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Learning, mediating technologies and the social memory

Roger Saljo presentation at learning through inquiry workshop

Cloud created by:

Gráinne Conole
10 December 2008



Research topics

  • Interest in learning and how knowledge and information are organised in complex societies
  • The role of digital media in transforming how information is stored accessed and made use of
  • The role of new media ecology
  • Empirically orientated with studies in schools universities work place etc
  • Theoretical applied and developmental interests
  • Methodological developments
  • Ambition to combine macro and micro studies

Current research projects include

  • Learning literacies and media
  • Learning in the context of digital media and new media as resources for learning
  • Classroom discourses and the social organisation of learning


Projects include

  • LINT Interdaction and the development narrative knowing and remembering
  • Learning to support in the work place
  • Transforming information into knowledge
  • Learning how to reason and argue
  • Heteroglossia in the process of learning
  • Mediational means in written academic discourse

Conceptual background

  • An interest in the social and interactive shaping of minds
  • Semiotic mediation and division of cognitive labour between minds and intellectual tools and artefacts
  • Forms of appropriation
  • The building up of social memory in complex society

(Dewey social experiences)

Learning/social remembering in a sociocultural and pragmatist perspectives
1. How individuals, organisations and society at large retain information, knowledge and skills, transform them and make them available to new generations
2. The issue of how people come to share the experiences of their society the funded capital of socialisation (Dewey) through various forms of communication and social activities

Evolutionary ladder of technologies
1.    ABC, ruin stones, other technologies that new generations

A key process in the development and expansion of human knowing and sharing of experiences is externalisation through the design of cultural tools

Experiences converted into linguistic/discursive tools (such as concept, categorising practice, narratives, social languages) and material artefacts (technologies)

The technology provides new forms of access to cultural knowledge, we master technologies as part of social practices without needed to know the details of the technologies themselves, transparency of the technologies give us access to very complex social practices

External symbolic storages (ESS) – books, libraries, maps and charts, registers, clocks, databases, instruments - embodied practices
Artificial memory systems (AMS)

Cultural (or re-presentational) tools – inscriptions and processes of reification/fixation of meaning
Externalisation or objectification of
information (texts, spoken narratives, etc),
also seeing now with technologies – externalisation of human thought processes (expansion of social memory through the technologies)

Externalisation of cognitive functions

  • Computer software – spell and grammar check, statistical analysis packages, etc
  • Search engines
  • Book keeping programmes
  • Graphical and symbol manipulating calculators
  • Navigators
  • Face recognition devices
  • Medical imaging technologies 

Technologies come in as cultural and cognitive amplifiers and as access points to cultural knowing

Transformations of learning

  • We master complex tasks without understanding the sequential steps
  • Technologies function as a black box (trust)
  • We increasingly learne from the complex to the elementary
  • We understand as part of practices we do not necessarily understand as part of the hierarchically organised knowledge such as the disciplines

Interpretatins of learning in a digital age
Metacommunicative and meta cognitive skills (modelling)
Learing becomes increasingly conceptual and procedural but in coordination with material cultural tools
Learning is the ability to transform and recontextualise in manners that are relevant for local needs ie learning is in the performative

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