I’m back from ITK conference and what catched my attention was all the discussion about how can we be sure that the information we read from open systems (Wikipedia, blogs, Open Source etc.) is truthful and accurate? This concern is often voiced by teachers who see the potential of resources like Wikipedia
but are afraid that it cannot be used as an educational resource
because there is no widely accepted scientific method in the background.
As Jussi Silvonen pointed out in finnish, this all goes to the epistemology
of how we understand knowledge. The social web is affecting the leading
paradigm of what is proper education. In this article I seek for a new
paradigm to base our current educational system upon, starting from the
Our current society is mainly based on the foundations of Cartesian knowledge, the idea that we need to seek the truth and objectivity to replace beliefs and God with accurate scientific knowledge. Descartes wanted to replace God with facts.
This is what our educational system teaches. Our school books and
encyclopaedias are based on the idea that what is contained within is
truthful and we need to memorize and learn exactly what is written
inside. Then we have exams to test if the student is able to replicate
the same truths as written in their school books.
I find this thinking a bit disturbing. Knowledge is always in the intersection of beliefs and truths.
As we cannot see all the facts or have all the first-hand experiences,
we generalize and believe that what we know is the truth. We live in a
uncertain world and history has shown, that what is written in our
school books is constantly shifting. The truth we teach is shaped by dialog between our current beliefs.
Now the social web is growing with social information that is blurring
the line between who is the author and what is the method, as
everything is actually a remixation of a wide range of sources. Uncertainity
is rising because of the social web but at the same time conversations
that shape this uncertainity are increasing in volume.
offered a different perspective where we actually agree that we live in
the middle of uncertainities and through conversations we will be able
to find common understanding on how to live together in this unstable
The increasing ammount of socially constructed knowledge then becomes
actually food for thought, inspirations for new conversations where
knowledge is created. People make their decisions on information not
based on the list of authors and textual references but what others say
about it. They use their trusted peers to live in the middle of
So the importance of information as a building block for creating new
knowledge is more important than preserving something that we believe
is the truth.
Right now our students go through many years and thousands of books and
they are constantly trained like animals to trust that the content what they read is the one and only truth.
We need something to balance this and teach them critical thinking and
ability to seek balance through conversations in the middle of
I go on and suggest a new school book paradigm. Turn everything around.
Write a school book that has purposefully inserted factual errors. Make it as uncertain as possible, so that the student needs to seek conversations to make any sense out of it.
Make the point of the course to discuss the book and what things are
actually true and what are not. Base that on conversations reaching to
other information sources and people for answers outside the course as
well. Help them to be curious to seek different points of view. Make
critical peer review and discussion the central process. Make them realize that to cope with untruths they need humble conversations rather than forcing their own beliefs.
As a conclusion, Wikipedia is not really there for educators, news papers or fact seekers to refer as a truth. Wikipedia is not really about teaching facts. It’s about conversations.
A wiki page is inviting for a change. It’s never ready, it’s never a
truth. It has a discussion section for seeking a common ground.
Wikipedia is our greatest gift to education, because it makes us
understand that facts are constantly shifting based on open