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Task Discussion

  • Jessy Kate Schingler   May 12, 2012, 4:34 p.m.

    i really liked the first third of this paper - the description of ancient communities of inquiry and curiosity, the cultural integration, the mentorship and informal interactions. but i found the authors' attempts to abstract lessons from these sources to be sort of "flat"... i dont know a better way to describe it - they lacked life and excitement.

    the 7 characteristics of knowledge sharing communities extracted were 1. sharing ideas, 2. multiple perspectives, 3. experimentation, 4. specialization, 5. cognitive conflict and discussions, 6. reflection, and 7. synthesis.

    looking at this list, it's actually a pretty good list, though not necessarily novel. but it's missing any intuition about how to achieve those characteristics. i guess this is similar to others' comments that it was a very descriptive piece but didn't help much with identifying specific steps to take.

    i'd like to see research which compares and evaluates different attempts to achieve those 7 qualities!

    thieme recently pointed me towards erin knight's post on learning design principles, which is a nice compliment to the above list in that it provides practical ideas about designing good learning environments with several of those qualities.

  • Bodong Chen   May 2, 2012, 11:07 a.m.

    Two questions I was wondering about this article were: How are knowledge-creating communities in Silicon Valey different from those in ancient Greece? How are knowledge-building classrooms different from or linked to those knowledge-creating organizations?

  • Jennifer Claro   May 2, 2012, 7:06 a.m.

    A question: Do you think KB would work well as a small world network? KB often involves clusters, and self-organization to a greater or lesser extent. Specialization in small groups and then knowledge sharing seems to make use of many of the advantages of small world networks. What do you think?

  • Jennifer Claro   April 30, 2012, 11:13 p.m.



    I found this chapter really interesting. It’s great to see what goes on inside KB classrooms, how the learning activities are structured, how groups are structured, how they all share and build knowledge. I’m getting lots of great ideas for how to structure my own classes! :)

    I found it really interesting that the KF database at Whitman (the first of the 2 schools discussed) contained the work of all the students and not just each class of 25 (p. 48-49). So the students are working at 3 many different levels; at their own small group level based on their subtopic of choice (so about 8 students per group), at the class level, and at the inter-class level. Thus they get the chance to specialize in their own topic but also be exposed to many other related topics. It’s also very cool that notes can be selected for publication (p. 47), so that later years of students can benefit from the knowledge gained by this year’s students. This passing on of knowledge seems critical to a real KB community.

    I found the 7 characteristics of knowledge-creating (why not Knowledge Building?) communities on p. 44 very useful. In building any learning community, instructors need to take these into consideration. The ones I’m most drawn to are “multiple perspectives” and “cognitive conflict and discussion”. Too often in online communities we don’t debate ideas because of fear of causing offense. But if we can attach the idea of debate to ideas, and not to people, maybe we can get past this obstacle. “Argumentation is crucial to bringing forth different alternatives to consider” (p. 43). I agree. But I think this may be hard for kids.

    Finally, Howard raised a good point when he pointed out that there is no mention of learning outcomes. How does KB compare to traditional classes in terms of student learning outcomes? Have there been any studies done on this?

  • Bodong Chen   May 2, 2012, 11:21 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Jennifer Claro   April 30, 2012, 11:13 p.m.

    Thanks for highlighting those points, Jennifer. Some of them didn't attract my attention at the first time of reading, but they seem to be really important.

    For multiple perspectives and cognitive conflict among young kids, they're really hard. I think they are where teachers can really jump in to play an important role, maybe by making sure everyone's voice is heard in discussion and making connections between different ideas proposed by students.

    For learning outcomes, there isn't much research on this so far as I know. I remember there were some research on students' growth of various literacies, but not much comparing KB to traditional classrooms. One paper that came to my mind was Knowledge Building as a Mediator of Conflict in Conceptual Change by Carol Chan et al.

  • Rebecca Cober   April 30, 2012, 3:34 p.m.

    Quick comment... I'm really glad Stian suggested this paper! I've been meaning to read it for awhile now, and its a hard paper to get ahold of. Thanks!

  • Jennifer Claro   April 30, 2012, 6:46 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Rebecca Cober   April 30, 2012, 3:34 p.m.

    Hi Rebecca! (and Everyone),

    I'm just wondering about copyright issues with book chapters. I recently posted a chapter of a Bogdan & Biklen book at Athabasca U and the prof asked me to remove it because of copyright issues. Are we okay to post chapters in here?

    Sorry to bring this up, with all this great progress with open access it seems such an outdated and even ridiculous thing to bring up copyright...

    In connection to this, Stian made a cool post in his blog the other day OISE/University of Toronto gets an Open Access policy! which included a link to The Cost of Knowledge, a researcher movement against high journal prices and restriction of freedom of access. Honestly it seems so crazy that in the 21st century with so much information being shared that journals are still so possessive about their knowledge assets. We are reading in our current article about how a knowledge creating community shares knowledge, how this is necessary for innovation and progress.

