The forces at work in our telic group

During our last session we discussed and read the paper about ‘Distributed Cognition’. Distributed cognition is a psychological theory that says that knowledge lies not only within the individual but also in the individual’s social 1 and physical environment. In this post I reflect on the paper.

Apart from the reflective blogpost, I will use the paper more  in my final writing assignment on Google Apps for Edu and how it affects the learning process in my school. It is really an interesting paper, and (in my opinion) since it was published  in 2000 a lot of the main ideas reoccur in other theories or pedagogical views  (collective intelligencesituated cognition -  artificial intelligenceconnectivism).

At the end of the Collaborate session we were also asked to reflect and brainstorm about how we worked together, how it was for us to work in little groups. I remember that we all mentioned rather ‘technical’ elements of working together or feelings: the software we used (GoogleDocs, sharing Prezi), the language barrier, ‘very enjoyable’, ‘great adding on each others thoughts’, shared engagement, etc. Richard pointed out to us that we should think more about the underlying processes rather than on surface activities and results (cf. Vygotsky 2). What were the forces at work in our groups? Taking into account Vygotksy’s framework 3  and the crucial dialogue model of Johan Roels 4, I end up with following processes underlying our group work:

Interaction: we exchanged ideas in this Google Doc. This had a two way effect on our group members.

Dialogue: through an extra Collaborate session we shared thoughts, found value in each others points of view (appreciative understanding of opinions).

Communication: regularly e-mails were sent to make appointments and announcements.

Imagination: the sharing of the Prezi and the way Dave, Koen and Kieran used this tool fueled my own imagination.

Transformation: my final blogpost was a sum of the shared thoughts and experiences.

Remark about the  mediative role of the tools: it is very interesting to see how we used Google Docs, Blackboard Collaborate and Prezi to mediate these processes. We should indeed be more aware of how we mediate (delegate) these processes to the technologies. We focus too often on the tech tools and artefacts while the underlying processes are easily taken for granted.

1. The term social refers to a characteristic of living organisms as applied to populations of humans and other animals. It always refers to the interaction of organisms with other organisms and to their collective co-existence, irrespective of whether they are aware of it or not, and irrespective of whether the interaction is voluntary or involuntary.


3. ‘Vygotsky (1962/1986) held that learning is embedded within social events, and learning occurs as a learner interacts with people, objects and events in the environment. Through interaction with surroundings and communication with others, internalization and learning occurs.’

Voogt, J & Knezek G.  (eds 2008) International Handbook of Information Technology in Primary and Secondary Education, Springer, p.253

4. Roels J. (2012) Cruciale Dialogen. Antwerpen, Garant. p. 29