June 28, 2005

Knowledge as a Conversation

David Weinberger posted notes from his keynote at NECC describing knowledge as a conversation. I agree with this notion. His discussion notes that owners of knowledge no longer own the organization of that knowledge. This ability to reorganize information is probably even more critical then the concept of knowledge as a conversation.

We have been researching for years how it is critical to allow learners to build repertoire of meaningful experiences and apply these "constructs" of knowledge to new situations. As we move to enable learners we must provide them with activities, simulations, or games that allow for meaningful experiences (or even replicate traditional process) that allow them to learn by doing. It would seem that the learner must follow that experience by taking the knowledge they have been provided through the expereince and recreate it for themselves.

This must lead to changes in how we teach in the traditional classroom. Educators must provide all the critical information (facts, samples, ...) and facilitate the creation of the meaningful experiences. So the Educator provides slides and lectures, notes, blogs, and websites, all the information they can. Embrace the fact that the information is readily available and usable by the learner. Then create activities or simulations or games that allow or require the learner to structure and assemble the information and facilitate that process. Point out new information, show the trends, aggregate the students feedback and questions and expose them back in a supportive manner. Become a coach, cheerleader, and mentor.

Then provide the learner with the tools to express their new constructs. Have them develop a personalized wiki or build a hypercard stack (is that still around?) or do some activity that allows them to structure and organize the new knowledge. Have them explore a new area that builds on the existing knowledge structures. But now the Educator must still play the roll of evaluator. Does the learner represent a new understanding? Have they applied the knowledge in a new or different way? Does it include accurate facts and information? Does it show their ability to collaborate (if that was a goal?)

I do think that we have to take a stronger "systems thinking" approach to learning. It is a lifelong process and while we still have to give grades and conduct ROI analysis, we must consider the incredible impact of that learning has throughout life.

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