Our NIE task for this week was to take a step outside of this ongoing group work and analyze the formation of this activity system over the last few weeks by trying to describe its core components (actors, instruments, object…) and how they evolved over time.
The topic of our research was “Technology learning with elderly people” and involved 11 researches from Finland, Estonia and Norway.
If we take our research group as an activity system we may for sure say that it has developed and transformed a lot during last few weeks. We basically started to work as a group of total strangers and the fact that we are situated far away from each other geographically wise only made the situation more complicated at the beginning.
Clearly our main tool (and medium) for interaction, communication, work and research was the technology itself. (To be precise: devices like computer/tablets, digital cameras for documentation of teaching process, Internet connection and web tools and services etc. )
I also feel that important components of our “activity system” were not only direct group members but our “target audience” itself — technology learning elders that were also actors of our activity system and that we were communicating with during the group work and who contributed a lot for this project.
What is more important, the relationship and work dynamics of the group was improved mainly because of this tool. The main area of problems was lack of organization and communication between group members at the beginning but this problem was solved by a whole range of solutions: Google Docs for documenting our plans and programs, CoCreat page for writing a chapter itself, Connectpro service for weekly online-meetings and Facebook group for overall organization and interaction with our international colleagues. So we may say that after a short period of confusion our group work found optimal way for cooperation and started to function more efficiently.
Here we might recall a quote from Kaptelinin & Nardi (2006) regarding identification of tools by phenomenology:
“When a tool is ready-to-hand, we have no conscious awareness of it; we simply use it to accomplish a task. This corresponds to the operational level of the activity hierarchy. When there is a problem or a breakdown, we become consciously aware of the tool and must attend to it; then the tool is present-at-hand. This sequence is the same as moving from the operational to the action level in activity theory.” (p. 200-201)
That brings me to thinking that the overall group work would be absolutely impossible without the technology we are currently taking for granted. There were some moments when some devices or applications were “striking back” and stopped performing the way they should be and only then we realized how important this technology is for us in order to be able to execute and finish our project.
One thing that I feel could be improved is a level of leadership in a group. This is a common problem when in comes to some activity which includes multiply actors. Luckily for us in this case we somehow divided ourselves to sub-groups and therefore were able to perform at our best without certain leader.
But in the perfect scenario there has to be one leader who will set the tasks and deadlines for the whole group.