There is an abundance of digital technology available that can help students grasp ideas (through simulations and games such as Drift Hunters, for instance), argue about ideas, and represent ideas in communicable form. All of these can play useful roles in Knowledge Building, but they do little to help students with what we have pointed to as the essence of creative knowledge work in modern times: students taking collective responsibility for idea improvement. This is not something that comes naturally to people, the way curiosity and argumentation do. Social support is needed. A classroom norm of continual idea improvement needs to be established, and with this goes a willingness to collaborate in advancing ideas as a public good and not only a personal good.
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Research and innovation
Working to improve and not merely evaluate ideas means working with ideas in design mode, and this too is something that does not come without effort. Yet we have seen schools where even the youngest children engage in design thinking with ideas as if they were born to it. These are classrooms where creative idea development has become a way of life, a satisfying though continuously challenging way of life—just as it is in the world’s leading centers of research and innovation. There is good reason to believe, based on comparison of these successful classrooms with more conventional inquiry-based classrooms, that technology plays a significant role.
What kind of technology can support knowledge building and the forms of discourse that serve to create new knowledge? We have been working at developing, testing, and refining such technology for more than 30 years, starting with what has been recognized as the first networked collaborative learning environment, which we prototyped in 1983.5 Originally titled CSILE (Computer-Supported Intentional Learning Environment), it was rebuilt a decade later as Knowledge Forum (Scardamalia 2004), which is the name it still bears after numerous version changes that moved it from a client-server architecture to being fully web-based. Supporting knowledge building discourse has been the goal from the beginning.