theorizing ICT affordances

I am working on theorizing ICT affordances for my thesis. I am tracing a connective trail from Gibson’s original concept of affordances as an interactive ecology of relationships between perception and the environment, through Norman’s use of affordances to describe the ecological relationships in the field of HCI, through to Kirschner’s work on theorizing the sociality of computer-supported collaborative learning.

Gibson provides an alternate route into conceiving our human experiences and our social relationships as ecologies of learning. Gibson’s work contributed to the emergence of ecological psychology. It was separate from Maturana and Varela’s work on cognition as enactive. Yet both approaches speak to interactivity and interconnectivity to sustain life. Gibson’s approach makes connections between the psychological, the experiential, and the physiology of perception. Maturana and Varela, and later, Varela, Thompson and Rosche, theorized cognition as physiological, experiential, and cognitive. Both streams of theory contribute to a theory of our human existence as an ecology of learning, not as individuals operating within a nature versus nurture dichotomy.

I am writing about ICT affordances as the capacity for an individual or a group to perceive possibility in relation to the ICT resources they have available to them within an educational institution. The perception of ICT affordances in educational institutions depends on the history, experiences, and imagination of educators. If educators have not been exposed to the complex webs of interactive networks associated with any computing device, if they have not had the experience of utilizing computing devices within education institutions (which are unique to other institutional, organizational, or independent uses of ICT), if they have not had discussions with other educators, or read about other educators uses of ICT for teaching and learning, they are not going to have the capacity to perceive the ICT affordances available to them within the contextual conditions of their educational institution.

There are unnumbered resources and ways to utilize ICT for teaching and learning. Teachers do not need lists of things they could do. They need 1) reasons to take the trouble to learn; 2) learning opportunities that are interleaved with their day to day teaching practice; 3) communities of practice they can participate in to continue to evolve their understandings; 4) ways and means to advocate for the acquisition of ICT that fits with their philosophical, pedagogical and instructional approach.

The interesting part about ICT affordances and fostering more sophisticated teaching practices in educators is that it is not an expensive fix. This is a dialogic problem, not a technical problem. The issue of ICT resources in educational institutions has not been resolved, but it is not the problem that stands in the way of educators’ use of ICT in their teaching practice.

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