Computer support for knowledge-building communities

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Citation: Marlene Scardamalia, Carl Bereiter (1993) Computer support for knowledge-building communities. The Journal of the Learning Sciences (RSS)
Internet Archive Scholar (search for fulltext): Computer support for knowledge-building communities
Tagged: Education (RSS) CSCW (RSS), Knowledge-Building (RSS)


Although Scardamalia and Bereiter do not explicitly frame their article in terms of support for constructionism (Papert 1980), they are clearly speaking about constructionist goals. They open their article citing Alan Kay and suggesting that most school use of technology simple recreates existing classroom dynamics. The article presents a strong theoretical approach to community-based knowledge creation and presents work from a project called CSILE which is a knowledge building database that the authors have tested in several class rooms.

The authors describe the core ideas in CSILE as:

  1. Intentional learning.
  2. The process of expertise.
  3. Restructuring schools as knowledge-building communities.

Their focus is on knowledge-building which they argue is a strong metaphor around which to build school technologies. Their model is very explicitly based on academic publishing and a scholarly review process which they come back to a number of times in their article. Memorably, at one point they go into detail on the review process of the article being published to describe the process through which the text that the author is reading has been improved through a knowledge-building community in education science.

They break down support for knowledge building communities in a series of three characteristics:

  1. Focus on problems and depth of understanding.
  2. Decentralized, open knowledge building, with a focus on collective knowledge.
  3. Productive interaction within broadly conceived knowledge-building communities (e.g., groups that extend beyond class rooms).

They present their own work on CSILE -- which sounds somewhat wiki-like -- and offer a series of anecdotes on how that system has provided support for knowledge building communities.

Theoretical and Practical Relevance

Scardamalia and Bereiter's article has been cited nearly 100 times a year since it's publication. Their model of knowledge-building communities has influenced inquiry-based learning, constructionist design, and the literature on education technology more broadly.