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Hung, D., W. L., Kapur, M., Wong, A. F. L., & Poh, A. S. H. (1999, September). Activity theory as an instructional model: A case study of a computer-mediated support system in interdisciplinary project work. Paper presented at the 2nd Regional Symposium on New Media and Learning Technologies, Singapore.
Interdisciplinary project work or interdisciplinary project-based learning places demands on learners and
teachers that challenge the traditional practices and structures of modem day schooling. Learning from
doing complex, challenging, and interdisciplinary authentic projects requires resourcefulness and planning
by the student, tools that support knowledge construction and representation, mechanisms for collaboration
and communication, and support for reflection and authentic assessment. This paper argues that activity
theory provides an appropriate framework for interdisciplinary work, in particular, the emphasis on (a)
intended goals to be achieved; (b) subjects involved; (c) the mediating artifacts; (d) the rules of accomplishing the activity; (e) the community (teachers, experts, and students); (f) and the division of work
involved in the project. Computer-mediated supporting environments should attempt to model the activity
structures, tools and sign systems, socio-cultural rules, and community expectations {which are commonly
interdisciplinary) that subjects or learners must accommodate when acting on some object or goal of
learning. After explicating assumptions of activity theory, we describe components of a computer-mediated
environments for supporting interdisciplinary and authentic work. These components generally support
planning, knowledge construction, collaboration, and assessment. The paper proposes a possible prototype
design based on the activity theory framework and discusses the managerial and implementation functions
of interdisciplinary work within the proposed system.
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