Social Software

Blogs, Wikis and knowledge building – some clarifications and comments

I decided to write another post with comments to the comments we got to the Beyond blogs and wikis: I want better tools for dialogical teaching, learning and research -post. Thank you all!

Leigh: Web feeds (RSS etc.) are good, whatever you are interested in to follow blogs, wikis, discussion forums, image/video sharing sites, etc. Still they do not scaffold or help you to have such dialogue I am looking for. I am not sure if any computer tool of software will do this, but I am dreaming. CSILE, Knowledge Forum, Fle3 and CMapTools are the best candidates of tools to full-fill this need. They are not very good, but at least they are designed for this. Blogs and the culture of blogging do not make very high on this list. Wikis are definitely better than blogs: the wiki talk page is much better discussion forum than blogs and blog comments. Threaded discussion boards and listservs are good but do not scaffold.

Summer: I like your “blog”, too and I am sure it is a good tool for language learning. Actually your “blog” is much more a website / web page than a “blog”. However, I do not see much dialogue in there.

Wilfred: I am claiming that we should understand for what blogs are good for (and also for what they are not good for) in education. We already know for what kind of teaching and learning videos and beamers are good for. Non of these technologies are very good for teaching football, neither for knowledge building. To teach football you, first at all, need a ball. Right?

“Contribute to knowledge building from personal space” is a bit like saying that someone is “contributing to the world peace from their own territory”. With missiles? I am shooting you now from our Flosse Posse space and you may shoot me then in your own blog. 🙂

I fully agree with your third point. If you check my post again I actually wrote: “blogs and wikis are not (very) good tools for knowledge building, progressive inquiry learning or other sophisticated social constructivist learning methods and models.” This doesn’t mean that blogs wouldn’t be useful for some other kind of teaching and learning, just like videos and beamers are good for some things in teaching and learning process. As a handyman you know that you need different tools for different tasks: hammer for making a joint with nails and screwdriver for doing it with screws. So, you need a toolbox with many tools. If you are then asked to make join with nails and you only have a screwdriver in your toolbox, whom do you blame? Not the screwdriver but the one that is providing you with a toolbox without a hammer (after you have tried to do the hammering with the screwdriver). Right?

Gary Knight: I agree threaded discussion boards and listservs are good tools, but could there be even better tools for dialogue? Something that is scaffolding participants to inquiry process, are offering tools to raise new topics for further dialogue, helping participants to pull different threads together, etc.? If you ask me, Moodle forum is probably the best tool for learning discussions, but still it is just a threaded discussion board. I want more!

Chris Harvey: I didn’t claim that Wikipedia is not about conversation. It is. But the conversation is focusing on a very specific task: the aim is to create an encyclopedia, to write encyclopedia articles. The clear vision, focus and the policies based on these are the reasons why Wikipedia is so great. Wikipedia is a not a space for inquiry or original research. Still students (or anyone) are free to discuss about the articles in the talk page and contribute in them.

Konrad: Interesting discussion you are having there. Thank you for sharing this. I actually think that with blogs (inter-linked together) you may get much stronger sense of community than in CSILE or some other closed online community. The fact that you are in a public space (Internet) with your “group” (sorry for calling it group :-), makes the feeling of belonging much stronger.

Like Konrad, I do not claim that blogging doesn’t support learning. We just must understand for what it is good for and use it for that. I am sure Konrad’s PhD thesis will explain this for us.

All I am asking for is that if we have different methods of teaching and learning, we should have different kind of tools. And at the moment we are still missing a good tool for knowledge building.

9 replies on “Blogs, Wikis and knowledge building – some clarifications and comments”

I'm aware of the aim of Wikipedia, we do research and original research on Wikiversity. Its very difficult for academics to do this, it usually means their work will not be published in academic journals and thats very important to them for some reason.It doesn't make sense to talk about hammers and screwdrivers if you are talking about software tools, because the proprietary systems you use don't have an advanced packaging tool you need to carry all your software in a toolbox? you need a system designed for the network.Good luck with your hypothesis, I'm sure you will find a good tool.


Chris Harvey: I think the greatest challenge of Wikiversity is exactly the issue how well wiki (as a tool) will support teaching and learning process. I have my doubts. That is why I have proposed that with Wikiversity we should consider hosting listserv and IRC server to offer teachers and students communication tools that will facilitate different kind of online collaboration in the “collaborative learning projects”.You wrote: “… because the proprietary systems you use don't have an advanced packaging tool you need to carry all your software in a toolbox?” Don’t really get your point in here. Fle3 is released under GPL and there will be APT also for the new version. I also think that we may discuss about features of different tools even if some of them are free/libre/open and some are proprietary.


