Once you embrace knowledge creation as a purpose of learning, the expectation in your classroom becomes sharing information, ideas, and creations. You cannot create knowledge in a vacuum. You cannot elevate the collective understanding without embracing the collection of understandings in your learning space (physical and/or virtual).
When you share what you know, there is a great chance to draw others into your circle of understanding, especially those who share your thoughts or are driven to fill gaps in their own understanding. That is how knowledge creation, as I define it, works. You seek, find, and synthesize information. Then you create a piece of work that others can use to fill the gaps in their understanding.
Knowledge creation is a social act of intellectual growth.
However, there is a risk involved in knowledge creation. It is a risk that often prevents teachers and students from embracing knowledge creation because it strikes at the heart of what many of us fear most about social situations.
Taking a risk with what we have to offer and making ourselves vulnerable does not guarantee acceptance nor does it prevent opposition or ridicule. Neither of those outcomes are desirable, so we shrink back into what is safe, we circle our wagons, and leaver class thinking, "At least nothing bad happened."
Therefore, in the face of risk, we must examine the rewards of knowledge creation and hold them up against the potential discomfort.
Here are a number of points that speak to the rewards of the knowledge creation classroom.
- Knowledge creation is a social act that involves a mutually beneficial transfer of knowledge. Each person involved walks away more enlightened than he or she was before the interaction.
- Knowledge creation combines the 4 C's of 21st century skills (creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication) to provide for the development of connections.
- Connections, in the 21st century, are mutually beneficial relationships build upon trust, generosity, awareness, and shared passions.
- Nurturing connections, in my opinion, is the most important "C" of 21st century skills. It is THE foundation of all progress made to date and to come in the connected economy.
- The world no longer thrives on isolation. Navigating how to thrive through connected living is an essential skill.
- We cannot expect students cannot make a difference in the world, if we do not give them chances to practice doing so in our classrooms.
In addition, though not necessarily a reward of knowledge creation, teachers should also remember, "If everyone is vulnerable, no one is vulnerable." In other words, as the leader of the class you have a great deal of influence over the environment. How you respond to risks and vulnerability sends a clear message to the class about what is expected. Embrace the student to takes risks. Praise them publicly for their efforts, take risks yourself and be "more human." As a matter of fact, I have even planned my own errors early in the school year in order to demonstrate that I, too, can be vulnerable and still thrive. A safe zone in your class based on trust, shared goals, and clear expectations will minimize the fear of sharing and establish the strong foundation from which you can build your knowledge creation classroom.
Creating knowledge requires embracing connections. As important as connection building is to success, it also taps into a primal fear of isolation through the act of being vulnerable. We cannot control how others respond when we take risks with out learning. However, we can control how we process our own feelings. We can choose to honor our inherent dignity and decide to be a part of the work that matters - the work that helps us make a difference.
Connected learning and knowledge creation are worth the risk.