The appropriation and mastery of cultural tools in computer supported collaborative literacy practices

Fernández Cárdenas, Juan Manuel (2004). The appropriation and mastery of cultural tools in computer supported collaborative literacy practices. PhD thesis The Open University.



The main focus of this thesis is how language is used to construct knowledge in social interaction. A more specific aim is the investigation of the strategies of British primary school children for constructing multimodal electronic documents, and in particular for constructing collaboratively WebPages in History.

In the first part of the thesis the two themes are critically explored through a literature review of sociocultural theory, literacy, and lCT, and through two pilot studies. In the first study, I investigate how language use varies according to the difficulty of tasks. In the second study, I investigate how language use in situated literacy events relates to wider cultural practices for constructing e-mails and WebPages. Drawing on the result of these studies, I evaluate the relationship between the concepts of Zone of Proximal Development, scaffolding, exploratory talk, and Intermental Development Zone (IDZ), arguing in favour of the usefulness of IDZ for studies in social interaction.

In the second part of the thesis, I explore different approaches to discourse analysis developing an analytic strategy for the main study. I identify the ethnography of communication as a starting point, choosing the 'communicative event' as the unit of analysis to investigate, using NVivo: how participants construct categories of meaning while constructing WebPages in History, and the categories of participants in relation to the activity frames of design, History, and group work. I conclude that, in contrast to a view of "effective use of language" linked to explicitness, participants demonstrated to be communicatively competent in managing deictic terms and intertextual references.> recognizing cultural patterns, and adjusting their efforts according to a division of labour, and the collaborative nature of meaning making. Finally, the notion of 'situated activity system' is enriched by illuminating how categories of participants, activity frames, and cultural tools are interrelated in such system.

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