Reflections on the Ecolab and the Zone of Proximal Development

In IJAIED 26 (1)

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Interactive Learning Environment (ILE), Vygotsky, Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)


In 1999 we reported a study that explored the way that Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development could be used to inform the design of an Interactive Learning Environment called the Ecolab. Two aspects of this work have subsequently been used for further research. Firstly, there is the interpretation of the ZPD and its associated theory that was used to operationalize the ZPD so that it could be implemented in software. This interpretation has informed further research about how one can model context and its impact on learning, which has produced a design framework that has been successfully applied across a range of educational settings. Secondly, there is the Ecolab software itself. The software has been adapted into a variety of versions that have supported explorations into how to scaffold learners’ metacognition, how to scaffold learners’ motivation and the implications of a learner’s goal orientation upon their use of the software. The findings from these studies have informed our understanding of learner scaffolding and have produced consistent results to demonstrate the importance of providing learners with appropriately challenging tasks and flexible support. Vygotsky’s work is as relevant now as it was in 1999: it still has an important role to play in the development of educational software.