I’m heading to Austin Texas in a few weeks to keynote Tech Forum Southwest. I was in Chicago for Tech Forum in April and truly enjoyed the format and the day that I was fortunate enough to spend there. Besides the fact that I’m expecting great conversations again and great bar-b-que in my quick trip to the South, the session that I’m giving has led me into some interesting places.
The blurb for the session goes like this:
“It used to be hard to find information we needed. BG (Before Google) we had a lot of questions, but not very many answers. This has changed. Now we live in an expanding universe of complex, biased, multimedia texts that come at us from all corners of the globe. How do we help students synthesize information, combining all of the pieces they’ve found scattered across the globe? In his keynote, Clarence Fisher will look at how knowledge is constructed online and how we can help students create the channels they need to gain valuable perspective on our changing world.”
This is a topic that I’ve been passionate about in my classroom and giving this keynote has given me a great opportunity to dig deeper in to it. Where does knowledge come from? How does it grow and change? How is it different online?
One place that I’ve been spending time is behind the scenes at sites such as Wikipedia and Librivox. Both of these sites are global leaders in the construction and sharing of knowledge. At Wikipedia, I’ve enjoyed being behind the scenes and learning something of the culture of the people who regularly contribute to this resource. As well, I’ve learned a great deal about how articles evolve and grow when they are worked on by a community of people. Watching the history files and the discussions has taught me about growth. As well, Wikipedia has a semi regular podcast and newsletter but together by people who are members of their community. They discuss issues that have arisen in their community and the philosophies behind what is going on at the site.
Librivox is less familiar then Wikipedia to many, but is another treasure trove of information. A repository of recordings of public domain books, they offer a huge catalogue that is increased by volunteers. Again, Librivox does this in a model that is open to the world, taking recordings from anyone and also posting several different podcasts feeds of what is happening at the site.
I think it is both interesting and important that both of these sites offer tools to look “behind thes scenes” at what is happening. From both sites you can gain a sense of how the knowledge contained in their spaces is changing and developing. This is something we just don’t get in the offline world where instead knowledge is published and seen as a finished product. An important difference and one that students need to understand.