QUESTION: Is a knowledge building environment different from a learning environment?


Farewell, Blackadder [hands him a parchment]. The foremost cartographers of the land have prepared this for you; it's a map of the area that you'll be traversing. [Blackadder opens it up and sees it is blank] -They'll be very grateful if you could just fill it in as you go along. Bye-bye.


Start capturing your thinking about knowledge building environments here ... [scroll down to the bottom if you want to add a note about the page edit for the page history log]
Is a knowledge building environment different from a learning environment? is an interesting question.
If a knowledge building environment is - "Any environment (virtual or otherwise) that enhances collaborative efforts to create and continually improve ideas." Then I wonder if we are guilty of simply introducing more edu_jargon when we refer to "knowledge building" environments instead of "constructivist learning" environments? Is knowledge building different from learning? And if you think it is ... what is the significance of this difference to the environments we create in classrooms? (Pam)

Wikis and democracy

For me one of the important concepts inherent in a wiki (and a blog) is the ability to think and read and write and think some more and read some more and write some more until you place yourself where you want to be. I love the idea of a concept being tossed around asynchronously so that participants can enter or take part on their own terms. To me this is a very democratic device that allows people to make their own decisions about their participation or involvement. Nicki

Nicki, I do agree, It is the round-the-bushes stuff which clears the head with the end result of finding where one stands or where to change direction. Suddently, I realised that this site - Knowledge Building Environments - had more meaning to me than I realised. I have contributed my round-the-bushes thinking, exposed myself, challenged myself, avoided a rigid line and have been prepared to let the ideas of other contributors filter in and out of my mind - because I feel this is an environment conducive to thinking and exploration. I wonder if I provide such an environment for my students in my classroom. I now suspect that those that keep quiet are not so comfortable in the environment (I am not talking about the physical) I provide and maybe I need to work on that. L

9/9/06) Christopher D Sessums blog has an interesting link to an article in the Boston Globe on the use of a wiki as knowledge building environments in schools Cutler, K-M. (2006) A new high-tech take on school group project: Teachers share lessons learned about wikis. The Boston Globe, August, 4,2006. (Pam)

P.S. This is definitely a learning environment because we are exploring, discussing and arguing our inner thoughts. The knowledge will come? Or have bits of knowledge already hooked on to long term memory - the known? Was my above rambling actually learning, with the outcome being some knowledge of wikis and what is and what is not their function/ the scope of their power? I think because I have argued myself into a point of view on this, that is some knowledge I have built - upon what I thought I knew already......LIN

This is the knowledge building environment page? I have just read DIGITAL MAOISM - HASARDS OF ON LINE COLLECTIVISM. Firstly, I think we are building knowledge because we are swapping our intimate(and fragile) thought processes. Environment: it is a welcoming ICT environment. Now as for the dangers: I think a wiki means anyone can change/edit something so some dominant mind (even an AI 'mind' ) can impose a collective or dominant view. In this environment, we can only 'edit this page' and should give an indication of who we are. If I am correct in this, each person's views and personal identity is preserved. In a wiki, there is an impersonal element but here it is a FORUM of intelligent (and sometimes bewildered - mine) discussion - by individuals. I think this mode of operation is very much like a scientific model because ideas must be explored, examined and stand up - if they are to be respected/accepted. Perhaps respected rather than accepted. In this 'forum' people can stand up and be seen - I see personalities coming through. I see thought patterns coming through with an image of a person behind that thought. I think the integrity of the environment and the purpose is safe from strangling by a collective 'mind'. Lin


Learning vs knowledge building

Perhaps learning is the process by which we build knowledge and the two terms learning and knowledge building are synonymous - or perhaps knowledge building with its notions of collaboration and the creation of novel thought sits on ahigher pedestal than learning which may be limited to memorising what is already known - *sighs* this is not going to be a straight forward idea to understand

My thinking is that the difference seems to lie in the Scardamalia's requirement that the knowledge building environment must allow the ideas created to be "situated in worlds beyond the minds of their creators", means that we must build environments that allow student thinking to be challenged, critiqued and evaluated beyond the classroom, beyond the syndicate, beyond the school, beyond the school community.(Pam)

I think a knowledge building environment is more likely to be some place/somewhere that promotes linear thinking - something is known and new knowledge is built up. It is useful and directed. A Learning environment might be a luxury to some people as it is exploring how or why something is. It may not produce any 'useful' linear progress (knowledge) but may sit in space and float for a long time before someone picks it up and uses that thinking for knowledge. In our commercial world, learning is not so useful because results are slow to materialise (maybe in a different lifetime, maybe never) but knowledge is tangible, saleable and can be applied fairly quickly.
Therefore, learning, to an educator/thinker, is on a higher pedestal than knowledge building. (Lin) [3/9/2006]

interesting Lin - your comment alerts me to the Furnas's Vocabulary Problem - "where different users use different terms to describe the same things (or actions) - this is something that is going to be quite significant in social bookmarking and folksonomy (folk taxonomy of concepts) - danah boyd has an interesting paper on this at her apophenia blog [3/9/06]

Why constructivist inquiry will not build knowledge


I have scanned the reading: Why Minimally Guided Instruction Does not Work. From my fast scanning, I understand that prior knowledge lies in the realm of long term memory/understanding/knowledge and new (stand alone) knowledge sits in the area of short term memory and is short lived, then discarded. Therefore, it is important for teachers to access what students know already - so any new knowledge is received into the deep well of the known and understood - and becomes truly knowledge building. If students have no prior knowledge of something about to be presented, then the teacher has a vitally important task of preparing the groundwork. That means dipping into culturally-located knowledge, past experiences etc. I think I feel a gardening image coming up: prepare the soil thoroughly before planting anything and make sure the roots sit in fertile soil. LIN
(this might belong on your other page 'knowlege building' where there is more discussion on this article - sorry.L )
Fits in both LIN - we make the rules - so lets make a link here from the other discussion (Pam) [7/9/06]

Lin's ponderings: Knowledge vs thinking leading to innovation - leading to knowledge. I now think that knowledge (the empircal/the tangible/ practical) leads all the way and it is in fact, circular. Last week, I thought everything started with thinking, innovation and in a linear fashion, went to new knowledge.

