Saturday, January 25, 2014

Theories of Knowledge

The mission statement of the IB states that it aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people and goes on to define knowledgeable as one of the attributes of the IB Learner Profile in the following way:
They explore concepts, ideas and issues that have local and global significance. In so doing, they acquire in-depth knowledge and develop understanding across a broad and balanced range of disciplines.
Yesterday I was having a great chat with Scot Hoffman, our R&D Coordinator at ASB, and he asked me if I knew the book Knowing Knowledge by George Siemens.  When I said no, he went and got a copy for me, and this morning I've started on the first chapter.  I really like the idea of a knowledge flow cycle which emphasizes the social aspects of knowledge.  It starts with knowledge creation and then moves through different stages such as co-creation by building on the work of others which in turn leads to innovation and the rapid development of ideas and concepts. Following the creation of knowledge comes the dissemination of knowledge and communication of ideas, followed by personalization.  I really identify with this stage as it is our way of internalizing the knowledge through dialogue with others and reflection.  Finally there is implementation which involves action.  Siemens writes that "our understanding of a concept changes when we are acting on it, versus only theorizing or learning about it."  Yes!

I've also been thinking about a discussion I was involved in some time ago about the next thing to become obsolete.  One of the things we discussed was the idea of copyright and plagiarism.  This sort of fits in with what I was reading this morning.  If knowledge is socially constructed and follows a knowledge flow cycle, then everyone's ideas are building on each others as we construct knowledge together.   Why would we want to "own" the knowledge when by sharing it we can make it deeper?  Most of the time our knowledge is not coming from just one source - we read a bit here and another bit there and come to a new understanding by personalizing it ourselves.  Sometimes it's hard to give credit to an original idea that has gone through so many different iterations.  Siemens refers to this too:
We do not consume knowledge as a passive entity that remains unchanged as it moves through out world and our work.  We dance and court the knowledge of others - n ways the original creators did not intend.  We make it ours, and in so doing diminish the prominence of the originator.
In Chapter 1 there is also a list of the different types of knowledge - something I'd never really thought about before.  There is:

  • Knowing about something - for example an event you witnessed, or a discipline you have studied
  • Knowing how to do something - for example driving a car
  • Knowing how to be something - a teacher, a doctor, an ethical person and so on
  • Knowing where to find knowledge when needed
  • Knowing how to transform knowledge - by recombining it and innovating.
Knowledge is not simply being able to access a mass of facts, stored in your brain like water in a lake, it's more like a river, constantly moving and getting larger as it joins with other rivers and flows towards the sea.

Photo Credit: Foto Pau via Compfight cc

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