This course will become read-only in the near future. Tell us at if that is a problem.

WK 4 - Knowledge Building

1.) Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C.  (2006).  Knowledge building: Theory, pedagogy, and technology.  In K. Sawyer (Ed.), Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences (pp. 97-118).  New York: Cambridge University Press.

2. ) Stahl, G. (2002). Contributions to a theoretical framework for CSCL, Proceedings of Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL 2002), Boulder, CO, pp. 62-71.

1.) A Special Issue of the Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology on Knowledge Buildling (Fall 2010) (36)1. (all articles available).

2.) Zhang, J., Scardamalia, S., Reeve, R., & Messina, R. (2009). Designs for Collective Cognitive Responsibility in Knowledge-Building Communities, Journal of the Learning Sciences (18),1, 7-44


We will meet on Etherpad at 6PM EST Saturday May 21. Try to have read at least one article before then, and please have Skype ready. 

Task Discussion

  • Marcy Murninghan   May 23, 2011, 3:39 p.m.

    Hi, folks,

    Monica asked me to complete my thought before we logged off Saturday, regarding the International Integrated Reporting Committee site I provided, and my thinking about how it links to what we discussed--a "final project" sort of thing.

    My thoughts are embryonic, and I'd prefer to wall them off among us, if that's possible. Monica, Stian, can we do this? I don't want to create ripples in a pond that already has a lot of folks on the sidelines...




  • Stian Haklev   May 25, 2011, 8:53 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Marcy Murninghan   May 23, 2011, 3:39 p.m.

    Hi Marcy,

    the idea of P2PU is to make every learning interaction open. I know that seems very radical to many, and it might have negative consequences, but it also has many positive ones. Currently there is no feature in the system for limiting a message to only a few participants, the only way would be to send us each a private message.


  • Marcy Murninghan   May 25, 2011, 10:49 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Stian Haklev   May 25, 2011, 8:53 p.m.

    Hi, Stian,

    Thanks for your response. Yes, I understand, and can work with that by posing a hypothetical. In this particular instance, I'm certain that P2PU or a similar open platform wouldn't work, given the proprietary nature of things, but you never know. Principal agents aside, my interest -- wich is pretty consistent -- is in the design and operation of collaborative online learning environments that generate NEW knowledge, help improve performance, and draws upon a foundation of knowledge and practice (e.g., is tethered to a historical tradition, albeit interdisciplinary).

    In this particular example, there would be multiple parties -- organizations, really -- throughout the world, all working to implement a new set of principles and guidelines, which of course would 'look' different, depending upon local circumstance.

    I'll hold off saying more at the moment, as I'm already behind on a deadline and need to get back to that.

    Thanks for the clarification, though!








  • Jennifer Claro   May 21, 2011, 5:14 p.m.

    Hi Everyone,

    It's just after 6:00 a.m. here now which means it is just after 5:00 a.m. for you and we should all be meeting on PiratePad but I can't connect. Can you? 

    I'm jenniferclaro on Skype (I think!). If we can't use PiratePad, maybe we could Skype instead? Or how about BBB?

    Hope to talk with you very soon!



  • Joe Corneli   May 21, 2011, 5:19 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Jennifer Claro   May 21, 2011, 5:14 p.m.
  • Jennifer Claro   May 19, 2011, 8:46 p.m.

    Hi Everyone,

    Sorry, we are all home sick with heinous colds (flu?) and I am currently operating in a state of fog. I hope to be back in action for the Saturday chat but will definitely not be posting anything here soon on KB. Sorry... KB is such a great topic, can't wait to get to it... will do asap... Sorry Joe, have not gotten back to you, will do soon...



  • Marcy Murninghan   May 19, 2011, 8:56 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Jennifer Claro   May 19, 2011, 8:46 p.m.

    Gee, sorry to hear this, Jennifer. Sending healing vibes and thoughts... Hope you and yours feel better soon! And you're right: I'm greatly interested in KB, and appreciate you all introducing me to the topic!




  • Monica Resendes   May 20, 2011, 9:09 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Jennifer Claro   May 19, 2011, 8:46 p.m.

    feel better Jennifer, hope to e-see you on Saturday!

  • Monica Resendes   May 18, 2011, 3:55 p.m.

    Hi everyone,

    Here is a powerpoint explaining KB theory in terms of its guiding principles. This powerpoint was prepared to help explain KB to a team of teachers who were unfamiliar with the theory but who were participating in a pilot study using the new browser-based version of Knowledge Forum (still under development). The teachers are working in various community colleges in the States and are using this new Knoweldge Forum in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University's Open Learning modules.