Johnny Cash, Princess Diana, and Wah Wah

I have been pondering on the films we see. Fanatasy is all based on some sort of knowledge in order for the fanatsy to move, in linear fashion, to innovative new genre, tastes. And then seeds of that become new knowledge.
How come most top films lately are biopics or based on serious issues/knowledge: (Ray, Johny Cash), Ballets Russe, Thank you for smoking (satire on the new fashion/knowledge of naughtiness of smoking) Wah-Wah, United 93 etc.etc.etc. Is it because we have too small a base of 'knowledge' material and have to bring the new topic/idea to the attention of the public to (later) legitimise that topic/idea for innovative (new) 'knowledge'?
I now don't think it is a linear process, with one being a base and the other more superior along a continuum I think it is circular and: starting with knowledge (there is nothing with nothing on a nothing topic) and then comes innovative thinking around the kernel of the 'knowledge' to produce new knowledge (knowledge building).
As for an environment where this is to occur: Schools, homes, adults, media should continually produce snippets of new 'knowledge' in order for thinking to occur. Environments which concentrate on thinking/innovation are feasting off the past,old knowledge and therefore cannot produce new innovative thought. Over and out, LIN [9/9/06]

Ahh Lin I need Insouci to help me answer this challenge - I am influenced by Adorno's thinking on media and culture - in truth I am helplessly attracted to his thinking -
Adorno (1903-69) argued that capitalism fed people with the products of a 'culture industry' - the opposite of 'true' art - to keep them passively satisfied and politically apathetic. Adorno saw that capitalism had not become more precarious or close to collapse, as Marx had predicted. Instead, it had seemingly become more entrenched. Where Marx had focussed on economics, Adorno placed emphasis on the role of culture in securing the status quo. Popular culture was identified as the reason for people's passive satisfaction and lack of interest in overthrowing the capitalist system. Adorno suggested that culture industries churn out a debased mass of unsophisticated, sentimental products which have replaced the more 'difficult' and critical art forms which might lead people to actually question social life. From Theory.org.uk
So if the media is the source of new knowledge as you suspect, then we ought to be leery, very leery about what is going on - *arghh* I feel a Princess Diana 'madonna or whore' moment approaching. Agree with the idea that environments set up for innovative thought betray the idea (Pam) [9/9/06]

I quote from Insouci -
Unrequited is the basis of my existence. I thrive in its sadistic charm. I live the odour of its malaise. I don't know why. I can't help it. It always just seems to be the reason for all that I endeavour. In love, in hate, in sorrow, and in wretchedness. Always, always, unrequited.
that is sooo true and sooo depressing. But hitting upon this possible truth is sooo delicious. Does this mean that nothing is ever tidy? Does it mean that there is no answer? There is no real understanding or coming to a comfortable wonderful 'arrangement'? If things can't be brought together to fit, does it mean that 'knowledge' as something tangible is also not tidy and I am wrong after all. I thought that if I had bits of things called 'knowledge' I could build on it and share it. Is it only useful when I can get it out of my head and show it/share it/prove its existance, then it 'is'? I am using quotation marks because I have different meanings. Now I have a problem with language to express the existence of my ideas. After looking at that depressing but wonderful quote again, is knowledge building an exercise in CHALLENGING the individual mind - but what is the end result? Is the rearrangement of my thoughts a product which could be innovative? No. I think the words and meanings I know (because of my knowledge environment) suggest that innovative stuff will be valuable, eventually, and championed by the world, or maybe just interested parties. If it is my delight only, it is worthless. I think we come back to Marx and economic expression. I must now re-think my world and how I respond to it. Lin

Dialogue sounds good.
In the Scardmalia and Bereiter article below the authors discuss Knowledge building environments in terms of them having "dialogue that is democratic and favourable to idea diversity". In such an environment the participants can feel comfortable to bring their ideas and contribute but they also are challenged to consider other peoples ideas. Dialogue means exchange of opinions and ideas and even can be defined as a negotiation. Knowledge building then is not seen as finite but can encompass new points of view





What others are saying about knowledge building environments
Scardamalia and Bereiter 2003 argue that knowledge building is distinct from collaborative learning.
In educational contexts, knowledge building tends to be equated with such familiar approaches as learning-by-discovery, project based learning, anchored instruction, and collaborative learning. Thus it is used as a synonym for “constructivist learning” (
Wilson, 1996) and offers no evident advantage over this older and more familiar term.
As originally introduced into the educational literature, however (e.g. Bereiter & Scardamalia, 1989, p.388) “knowledge building” carried a meaning closer to its meaning in business and professional contexts. That is it refers to the creation and improvement of ideas that have a life out in the world, where they are subject to social processes of evaluation, revision, and application. Scardamalia & Bereiter 2003