    We really need better policies for sharing information. It's ridiculous that a group of graduate students have to worry about whether or not we can share this article.

    But still... do we have to worry about it?

  • Rebecca Cober   April 30, 2012, 11:10 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Jennifer Claro   April 30, 2012, 6:46 p.m.

    Hi Jennifer!

    I don't know whether we should worry or not... I mean, it's really nice to have these book chapters in PDF form! It's funny, but stuff from the '90s and definitely the '80s is usually not available for a download unless someone has scanned it from a library book!! (Like I had to do recently for a diSessa book chapter called "Knowledge in Pieces"...

    I know some people take the stance that they will just go ahead and make these chapters available for download and then if they are called on it, agree to take it down...

    It does seem ridiculous, though...

    Does anyone else have thoughts on this?

  • Jessy Kate Schingler   May 1, 2012, 1:28 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Rebecca Cober   April 30, 2012, 11:10 p.m.

    i also wish we could just post everything online alwasy! but it's good to be cognizant of just how publicly we're posting stuff, and i think it's also a balance between how recent it is too. i'm comfortable posting things to this group and to crocdoc, since both are fairly obscured locations and one has to join/find specific content to access the papers we're posted.

    my 2c!

  • Howard   April 29, 2012, 12:55 a.m.

    Hi all,

    I read the chapter, but thought it to be rather superficial. From some questionable interpretations of knowledge building communities in the past (who knows what life was like in Greek City-State in  600 BC) an idealised picture is painted of the effects you can have when you put together the right people, places and things. This is then used to show that the use of Knowledge Forum and some additional tools can double as comparable surrounding for supporting knowledge building.

    However, the chapter doesn't provide any experimental data on learning results, only some suggestive qualitative remarks.

    I'm off for a two week holiday starting now, so I can't discuss any futher.




  • Bodong Chen   April 30, 2012, 11:27 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Howard   April 29, 2012, 12:55 a.m.

    I agree with Howard this chapter turned out to be not as I expected. It's descriptive and general, with no "experimental" data to prove anything but more explaining practice in two school settings which were using Knowledge Forum and Knowledge Building to cultive knowledge creating capabilities of students.

    However, I was hesitating to call it superficial before knowing more about the audience of the book. It seems the book is about collaborative learning with technology. If the main audience of this book were teachers, I believe it will be helpful to have detailed descriptions of various types of practice to foster creativity. When I was reading the second part of this paper, I found it very helpful to pass it to colleagues who're starting a group to experiment knowlege building in a primary school.

    I'd love to read more about those studies mentioned by this paper, such as Segan (1980) and Brow & Duguid (2000). I've read a couple of studies about knowledge creation by other people such as Nonaka and Dunbar, and would like to read more on this topic.

  • Jennifer Claro   May 2, 2012, 7:05 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Bodong Chen   April 30, 2012, 11:27 p.m.

    Hi Bodong,

    I found it useful because I'm a teacher (and may use some of these ideas in my own classes) and also because I love to see KB in action. I thought the commitment of the teachers was impressive, and the activities the kids did were worthwhile and very unschoollike. It was very cool to see how the teachers structured the KB, as well as the teacher collaboration. So I liked this article. From a theoretical point of view, I didn't learn much. I'd give it a 7/10.

    Also, the question of how to assess KB activities was left out. Another question is how appropriate is KB in classes where standardized testing is the norm?



  • Bodong Chen   May 2, 2012, 10:57 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Jennifer Claro   May 2, 2012, 7:05 a.m.

    Hi Jennifer,

    I share the same feeling with you about this article---very helpful for practitioners but not much for research. I was also reading a more recent article about introducing KB to kindergarten and grade 1. You might also be interested to read. It's published in an Italian journal, and you can find its English draft here:

    The two questions you posed are really good. As I know, KB and standardized tests are not very good friends. It's not saying people cannot do KB if they do standardized tests, but they will have more obsticles. ICS Lab School at Toronto does not have test at all; all assessment is qualitative and individualized. KB is also active in Finland; they don't have test too. Right now there is a team in Nanjing, China trying to introduce KB to a local primary school. The first thing they did was to convince the principle to cancel tests for two experimental classes for two years. But that turned out to be not enough, because it's hard for teachers to make this transition from a test-centered teaching culture to KB. They're making progress, but could easily slide back to their traditions, sometimes.

    Tarchi, C., Chuy, M., Donoahue, Z., Stephenson, C., Messina, R., & Scardamalia, M. (2011). Introducing students to Knowledge Building and Knowledge Forum. QWERTY - Interdisciplinary Journal of Technology, Culture and Education, 6(2), 201-223. Retrieved from