Instrumental genesis in technology-mediated learning: From double stimulation to expansive knowledge practices



The purpose of the present paper is to examine the socio-cultural foundations of technology-mediated collaborative learning. Toward that end, we discuss the role of artifacts in knowledge-creating inquiry, relying on the theoretical ideas of Carl Bereiter, Merlin Donald, Pierre Rabardel, Keith Sawyer and L. S. Vygotsky. We argue that epistemic mediation triggers expanded inquiry and plays a crucial role in knowledge creation; such mediation involves using CSCL technologies to create epistemic artifacts for crystallizing cognitive processes, re-mediating subsequent activity, and building an evolving body of knowledge. Productive integration of CSCL technologies as instruments of learning and instruction is a developmental process: it requires iterative efforts across extended periods of time. Going through such a process of instrumental genesis requires transforming a cognitive-cultural operating system of activity, thus ‘reformatting’ the brain and the mind. Because of the required profound personal and social transformations, one sees that innovative knowledge-building practices emerge, socially, through extended expansive-learning cycles.


Epistemic mediation Chronotope Knowledge practices CSCL Knowledge building Expansive learning Instrumental genesis Double stimulation 



The present investigation was supported by grant 1127019 (Academy of Finland). Hal White assisted in improving English language of the present manuscript.


  1. Bakhtin, M. (1981). The dialogic imagination. Four essays by M. M. Bakhtin. University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  2. Barowy, W., & Jouper, C. (2004). The complex of school change: Personal and systemic co-development. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 11, 9–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barron, B. (2004). Learning ecologies for technological fluency: Gender and experience differences. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 31, 1–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barron, B. (2006). Interest and self-sustained learning as catalyst of development: A learning ecology perspective. Human Development, 49, 193–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Batane, T., Engeström, R., Hakkarainen, K., Newnham, D., & Virkkunen, J. (submitted). Dilemmas of promoting expansive educational transformation through Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in Botswana. A manuscript submitted for publication.Google Scholar
  6. Bateson, G. (1972). Steps to an ecology of mind: Collected essays in anthropology, psychiatry, evolution, and epistemology. Chicago: The Chicago University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Béguin, P., & Rabardel, P. (2000). Designing for instrument-mediated activity. Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems, 12, 173–190.Google Scholar
  8. Bereiter, C. (2002). Education and mind in the knowledge age. Hillsdale: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  9. Bereiter, C., & Scardamalia, M. (1987). The psychology of written composition. Hillsdale: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  10. Blunden, A. (2010). An interdisciplinary theory of activity. Leiden: Brill.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bolger, N., Davis, A., & Rafaeli, E. (2003). Diary methods: Capturing life as it is lived. Annual Review of Psychology, 54, 579–616.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Brown, R., & Renshaw, P. (2006). Positioning students as actors and authors: A chronotopic analysis of collaborative learning activities. Mind, Culture and Activity, 13(3), 244–256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Carr, N. (2010). The shallows: How the internet is changing the way we think, read, and remember. London: Atlantic.Google Scholar
  14. Clark, A. (2003). Natural-born cyborgs: Minds, technologies, and the future of human intelligence. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Cole, M. (1996). Cultural Psychology: A once and future discipline. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Collins, A., & Halverson, R. (2009). Rethinking education in the age of technology: The digital revolution and the schools. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  17. Dennett, D. (1991). Consciousness explained. Boston: Little, Brown & Company.Google Scholar
  18. Donald, M. (1991). Origins of the modern mind. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Donald, M. (2000). The central role of culture in cognitive evolution: A reflection on the myth of the isolated mind. In L. P. Nucci, G. B. Saxe, & E. Turiel (Eds.), Culture, though, and development (pp. 19–37). Mahwah: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  20. Donald, M. (2001). A mind so rare: The evolution of human consciousness. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  21. Engeström, Y. (1987). Learning by expanding. Helsinki: Orienta-Konsultit.Google Scholar
