Home > Conference: November 2009, Shifting research > Generating knowledge and possibly wisdom

Generating knowledge and possibly wisdom

August 20th, 2009

I’ve just read an article by Chris Dede in the May 2009 Issue of Educational Researcher (reference details at the bottom of this posting) and it’s really struck a chord for me, particularly regarding my ongoing thinking about this shifting thinking communitywhat it is for, who it is for, and what it could do if we give it a chance.

If you’ve spent any time looking around this site you’ve probably picked up the idea that its key purpose is shifting our thinking about learning and education for the 21st century. We write a lot about how we think teaching and schooling will need to shift in order to be relevant and purposeful for today’s (and tomorrow’s) world. The teachers’ work thread speculates about what this means for teachers and teaching, and our community engagement thread asks how we might engage communities in this whole process of rethinking and redesign.

Scarier than this rollercoaster? (c) Rachel Bolstad 2007

Scarier than this rollercoaster? (c) Rachel Bolstad 2007

However, recently we’ve had a few in-house conversations about also needing to turn the spotlight back onto ourselves – the education researchers – to ask how we might need to shift our thinking about ourselves and our roles now and in the future.  In short: What does it mean to be a “21st century educational researcher”? What kinds of ideas and practices might we need to let go of, and what new ones might we need to embrace? You might be surprised to learn that this is difficult and sometimes scary territory for many of us (we can talk about why some other time)!

All this is a long way of getting to the proposition in Dede’s article, which is about the use of web 2.0 to support educational research. He suggests it is time to move beyond the use of web 2.0 tools to enhance current scholarly practices for producing knowledge (e.g. communal bookmarking, professional networking, wikis, etc), and instead, move towards:

… initiating a new form of professional dialogue: sponsoring communities that attempt to generate “wisdom”.  I am aware that this suggestion is provocative, controversial, and risky; nonetheless, I believe such an experiment is worth conducting (Dede, 2009, p. 261)

Dede imagines a potential infrastructure for generating wisdom comprising:

An interconnected suite of web 2.0 tools customized for research would provide (a) a virtual setting in which stakeholders of many different types could dialogue, (b) about rich artifacts grounded in practice and policy (c) with a set of social supports to encourage community norms that respect not only theoretical rigor and empirical evidence but also interpersonal, experiential, and moral-ethical understandings. For example… teachers could bring the “wisdom of practice” into such a community, and community representatives could articulate social and cultural norms reflective of their diverse values. These three capabilities of a research infrastructure seem essential for a community attempting to generate wisdom about educational issues; only in the past few years has ICT made these affordances widely available, practical, and inexpensive (Dede, 2009, p. 262).

I don’t know what you think, but I feel like this is what shiftingthinking is trying to achieve. Whether we’re on the right track with our tools and approach so far remains to be seen (but we do see shiftingthinking as a work in progress – and in addition to the web-based part, we also have the upcoming Shifting Thinking conference….hint hint)

Dede has some more to say about why such an “experiment” could seem risky, unwise, and perhaps downright foolish to some educational researchers – but if you want to know exactly what this is about, you should read the article :)

Dede, Chris. (2009). Technologies that facilitate generating knowledge and possibly wisdom. Educational Researcher 38 (4) pp. 260-263

Conference: November 2009, Shifting research , , , , , , , ,

  1. | #1

    @Georgina
    Kia ora Georgina, that’s a great point you make about applying some caution to moving swiftly into Web 2.0 without pausing to think about other ways of engaging in these kinds of dialogues, including the good old fashioned face-to-face medium that has served humans well for millenia! Obviously different personal and cultural preferences and ways of being lend themselves to different modes, and this can be very contexually dependent.
    If we look at the second Dede quote above again, this time I’ve put parentheses and italics to bracket off the bits that are specifically linked to it being a web 2.0 environment:

    [An interconnected suite of web 2.0 tools customized for research] would provide (a) a [virtual] setting in which stakeholders of many different types could dialogue, (b) about rich artifacts grounded in practice and policy (c) with a set of social supports to encourage community norms that respect not only theoretical rigor and empirical evidence but also interpersonal, experiential, and moral-ethical understandings. For example… teachers could bring the “wisdom of practice” into such a community, and community representatives could articulate social and cultural norms reflective of their diverse values. These three capabilities of a research infrastructure seem essential for a community attempting to generate wisdom about educational issues; [only in the past few years has ICT made these affordances widely available, practical, and inexpensive] (Dede, 2009, p. 262).

    If we were to take out those italicised bits, to me the most important ideas are still there in the quote. What he’s talking about here is a different way of thinking about research and knowledge, and how we build knowledge (or wisdom), and who we think is “qualified” to play what kinds of roles in this process. In a sense, these ideas aren’t new ones, in fact there would be a lot of people who’ve advocated for these ways of doing research for a long time. Dede simply makes the point that Web 2.0 potentially supports this way of thinking and working because it lowers the “cost” of people getting together, and obviously can help us overcome space and time differences. But really, it’s the idea here that is the most important thing, and these ideas could also happen in a completely offline environment.

  2. Georgina
    | #2

    As a more focused response to Rose’s comment, is ‘wisdom’ becoming/already one of those words whose meaning is normative rather than semantic? Joining the long and I suspect growing list: science, knowledge, truth… the definition of what any of these mean is contested, and in the philosophical conditions of poststructuralism, it must be conceded that no-one has a universal mandate to dictate what constitutes science, knowledge, truth – and, I guess, wisdom as well. (Of course, the problem is that those with the most power then get to exert the most influence on what these are “commonly understood” to mean…)

  3. Georgina
    | #3

    I haven’t read the article, but I get the idea from Rachel’s description… as a brand-new bloggee I am trying to write through the nerves (will people snigger? will anyone care?) and can use the novelty of this experience for myself to reflect on the idea proposed for the use of Web 2.0 applications for innovative educational research spaces (the same is also being said for the world of international science research, as I’m sure you know – the potential for scientists in different continents to keep in touch as a research team is clear – under the rubric of “open science”).
    As a curriculum writer in the recent CMP the opportunity for practitioners and interested members of the community to be involved and give feedback during the course of the development phase was set up via an ‘online community’. Our IT guy posted general updates and the writers fed more specific news/progress reports to the site. However in the 2 years approx. we only ever got one comment – from a teacher/researcher – saying they had heard the new Putaiao curriculum was going to be based on traditional Maori knowledge and was concerned that Maori medium students would in that case be further disadvantaged educationally speaking. Good point but the setup did not allow us to actually engage in dialogue. It seemed to me (and still does) that Maori people would be most unlikely to engage in this way… we do still believe so strongly in kanohi-ki-te-kanohi! (face-to-face) So while we are discussing this new virtual way of working, we do need to keep such cultural issues in mind… I’m sure you have all already thought about this…

  4. Rose
    | #4

    Hi Rachel

    this was my favourite article in this collection too! As I read through your blog post I had my fingers crossed you would pick up the comment about wisdom and you didn’t disappoint. I was at a principals’ meeting yesterday where this topic (the need for wisdom now but also to teach in ways that could foster growth of wisdom in young people) came up twice in different contexts during the day. But what do we mean by wisdom, and whose wisdom counts, and to what end? And why have we been so reluctant to make commitments in this area? (well I think we have) These could all be good questions for us to discuss.

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