December 21, 2008

The Person I Admire in Educational Research: Lev Vygotsky

When I was studying in primary school, a popular topic for free essay writing (almost assigned by teachers every year) is ‘The Person I Admire’. I can’t really remember who I admired when I was a kid, but recently I decided to be an admirer of Lev Semenovich Vygotsky. According to Wikipedia, he was a Russian Jewish developmental psychologist and the founder of cultural-historical psychology. To me, I regard him as my target in educational research. Although he died at the age of 37, his research contributions were magnificent.

The first time I learned about him was on 1 May 2004, when I was attending the 4th lecture of Learning Theories and Technologies, during my Master of Multimedia (MMm) study. I knew him through the concepts of the zone of proximal development and scaffolding. Although I got A for this subject, to be frank, I didn’t know much about him.

Last month, on 28 Nov, I rediscovered Vygotsky through Prof David Wray. David gave a lecture on Learning theories and their implications to PhD candidates of WIE. He put Vygotsky’s portrait under the title ‘Social constructivism’ and allocated 4 slides for this topic. Herewith the first slide:

Social constructivism

-         Vygotsky

-         Marxist

-         Revolution – not evolution

-         Development takes place first on a social plane then on an individual plan


In the second slide, he played a video clip, titled Vygotsky’s Development Theory: An Introduction

There was a caption in the video that struck me: ‘Using a 3% quota, Jewish students were chosen by lottery’, and Vygotsky was a lucky person who won the lottery of getting into school in Russia during the time of Tsar Nicholas II. What a coincident! The chance for me to get sponsored to pursue a PhD in the UK is 3%, and I always consider myself as winning lottery.

When I updated my lists of literature to be reviewed in ePortfolio, I came across Vygotsky’s work in 1933, titled ‘Play and its role in the mental development of the child’. Play is one of the key concepts that associated with my research, thus I searched for this paper and started to have a closer view of Vygotsky’s works. He produced seven books and a thousand over papers before he died—no wonder there are people who regard him as ‘The Mozart of Psychology’.

I do plan to write books, and hopefully more than seven. The title of my first book to be written, which I promised to write together with Prof Stan in Malaysia, is set: Sun Tzu’s The Art of War and Learning Strategies. This book would be an expansion of a paper I wrote in 2006, titled ‘Globalization, e-Learning and The Art of War’. I always think that this paper was not well written because the elements of The Art of War were not thoroughly exploited. I need more time to explore those elements together with Stan.

I know I am nobody, or just as a beginner researcher in education. But I have aspirations and dreams. Like Gautama Buddha said, ‘we are what we think’, I think I am a game-based learning specialist. As a specialist, I will incorporate my knowledge and skills in multimedia technology and pedagogy into the production of the book. Perhaps, I should not call it a book; it ought to be my first game. I want to put my beliefs into practice. I know I am standing in an advantageous position, between creative industry and education. So, I want to try game-based learning out myself, for real. My goal is to revolutionise, to replace traditional teaching media with electronic games. I believe one day in the future, printed books will become antiques in museum, like those papyrus scribes now. Indeed this is not a new idea. For academics who conduct research in Visual and Performing Arts, ‘publication’ of research works could be in non-text based forms, despite its worldwide level of acceptance (see examples of research projects). I hope one day, academics would publish games instead of research papers. In the game, players instead of readers could experience the research conduct through the eyes of the researcher in a virtual world. Players will be engaged with the game play under the flow state. As a person who studied creative multimedia, I personally regard the existing ‘academic papers’ as dull, boring and scary. I imagine that if I could ‘multimedia-lise’ those academic papers, people with non-research background would be able to understand or even like what we are doing.

Like Vygotsky, my idea or imagination might be criticised as being too wild by contemporary academia during my lifetime. However, I sincerely hope to see such shift of paradigm. In the mean time, I’ll try my best to stay alive longer then Vygotsky.

- One comment Not publicly viewable

  1. Sue

    Having recently acquired a Wii-Fit I understand where you’re coming from, completely. Virtual reality is the way to go, we’re at it all day, it’s completely addictive it’s such fun. I can see why the day you got your PHD scholarship must have seemed like a lottery win – a rollover I should think!!

    21 Dec 2008, 22:49

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