Knowledge Building - What does this mean for Educators and Schools

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In an early post I talked about the need to move from knowledge transmission to knowledge creation in schools and that teachers needed to bring a new paradigm to their planning. Whether we recognise it or not knowledge creation has become a fundamental part of everyday life. Every minute thousands on new entries are loaded to sites such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and numerous other social media sites. We might argue that this is not essential knowledge but it is certainly information.

We live in a world where young people are now not just consumers of information but authors of it. There are hundreds, if not many thousands of examples of young people creating apps that meet specific needs. In my own home State of Tasmania young people have built apps to control wheelchairs using nose twitches, tours of our botanical gardens, eco-tours for international visitors among many others. This is but a drop in the ocean of the creativity that is unleashed when young people see themselves as knowledge creators. Unfortunately much of this creative energy occurs outside schools. Schools may well have provided the essential skills necessary but not necessarily the time commitment necessary to allow students to follow their own creative pathways in schools, guided by teachers.

It is with some interest that in talking to colleagues in Ontario where there has been a long recognition of the importance of collaboration as a precursor to school improvement that they are now talking about knowledge building as a critical pathway to unleashing the learning potential of their students. I have attached an as yet unpublished article by Marlene Scardamalia( in which she raises many very points and questions.

She states: " The basic premise of the knowledge building approach is that, although achievements may differ, the process of knowledge building is essentially the same across the trajectory running from early childhood to the most advanced levels of theorizing, invention, and design, and across the spectrum of knowledge creating organizations, within and beyond school. If learners are engaged in processes only suitable for school, then they are not engaged in knowledge building."

What does a classroom look like where knowledge building is valued? What does teacher planning look like when they move from an emphasis on knowledge transmission and skill acquisitions to a more fluid and responsive environment that is personalised? What is the correct balance between what must be learnt and taught and what students need to know and are passionately interested in.

Is the whole discussion around knowledge building just the latest fad? Google "knowledge building" and you will get over 208,000,00 hits. Surely this is a measure in its own right that knowledge building is more than a fad. Read Marlene's commentary and tell me what you think?

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