  22. Engeström, Y. (2007). Putting Vygotsky to work: The change laboratory as an application of double stimulation. In H. Daniels, M. Cole, & J. Wertsch (Eds.), The Cambridge companion to Vygotsky (pp. 363–382). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Ericsson, K. A., & Kintsch, W. (1995). Long-term working memory. Psychological Review, 102, 211–245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Ericsson, K. A., & Lehmann, A. C. (1996). Experts and exceptional performance. Evidence on maximal adaptation on task constraints. Annual Review of Psychology, 47, 273–305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Fleck, L. (1979). Genesis and development of a scientific fact. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  26. Foucault, M. (1967). Of other spaces, heterotopias.
  27. Galperin, P. Y. (1957). An experimental study in the formation of mental actions. In S. Brign (Ed.), Psychology in the Soviet Union (pp. 213–225). London: Routledge & Kegan.Google Scholar
  28. Gleick, J. (1992). Genius: The life and science of Richard Feynman. New York: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
  29. Goody, J. (1977). The domestication of the savage mind. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Gruber, H. (1981). Darwin on man (2nd ed.). Chicago: The Chicago University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Hakkarainen, K. (2003). Progressive inquiry in computer-supported biology classroom. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 40(10), 1072–1088.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hakkarainen, K. (2004). Pursuit of explanation within a computer-supported classroom. International Journal of Science Education, 24, 979–996.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hakkarainen, K. (2009). A knowledge-practice perspective on technology-mediated learning. International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 4, 213–231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hakkarainen, K., Bollström-Huttunen, M., & Hoffman, R. (2008). Teacher-researcher dialogue and expansive transformation of pedagogical practices. Nordic Journal of Digital Literacy, 3, 157–178.Google Scholar
  35. Hakkarainen, K., Engeström, R., Paavola, S., Pohjola, P., & Honkela, T. (2009). Knowledge practices, epistemic technologies, and pragmatic web. In A. Paschke et al. (Eds.) Proceedings of I-KNOW ’09 and I-SEMANTICS ’09 2009. Verlag der Technischen Universität Graz.Google Scholar
  36. Karmiloff-Smith, A. (1992). Beyond modularity. Cambridge: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  37. Knorr-Cetina, K. (2001). Objectual practices. In T. Schatzki, K. Knorr-Cetina, & E. Von Savigny (Eds.), The practice turn in contemporary theory (pp. 175–188). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  38. Lemke, J. (2001). The long and the short of it: Comments on multiple timescale studies of human activity. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 10, 17–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Ligorio M.B., Ritella G., (2010). The collaborative construction of chronotopes during computer supported collaborative tasks. ijCSCL, 5(4).Google Scholar
  40. Ligorio, M. B., & Sansone, N. (2009). Structure of a blended university course. In C. R. Payne (Ed.), Information technology and constructivism in higher education (pp. 216–230). IGI Global: London.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lonchamp, J. (this issue). An instrumental perspective on CSCL systems. International Journal of Computer Supported Collaborative Learning.Google Scholar
  42. Lund, A., & Rasmussen, I. (2008). The right tool for the wrong task? Match and mismatch between first and second stimulus in double stimulation. ijCSCL, 3(4). Google Scholar
  43. Luria, A. R. (1974). The working brain: An introduction to neuropsychology. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  44. McLuhan, M., & Lapham, L. H. (1964). Understanding media: The extensions of man. Cambridge: MIT.Google Scholar
  45. Muukkonen, H., Inkinen, M., Kosonen, K., Hakkarainen, K., Karlgren, K., Lachmann, H., & Vesikivi, P. (2009). Research on knowledge practices with the Contextual Activity Sampling System. Proceedings of the 9th International Conference of Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (Rhodes, Greece). Volume 1, 385–394. ISLS.Google Scholar
  46. Nardi, B., & O’Day, V. (2000). Information ecologies: Using technology with heart. Cambridge: MIT.Google Scholar
  47. Nonaka, I., & Konno, N. (1998). The concept of BA. California Management Review, 40, 40–54.Google Scholar
  48. Norman, D. (1994). Things that make us smart. Reading: AddisonWesley.Google Scholar