    This powerpoint could be particularly useful for us because it also includes considerations of how the basic principles can be applied to learning in a collaborative online space.

  • Marcy Murninghan   May 18, 2011, 4:08 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Monica Resendes   May 18, 2011, 3:55 p.m.

    Monica, I'm thrilled by the prompts and the PP link. But I'm buried, as usual, under various tasks this week. Please know, though, that this content is very very relevant to my current work. I even described it to someone who works for the Prince of Wales, the Accounting For Sustainability project--she's also helping to oversee the process for worldwide integrated reporting. 

    I'll take a look near the end of the week, when the rush has subsided. Just wanted you to know how excited I am to be part of this group!

  • Monica Resendes   May 18, 2011, 4:46 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Marcy Murninghan   May 18, 2011, 4:08 p.m.

    No problem, Marcy! I'm swamped too so I totally understand how difficult it is to get to everything you want to get to. We need 40 hour days! I'm really exciting to hear that you're talking about the course and sharing ideas with others in your circles -- all the way to the Prince of Wales!

  • Monica Resendes   May 23, 2011, 2:44 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Marcy Murninghan   May 18, 2011, 4:08 p.m.

    Marcy - I noticed you included this link in the last piratepad meeting. I actually wanted to ask you to expand on this but you had logged off already! (I was too slow!) Do you mind commenting briefly here about this site and how it might reflect a desired outcome of this course on your behalf?


  • Monica Resendes   May 16, 2011, 10:35 a.m.


    #1  “A knowledge building technology should facilitate using information, as distinct from learning it” (Scardamalia, 2006, p. 19). How is this distinction between the deliberate use of information and the learning of information conceptualized? Is this distinction inherent in any of the previous readings we’ve done? (CoP’s, Stahl’s group cognition)

    #2 “Knowledge building” has taken on a multitude of meanings and connotations. What are the specific elements of knowledge building as Scardamalia describes them? What are the necessary requirements for knowledge building to occur within any educational context?

     #3 Some believe that Knowledge Building pedagogy as Scardamalia describes it here is not realistic for a traditional classroom setting. Do you agree? What are the major barriers and how do you see non-traditional settings as either challenging or reinforcing these barriers?



    #1 It is important for Scardamalia to draw clear distinctions between knowledge building and learning. Chart the specific differences and list existing technologies that, according to you, enable each objective. Provide a few lines explaining your choices.

    #2 Use debategraph to create an argument outlining your ideas on question #3.

  • Jennifer Claro   May 20, 2011, 8:52 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Monica Resendes   May 16, 2011, 10:35 a.m.

    Hi Monica (and Stian, and everyone),

    #1  “A knowledge building technology should facilitate using information, as distinct from learning it” (Scardamalia, 2006, p. 19). How is this distinction between the deliberate use of information and the learning of information conceptualized? Is this distinction inherent in any of the previous readings we’ve done? (CoP’s, Stahl’s group cognition)

    This is the first time I have come across the distinction between "using information as distinct from learning it" in S&B's work on Knowledge Building (KB). There is no explanation provided in their 2006 article other than the one line you quoted. I find it difficult to imagine using information that one has not learned. You know Scardamalia's work much better than I do, could you please expand on what she and Bereiter have in mind here? I am familiar with the learning vs. KB distinction and KB theory in general. Sorry, I'm not asking you to answer your own question, maybe just asking for some orientation?

    Thank you for your help!


  • Joe Corneli   May 20, 2011, 8:59 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Jennifer Claro   May 20, 2011, 8:52 p.m.

    Hi Jennifer:

    First thing, thanks for bringing the quote back into the discussion.  I had been wondering where I read that!  Second, when I first saw it, I said "aha, someone who agrees with me!"

    I don't know if my motivations are the same, but recently I was thinking that deliberate practice trumps "learning".  It's not that learning is unimportant, it's just that it's scary!  If I think about learning something, I'm putting myself in a position of relative powerlessness.  On the other hand, if I think about practicing something, I'm admitting that I already have some sort of toe-hold.

    That's just my view on the subject,


  • Jennifer Claro   May 20, 2011, 10:18 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Joe Corneli   May 20, 2011, 8:59 p.m.


