How should we define "Knowledge-Building Environment"?

A KBE is a virtual environment for the collaborative construction of knowledge.

Perhaps we can take WebCSILE as a paradigmatic example of a KBE. It is a software environment based on the theory of learning proposed by Marlene Scardamalia and Carl Bereiter. They argued that students should learn about, science, for instance, by engaging in activities similar to the research activities of communities of scientists. Furthermore, students should explicitly reflect upon the learning processes they are engaged in. Computer support should provide a communication medium in which the students can share ideas, discuss them and build upon them collaboratively.

WebCSILE can be characterized as incorporating the following characteristics, among others:

bulletThe system provides computational support for collaboration.
bulletStudents interact with a shared database of notes that they can add to through a computer interface.
bulletThreaded discussion functionality is included.
bulletA graphic interface allows for the development of a visual overview of the structure of notes.
bulletSearching and browsing functionality is provided.
bulletThe system is used within a classroom structure that establishes goals for the research, expectations for on-line behavior, acceptable social practices and a system of rewards.
bulletThe system incorporates features (e.g., link types) that encourage theory building activities, such as proposing theories, advancing arguments, providing supporting data.
bulletThere are restrictions as to who can change the content or arrangement of existing notes.
bulletThe system can be accessed over the Web.

There is a family of software systems developed at educational research labs and other institutions around the world that have family resemblances to WebCSILE; that is, they share many of its goals and characteristics, but also exploit important differences. For instance, they may not be intended for classroom science education. It may be important to develop a more definitive list of the goals and characteristics that a system should share in order to be considered a KBE for certain research purposes.

A KBE is a ubiquitous knowledge environment.

KBEs are likely to play an important role in the future because they render personal and shared ideas available everywhere there is a Web connection. In the 21st century, access to organized repositories of knowledge, to collaboration opportunities and to knowledge-building facilities generally will be essential. Knowledge is so complex that adequate access to it requires both collaboration with ever-changing groups of colleagues and computer support for the delivery, creation and organization of knowledge. The physical environment will increasingly incorporate Internet access and computer support embedded in furniture, cars and walls -- particularly in schools and research labs. KBEs will provide the software to make these connections effective forms of access to interactive sources of developing knowledge.

The answer to the question of how to define KBEs will be worked out further by:

bulletThe Readings and Resarch in Cognitive Science Seminar
bulletThe CILT XML for KBEs Project
bulletThe CSCL '99 Workshop on KBEs

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This page last modified on August 01, 2003