An Activity Theory Perspective on e-Teaching in a Virtual High-School Classroom

E. Murphy and M.A. Rodríguez Manzanares (Canada)


Virtual schooling, Activity Theory, teacher’s practice


In the case study reported on in this paper, we identified deviations in the practice of the e-teacher that point to germs of new forms of teaching. Our case was distance education at the high-school level within the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Participants were 13 of the 28 e-teachers employed by an organization responsible for the delivery of distance education as well as seven of its management and support personnel. Our theoretical framework was Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT). Data collection relied on semi-structured interviews conducted primarily online. Data analysis involved identifying contradictions, categorizing them, and, from within the categories, identifying visible manifestations of deviations in the e-teachers’ practice leading to innovation. These deviations were clustered and labelled thematically as follows: from controlling to engaging student attention; from e-teacher-preferred tools to student-preferred tools; from e-teacher instruction to independent student learning; from a single e-teacher’s voice to multiple students’ voices. Use of Activity Theory provided an explanatory lens to appreciate a case of how the introduction of new tools can bring about positive change in teachers’ practice.

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