Thank you for taking the time to look at my site. And, yes, I agree – it is much a web site than a blog. However, here's the point I would like to make, speaking as a teacher: a blog is something a teacher CAN create. A web site is something most teachers can not create. So, if someone says: a blog is a "personal" space — and therefore, irrelevant for any other purpose, it destroys the potential of creative teachers who could use a crude blog format to create something that may help in the classroom.I hope that helps to clarify what I meant, and I say the above with the intent of just inserting a little reminder here, about the lack of technical skills of most teachers; and, not to take away from anything in your bigger discussion. In making my site/my blog, which I fashioned on the old Weekly Readers I recall reading in school when I grew up whenever we had a few minutes left in class, I came up up this very issue of: what is a blog? I submitted my site to a well known media outlet that publishes blogs. The guy in charge wrote me back, several times, complaining almost, that my site did not qualify as a "teacher blog" for x,y, z reason (even though I, a teacher, created it). He, too, was looking for the "personal" space only definition of a blog, and he didn't see it in my site. But, in SE Asia, those educators apparently had no difficulty categorizing my site as a Blog by a Teacher in addition to whatever else my site may be. The definitions we use in education can sometimes work against us, and limit the dialogue and advances we could be making. A blog may be a little nothing in the vast scheme of tools and technology available in education, but a blog can still be used for more than just "personal" space, and can demonstrate an idea — and that idea may have real value in the classroom, which is still where many teachers are struggling to succeed. Thanks so much for your comments to me. And, again, thanks for looking at my new online magazine/modern version of Weekly Reader/blog/site. 🙂


I think your trying to say use the best tool for the job and if you provide a tool then you are responsible for making sure it has everything people need. The things your saying about screwdrivers and physical tools is confusing for me.We've had IRC and VoIP learning group for a while now on Wikiversity, I remember you were on IRC, my nick is Chrismo, I encouraged you to you put some info on your userpage, thanks for sharing the idea about Skills, Knowledge, Competencies etcPerhaps I should send you an email about this but maybe one day if you have time would you consider joining a Wikiversity VoIP session ?Good news about Fle3 and APT :)We can discuss anything, if you want to use proprietary software thats a shame.


Hey again Teemu 🙂 you hanging in there?
I went back and read the comments I missed from the original post. Konrad, as always, adds something thoughtful. It threw me.. learning and knowledge building.. "they are of course different". I must have missed someting somewhere in all my training and thought.. are they different, or part of the same thing. Thankfully Summer reassured me and called it as one leads to the other. So if that is so, and if Konrad says that blogs can be successfully used for learning (and I/we can surely testify to that) and if learning leads to knowledge, then at what point were blogs not good for knowledge building.If you are taking the perspective of someone coming new into a blog ring, and trying to follow the connections to build their own learning through reading – then I would completely agree. But that's not blogging. In a way, a blog is not a thing, it is a process. It is a dynamic and particpatory process of communication that often calls in many other forms of communication, IM, threaded forums, wikis, telephone calls, face to face meetings… so focusing on blogs and wikis only, and attempting to argue that by themselves they are not effective for know how building is perhaps a slightly false arguement – because it is not recognising that they are almost never used in isolation from other forms of communication.I guess this leads me to my always on arguement against PLEs when the Internet is the channel, not a narrowed down version like a PLE. or a blog only, or a wiki only, or a threaded discussion only. All of them are used in the over all Internet experience. I guess the blog is important because it builds personal presence…Hope this rant makes sense!


To leighblackall – thanks for your nice comment about me and what I said about learning and knowledge building. I have to tell you I wasn't planning to post again simply because I already said what I had to say, but, you are bringing up an excellent point re: blogs are not used in isolation. And, in fact, when one is using a blog as an online instructional resource, as I made my blog/site to be, then the blog or site is also very much part of the face to face, live, in person interaction happening in a classroom. It can becomee a tool to facilitate communication with others in a classroom setting. Thanks again.


Chris Harvey wrote: "I think your trying to say use the best tool for the job and if you provide a tool then you are responsible for making sure it has everything people need." Yes, but I am not saying that one tool should full-fill all the needs people have. That would be absurd. We need different tools for different tasks. Wiki is a good tool for creating collaboratively hypertext/-media, blogs are good for fast personal publishing, etc. Please, send me email about the Wikiversity VoIP sessions and I’ll try to make it. I shamelessly use both proprietary and nonproprietary software. Being FLOS is one important feature to look at when choosing a software, but before that comes such issues as can it do the job and how is the user experience. Leigh: Ok, now we end-up to define the concepts “learning”, “knowledge building” and also what is “dialogical teaching”, “dialogical learning” and “dialogical research” – which were the concepts I was using in the title of the original post. To find out “what leads to what”, or “what belongs to what” would require that we do a concept map of the concepts.But, you are right we shouldn’t think about blogs or wikis in isolation from other forms of communication. Still I think the “Internet experience” you are talking about is perhaps no applicable to most people and will hardly lead to deep understanding. We need better tools that will give a better "internet experience" for more people.


Teemo wrote: "“Contribute to knowledge building from personal space” is a bit like saying that someone is “contributing to the world peace from their own territory”. " In the Netherlands we use to say: improve the world, start with yourselves. Anyway: imho you underestimate the power of networks of bloggers with a shared interest. They actually construct knowledge! What do you think of the ideas of George Siemens. He did not invent a new paradigm on learning but his ideas about knowlegde in nodes that are connected are quite interesting. Of these nodes are connected they can influence each other. New knowledge can be created, I believe.


From my experience of 15 years of (more or less) active participation in online communities and of which last 10 years in the “blogosphere” I am saying that I have seen surprisingly little systematic and structured knowledge building online. My own best experiences are from discussions that have taken place on mailing lists, new groups or in web forums. I like the ideas George Siemens is presenting. I just do not see the ideas he is presenting very original. If his way of presenting these ideas makes people to understand them he is doing more than most of us.


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