Ritella, G. (2018). Chronotope: an investigation of the spatial and temporal organization in technology-mediated collaborative learning. Department of Educational Sciences, University of Helsinki. Helsinki Studies in Education (number 22). The dissertation is available at https://helda.helsinki.fi/handle/10138/229245

Activity: Examination typesSupervisor or co-supervisor of doctoral thesis


The present dissertation project investigated the organization of space-time in collaborative learning processes mediated by Information and Communication Technology (ICT). The background of my argumentation is that we live in an historical moment in which the introduction of continuously evolving virtual spaces and the implementation of novel pedagogical approaches entail the transformation of the spatial and temporal relations of learning. In order to examine these transforming space-time relations and the role that they play in the learning process, I propose an adapted socio-cultural perspective based on the dialogical notion of chronotope. A chronotope depicts the emergent configuration of space-time relations during an intentional, collaborative learning activity. In sum, the perspective that I adopt considers cognition and learning as distributed in the environment, and space and time as interdependent social constructions. The dissertation report aimed to account for multiple types of physical, social, virtual, real and imagined spatialities and temporalities as they are perceived, discursively negotiated, and bodily enacted by participants in ICT-mediated learning practices.
I carried out four studies that examine various aspects of space-time relations. In Study I, I explored how participants in collaborative learning activities locate themselves and the other across multiple physical, social and virtual spaces; in Study II I investigated how the space-time frames detected in students’ discourse on the task affect the process of task interpretation; Study III was aimed at analysing if and how space-time configurations bodily enacted by participants affect the pace and the quality of the learning process; in Study IV I examined the significance and implications of patterns of organization of space-time during the process of instrumental genesis. All the studies adopt a qualitative ethnographic methodology that involves the triangulation of participant observation, discourse analysis, and video analysis.
The results of my studies suggest that examining the organization of space and time can provide crucial insights into technology-mediated collaborative learning, informing both theory and practice. Understanding how participants locate themselves and the others in space and time might help us to design learning space-times that enhance coordination and collaborative processes. Considering the discursive framing of space-time by the students can help teachers and instructional designers to ensure that divergent assumptions concerning space-time frames will not induce students to deviate from the set task. Modelling the space-time configurations bodily enacted by participants may provide cues for scaffolding the learning process, helping students to orchestrate space and manage time, in line with the teachers’ pedagogical aims. Finally, detecting patterns of space-time organization may inform decisions concerning where and when to provide just-in-time information, scaffolds and tools to enhance students’ learning without interrupting their experience of flow.
Period13 Jan 2018
Degree of RecognitionInternational