysing, reflecting, communicating and working even with other students from other countries… Hopefully all of you have found something from this course to take with you…something, which is useful for your future activities.
I am going to contact all of you via e-mail regarding the final grade.
It was a great pleasure to work with you!
I went through your final analysis and reflections. As expected, cultural historical activity theory framework is more elaborated in comparison to your attempts. The main differences I gathered from your posts are the following:
- external tools (technology) for mediation. Darja admitted that “it never came to my mind that the tools we use have actually a huge impact on our lives and activities”. Mattias realised that “The role of external tools actually is very important according to activity theory, however, people in their everyday lives take it for granted”. Also Tiina claimed that
“I haven’t really focused on tools that are one part of how humans interact with the external world. But I think it is more because we are so used to the things around as and we do not pay any attention on what tools are used to complete some task”.
- focus on subject-object relationship. Tiina, referring to the activity theory says that “the mind can be only understood in the context of the subject-object relationship, human mind has a social nature”.
- although some of you presented your initial frameworks from a process point of view Marta writes that “Activity theory is more concentrated on the process of activity, its actors, tools, mediums and so on, which I didn’t consider in my framework”. Looking back at your frameworks the majority of you pointed out a temporal aspect as an essential component for understanding and describing human activities. To the contrary, activity theory doesn’t consider time as an important factor. Maarja-Triin points out this difference: “I would link Activity Theory with the two practical aspects of my framework – time schedule and choices”.
I want to mention here that every framework has some pros and cons and can’t be suitable for every purposes. The frameworks that were developed in the beginning of the course had different starting points and assumptions; and they were seen from the different perspectives. However, we have also found some similarities. Eret has outlined that some components are actually the same, but we use different vocabulary, different labels. To conclude, I agree with Mehis. He is not sure that Activity Theory is the best way to describe human activity, but it has some potentials…
Your attempts to apply activity theory to your group work as an emerging activity system produced some interesting thoughts, although, I noticed that some of you decided to limit the analysis to the mere description of your group work and its problems without any effort to connect it to activity theory and its components. Nevertheless, some of you being part of the same group demonstrated nice variety of perceptions and interpretations of the “activity system”.
For instance, while Tiina and Mattias had more or less the same understanding and interpretation of the group work as an emerging activity system, Giga perceived it a rather different way. Giga also points out the need for a control instrument in activity systems such as we experience in formal higher education. He adds “I think that, every system somehow has a control mechanism to look through the process of it, so this system needs this kind of addition. The solution of this problem might be some tricked rules, but generally it is very hard to control personal contribution in the group work“.
It was interesting to see that most of you pointed out how messy the “system” was in the beginning, without any established structure, any clear leader or assigned tasks. Bringing people together from different countries and cultures requires to explore first the potential of a particular group. We act in the context of formal education, which makes it quite likely that students expected to have a leader and clear structure worked out for them by the tutors before the actual group work could start. This typical learning myth (teacher takes a lead, establishes structures, assigns roles and tasks) seems to be so deeply rooted in our mental models and is perceived as a drawback of an educational experience. It is true, the biggest challenge is to find common understanding, divide roles, define rules and get started. Alessandro rightfully points out that subjects in our activity systems are influenced a lot by the bigger systems (universities we are enrolled in) and their internal rules and regulations.
To solve the initial mess of the emerging “activity system” Tiina and Mattias started to ponder about some project management tool. Mattias said that “A project management system allows clearly assigning roles and assignments to people, monitoring the process and seeing who has done what and when”. Perhaps something to keep in mind while working in groups in the future. Furthermore, Mattias points out nicely “Problems aren’t always bad, because through them a higher qualitative level is achieved”. Establishing a proper and suitable structure for the group, dividing tasks, assigning roles, etc. is as important part of the learning process as studying the actual subject matter.
While most of you explicitly pointed out that the object of the activity system is a joint book chapter, Alessandro sees this as a secondary object as he claims: “The first explicit purpose that jumps to my mind is undoubtedly the organization of a coordinated and fruitful cooperative action to create a research product that might be useful to academics and theoretical ends“. So, first it is important to establish a coordinated and successful action, which allows to concentrate on a joint product.
The second issue, which turned out to be rather common was related to the amount of different technological tools and services used to support regulative and productive actions. Not being very familiar, the subjects of the system had to consciously mediate their activities with different technological solutions. Karmen points out that as soon as a familiar tool (Facebook) was taken in use, the group’s progress was better. Eret outlines in her analysis the perceived drawbacks of the tools and services her group was using. It seems that finding a suitable set of technology that can be turned into instruments and is accepted by all the group members is a challenging task.
Thank you for your interpretations!
You were kindly asked to fill in the questionnaire about creative collaboration designed by Cocreat project partners. If you haven’t done that yet, please do so here.
Furthermore, as this course is part of CoCreat research project we (Norwegian facilitator Mikhail and I) are interested in carrying out some interviews with you to find out about your experiences regarding this international group work (such as what tools, applications, services you used, how did you divide your roles and tasks, what was challenging, any tensions, etc.). Getting some feedback from you will help us to understand your learning experiences and design our courses better in the future. Taking part in an interview is voluntary and doesn’t affect your final grade, however, we would appreciate a lot if you can find some time (max 1h) to share your experiences. It can be done face-to-face or mediated by technology (online, using Skype or Flashmeeting), it is up to your schedule and preferences. We would be happy to get our interviews done during the first week of December (3.12 – 9.12). If you agree to give an interview, please contact me (Terje, e-mail: terjev[at]tlu.ee)
Hope to hear from you soon,
It is about time to wrap up the course. We have only one task left. Last week we had some nice and interesting group presentations. They actually worked out rather well despite of some technical difficulties in the beginning. Thanks for everybody who decided to actively take part in the session. Hopefully this international group work offered you a somewhat different learning experience.
Now, about the last task for this course…
In the beginning of the semester you tried to come up with a potential framework for describing (mediated) human activities based on our self-observations and comparisons to other participants’ descriptions. Later in the course, we started to explore Activity Theory as one of the frameworks for describing and analysing (mediated) human activities. As our last task take a look at your initial framework developed for Task 5 and your interpretation of Activity Theory and compare them by looking for similarities and differences.
Please, put your final reflection into a post on your Weblog.
The deadline for Task 13 is: Sunday, November 25th, 24:00 (Estonian time).
…is going to be dedicated to the group work. As it was said in the previous post, on Thursday (15.11) we are going to have an online meeting with all the students from three countries to present the group work. Until 18th of November every group can finalize their chapters.
Next week (starting with 19th of November) we are going to work on the last task of this course. Latest on Monday (19th) we are going to provide a more detailed instruction of this last task.
As this course is a part of research project, Cocreat project partners are also interested in your experiences and would want you to fill in a questionnaire. More information about the questionnaire will follow soon. And that would be it!
Enjoy your last week with the international groups and we’ll have some nice time with your reflections on group work as a forming “activity system”.
On Thursday, 15th of November (11:00 – 13:00) there is going to be a final seminar. Every group is going to present their work. We are going to be virtually in the same “room” here http://connectpro.oulu.fi/letopinnot1.
As most of you are probably working it doesn’t make sense to gather you in the same room and use one computer to connect. However, feel free to organise small groups yourselves and use one computer to be online or log in individually (hopefully your work schedules allow to be present). The Prezi will be shown from Finland (Finns in your groups are responsible for this as they are going to use only one computer and share its screen). However, it doesn’t mean that Finns would also do all the talking. So everybody else can talk no matter where you sit physically. But of course it is up to the groups to decide who is going to present the group work.
See you soon online!