Home » Creativity » Visualisation of the nurturing nature of education as expressed by Vygotsky

Visualisation of the nurturing nature of education as expressed by Vygotsky

Whilst embracing ‘Activity Theory’ I cannot always use the argument lucidly.

Engestrom presents an idea of how people or communities/groups communicate and learn from each other; when two people start to agree with gushing enthusiasm I’d worry, something else is going on.

(Power play of some kind, or love?)

It is the very act of coming from a different stance that we as people begin to form ideas that are beyond our current understanding, literally at arm’s length like a glowing orb in the palm of our hands.

When such ‘objects’ of understanding collide (if I have understood Activity System’, fresh thinking for both parties occurs.

There is a reason in advertising (still I hope) why a copywriter sits with an art director; this is how ideas form.

Sitting in with ‘creatives’ and becoming one myself I came to appreciate such partnership … though it has taken me 30 years to understand what is going in.

It has taken the last year with The OU and a decade online to value the importance of letting go, to share , to collaborate, rather than being that lone author in a garret, hunched shoulders over my work.

Let your baby go … 

What I have always needed and thrive on are collaborators in the form of agents, producers, editors, publishers, fellow writers and directors, colleagues who help and enable, fellow bloggers too …

If a blogger blogs, what do you do if you are forever engaged in other social media such as Linkedin or Facebook?

‘e-Commentator’ already feels like a naff ‘noughties’ way to express it.

We’ve had our fill of ‘e-tivities’ and ‘e-learning’ haven’t we? It is just learning; they are just activities.

I return to Engestrom often.

My ability to trace my love hate acceptance path through his thinking attests to the value of doing this, my ‘learning journal’.

This is what initially had me befuddled and angry:

Two people are the easy part.

The interplay between SIX people because yet more complex.

At arm’s length, the objects, the ideas, views or knowledge that they have begins to take on its own identity. In advertising an idea, ‘belongs’ to the creative team of the copywriter and art director; it is they who nurture it through the production process NOT the Account Manager or Client. The creators need to see it through otherwise the idea is rapidly diluted. Think of a set of light bulbs in a row, the first bright, each in term a little more dim. This is a poster Winston Fletcher used on how ideas die; I experience it too often.

‘Expansive learning is based on Vygotsky, though three times removed; it implies that we learn within activity pockets as people and groups. The interplay between these groups are the consequential objects of learning that  transmogrify in the presence of other active objects. Solving problems, dealing with contradictions, may come about as these learning systems slide or shift’. Vernon (2011)

I like the way Vygotsky expresses it because it is how I visualised the education I received at the School of Communication Arts. It however lacks the dynamism of Engestrom and rather harks back to an approach to education that whilst admirable is fast being replaced.

As Vygotsky put it:

‘The gardener affects the germination of his flowers by increasing the temperature, regulating the moisture, varying the relative position of neighboring plants, and selecting and mixing soils and fertilizer, i.e. once again, indirectly, by making appropriate changed in the environment. Thus it is that the teacher educates the student by varying the environment’. Vygotsky 1926 (Kindle location 1129)

And further on he says:

‘The basic rule is that before imparting new knowledge to the child and before fostering a new reaction in him, we must be sure to prepare the ground for it i.e. arouse the appropriate interest. For an analogy, just think how we loosen the soil before planting seeds’. (Kindle location 1755, a page reference anyone? What are you supposed to do?)

The challenge when reading papers is how to make the subject matter comprehensible to the non-academic.

Some turn to diagrams, others to metaphors, yet others to cartoons.

I favour the lone speaker free of PowerPoint or even FlipChart.

If they can hold their argument and look into your eyes their conviction can be convincing.

Which has just convinced me of the important of the lecture. Expressed with poignancy by Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture (which has 14 million YouTube hits)

My goal as a communicator is to make complex comprehensible.

Academics have a tendency to tie themselves in knots. If they only talk to fellow academics no wonder. I recognise the value of visualising, of animated explanation, of the power of persuasive through discourse, of metaphors, and analogies, of ideas rising out of the confusion to present themselves.

The problem with all things WWW is that it is just trillions of binary Ones and Zeros in the cloud (which is why I like to use the water-cycle as an analogy).

This from Dion Hinchcliffe.



Whereas I would express it, if visualised at all, like this:


Engeström (2001) article, Expansive learning at work: toward an activity theoretical reconceptualisation

Vygotsky, L (1926) Educational Psychology


  1. […] Visualisation of the nurturing nature of education according to Vygotsky […]

  2. […] [These ideas developed further here 'My Mind Bursts'] […]

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