Using positioning theory to analyse children's meaning making with contemporary ICT as cognitive tools.

Year: 2012

Author: Redman, Christine, Jakab, Cheryl

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


Society shapes the perception and thought of individuals by the symbol systems that are made available. For today's children, the available symbolic systems are rapidly changing and as a consequence changing how, and when, knowledge is formed and available for use. How are perceptions of children today shaped by the symbol systems technology is making available?

This paper describes the application of a research method to analyse the study of cognition-in-action when children are placed in radically new contemporary cognitive contexts. According to Peirce perception is sensitive to the symbol systems that are available. Vygotsky was vitally interested in exploring the role cognitive tools have in directing thinking. Discursive psychology is a field that can assist in development of methods to explore this meaning making in action across domains.

Our works involve close tracking of children's adaptation to the situation in transforming teaching experiments. This process allowed us as researchers to open a window on the processes of meaning-making in action. Fine grained analysis of the sayings and doings of the participants using positioning theory in our respective research studies are presented here. These studies are presented as exemplars to highlight the value of positioning theory as an analytical tool in documenting a learners meaning making when cultural artefacts are made available as cognitive tools to direct thinking.

The relationship we are documenting between ways of seeing and ways of knowing, when particular artefacts are made available, has been described in various ways by different philosophers. Merleau-Ponty describes 'infolding of the flesh'. Ihde talks of epistemology engines with machines, while Pickering takes Ihde's idea and reverses it to see use of artefacts as ontology engines.

The research described here is based on the assumption that the ability to see something is always tied to a particular position encompassing a range of phenomena including placement in institutional and local organizations, the task at hand and the access to material and cognitive tools. Thus we see knowledge as being embedded within diverse local perspectives.