    Hi Joe,

    Aha! If I understand you correctly, it’s the “knowledge about” vs. “knowledge of” distinction that S&B make on p. 8ff. (if you printed it out); “knowledge about” being learning about something (= “declarative” knowledge) vs. “knowledge of” being (p. 9) the “ability to do or participate in the activity of” (= “procedural knowledge”). I didn’t get that connection at all, thank you!

    I haven’t read about “deliberate practice” before, the article you provided looks very interesting but I will not be able to read it in the near future as I am up to my eyeballs in papers already and barely staying afloat.

    I do definitely agree with S&B that “knowledge of” is invaluable. Immersion in and actually doing what you are learning about is what makes learning relevant, personal, real. Like abstract to concrete. Learning “about” how wind powers a sailboat can be done on a whiteboard with diagrams of sail positions and arrows showing wind and boat direction but the best way to master sailing is on the water! But I do see a place for the whiteboard explanation too.

    S&B don’t say much about how this “knowledge of” is done (in this article), except for saying that in KB classes, students “have small-group and whole-class discussions, design and carry out experiments, build things, go on field trips”. But these activities are carried out in non-KB classes too. So my new question is “How do KB classes gain access to “knowledge of” in ways that traditional classes do not?” 

    Thanks again Joe for that illuminating explanation.



  • Rebecca Cober   May 20, 2011, 10:37 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Jennifer Claro   May 20, 2011, 8:52 p.m.

    Hi Jennifer -

    First, I agree with Joe; Scardemalia is refering to the distinction between knowledge about (declarative knowledge) and knowledge of (declarative and procedural knowledge). It is interesting that knowledge of includes both declarative and procedural knowledge.

    I like your follow up question to Joe's response. “How do KB classes gain access to “knowledge of” in ways that traditional classes do not?” My first thought is that teachers might encourage students to draw on their own experiences by not privileging one kind of knowledge over another. "Information of all kinds, whether derived from first-hand experience or from secondary sources, has value - so long as it contributes to knowledge building discourse." (p. 13). My next thought is that teachers in a KB school would create as many opportunities as possible for students to actively engage in learning through direct observation.

    Recently I attended an interesting event at OISE called Natural Curiosity. It described an environmental education program at a KB school. The resource is available online:  Soon I hope to have time to blog about this event and I may use your question as a way to think about how these classrooms are different from many traditional classrooms.

    Thanks for your thoughtful responses, everyone!!


  • Jennifer Claro   May 20, 2011, 11:15 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Monica Resendes   May 16, 2011, 10:35 a.m.



    #2 “Knowledge building” has taken on a multitude of meanings and connotations. What are the specific elements of knowledge building as Scardamalia describes them? What are the necessary requirements for knowledge building to occur within any educational context?

    Wow, what a huge question! :) I’m limiting my answer to a few lines here on purpose. A few main elements of KB are that it is always done in a group and has the goal of improving the knowledge of the group over improving one’s own knowledge. It’s supported by Knowledge Forum technology (but in my opinion it can also be done in threaded discussion). The necessary requirements for KB include a teacher who understands KB theory and practice and who is willing to give up their central position thru which all information must pass, and students who have KB goals as opposed to task-completion or learning goals.

    It’s very short. Anyone want to add on or change anything?

  • Jennifer Claro   May 21, 2011, 9:30 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Rebecca Cober   May 20, 2011, 10:37 p.m.

    Hi Rebecca,

    Thank you for your reply, and for pointing out that "knowledge of" consists of both declarative and procedural knowledge. I am wondering now if most of our knowledge in the field of CSCL is declarative, and if that is the reason why we may have problems with ever becoming a CoP. Do we have any common practice, any common procedure? With learning/knowledge building being both process and product, it seems our hands are tied and we are restricted to brainwork only. 

    Or is education our common practice? Is this what binds us together? Or are our practices in education so varied that our ties must be weak?



  • Monica Resendes   May 21, 2011, 9:40 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Jennifer Claro   May 20, 2011, 10:18 p.m.

    Hi all,

    I've attached a link to a video of Carol, a teacher at the school we do research at, talking about her JK kids studying kites. The video itself is part of an article about 'brain research', which is NOT KB, but the video itself gives a brief glimpse into her approach.

    In terms of the learning/using information distinction, Marlene and Carl often talk about ideas as real things - essentially as knowledge objects that need to be examined, built upon, improved, evaluated, (often times) rejected, tested, pooled together, etc. That is, they can be actively worked on by the group, and this effort is the driving force of the community. So, one of the major concepts behind Knowledge Forum is having a space to 'play' with ideas, to use them productively to explore a given problem of understanding. As I've often heard...ideas are a dime a dozen, selecting promising ones and pursuing these is the hard part! 

