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Friday, June 24 • 10:00 - 10:50
CON11.05 - Computer supported collaborative knowledge building

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Collaborative knowledge building (CKB) is a learning theory that considers learning to be a constructivist process of building evolving knowledge structures based on previous experience and knowledge, new information, and social discourse with other learners (Stahl, 2006; Singh, Hawkins, & Whymark, 2007). CKB involves two interacting aspects: Personal understanding and social knowledge building. An individual’s tacit understanding of the world evolves as internal knowledge structures are restructured to resolve contradictions and breakdowns as a result of new information. This tacit understanding must be articulated in explicit form to be communicated to others. Group understanding evolves through the sharing of individual perspectives representing personal understandings. Discourse is used to clarify meanings and rationale, exchange arguments and negotiate conflicts. A shared group understanding is articulated in explicit form. Information from the group is then internalized by individuals, and used to restructure personal understandings.

Based on existing models of the CKB process, we can identify some general requirements for computer tools to support CKB:
  • Tools to create shared knowledge objects (e.g. documents) incorporating text, graphics, calculations, images, sketches, multimedia, etc.
  • Tools to support discourse and negotiation.
  • Tools to link and organize knowledge objects into a higher-level structure.
Cloud-based tools like Google Docs and Microsoft Office 365 have the potential to support CKB (Denton, 2012; Schneckenberg, Ehlers, & Adelsberger, 2011). In this workshop, participants will use Google Docs and Office 365 to develop a shared understanding of the collaborative knowledge building process, and the capabilities and limitations of tools available to support it. Participants will work in small groups, using their own computers, to experience and evaluate capabilities including collaborative document authoring, document commenting and annotation, shared document libraries, group discussions, etc.


Denton, D. (2012). Enhancing Instruction through Constructivism, Cooperative Learning, and Cloud Computing. TechTrends: Linking Research & Practice to Improve Learning, 56(4), 34 – 41.

Schneckenberg, D., Ehlers, U. & Adelsberger, H. (2011). Web 2.0 and competence-oriented design of learning—Potentials and implications for higher education. British Journal of Educational Technology, 42(5), 747–762.

Singh, G., Hawkins, L. & Whymark, G. (2007). An integrated model of collaborative knowledge building. Interdisciplinary Journal of Knowledge and Learning Objects, 3, 85–105.

Stahl, G. (2006). Group Cognition: Computer Support for Building Collaborative Knowledge. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.


Ralph Buchal

Associate Professor, Western University
Ralph Buchal is an Associate Professor and University Teaching Fellow in the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Western University. He received his Ph.D. in 1987 from the University of British Columbia, and is a registered Professional Engineer. His research interests... Read More →

Friday June 24, 2016 10:00 - 10:50 EDT
UCC 58