Repost: Presenting an Educational Theorist: Lev Vygotsky

Originally posted on July 22nd, 2010

I had the opportunity to do a presentation of curriculum theorist Lev Vygotsky recently in class, and prepared some fun activities for the project.  I really enjoy this sort of blending of modern technology with the ideas of a theorist that was at the height of his influence nearly 100 years ago.  One of the best parts of this presentation was the thoughtful work of my other group members that really helped to paint a good overall picture of Lev Vygotsky and his theory.  We all took very different approaches to our various sections, but it all blended into a great picture of some of the key concepts Vygotsky developed in his writing.  Below is a video I compiled about the history of Vygotsky.  The research for this video was compiled by Kelly Friesen, and the vocal work was completed by Dana Negrey.  I used the iPad app Photospeak to animate Lev.

I also presented an activity focused on the Zone of Proximal Development from Vygotsky’s work.  I am going to present it as a lesson outline below, so you can use it with your friends! ;)

We started the lesson by playing a Rock, Paper, Scissors tournament, and I explained that we have an inherent cultural knowledge of this game, and even play it spontaneously to make decisions from time to time.  The key here is to develop that Rock, Paper, Scissors is part of their background knowledge, they already know it.

Then I told the group that we were going to learn a new game that would build upon the learning that they already had, and presented them with the following ‘instructional video’ to explain the game.

I then quickly went through each of the ‘options’ in the game, asking the group to tell me the (now 2) options that ‘beat’ each one.

“What beats…”

Rock – Paper, Spock

Paper – Scissors, Lizard

Scissors – Rock, Spock

Lizard – Scissors, Rock

Spock – Paper, Lizard

After our brief review, the teams paired off again to rehearse their learning and gain some skill at playing with the new options.  I gave them about 2 minutes to get used to the new options, which actually become natural in the game quite quickly.  Once the ‘students’ had some practice time, we played another tournament in the same format as the first, and crowned a winner of the new game; Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock!

So where is the connection to the Zone of Proximal Development?

I showed this graphic later in the presentation, and explained that the ZPD is that difference between the point in the activity where you feel confused and overwhelmed with the new game, to the end of the tournament where you are comfortable enough to have fun with your new learning.  The key here is that the activity really must push students in their new learning, and not simply be a progression from one stage to another.

I really enjoyed this assignment, and while coming up with an activity to challenge a group of Masters students enough to highlight ZPD was not easy, I really saw the ‘Aha’ moments for them in this activity.  I think I did Vygotsky proud, maybe I’ll ask him in Photospeak next time I get the chance!

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

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