(Utdrag ur text under bearbetning, L. Falsafi, 2013)
Cognition is distributed; in order to understand cognitive development and learning we need to analyse the subject in mediated interaction with others.
Educational influence is distributed; in order to understand cognitive development and learning we need to analyse the subject in mediated action with the expert help within the individual or joint zone of development.
If learning has a zone of development, then guiding could also potentially have a zone of proximal influence; a zone where it is possible for one subject to offer guidance and help to another. For example a 9 year old might be able to help a 7 year old to read but not know how to help a five year old learn the letters or a fourteen year old read a letter.
Children are social beings that have an inherent need to learn and to do that by increased guided and independent participation in sociocultural contexts. Most part of the learning of small children takes place in informal contexts and activities. Many of them have learning as the objective, as defined by the expert guider – the parent. The child is show a sign and told that there is the letter A, for instance. But just as often children learn through participation in activities that have other objectives than learning, such as having fun. Most of the plays that children take part in, require some kind of learning; learning rules, learning the procedure, the social order of the play, etc. The plays are more or less organized and more or less bound by specific “manuscripts” that are passed on from parents to children or more often from children to children. The suggested implication of this is that children from an early age learn to learn from each other and to regulate and guide each other’s learning. If children want other children to play with they need to teach and learn the games. The ‘teaching’ can be more or less implicit or explicit. One child tells the other what to do or one child looks at the other children and imitates. The latter case is probably common among siblings, where the younger imitates the older.
The idea is that it is very possible that pre-school children have a fairly elaborate knowledge and extensive experience of informal learning in many different kinds of activities, though maybe not in so many different sociocultural contexts. Most part will be informal learning, although children who are in kindergarten will also have some experience of expert guided learning.
However, the first time that most of us encounter a sociocultural context of formal and expert guided learning is when we enter school. Is it possible that the educational systems of the modern industrialized world where schooling started becoming available for the common people and slowly became obligatory inherited the structure and culture of the Christian learning contexts where the priests were a clear and non-disputed authority? Either way, the present day educational systems are based on the authoritative systems of the pre-industrialized world, that was applied in the industrialized system, where knowledge was “owned” by someone and who could pass it on to the next generation, by mainly repetitive processes rather than constructive processes. Cognition was not supposed to be distributed, nor teaching.
Following the above thoughts, the hypothesis is that the spontaneous organization of children’s learning where educational influence is highly distributed disappears as children enter the formal educational system. Gradually they learn to rely on the teacher only, instead of relying on each other. A highly subjective observation is that the older children get, the less they turn to each other for help. First graders naturally ask each other or just watch and imitate. Third graders, already, sit with their hand up in the air and wait for the teacher to come and offer help. Not only are children implicitly thought to not use the distributed help, but they are also explicitly discouraged by teachers’ correction and scolding when the ask a peer. This might mean that they disturb the calm in the classroom by talking or even by moving to the other side of the class room where the know that they have a more expert peer that can help them (zone of proximal influence).
This is most probably due to the fact the idea of collaborative construction of knowledge still hasn’t made a break through in the educational practice of contemporary schools. When group work occurs the purpose of the collaborative work is still not clear to the teacher, nor to the students and the guidance is mainly focused on the content rather than on how to handle the collaborative process, which the children new at one point, on a cognitive level that corresponded to the pre-schooler, but which has not had possibility to develop.
The question arises then, which the educational Discourses that regulate the use of collaborative learning are? What Discourses regulate the distribution that is aloud of the educational influence? To the extent that this occurs spontaneously, when does it occur? In which activities and situations? How is the LI of the students that experience being the more expert influenced by this experience? Etc
One explanation why educational influence might be more distributed in digital learning contexts might be that the relative newness of these contexts and the difference of the characteristics of these contexts compared to the traditional educational contexts in schools, enable a new order and structure in distribution of not only the educational influence as such, but the very distribution of power. The experts are simply not as much experts. A teacher might be an expert in the content and in teaching in the face-to-face context, but a novice in the digital teaching and learning contexts.
Consequently, it could be of great interest to study the spontaneous and organized distribution of educational influence on face-to-face and digital contexts, in different age groups and with teachers with different experiences of digital contexts and also with managing collaborative work.