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This paper demonstrates, following Vygotsky, that language and tool use has a critical role in the collaborative problem-solving behaviour of school-age children. It reports original ethnographic classroom research examining the convergence of speech and practical activity in children’s collaborative problem solving with robotics programming tasks. The researchers analysed children’s interactions during a series of problem solving experiments in which Lego Mindstorms toolsets were used by teachers to create robotics design challenges among 24 students in a Year 4 Australian classroom (students aged 8.5–9.5 years). The design challenges were incrementally difficult, beginning with basic programming of straight line movement, and progressing to more complex challenges involving programming of the robots to raise Lego figures from conduit pipes using robots as pulleys with string and recycled materials. Data collection involved micro-genetic analysis of students’ speech interactions with tools, peers, and other experts, teacher interviews, and student focus group data. Coding the repeated patterns in the transcripts, the authors outline the structure of the children’s social speech in joint problem solving, demonstrating the patterns of speech and interaction that play an important role in the socialisation of the school-age child’s practical intellect.


Institute for Learning Sciences and Teacher Education

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Journal Article

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