    As in the case with Carol's kindergarten students, their ideas also coincided with making actual objects, so that they got to test them and refine them, to utilize their ideas in a practice that was directly geared to improve them. As opposed to a unit that would culminate in the building of a kite, they designed and tested multiple rounds of kites and finally came to a group understanding of how to build the best kind of kite they could - the one that could fly the farthest. I think what's so important to highlight here is the necessary component of having failure BE OKAY ... it's OKAY if the first kite you made got nowhere, that's in fact a way to move forward. What in my design could be improved? What do I have to learn more about in order to make a better kite?

    Teachers in this school make it an imperative that kids understand that a person's ideas are to be respected and that if you disagree with an idea or think it is wrong, it is the IDEA and not the person who is lacking something. I've personally seen kids as young as grade one respond perfectly well to this philosophy, and by the second grade are having conversations where "I disagree with X's idea" or "I want to build on Y's idea" is common vocabulary. 

    I think I've veered off the path here a bit, but I see part of the learning/using info distinction as being bound up with the overall trajectory of a given class -- in a KB class, 'learning' information is continually going on, but it is 'acquired' in the process of building knowledge about certain phenomenon or problem, which requires the active use and testing of ideas emerging out of what one is learning. This itself requires an atmosphere where going off track (at times), taking risks, and making mistakes is part and parcel of the overall effort to gain deep competencies in and "knowledge of" a particular area.

    Martin's blog posts keep popping up in my head here, which compels me to state also that, of course, the KB approach is not necessarily suited to every educational context. I think, with most of S&B's articles, they are geared to highlighting the contrast between traditional approache to K-12 education in particular and KB (though of course the theory and the pedagogy is not constrained by subject or by grade). But I think this is important to keep in mind.

  • Stian Haklev   May 21, 2011, 10:30 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Jennifer Claro   May 21, 2011, 9:30 a.m.

    Hi Jennifer, I love how you are connecting the issues from this week with some of our conversations from the first two weeks. I think you are on to something - we don't share "practice" in this community, as much as we share ideas and theories. It's actually interesting to think a bit deeper about the connections or contradictions between KB and CoP... CoP focuses so much on practice and implicit knowledge, while KB focuses on ideas and explicit notation. Are they completely opposite? 

  • Monica Resendes   May 21, 2011, 11:14 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Stian Haklev   May 21, 2011, 10:30 a.m.

    Question - what constitutes "shared practice" in our context? On the one hand, our communication is disembodied and distributed, and so varies greatly from the specific examples Lave and Wenger use to illustrate functioning CoP's... but we do engage in common modes of communication, such as posting blogs in response to readings, commenting on this platform, utilizing open technologies to create artifacts that are tied to our ideas and discussions (Nate talked about this in WK 1).
    As you said, Jennifer, there are certainly 'weak' ties that link us together - if you talk about granularity perhaps that is the macro-level practice. But I think the interesting question here is how our chosen technologies shape our 'practice' - I suppose what I mean here is engagement and participation in this course - and whether that is the appropriate word to use.


  • Jennifer Claro   May 21, 2011, 1:14 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Stian Haklev   May 21, 2011, 10:30 a.m.


    Hi Stian,

    Yes, CoPs involve situated cognition and KB involves working with unsituated knowledge objects, they might be oppositional but they don’t have to be… According to Bereiter (1997), if we have knowledge building goals, if we can see ideas as knowledge objects (K.O.) that can be worked on and improved, then while the process itself of producing knowledge objects is situated, the knowledge objects themselves are not, as long as we are learning intentionally. Then we would be able to transfer KO, use them in other situations. But if we have task-completion goals (highly situated), or even instructional goals (less situated), our knowledge will be too situated to transfer to new situations.

    Thus the bridge between CoPs and KB seems to lie in goals. While we are all used to working with knowledge-as-(improvable)object in here, I think that the failure of many students to succeed in school has to do with the lack of attention paid to “how to learn”. In an experiment Bereiter writes of, “Most children, although they were able to carry out both the concrete and the symbolic operations, failed to make a connection between them. Some children did make the connection, however. On interviewing the children, it was found that the children who made the connection reported that they were trying to make a connection” (p. 11).

    In the same article, p. 10, Bereiter writes, “Without prompting, people seldom exhibit transfer; but if told that the solution to the first problem should suggest a solution to the second, more people will make the connection. Thus,transfer in such cases is anything but automatic. People have to be looking for a relationship.”

