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South African Journal of Higher Education

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Activity theory as a potential framework for technology research in an unequal terrain

J Hardman

Abstract




This article attempts to expand and elaborate Activity Theory as a theory for
studying human computer interaction in South Africa. It first sketches ways in which
Russian activity theory arising out of the work of Vygotsky may expand
understandings of learning before elaborating the theory in terms of Engestrom's
contributions. Using case study data collected from a postgraduate course in
Education at the University of Cape Town, I investigate how Activity Theory can be
used in order to understand the process of transformation occurring when
computers are used as teaching/learning tools and how different systems interact
with, and transform each other over time. By employing methods such as interviews
and observations I develop an account of how pedagogy shifts across the different
contexts of lecture hall and computer laboratory, illustrating how a shift in the object
of the activity system leads to shifts at all levels of the system. I conclude by arguing
that the strength of Activity Theory lies in its ability to enable one to understand
learning as the complex result of tool mediated interactions, rather than as
something opaque, which happens in a student's mind.

South African Journal of Higher Education Vol. 19 (2) 2006: pp.378-392



http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/sajhe.v19i2.25659
AJOL African Journals Online