Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Readings for Week #9 in CTL 1608

I'm back with my thoughts on the readings for this week in my course. This week we have readings from the "chief architects" of the interface we're using at OISE/UT. Indeed, Knowledge Forum owes its existence to the continuing work of Marlene Scardamalia --
Scardamalia, M. (2000). Social and Technological Innovations for a Knowledge Society. In S. S-C. Young, J. Greer, H. Maurer, & Y.S. Chee (Eds.). Proceedings of the ICCE/ICCAI 2000: Volume 1. Learning Societies in the New Millennium: Creativity, Caring & Commitments. (pp. 22-27). National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan: Taipei.
and Carl Bereiter --

Bereiter, C. (2002). Chapter 8, Putting learning it is proper place. Education and Mind in the Knowledge Age. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

At the risk of sounding like a brown-noser, I found these articles "more accessible" -- I think this comes from what I perceive to be the conversational tones of the articles and the fact that both articles focus on the application we're using for our course, Knowledge Forum.

I was taken with a number of the ideas expressed by each author.

Specifically, I was interested in Scardamalia's assertion that:
...we take it for granted that some communities will make advances with greater regularity than others. That is what we expect of knowledge building communities, as they represent a social organization that invests in resources in the advancement of the group's knowledge, so that the group as a whole is striving for advancement beyond present limits of competence.
I also liked what she had to say about the fact that "experts seldom exist in isolation" and how "replication and merger of design spaces allow communities to replicate portions of one design space into another and to create new cross-community discourses."

Bereiter's paper represents, as he puts it, his efforts to "establish a workable distinction between learning and knowledge building."

I was particulary struck by Bereiter's introduction to the notion of "sharpening the distinction between learning and knowledge building" -- specifically tabular based comparisons of one approach versus another [His description reminded me of the Wired, Tired, Expired list in each month's edition of Wired magazine] -- and how "such comparisons appeal only to those who are already sold on the 'new' and for them they obscure differences that matter and bury real problems under a flurry of self-congratulatory cliches." I saw a bit of myself in this quote in how I reacted to what I perceived to be colleagues' resistance to blogging in our course last week. Somehow because I've been blogging for a while, my interests were vested in medium and maybe more enamoured with the medium than I should be.

In terms of what people learn, we're told there are "two rules of thumb" --
  1. People learn what they process
  2. The skills most likely to be learned are the minimal ones necessary to accomplish the range of tasks presented

Bereiter ends his paper with the assertion:
"To grasp the idea of knowledge building, educators have to understand the following:
  • Knowledge building is not just a process; it is aimed at creating a product.
  • That product is some kind of conceptual artifact--for instance, an explanation or a historical account or interpretation of a literary work.
  • A conceptual aritifact is not something in the minds of the students.
  • It is not something material or visible, either.
  • It is nevertheless real and preferably something students can use

I'm still working on just exactly what does and doesn't constitute a "conceptual artifact" as its defined here, but think I have an ideal. I don't know it it's synonymous with "collective intelligence" but I think it's close.

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