    So if we treat knowledge as an object, learn intentionally, and actively look for connections between past learning and current situation, we can unsituate cognition, even from highly situated practices like we’d find in CoPs. But this is just according to Bereiter. Anyone else see a way to bridge the chasm between the concepts of situated CoPs and unsituated KB? KB must be happening in CoP!

    By the way, I like everything I have read by Bereiter (and Scardamalia as well) and I’m wondering if anyone has read his “Education and Mind in the Knowledge Age” (2002). I’m expecting it to be challenging, time-consuming, and totally awesome. Has anyone read it?



    Bereiter, C. (1997). Situated cognition and how to overcome it.

  • Rebecca Cober   May 21, 2011, 2:11 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Monica Resendes   May 21, 2011, 11:14 a.m.

    Hi Monica and everyone -

    Question - what constitutes "shared practice" in our context? thoughts?

    As I've been reading through the Knowledge Building article, I am leaning towards viewing our Intro to CSCL community as being much closer to a knowledge building community than a CoP. It seems that we are an online community with shared interest. The question is, "How can we organize [our efforts] around a shared goal?" (Scardemalia, 2006, p. 20). What are the technological tools that we can use to manage our learning?

    It's interesting that even in the KB classrooms KF is where the main task of knowledge building occurs, but that not all of the work is done at the computer. Face to face interaction and hands-on experiences are a major part of the experience. Can participants in an online course have as rich an experience as those who work together F2F?

    One aspect of this course that I have found challenging is the disjointed flow of information. Stian and Monica have done a great job of writing bi-weekly summaries, which are kind of like "rise-above" notes or "higher-level organization of information," helping participants to focus on emerging ideas. The Netvibes page that Stian set up is an excellent way for participants to browse through topical blog posts. The Twitter feed is also a useful way of reviewing highlights from the course.

    Some of Scardemalia's remarks about threaded discussions made me consider the way that our course is organized. She comments that it is difficult for a community to "organize its efforts around a common goal" when there is an "incoherent stream of messages." I wouldn't characterize our course communication as "incoherent!" However having a more cogent way of building on the ideas of others, linking ideas together, commenting on ideas, and grouping similar ideas would be really useful.

    Perhaps the space for this kind of collaboration is the P2PU site. I'm sure Stian and Monica are interested in developing the functionality of the site further, and perhaps this feedback from this course will help them to do that.

    Best -


  • Rebecca Cober   May 23, 2011, 5:41 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Monica Resendes   May 16, 2011, 10:35 a.m.

    Hi Everyone -

    Here is my blogpost in response to Monica's Knowledge Building Prompt #3.

    Cheers -


  • Joe Corneli   May 23, 2011, 7:16 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Rebecca Cober   May 23, 2011, 5:41 p.m.

    Great post!  The combination of personal experience and observation of others makes the writing very engaging.

    I think the "Talking Circle" idea could be useful in a course like the one we're in now (maybe?).

    "Students listen to each others ideas, and the person who has just finished speaking 'passes on' and chooses the next student to speak."

  • Rebecca Cober   May 23, 2011, 7:36 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Joe Corneli   May 23, 2011, 7:16 p.m.

    Hi Joe and everyone -

    Participating in an online knowledge building circle would be a really cool activity for Week Four of a future iteration of the course. I like the idea of virtual passing on - I'm wondering if BBB would work well for that because there is the hand-raising button. Otherwise, a predetermined "hand-raising" word could be used in PiratePad or a symbol like "+" or "^". It was really neat to hear the children build on each others ideas as they progressed through the discussion. Thanks for your comment!



  • Jennifer Claro   May 23, 2011, 8:38 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Rebecca Cober   May 23, 2011, 5:41 p.m.

    Hi Rebecca,


    Wow, great video! This teacher is starting with the interests of the children and letting them ask and answer their own questions, and then test their theories! Very child-centered, very idea-centered too. Altho I might feel very sorry for a child whose kite didn’t fly well, this is all part of the process and as long as they get a second chance to apply what they have learned from round one, then it’s very productive, and I think/hope all kites would fly well in the end. I do think that some teacher input might be necessary here and there, to help address misunderstandings or to help improve design, but as long as this is support and not direction, the control still stays very much in the hands of the children. This is much better than the teacher teaching them all about how to make a good kite, or about lift, as the children are actively engaged in trying to figure it out.

