Change is driving the new millennium along many paths. There is one particular place where the change is especially deep, and that is the path in which knowledge is heading. However, this is not always perceivable and it takes an act of detachment to appreciate it. The same is happening with the main cause of that change, which is technology: it is so much a part of our daily life, that we are no longer aware of it. Contemporary digital media and digital technologies, that is, the most innovating front of ICT, have a characteristic: they reciprocally function as triggers, giving way to sudden waves of adoption, which in turn start others, all much more rapid and frequent than in the past. We are flooded, often unwillingly, by storms of technological stimuli: even though we may not be conscious of them, the result is an empowerment of our faculties of action, communication and cognition. The term “e-knowledge” has been coined, as several others of similar structure, to catch, via the “e-” extension (electronic), the new shape of knowledge which is peculiar of a deeply technology-driven world. In such a world, technes (re. technology) is no longer “the art of making” and it becomes the “art of knowing”.
The term “e-knowledge” is a neologism that is making inroads into our culture. In the same way as the coinage of certain scientific terms in the life sciences had the effect of determining the direction of research in that field (Fox Keller, 1996), so it has been for this word. Its creation can be seen as a “performative” act, where the word is not valued for its descriptiveness, but for its effectiveness. It is in fact succeeding in modeling our current and future vision of knowledge.
Those who coined the term are a group of experts, Donald Norris, Jon Mason, and Paul Lefrere, authors of the book Transforming e-Knowledge, A Revolution in the Sharing of Knowledge (Norris, Mason, & Lefrere, 2003a). A set of well-known and respected figures in the fields of education and strategy (SCUP, 2006), they (NM&L for short), will be our main reference. We will complement their thoughts with those of other authors, speaking to us from diverse domains, because the issue of knowledge crosses all disciplines.
There is a particular worth in NM&L’s writings. They are the fruit of collective thought, the result of a consultation among many international experts with different skills. These people met and worked to find an answer to a crucial issue:
How individuals and organizations needed dramatically to enhance their capacity to acquire, assimilate, and share knowledge, given the constant pressure of disruptive change. (Norris, Mason, Robson, Lefrere, & Collier, 2003b, p. 26)
Key Terms in this Chapter
Location-Based Services (LBSs): A new generation of telematic services based on the capabilities of wireless networks, or of the global positioning system (GPS), and mobile communication devices (or other radiofrequency sensitive devices). LBSs are able to detect and react to the (geo)location of the user and accordingly trigger a service of some kind.
Constructivism: Is at the same time a theory of knowledge, a theory of learning and an educational methodology. It is, therefore, an ample space for debate and controversy. In our context a constructivist approach to knowledge means that we ourselves build an interpretation of the reality surrounding us, through experience. Rather than a knowledge transfer from source to sink, we gain knowledge by an active engagement in its construction, by giving to and taking from others.
Digital Revolution: An expression used to denote the extraordinary transition in media, communications, devices (and ultimately economics and society), from an analogue form (i.e., continuous, linear signals representing information) to a form expressed in discrete digits (actually: bits). This started in the early 1980s.
Virtual Learning Environment (VLE): Is often used in lieu of LCMS. However, the term VLE has a wider connotation than just a single “platform”. This interpretation of VLE says that the virtuality of the learning environment is constituted by a combination of tools with different, though complementary, purposes (e.g. one LCMS plus one project development platform plus one digital repository at a central site, plus a set of knowledge management tools at the user’s workstation). In parallel, also a set of different educational and management human skills have to coexist and harmonize in a VLE.
Learning and Content Management System (LCMS): Fundamental computer systems for implementing technology-enhanced learning, often called a “platform”. It involves many digital components and tools of a very specific nature. It is exploited both by the end-users (learners, usually in distant locations) and by the authors, teachers and tutors who prepare and manage educational content and curricula (courseware).