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Chapter 5 Presenting The Activity Systems of Groups A and B: An Overview of

5.2 An overview of The Activity System of Group A’s Project

Group A was in their second semester in Human Centred Informatics program. Here is description of each component of their Activity System.


All subjects were Danish including three females who commuted by train from their home city, a 45-minute journey to their campus in Aalborg. The other two were male and lived in Aalborg. All chose to live at home with their parents; they all went straight from school to Aalborg University. They were all in their second semester on the Human Centred Informatics Program at Aalborg when they were observed; they were working on their third project, known as P2; projects at Aalborg are described in Chapter 2. All of them were born around 1990; the internet had started to penetrate Scandinavia in the middle 80s (Nordhagen, 2003); students in Group A grew up in the digital age.

Group A usually worked together on campus and sometimes at home; they divided themselves into two divisions because the female members lived in another city; it






Division of Labour Outcome Who are learning?

How do they learn?

Why do they learn?

What do they learn?

Who, What, When & How the roles are taking place?

What are the norms, rules and regulations

of the activity?

What is the learning environment?

was easier for them to meet at each other’s homes; the male members also met in their homes; the two divisions sometimes held conferences jointly on Skype.

Figure 5-2 Members of Group A

Characteristics Group A

Karen Grace Pam Peter Viking

Gender Female Male

Nationality Danish

Academic origin Starting BA Human Informatics

Age Young and of similar age; were born around 1990

Residence and distance from campus

Resident in another city:

45 minutes by train

Near campus but different locations

Married/Single Single

Work experience related to

field of study None

Part-time job during

studies None

Table5-1 The diversity of members of Group A 5.2.2 OBJECT

The group’s aim was to produce a good report under the set theme of “Interpersonal Communication”; they interviewed the manager of a business to gather empirical data.

They planned and accomplished tasks together. They employed interview techniques introduced by their teachers; they transcribed speech from video recordings and

subsequently coded the text. Writing their report was the main task of their project;

they started the writing during the Problem Formulation phase; they wrote independently and collaborated for the final version. The report’s cover was designed by one member with input from the others. They submitted their report on time and achieved good evaluation.

5.2.3 TOOLS

Group A had no fixed venue for meetings; they were able to reserve a room when required on a schedule – sheet outside the room; otherwise, they could meet in public spaces in the University where they risked being disturbed. The only tools provided in public spaces were black- and white boards and chalk, but not marker pens. Booked rooms had to be vacated after meetings and they were unable to leave anything behind for future use. They regularly used pen, pencil and paper to express their ideas visually. They communicated with each other and wrote their report in Danish. Each member owned a laptop and some had smartphones; meetings were photographed and shared on Dropbox. They employed interview techniques which they had been taught in a class of “25 questions”. Their report was written using Microsoft Word; they chose to use free-subscription tools including Facebook Group, Dropbox, Skype and Google docs.

Figure 5-3 Schedule paper for room booking

Figure 5-4 Percils and papers were used during their planning

Zotero was considered whilst selecting tools and the group agreed not to employ it for their current project and postpone its use until their next one. They found the tool was complicated and requiring more time to learn and set up. They complained of lack of time to learn how to use the new tool. They wanted to devote their time directly to their project.


They were supported by the University through their supervisor; they made appointments with him by email; they did not share their working locations and facilities with him. They employed library facilities and services, especially during Problem Formulation; likewise, library staff assisted them. They maintained contact with the lecturer who had taught them interview techniques; in particular, they sought his advice before interviewing and analysing data. Parents were also able to help with, for example, transport or contacting the subject of their interviews. Normally, group members would have sole access to their online environments such as Facebook closed group, Skype conference or shared calendar; exceptionally, in this case, this researcher also had access for this research, but not their supervisor or teachers.

5.2.5 RULES

The group established its own rules to ensure that each member would contribute fully; text files were to be shared on Dropbox in a file called “Generelle retningslinjer for P2.docx” which means “Guidelines for P2”. Some examples of the rules are


- Man møder op når vi har en aftale - Man overholder deadlines

- Prøv at lav en litteraturliste fra start af - Lav fodnoter nede i bunden af siden - Sige vores mening  konstruktiv feedback ”

translated by this author as:


- If we agree to meet, all members will attend.

- Deadlines must be maintained.

- The bibliography should be continuously updated.

- Notes will be inserted at the bottom of the page.

- Constructive feedback should be provided. ”

They followed the rules strictly. Apart from the formal rules, behavioural norms developed informally.


The group agreed that each member would perform an administrative role which was recorded in the project folder: note taker, meeting scheduler, IT specialist, secretary and final-decision maker. Reading and writing were divided into topics which they allocated amongst themselves. Peter was formally appointed by the group as their IT specialist; he sought, investigated and evaluated new tools, introduced them to the group and made final decisions regarding their adoption and application. Although passive in tool adoption, the other members were active in employing the technology;

for example, even though some members dominated the Facebook group, all participated. As note taker, Pam was in charge; she entered minutes into the Dropbox shared folder and announced on Facebook group that they were available. Members retained the same roles throughout the project; there was no rotation.


They completed all tasks and submitted their report online and achieved good evaluation; their report demonstrated their achievement in terms of concepts and skills promoted by the curriculum.


Figure 5-5 Overview of the activity system of Group A’s project

An overview of the activity system of Group A’s project is illustrated in Figure 5-5.

It should be noted that Group A were all Danish and Danish was their working language for the project; language, therefore, was a barrier for this researcher when observing the group; data for interpretation was obtained primarily from interviews after their meetings; this limited the scope for understanding motives, visions and values of group members.