Online Knowledge Production


One of the key elements of the LINK project is to create assessment tasks that involve real-world activities utilising the Internet - 'online knowledge production' in other words. These activities should involve both the creation of useful, publicly available content (e.g. we are publishing for the world) and also the use of the technologies (and underlying concepts) which we are teaching. In other words, we get learning about and learning by doing.

So the general notion of 'participation' shifts from being just about participating in a unit to building and making the Internet, via the Internet, for the Internet. We will continue to use the word participation for things students do within a unit which are not part of this 'contribution'. Some assessment tasks are of course going to involve participation within the unit of study - not public, but private activities and communications - the kind of 'participation' that we are used to. Of course we don't need to get too hung up on participation v contribution as words: what matters is whether or not they are private and part of the learning community in the unit, or public and part of the broader knowledge networks. See below re in-unit participation

Online knowledge basics

So, what is the basis for thinking about these 'online knowledge production' tasks?

  • Most of which is public network space
    • Most of which is the World Wide Web
      • On the World Wide Web there are 3rd-party websites, that we don't own, host or control, but which welcome or accept contributions from Internet users (such as our students). Examples:
        1. - student writes article that is accepted for publication
        2. - a blog on cyberspace to which a student writes a substantial comment
        3. - a forum on broadband issues at which a student writes several useful posts explaining broadband policy
        4. - students rewrite an article with higher standards
      • On the World Wide Web there are also OUR websites: these are the equivalent of the 3rd party sites except we control and host them and limit contributions to students; we have to apply proper review and moderation as we are the 'publishers'. Examples (preliminary)
        1. Techreview - reviews of opensource software applications and web services maintained over time, with revisions
        2. Powerwatch - ongoing conference held over a 4-week period annually involving students from NET303 presenting papers and responses
        3. Futures - blogstyle magazine on future direactions with net in society
      • On the World Wide Web there are also the websites each student creates as a student (i.e. as directed by study): these are 1st-party sites that we don't control, though there may be a legal question relating to the original authority. however, we don't host these sites. Examples
        1. Student core web presence - the single, central site to and from which all over student presence links (the key node)
        2. Other sites created by students, e.g. a project website created in 3rd year unit; something collective a group creates as part of a unit (publicly available)
        3. Students own sites, nothing to do with us, but which student creates in any case and includes them in their 'presence'

So, in short students are:

  1. contributing to the existing numerous sites on the Internet where knowledge and information is made available
  2. contributing to the Internet Studies sites, primarily some specific 'publications' to use that old word - net studies publications
  3. creating and then contributing to / maintaining their own individual site or sites

These activities = online knowledge production.

We can also understand these tasks as 'knowledge networking' for they draw students into a network of knowledge production via and about the Internet. More on this idea of knowledge networking

In-unit learning participation activities

We are mostly familiar with this idea - it's all the things students do - discussion, little exercises, etc - which are not formally assessed in individual assignments. mostly, in online learning, it has come to be the 'discussion' in groups or forums; can also include little tasks that are done and sometimes reported to other students, sometimes not. We can think of it including the work done to produce assessments that are like portfolios, but called reading logs, learning logs, etc.

There are two key activities here which will be the focus of LINK. The first is discussion - the exchange of ideas and perspectives creating a constructivist environment for learning. The second is learning activities - specific tasks which are about manipulating or engaging with the ideas so as to learn more about them.

Just as the production of knowledge for the public online environment is very much a form of 'knowledge networking', the in-unit learning activities are a form of community participation and engagement, creating and being part of a learning community.

Distinction between online knowledge production and in-unit learning.

To make clear the distinction between participating in a unit, and contributing knowledge publicly, consider the following:

In-unit activities (Private) Online KP (Public)
Unstructured / communicative Structured / task focus | Own web presence Net Studies web presence The Internet generally
discussion posts, forum contributions and the like - very much like the stuff students do already specific tasks done as part of study, either individually or in sub-groups, but the output of these tasks is not to the public web, but within the unit - like some of NET202 currently | tasks done, within units of study, which require students to publish or create something within their own WP - these tend to be a combination of more specific tasks but also some 'constant' updating - with the motivation for this coming from student as well as us written tasks where all students write for publication, but we moderate it, choosing the best, or not publishing until improved either prompted by us, or just generally, what students contribute to the Internet as a whole - not moderated by us, not on our sites
example - student posts response to reading in discussion group, conversation ensues example - students told to review readings and come up with 1 additional reference for topic of study | example - student told to create a profile component to their web presence and add it example - all students submit short reviews of software, best are published example - student writes comments on other peoples' blogs (not students)
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