  49. Olson, D. (1994). The world on paper: The conceptual and cognitive implications of writing and reading. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  50. Overdijk, M., & van Diggelen, W. (2008). Appropriation of a shared workspace: Organizing principles and their application. International Journal of Computer Supported Collaborative Learning, 3, 165–192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Paavola, S., Lipponen, L., & Hakkarainen, K. (2004). Modeling innovative knowledge communities: A knowledge-creation approach to learning. Review of Educational Research, 74, 557–576.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Papert, S. (1994). The children’s machine: Rethinking school in the age of the computer. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  53. Perez, C. (2002). Technological revolution and financial capital. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  54. Piaget, J. (1985). The equilibrium of cognitive structures: The central problem of intellectual development. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  55. Pickering, A. (1995). The mangle of practice. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  56. Popper, K. (1972). Objective knowledge: An evolutionary approach. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  57. Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the New Horizon, 9(5), 1–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Pretsky, M. (2010). Teaching digital natives: Partnering for real learning. Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  59. Prior, P. A. (1998). Writing/disciplinarity. Mahwah: LEA.Google Scholar
  60. Rabardel, P., & Bourmaud, G. (2003). From computer to instrument system: A developmental perspective. Interacting with Computers, 15, 665–691.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Reis, H. T., & Gable, S. L. (2000). Event sampling and other methods for studying daily experience. In H. T. Reis & C. Judd (Eds.), Handbook of research methods in social and personality psychology (pp. 190–222). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  62. Rogoff, B. (2003). The cultural nature of human development. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  63. Rückriem, G., Ang-Stein, C., & Erdmann, W. (2011). Understanding media revolution: How digitalization is to be considered. International Cultural Historical Human Sciences.Google Scholar
  64. Russell, D. A. (1997). Writing and genre in higher education and workplaces: A review of studies that use cultural-historical activity theory. Mind, Activity and Culture, 4, 224–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Sawyer, R. K. (2005). Emergence: Societies as complex systems. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Sawyer, R. K. (2009). The science of social emergence. In G. Trajkovski & S. G. Collins (Eds.), Agent-based societies: Social and cultural interactions (pp. 1–16). Hershey: Idea Group Inc.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (2006). Knowledge building. In K. Sawyer (Ed.), The Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences (pp. 97–115). Cambridge: Cambridge University.Google Scholar
  68. Schank, R., & Abelson, R. (1977). Scripts, plans, goals, and understanding: An inquiry into human knowledge structures. Hillsdale: LEA.Google Scholar
  69. Skagestad, P. (1993). Thinking with machines. The Journal of Social and Evolutionary System, 16, 157–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Sterelny, K. (2004). Externalism, epistemic artifacts, and the extended mind. In R. Schantz (Ed.), The externalist challenge (pp. 239–254). New York: Walter de Gruyter.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Stetsenko, A. (2005). Activity as object-related: Resolving the dichotomy of individual and collective planes of activity. Mind, Culture and Activity, 12, 70–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Tomasello, M. (2009). Why we cooperate. Cambridge: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  73. Tuomi, I. (2002). Networks of innovation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  74. Venkatraman, N. (1994). It-enabled business transformation. Sloan Management Review, 35, 73–87.Google Scholar
  75. Vérillon, P., & Rabardel, P. (1995). Artefact and cognition: A contribution to the study of thought in relation to instrumented activity. European Journal of Psychology in Education, IX, (3).Google Scholar
  76. Viilo, M., Seitamaa-Hakkarainen, P., & Hakkarainen, K. (2011). Supporting thetechnology-enhanced collaborative inquiry and design project – A teacher’s reflections on practices. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 17, 51–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Virkkunen, J. (2006). Dilemmas of building shared transformative agency. @ctivites, 3, 43–66.Google Scholar
  78. Virkkunen, J., & Schaupp, M. (2011). From change to development: Expansing the concept of intervention. Theory and Psychology, 21, 629–655.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Vygotsky, L. S. (1962). Language and thought. Cambridge: MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  81. Vygotsky, L. S. (1997). The collected works of L. S. Vygotsky. Vol. 4: The history of the development of higher mental functions. New York: Plenum.Google Scholar
  82. Wertsch, J. (1998). Mind as action. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  83. Williams, R., Stewart, J., & Slack, R. (2005). Social learning in technological innovation: Experimenting with information and communication technologies. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© International Society of the Learning Sciences, Inc.; Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Research on Activity, Development, and Learning (CRADLE), Institute for Behavioural SciencesUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.Department of EducationUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland

Personalised recommendations