    This distributed control is at the core of Zhang et al (2009). The children in that 3 year project were able to gain incredible insight into the workings of optics, without being led by the teacher, in much the same way that the children in this video learned about the dynamics of lift simply because they were interested in it. One interesting difference in the two projects is that in the video above, notes were made on paper and hung up for everyone to see, whereas in Zhang et al (2009), Knowledge Forum, an LMS, was used to discuss the topics in great detail. Actually, I had never considered the idea of Knowledge Building outside of online discussion. In Zhang et al (2009), they discuss “KB talk” which may be similar to the Knowledge Building circle, but they used KF as well. In the video above, there is no KF, and face-to-face discussion as well as diagrams on the wall made up the core of their in-class work. So, do we need KF or any other LMS for Knowledge Building? Until now, I would have said yes. But now I am wondering. Another related question might be, “If KB can be done without online discussion, what distinguishes it from problem-based learning (PBL)?” Is it the decentralized position of the teacher? What other parameters would be similar or different if we compared KB to PBL?

    Thank you very much for this post, Rebecca. I especially liked the idea of the talking circle, with some object being passed around to indicate speaking turn. And that would be a cool experiment to try in our weekly discussion. I also really admire your efforts to get these great ideas going in your own classes. Maybe it’s like learning how kites fly; you imagine how it might work, and then try it out, and change your design to enable better practice. One thing I can say is that I would love to have a teacher like you or Carol Stephenson teach my kids! :)

    Thanks again for this great post,

    P.S. - I posted this at your blog too smiley

  • Rebecca Cober   May 23, 2011, 11:06 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Jennifer Claro   May 23, 2011, 8:38 p.m.

    Hi Jennifer -

    Thank you for your thoughtful response to my post! One wonderful aspect of this course is that there is a group of interested participants who respond to our blogs! It is a wonderfully supportive and encouraging environment.

    First, I must point out that Monica posted this video in one of her posts last week, and I am grateful to her for drawing my attention to it. Another relevant resource that I would suggest participants look at is  This website documents ICS' efforts to implement an environmental education program using a knowledge buiding approach. I hope to do a blog post on that topic in the near future.

    I have started the Zhang et al. article, and then plan to read your summary afterwards. I'm really looking forward to it.

    You raise some interesting questions concerning the distinction between KB and PBL - that is something that I have wondered about myself.

    Interestingly, the question about whether KB as Scardamalia envisions it can exist outside of KF is something that Marcy and I discussed on our Skype call. I think it is worth considering ways that KB can be implemented without KF so that teachers can begin to implement some of these wonderful ideas in their own classrooms. describes some interesting case studies that don't use KF.

    Thanks for your encouraging comments regarding my teaching practice. Although I am not teaching now (I am a full time student) I am hoping that my blog can be a resource for practicing teachers. I want to suggest practical ways that teachers can use some of the cool stuff I've been learning about at OISE.

    Have a super week!

  • Monica Resendes   May 24, 2011, 9:40 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Rebecca Cober   May 23, 2011, 11:06 p.m.

    hi Jennifer and Rebecca,

    reading your comments about the distinction between KB and PBL made me think of a quote Stian plucked out of Bereiter's "Education and Mind the Knowledge Age" where he touches ever so briefly on this - I've searched through my own peicemeal pdf's of the book to find the section where he talks about PBL which I've copied here ... well, chunks of relevant pieces (it's from chapter 8 between pages 41-46):

    "The question of what is actually being processed looms large in any serious consideration of so-called ‘projects.’ A favorite in modern classrooms is having students produce multi-media documents on some topic relevant to the curriculum—on an endangered species, say. With the resources available on the Internet and on CD-ROMs and with the use of scanners and multimedia presentation software that permits the incorporation of video,sound, and graphics, students can produce impressive documents.But what do they learn about polar bears from producing a multimedia document on polar bears? It all depends on what information they process in assembling the document. If the only questions they consider are “Is it about polar bears?” and “Does it look nice?” we may infer that not much polar bear knowledge will be acquired. In a later section I shall argue that knowledge building, as a form of activity, has the advantage over most kinds of project- based activity that it leads to deeper processing of information...."

    and from the chapter's conclusion:

