Littleton, Karen and Mercer, Neil
Educational technology from a sociocultural perspective: the case of the Interactive Whiteboard.
In: ISCAR, 8-13 September 2008, San Diego, USA.
This paper offers a sociocultural examination of how computer-based technology has been introduced, promoted and evaluated in schools. From this perspective, we consider the ways in which technological innovations are represented and researched, how their use is promoted in educational settings, and the problems this creates. The paper is informed by our past involvement in a range of research projects on the use of such technology, but we draw predominantly on a recent study (funded by the Economic and Social Research Council) undertaken in British primary schools of the use of a new technology, the Interactive Whiteboard (IWB). As a result of a large-scale politically-led initiative, the IWB has now been installed in almost every British classroom. IWBs can be expected to become a common feature in schools and colleges internationally in the future.
Much has been written, in reductionist terms, about the revolutionising and transformative powers of this technology. However, by conceptualising the IWB from a socio-cultural perspective, as a tool or mediating artefact, we highlight the necessity of exploring the inter-relationships between the affordances of IWBs, the pedagogical practices of teachers and the communicative repertoires of teachers and pupils. Using Wertsch’s notion (1991) of the ‘heterogeneous mediational tool kit’ (which focuses on how tools are used in specific activities rather than their designed properties) the paper explores how IWBs are harnessed as communicative and pedagogic tools in classroom interactions, how they are used by teachers to pursue their educational goals and how they are used to resource the building of shared frames of reference and ‘common knowledge’ between teachers and pupils. A sociocultural perspective problematises the usual ‘technology-led’ basis for the introduction and use of information technology in educational institutions, and
instead asserts the importance of understanding the functions of technology within education as a culturally-based dialogic process.
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