you have explored the other areas of this home page, you have been introduced to
5th Dimension sites around the country, and have an idea of what it takes to
start and run a new site.
The purpose of disseminating the ideas and examples from 5th Dimension sites is to increase awareness of the benefits of non-authoritarian interactions between children kids and adults, the heart of the 5th Dimension experience. This section of the CD-ROM zooms in on the details of these interactions using video data from case studies of two different 5th Dimension sites.1
The 5th Dimension program is an attempt to embody principles derived from cultural historical research traditions in education and psychology. The ideas of John Dewey, G.H. Mead, L.S. Vygotsky, Alexander Luria and A.N. Leontev provide the rationale for most of the design elements and interactional norms of the 5th Dimension. A key example is the Vygotskian concept of "zone of proximal development," the difference between a child's actual development level and their higher level of potential development. Children and adults enter this zone when interacting collaboratively with a more knowledgeable peer to achieve more than they could have in independent problem solving. 2
The 5th Dimension has been designed to facilitate the creation of zones of proximal development. As you view the data samples, look closely at the intertwining of multiple players, goals, abilities and interests. College and university students, professors, kids, parents, other community members, and computer games are brought together in a collaborative mix. Adults and children participant in peer level and cross age exchanges of ideas and help, in learning configurations that shift moment by moment.
Interactions in the 5th Dimension are intended to mediate the space between entertainment and education. In all of the case studies in this section, you will see kids engaged in entertaining, voluntary activities, with adults concerned with their intellectual and social development.
Finally, interactions in the 5th Dimension are characterized by malleable power relations between players in the system. This means that there are ongoing negotiations between kids, adults, and games around the normative practice of a particular 5th Dimension site. Children are quite often the technology experts, or the experts on the 5th Dimension culture. As such, they exert influence over the flow of activities and knowledge through the system. This often comes as a surprise to adults who expect authority to be a function of age.
The cases presented here are meant to illustrate these interactional dynamics of the 5th Dimension. In addition, they portray moments which combine the elements of "generality" (systemic features) and "locality" (unique qualities of a site) in the system.
1 These cases are derived from ethnographic research on learning processes funded by the Mellon Foundation, conducted at the Institute for Research on Learning , Menlo Park, CA, and the Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition, U.C. San Diego
2 For further description and references to the theoretical and historical background of the 5th Dimension, see Michael Cole's (1996) Cultural Psychology: A Once and Future Discipline. Cambridge, MA: Harvard/Belknap.