Knowledge-Building Communities - #4b

One of the more potent reasons to use wikis in an educational setting is as a collaborative knowledge base. Scardamalia and Bereiter (1994) undertake the concept of educational pedagogy and technology for “knowledge-building” discourse, which they framed as “computer-supported intentional learning environments (CSILE)” (p. 265). Right off the bat, the authors contend that much of technology used in the typical classroom is “reinventing the familiar” and that, though “inventive and sophisticated,” they challenge the amount or quality of understanding (p. 266). Their premise of CSILE is based on three components: purposeful learning, the emphasis on proficiency, and lastly (the focus of this article), “restructuring schools as knowledge-building communities” (p. 266).

The authors go beyond the classroom, looking at apprenticeships and research centers as models for the ‘knowledge-building community.’ Our post secondary vocational programs similarly attempt to apply the ‘hands on’ approach through clinical and practicum experiences as well as externships and co-op placements. These are merely connections though and don’t necessarily mirror the ‘knowledge-building’ prescribed by the authors. Some of the characteristics of ‘knowledge-building’ include:
  • The product represents some advancement over what is already known - and this is relatively speaking, so could be used in an individual’s gain of knowledge

  • Significant conversation and participation, i.e., a substantial commitment to communication

  • A respectful regard and recognition for all participants – for me, this is connected to the “public” nature of the contribution.

This article is dated and the impact of new technologies is significantly different to the author’s suggested alternative of a networked computer community using a shared database to share and build knowledge instead of a dysfunctional classroom environment. Despite that, I think they are definitely on to something and it relates directly to wikis: use of problems to challenge a depth of learning and transformational understanding; “decentralized, open knowledge building, with a focus on collective knowledge” (this is a very powerful facet in that it recognizes not only the negotiation in group discussion in seeking meaning, but it also allows for a new atmosphere of ‘lifelong learning’), and multiple perspectives in a broader sense because it is available to the entire community.

All of these foundational pieces I’ve recently blogged are focused on changing the way we do things in our educational institutions. But the opposite swing of the pendulum is not usually “the answer.” It does come down to when and where and how (as noted in a previous comment). From my readings, it is apparent that there are particular situations that wikis would be more valued than others. Originally, I thought it best to start with introducing wikis as a journaling mechanism as well as them as a resource of updated information and then to follow with the collaborative construction of knowledge through problem-based scenarios. I still think this a practical sequence, but wonder if I should just jump into the ‘knowledge-building’. Any other thoughts?

Scardamalia, M. and Bereiter, C. (1994). Computer support for knowledge-building communities. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 3(3), pp. 265-283. Retrieved April 1, 2006 from http://web10.epnet.com.lp.hscl.ufl.edu (password-protected - UF library access).


At 9:00 PM, Blogger Julie Romey said...

Marie - Have you given any thought thought to using wikis and blogs in combination? I've been tossing that idea around in my head lately trying to get a grasp on it. It seems as though each has its own strengths and weaknesses, and some circumstances might be better suited with a blog than a wiki and vice versa.

For example, the issue of student journaling. It seems to be that a blog might be better for this. Blogs seem to be more personal and provide for the sense of having your own space, which seems important in a journal. There is still the opportunity for outside input in the form of comments. On the other side, wikis seem much better suited for collaborative work, such as group knowledge bases. When we were working on our group projects the last couple of weeks a wiki probably would have worked much better for us than the discussion forums did.

I'm wondering if there's a need to pick one over the other between blogs, wikis, discussion forums, etc. Why not provide students with exposure and access to multiple options? Then when they leave our doors they will have a better understanding of what is out there.

Just a thought I've got rolling around my brain ... let me know what you think.

At 5:13 PM, Blogger Marie C said...

I think you are correct that the more powerful use of wikis is in the collaborative sense. My original intention was to "introduce" students to wikis (there is a little bit more of a 'learning curve') via the journaling function. I've read a couple of postings about blogs v. wikis for various functions and agree that blogs would probably be a better venue for journaling. Still I want to have some kind of introductory hands-on component before using it for the collaborative problem-based learning scenarios...

Like you, I wished for the wikis in both of the group projects in the last two weeks - they would have been ideal, I think - a great match! So, again, it comes back to using the tool appropriately and in the case of wikis, I think the most applicable is the collaborative project orientation...so will have to mull that introduction activity a bit more...

Thanks for your feedback!


At 11:31 PM, Blogger Joshua O said...

You are right Marie, we usually need to shift the pendulum, not necessarily send it off in the opposite direction! Much of the research I've encountered often takes a strong viewpoint for or against current educational technology efforts are extremely effective or ineffective instead of focusing on the many areas in between and how they could be improved instead of completely removed.

Beginning the wiki as a journal is a good way for your students to gain familiarity and comfort with the platform. Collaborative projects will then allow them to collectively hone their skills.


At 11:20 PM, Blogger M. Yates said...

It would be interesting to read more research on the gray areas of programs and issues and I would definitely like to see more papers on how a strong program's weak spots could be and have been supplemented by another. In my other class we are currently looking at Learning Management Systems or Component architecture. You might want to take a look at an article on this.


Post a Comment

<< Home