My daughter, almost three years, has reached the stage in her cognition where she is always asking "Why?" Sometimes, she's questioning authority or a statement or even a reality and I respond with an assertion such as "because that's the way it is". Often it's a good question, and I respond with what I can in order to take this simple question and produce a bit of true understanding for her. I want her to grow up curious about her world. I want her to explore it and build understanding that leads her toward an increasingly successful future. But it's what she says after I provide a response that leads me to the following: "Why?"
How do we know what we know? Seems like an odd question, but there is not a consensus about the answer. You're not likely to ever really consider what this question entails, or pursue it through to it's end. But follow me as I try to capture some of my thinking as I ponder the implications of this question, specifically related to educational technology.??
Constructivism is a theory that states that the way we learn is through a process of building understanding as a result of an active cognitive encounter with a new learning experience. The understanding we have about our world changes, but it may or may not change significantly depending on how a learning experiences challenge the way we understand something to be. We we add into this process, the people with whom we learn, directly or indirectly, we have social constructivism – building or constructing knowledge together through our shared experiences and understandings.??
Recently I was engaged in a conversation regarding the debate over how we know what we know. The other camp in opposition to constructivism asserts a very objective position. What this means is that scientific research and the scholars that have participated in building this body of knowledge we rely upon and teach to our children is truth, fact, and larger than humanity. This knowledge of the world is bigger than just "how we see it". They state that if we cease to exist, our understanding of the world would live on. This differs from the subjective camp in that constructivists claim that our knowledge is dependent upon culture and the people that have created that understanding.??
The conversation I was engaged in was focused on educational technology. Regardless of where individuals stand, the way in which we employ technology has always had an impact on this debate. So, where does educational technology fit?
Educational technology is critical to the subjective camp – at least it is inherently associated. This is so because never before have participants to the construction of knowledge been so superfluous and involved. No longer is information so tightly controlled by aristocratic academics. Some may see this as decreasing the aggregated wealth of knowledge and understanding, but civilizations have known the cost of knowledge being too limited (Dark Ages). Society rests upon the accumulated wealth of understanding we all build every single day. Students are the future of this wealth and it is the station of educational technology to continue it's advance through investment in it rather than deposits from it.??
We have the chance to become participants and to allow our students to become participants as well. Are we controlled by the body of knowledge or do we take part in controlling it? How do you know what you know?