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 International Journal of Education and Development using ICT > Vol. 3, No. 4 (2007) open journal systems 

Technology for teaching and learning in higher education contexts: activity theory and actor network theory analytical perspectives

Nhlanhla B W Mlitwa, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, South Africa

There is a growing body of literature which argues that technology enhances teaching and learning processes in higher education. The adoption of teaching and learning technology such as elearning and the learning management systems (LMSs) is also on the rise among higher education institutions. The patterns of this growing trend are also incoherent and inconsistent. In addition, there is no general agreement on the meaning of concepts of adoption and use within academia. In the midst of the existing conceptual stampede it remains difficult to adequately explain emerging patterns. This paper explores a possible framework for the analysis of objective (goal)-directed applications of technology in a teaching and learning environments, and implications thereof. The work of Miettinen, of Rajkumar, and as well as Miettinen and Hasu encourages the use of Activity Theory (AT) for this purpose. The paper draws on three case studies from technology usability studies to explore a possible AT analytical framework. AT is found to be helpful for analysis of practical applications of technology, but not without shortcomings. AT tends to advocate an instrumentalist view of technology as a neutral tool. Both AT and Actor Network Theory (ANT) subscribe to the contextual embedded nature of technology but differ on implications and the status of technology in a socio-technical process. ANT supports the critical view of technology as value-laden, thus encouraging the critical engagement with a technology in social environments. Its symmetrical assumptions however, limit its scope in accounting for differences between human cognitive capabilities and the non-cognitive nature of artefacts. Additional studies towards an AT and ANT framework of contextualising e-learning and LMSs are recommended.

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International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology. ISSN: 1814-0556