Durham is a small town in the North of England: it is dominated by a large

Norman Cathedral. The pominance of this building has reminded me of

Schelling's famous study in which people were asked how they would set

about meeting an unknown person in Manhattan on a specified particular date

No instructions were given: all that Schelling's subjects were told about

this stranger was that he or she kneww about the world the same things that

they knew. The inhabitants of Durham are likely to be in good agreement

about what to do in a comparable situation - I suspect that many of them

would stand outside the Northerly entrance to their cathedral, beneath the

Sanctury knocker no doubt. Perhaps they would stand there at mid-day. Just

as with Schelling's subjects heading for the clock at Grand Central

Station, this harmony of action tells us something very imporant about

living in human cultures; something that it is easy to loose sight of. We

all know a great deal about what others around us expect about our

expectations. More generally, we are all in possession of a great deal of

common understanding, and we deploy this mutual knowledge most effectively

in the coordination of social action.

The example highlights a distinctively human capacity for

intersubjectivity - for projecting beliefs, expectations and other

psychological states into others. It does so in relation to mutual

knowledge of a very general kind: knowledge about local geography and

culture. However, such intersubjective attitudes also are adopted in

situations where common ground between us is much more intimate. In

particular, this human capacity is what gets mobilised in situations

that typically we describe as "collaborative". Moreover, I believe it

is at the core of our achievements within the various settings of

organised learning. The communications of learning are most effective

when they occur against a rich background of shared understanding.

Much of what must go in education can be described as an investment in

constructing such a resource and deploying it as a platform from which

to explore further.

In the present book, I shall develop further this orientation to

educational practice and consider how it is best supported - rather

than undermined - by new technology. I believe the relationship of

new technology to education now is a matter of some concern. In

Chapter 1, I review the progress that has been achieved during the

recent period that computers have been applied to teaching and

learning. I sense that there is an unease regarding the threat that

this technology presents to the social quality of educational

practice. Consequently, I summarise in Chapter 2 a theoretical

perspective that does pay serious attention to this social dimension.

It is a perspective that I believe helps us frame the place of

technology in education more effectively: we may refer to it as a

socio-cultural perspective. In Chapter 3, it is contrasted with more

familiar psychological theorising. There I discuss computational and

constructivist models of cognition, and contrast them with

socio-cultural theories - particularly in terms of their implications

for the development of new educational technology.

Chapter 4 presents a discussion of the most controversial metaphor

for characterising the possible relation of computers to teaching: the

metaphor of a computer-based "tutor". The nature of such learning

interactions *with* the technology is compared with those interactions

that we enjoy with more traditional tutors. One of the problems

arising from the experience of computer tutoring is that the

experience of learning can easily become dislocated from a broader

community structure that characterises classroom life. In Chapter 5,

I consider this context by discussing the senses in which a

collaborative culture of learning has to be developed *in relation to*

this technology.

A more traditional sense of collaborative learning is introduced in

Chapter 6. Here the findings of research on peer-based structures are

discussed and a framework for systematising this research presented.

In Chapter 7, this is pursued in relation to some empirical

observations in primary school settings: children interacting *at*

computers. The observations happen to involve young children and they

happen to involve modest computer resources. However, it is intended

that they illustrate very general points about the nature of

collaborative discourse and about how it is effectively resourced by

technologies. Further case study material is presented in Chapter 8,

where I discuss the circumstances of interacting *around* computers

and interacting *through* them. In both cases, it is possible to see

the supportive role of new technology within collaborative structures

that are more loosely-coupled than the familiar sense of collaboration

as focused, localised joint activity.

There are three principle motives for writing this book. One arises

from a belief that psychological thinking should more actively address

practitioner concerns. At the moment, I perceive an uneasy relation

between teachers and new technology. Yet, I do not find within

cognitive psychology a great deal of helpful theorising or research to

help guide the effective appropriation of computers into educational

practice. Secondly, I am motivated by a concern to demonstrate that

socio-cultural theory provides a persuasive framework for thinking

about teaching and learning. In particular, it may offer a

distinctive perspective on the relation of technologies to education.

Finally, I believe that the experience of collaboration is a neglected

topic within Psychology. Certainly, there is some tradition of

researching collaborative learning within Developmental Psychology,

but I believe that tradition is limited in its scope.

In the past, psychologists interested in children and their

development have not been greatly interested in computers. Equally,

Psychologists interested in computers have not been greatly interested

in development. I risk bypassing many people by working at the

intersection of these topics. Yet, I feel there is a fascinating

challenge arising from the task of integrating new technology with the

practice of teaching, the experience of learning and with

psychological theories of cognition very generally.