    "I see an important line of pedagogical evolution leading toward knowledge building. Its early origins were in Dewey, Froebel, and Montessori. It took definite shape in the English infant school movement, with its emphasis on ‘the child’s own question’ (Isaacs, 1930; Weber, 1971), and it found a theoretical basis in Piaget’s‘constructivism’ (Piaget, 1929).  In the 1950s and 60s, it began to be modeled on scientific research, and ‘learning by discovery’ and ‘guided discovery’ were born (Shulman & Keisler, 1966). In the 1980s and 90s, aided by a growing appreciation of the social character of scientific research, the idea of communities of inquiry replaced what had up till then been a strangely individualistic conception of knowledge construction (Brown & Campione, 1990). It received a technological boost and a conceptual setback as computerists took up the cause of ‘project-based learning.’ Throughout this century-long evolution, however, the ideas of knowledge construction and of learning remained not intertwined but hopelessly muddled together. This confusion has not diminished but has perhaps reached its zenith in project-based learning.
    In its more exalted forms project-based learning amounts to knowledge- building: Project-based science focuses on student-designed inquiry that is organized by investigations to answer driving questions, includes collaboration among learners and others, the use of new technology, and the creation of authentic artifacts that represent student understanding. (Marx, Blumenfeld, Krajcik,& Solloway, 1992, p. 341).The last phrase is a killer, however. We have seen how producing “authentic artifacts” can take over as the purpose of the enterprise, leaving the driving questions and the pursuit of understanding out in the cold. This is reduction to activities. Question-driven inquiry, an intellectual pursuit of a high order, becomes reduced to the production of posters, skits, and movies. So common is this reductionism that I predict “project-based learning” will soon become a term of ridicule, the way “learning bydoing” and “basket weaving” did in reaction against the excesses of progressive education. Indeed, what brought about that reaction against progressive education was the same kind of reduction to activities—activities that become silly as soon as they are detached from their original purposes. To ward off such reductionism, it is essential to distinguish between learning and knowledge building...."    [which he goes on to do - there's another 2.5 pages that follows this line of thinking]

    Let me know if you want the chapter pdf (that goes for anyone!)

  • Marcy Murninghan   May 24, 2011, 10:10 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Monica Resendes   May 24, 2011, 9:40 a.m.


    This is dyn-o-mite material. I'd love to have a copy of the chapter. Love the line, "reduction to activities", the bane of "question-driven inquiry". While I'm a proponent of reflective practice (a model developed by Chris Argyris and Don Schon), there's a huge gap, as far as I can see, in the application of these ideas to individuals and their practice to group activity and, for lack of a better word, what could be called a "canon". Again, my focus is on adult learners, who are forging new pathways in their work, which requires an interdisciplinary, systems approach.

    As always, thanks to you, Stian, Rebecca, and Jennifer for such in-depth reflections. Time does not enable me to follow suit--much as I wish it could. Another 'meta' insight, which I'm trying to change...



  • Joe Corneli   May 24, 2011, 10:15 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Monica Resendes   May 24, 2011, 9:40 a.m.

    Check out this work by Piotr Konieczny (links below) in which he talks about how to use Wikipedia and similar sites as a teaching tool.  I saw his presentation about this at WikiSym 2010 and was very impressed.  I feel pretty confident that I would have learned more had my teachers in high school and college opted for a teaching style like this.

    That said, I was just talking today with Aaron Krowne (founder of PlanetMath) and we were reflecting on the fact that PlanetMath tends to be used to support completely informal learning: someone asks a question, someone answers, everyone learns; or, someone tries to present something in a useful manner, someone else gives them some tips, and again, everyone learns (and the resource improves).  The resource is really multi-functional.  Things could improve, certainly, but the basics are definitely there.  People who want to use PlanetMath for deep inquiry can do that - and someone else can simultaneously ask for help with a homework problem.  I think this diversity is good (low floor, high ceiling).

    I'd also say that, at least in mathematics, building new knowledge is pretty difficult and requires a lot of practice with (and builds upon) previously existing knowledge.  So, while the goal of "knowledge building" is a good goal (whether it relates to new theories or improved presentation of old ideas), I don't think it is realistic to put a ban on good old-fashed "learning".  Maybe good to look for circumstances where there's a suitable blend (60/40?).

  • Jennifer Claro   May 24, 2011, 4:21 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Joe Corneli   May 24, 2011, 10:15 a.m.

    Hi Joe,

    PlanetMath sounds like an excellent resource. I didn't look at your links, sorry, limited time, but I wanted to point out that Knowledge Building does not have to produce new theories or even improve the presentation of old ideas. It has to advance the knowledge/understanding of the group. So what we are doing in the class a lot of the time is Knowledge Building, especially when we focus not on our own learning needs but on the needs of the group. That may sound a little self-sacrificing but we get individual learning as a byproduct. 

