Thursday, April 10, 2008

Linking Laboratories, classrooms and the public

The web and all the various tools that are increasingly part of the web provide an opportunity for higher education to build seamless bridges from laboratories to classrooms to the public.

In the face-to-face world it is mostly impossible to effectively bridge all these domains of higher education, but the Web provides us with a means to knit these activities together. In earlier posts, I have talked about open science, open education and engaging the public, but no w I want to focus on building an infrastructure that puts these all together.

At the moment I can only illustrate what I have in mind by giving an example:

I. Public Level

The public seeking information about the effects of divorce on children and engaging in discussions, sharing examples, and exploring ideas about the topic.

II. Classroom Level

Teachers and students working with texts, discussions, analysis, activities, tests, etc. about the scientific knowledge about the effects of divorce on children.

III. Laboratory Level

Scientists working with advanced students to discover new information about the effects of divorce on children.

I have used the word level because my thinking about this is that knowledge would be organized from the most simple level to the most complex. I have illustrated this with three levels, but there would be many sub-levels within each of these major levels. For example, within the classroom level there would be introductory material, advanced material, and so forth. I have also illustrated this as one narrow topic when, in fact, there are many streams of knowledge that would get integrated together at each level. Even in this example, there would be knowledge about child development, parenting, marriage, divorce and then there would be scientific methods, critical thinking and other tools of synthesis.

So why does all this matter. I want to create intellectual communities that bridge people across all these levels. I want someone to be able to find the public level of information and be able to explore issues at more complex levels. I want scientists and teachers to create windows in their classrooms and laboratories so that others can observe their thinking and their creation of knowledge.

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