The power of natural frameworks: Technology and the question of agency in CSCL settings



Students frame activities in school in specific ways which are fundamental for their learning and problem solving. The introduction of digital technology and multimedia applications leads to additional aspects to consider, creating a need for research on interaction and activities in relation to new tools. The aim of this study is to analyze how students frame computer-supported collaborative learning situations. The analytic agenda is based on sociocultural assumptions of learning. Data have been collected through video documentation of secondary school students’ interactions with educational software in mathematics. The results show that when the students work with task solving in educational software and “get stuck”, they negotiate how to understand the activity; sometimes they search for the answer in their own actions, and sometimes they consider the answer to be within the technology. Goffman’s concept of frameworks can be applied to understand this alternative as a continuous shift between employing social frameworks where the students themselves are playing an active role in the understanding of the task, and employing natural frameworks, where their difficulties are understood to be, in Goffman’s words, due to natural determinants, that is, to the design of the technology. The main conclusion is that, in interactional activities using digital technology, there is a possibility that the participants’ activities are framed in such a way that they do not consider themselves as being accountable for the lack of understanding of the educational content.


Meaning making Word problems Problem solving Digital tools Multimedia tool Framing Frameworks Agency 



The research reported here has been funded by LearnIT, the research program for learning and ICT of the Knowledge (KK) Foundation. The work has been carried out at the Linnaeus Centre for Research on Learning, Interaction and Mediated Communication in Contemporary Society (LinCS).


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Copyright information

© International Society of the Learning Sciences, Inc.; Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.LinCS, Department of EducationGöteborg UniversityGöteborgSweden

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