Thursday, November 22, 2007

Activity theory and mlearning research

I have had several goes at trying to unravel activity theory and how I might be able to use it as a base for my ongoing research projects.

Activity theory is based on the work of Leontiev, much of his work has been overshadowed by the work of Vygotsky. The seminal works on activity theory are the English translation of Leontiev’s book, Activity, Consciousness and Personality (1978) and a book edited by Wertsch. Engestrom is perhaps the most well known exponent of activity theory.

A book by Kaptelinin and Nardi, (Acting with Technology:- Activity Theory and Interaction Design) provides a more accessible route to understanding how to make us of activity theory in better understanding human interactions with technology. Chapter 3, Activity theory in a nutshell, is an especially succinct and clear summary of the origins of activity theory and how it relates to the human mind’s inter-relationships with people and artifacts in the context of everyday activity.

I learn by doing, so over the summer, I will work at structuring our mlearning pilot project around the activity theory research framework. It will provide me with the opportunity to apply the theory to a real situation that has people, tools (mobile phones, research questionnaires, surveys) and artifacts (multimedia evidence, assessment criteria, learning outcomes). It will be important to have a look at my planned research tools to see how they might presently reflect activity theory assumptions and see if there needs to be any tweaking of these to bring about a proper analysis of the data generated from interviews with apprentices, evaluations of their use of web 2.0 sites and their mlearning experience.

Why activity theory and not something else? There is a fit with the type of research I am undertaking with mlearning with the overall structure of activity theory. Using activity theory provides an opportunity for me to learn how to use another ‘research method’. It will also provide another perspective on how I view the data when it starts to come through plus the opportunity to evaluate how activity theory works and how to best make use of it’s framework in an actual research project.