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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 , , , , , , , ,