Born in the Information Age, Teaching in the Knowledge Age

You studied the Industrial Revolution in school, right? It started in England, around the 18th century and spread through Europe and North America during the 18th and 19th centuries. It was transforming.

Technology applied to research, then practice, and into everyday life. Manufacturing, transportation, agriculture, and communications all changed, and that caused social and economic changes.

You were born into a different century, and in a time that would be known as the Information Age. It's a time when a shift began from the Industrial Age production of physical goods towards the manipulation of information.

I have been reading some good articles in the latest EDUCAUSE Review (see below) that focus on cyberinfrastructure that got me thinking about information versus knowledge.

That term infrastructure has been around since the 1920s. It referred then to roads, power grids, telephone systems, bridges, rail lines, and the public works necessary to an industrial economy. The term cyberinfrastructure refers to the infrastructure of distributed computer, information and communication technology. That new variation has only been around for the past decade, popularized by a 2003 report by the National Science Foundation.  Infrastructure made the Industrial Age work; cyberinfrastructure makes the Information Age work.

But there are a growing number of people who feel we are moving from an information economy to a knowledge economy. So, are we already in a new Knowledge Age? Is that different from an Information Age? I think it is, and I think that changes what we need to be teaching. The more I look into this, the more it looks like Learning 2.0.

There are plenty of references out there: knowledge building, knowledge workers, knowledge economics, knowledge market, knowledge organization, and knowledge transfer.

Scardamalia and Bereiter distinguish in their research between knowledge building and learning. They see learning as an internal, (almost) unobservable process that results in changes of beliefs, attitudes, or skills. By contrast, knowledge building is seen as creating or modifying public knowledge. It is knowledge that lives "in the world" and is available to be worked on and used by other people.

Knowledge building is a process where we create new "cognitive artifacts" because we have common goals, through group discussions, and the synthesis of our ideas. If we are thinking of a group of students involved in this, the process should increase the understanding of the individual students over their initial level of knowledge, as well as the the understanding of what is known about that topic or idea for the public.

Knowledge building can be seen as a type of deep Constructivism.

It involves making a collective inquiry into a specific topic and coming to a deeper understanding through interactive questioning, dialogue and continuous improvement of ideas. Ideas are thus the medium of operation in knowledge building environments. The teacher becomes a guide rather than a director and allows students to take over a significant portion of the responsibility for their own learning including planning, execution and evaluation (Scardamalia, 2002).

If you look over the principles of knowledge building, you find concepts such as authentic problems, student ideas as improvable objects, idea diversity, community knowledge, collective responsibility, democratizing knowledge, concurrent, embedded & transformative assessment. Sure sounds like Learning 2.0.

In this time of read/write web, collaboration and social networking, it's important to note that knowledge building is also social, and communities of learners
contribute to each other and to the innovation of the larger society.

How do we educate people to be producers of knowledge? There no solid pedagogical theory, but learning-by-doing and experiences like an apprenticeship are possible paths.The challenge may be to take the natural inquisitiveness of children and set them onto a path of more disciplined creativity.


Revolutionizing Science and Engineering through Cyberinfrastructure, Report of the National Science Foundation Blue-Ribbon Advisory Panel on Cyberinfrastructure, January 2003

Making Research and Education Cyberinfrastructure Real - EDUCAUSE Review

Cyberinfrastructure: In Tune for the Future - EDUCAUSE Review

Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C.. "Knowledge Building". In J. W. Guthrie (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Education, 2003

Scardamalia, M. (2002). Collective cognitive responsibility for the advancement of knowledge. In B. Smith (Ed.), Liberal education in a knowledge society (pp. 67-98). Chicago: Open Court.


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