This may feel like a blast from the past now, but let's flash back briefly to Burke's Knowledge Web (KWeb).

Looking at Burke's KWeb, I love the idea of tracing networks of thinkers, inventors, scientists, political figures, and key innovations to investigate the history of technology. Because it provides the opportunity to study innovations from any of a number of starting points, and allows for free motion among the various people and innovations, it allows users to investigate the innovations and people that most interest them, leveraging the learner's own curiosity.

But what about looking at the system the other way round? How about constructing your own knowledge webs?

Burke has noted that KWeb provides a facility for creating one's own webs, so this isn't a new idea, but I'd like to look at it through the lens of turning recent Wikipedia conversations on their ear... rather than worrying about whether Wikipedia can ever really represent "the sum of all human knowledge," what about using it as a tool to help people construct knowledge and learn to source that knowledge?

When I was at Tech there was research going into wiki based knowledge systems for higher education courses. I'll chase some things down when I get a few minutes to rub together. ;)

In educational technology circles, people (rightly) talk a lot about the value of constructivist learning and invest a great deal of research into computer-based learning systems that support it. At the heart of this kind of learning are the ideas that

  • we learn by making things
  • we learn best by making things that interest us (in part because these are the kinds of things we actually finish)
  • as we stop to think think about how we make things and about the things we're making, we learn more effectively about the things we're making and the process of making them than if we just make things without reflecting on what we're doing. (What education researchers call intentional learning.)

While events in the news sparked some discussion over Wikipedia's value as a knowledge resource that users consume, I've seen less talk recently (possibly because I don't keep up as well on education technology as I'd like anymore) about the value of the Wikimedia foundation's MediaWiki in providing students a platform for constructing and sharing their knowledge.

More to come...