We have the knowledge.
Now we have the knol - a Web 2.0 effort to quantise knowledge.
This is not the first time an attempt has been made to invent a unit of something to do with learning. The invention of the knowledge object, similar to the learning object and now more recently called the learning resource, were endeavours to bring together essential elements of knowledge so that they could be packaged and transported to the learner to achieve a single learning objective.
The matter with Knol:
This latest pursuit, of which Knol is one of its offshoots, is a bit like the quest for an understanding of matter itself. Like the way Science analysed the substance, found the molecule, split the atom, detected the sub-atomic particles, and by all accounts is still pursuing the analysis of these. New Zealand born Nobel prize-winner, splitter of the atom, Ernest Rutherford, would be fascinated today. I wonder if the person who manages to split the knol will win a Knol Prize.
It’s all to do with knowledge, the common fibre that led to the so-called ‘string theory’ of matter and all its sinuous threads. Isn’t it funny how the same patterns run through seemingly different disciplines? We talk about the ‘thread’ of an argument, and how we 'string' together ideas – the 'fabric' of education. How the stuff of science has 'woven' its way into everyday life. How different constructs can 'knit' together. How knowledge is being constantly 'tailored' to fit the learner – never mind the quality, feel the width. And how, for some of us, it is all 'sewn up' when it’s understood.
Well, my understanding of it is that a fair bit of darning is needed to patch the holes and pull the material to meet at the seams. My tartan bag of knowledge is anything but stitched together yet.
But now we have the unit of knowledge - the knol.
Ice-cubes go with the flow:
One model of knowledge, at least from its management point of view, is the idea that it can be a thing or a flow. A bit of knowledge can be looked on as an ice-cube, for instance. How it gets from one place to another can be thought of as the flow of water that’s needed to make the ice-cube. So it can be considered as a thing and a flow. That’s to say it is both at the same time.
This idea is not unlike the way light has been thought of in physics or the way matter has been considered, as a wave and as a particle. It all depends on the situations and how the occurrences are observed.
Frozen knowledge, as ice-cubes, sits in the books in my library at home. When an enquiry is made from the books, bits of the knowledge melt and flow, at least for a short time, into the mind of the reader. There it may solidify again, remaining till it flows to some other recipient or simply evaporates. Of course, here the model tends to founder on the rocks, as nothing really happens to the ice-cubes in the books even if some of them flow elsewhere. It’s nevertheless a cool model.
So what is the knol? Is it a thing and a flow? Let’s see:
Thing, as the ice-cube, sitting somewhere on a server at Google.
Flow, as the digital information when I download it to my PC.
Thing, as the ice-cube, sitting on my PC.
Flow, as I read, observe, listen and understand its content.
Thing, as the ice-cube in my mind, when I think I’ve understood and learnt what there is to learn.
My head hurts.
Flow, as I try to tell someone about it.
What if I’ve got the wrong idea altogether? What if I misunderstood the content of the ice-cube? Is a new ice-cube developed in doing this? Is the new ice-cube useful and worth passing on? Is what’s passed on still knowledge? Could a knol be made out of it? Hmmm.
I think I’ve got some stitching to do on my model for knowledge.
What do you think?