    For example, Monica recently tried to resolve the issue of KB vs. PBL, to advance our understanding of it. She probably learned something in the process, but it was a byproduct of her attempt to deeper or widen our understanding.

    I think new theories and improving existing ideas is a great goal, but if we can improve our own understanding of something, that is a great goal too, and more achievable. I think your almost last line reflects this, "I don't think it is realistic to put a ban on good old-fashed "learning". I agree! And it's perfectly acceptable to have learning goals at times and KB goals at others. That's one of the reasons why I think KB is a powerful learning theory.



  • Jennifer Claro   May 24, 2011, 4:34 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Monica Resendes   May 24, 2011, 9:40 a.m.

    Oh well done Monica! Yes, that's it isn't it? Bereiter's emphasis on process vs. product. If the focus is on the process of learning, we can be pretty sure that students will be learning. If the focus is on the product, the "deliverable", then we can call it basket weaving as the only thing that is being built is a physical artifact with little or no learning involved. That is why Bereiter says PBL at a high level can be KB. But since most artifacts in KB are written, and a great deal of discussion goes into the building of knowledge in a KF forum, I think that is why we can say with some confidence that a lot of learning accompanies KB.

    The kids with the kites seemed to really understand the principles behind both the aerodynamics of flight (at their level) and how to build a kite that will fly well. By focusing on the learning first and the product second, this teacher managed to avoid the "deliverable" trap where students produce something that may or may not have had any learning accompany its production.

    The book you mentioned "Education and Mind in the Knowledge Age" by Bereiter (2002) is sitting on my bookshelf and the only chapter I have read is the one you quoted from, and that one only because it was part of a course I took at OISE. That one chapter is fantastic, as are the articles I have read by Bereiter, and I think the whole book must be fantastic, and I wonder how many people would find it a good read. Someday when I have time (this fall?Or next year?) I want to read the whole thing. It would be cool to have a few people reading it together at the same time. We could discuss it and it could be a KB experience rather than a learning experience. Please let me know, anyone in here, if you're interested in forming a reading group to read Bereiter (2002) together. You can buy it used for about $40 at Amazon.

  • Joe Corneli   May 24, 2011, 4:47 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Jennifer Claro   May 24, 2011, 4:21 p.m.

    OK, so in sum the difference is between "advancing the knowledge of the individual" (AKA learning) versus "advancing the knowledge of the group" (AKA knowledge building)?

    I think a group-focused process isn't always appropriate (i.e. there isn't always a group, as perhaps we discussed recently?)

  • Jennifer Claro   May 24, 2011, 5:04 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Joe Corneli   May 24, 2011, 4:47 p.m.

    Right! We can't focus on KB at the expense of individual learning. I think one of the strengths of KB is that it encompasses learning and KB both, and articles have been written by S&B about learning, for example "Putting learning in its place" which is chapter 8 of Bereiter (2002) that Monica quoted from briefly, "Rethinking learning" and "Intentional learning as a goal of instruction". I think I have all of these and could upload them (is there a place to upload in here?). 

    I think the focus on KB is because it's new (relatively) and different from learning. Learning we have been studying for centuries. But KB and online interaction are new and maybe that's why there is so much focus on the KB (done in groups, usually by online discussion) aspect and not so much on the learning (together or solo, many environments) aspect.

  • Jennifer Claro   May 15, 2011, 4:11 p.m.

    Hi Everyone,

    I posted a summary of the Zhang et al (2009) article at my blog.

    The original is a long article but very interesting so the summary may be useful to anyone short on time. I included the graphics from the original so Martin will be happy! :) But still the original is much better than the summary, so if you have ample time, go for the original.

    Looking forward to a great discussion this week. I'm going to post comments here in this view (rather than or in addition to posting at my blog) in hopes of getting more dialogue going here in our shared P2PU space.



    P.S. - I think that every time I edit a comment, everyone receives an e-mail, is that right? So you'll get 3 e-mails telling you about this comment as I've edited twice? Sorry about that...

  • Stian Haklev   May 15, 2011, 5:26 a.m.

    The canonical environment which Scardamalia and most of her collaborators use to foster knowledge building is called Knowledge Forum. Unfortunately this is not an open program (although an open source, web-based version is under development), so many of you might not have had the chance to play with it. I used it for a course with Scardamalia, and although old and clunky, found it very powerful. I created a short (ten min) screencast of the environment, and that course, to show what it was like.