knowing knowledge

23 10 2006

i’ve been waiting for chance to talk about george siemens’ new, self-published book, knowing knowledge.  this is the cornerstone theory of george’s new theory of learning which he calls connectivism.  i had the great fortune a few months ago to edit george’s manuscript of the book for him.  having spent a great part of my career in the pubimage of knowing knowledge coverlishing industry, i have alway enjoyed the excitement  that I feel when I’ve had the priviledge to  preview a book that is going to have impact.  knowing knowledge I think is such a book.

in part 1, george takes on the traditional challenge in books on knowledge and learning of trying to define these term. he posits a theory that many will blast as relativistic, but he avoids the cartesian trap by placing knowledge in the connections between people and objects.  connectivism allows for a priori knowledge without falling into fatalism and  a posteri  knowledge without the atomistic, self-centered world view of many followers of descartes. learning then becomes a matter of pattern recognition and personalizing our experiences.  we are continuously assessing and hypothesizing what we have learned vis a vis the new data being presented to us now.

this is powerful stuff in that it not only explains common everyday knowledge and experience, but explains how breakthrough knowledge and innovative thought appear next to the mundane.  michael jordan talks about "just knowing where the ball is going to be."  football quarterbacks sense the openings in the patterns.  evidently individually we all have different abilities to decypher different patterns with varying degrees of ease.  thus you find someone like albert einstein saying to the reporters who were constantly hounding him, "why are you following me, i’m just a scientist."  quantum physics is just a set of patterns, no different to einstein than the patterns that make up the concept "breakfast."

in part two of knowing knowleimage of change process chartdge, george turns to the question of "what does this mean in the real world?  if your journey to understanding elearning has involved frequent visits to then this section will feel very much like home to you.  it’s "siemens-ism" at its best.  george runs through a host of issues around the social nature of learning and knowledge, the interaction of learning and organizations, what this all means for education – both personal and societal.  clearly, these are the patterns decyphers with jordan-esche ease.

he concludes the book with a 5-domain implementation model which outlines how connectivism can be implemented system-wide in an organization.  while it may seem daunting, that is only a reflection of the complexity of the organization, not connectivism itself.   one concern i do have is that george states that the implementation model is triggered by an organizational change having occurred.  it seems odd to me that the model wouldn’t either be involved in the change process, or perhaps even precede it  – participating in the creation of the need for change.

despite the amount of information covers, knowing knowledge is an accessible presentation of a complex set of concepts.  his use of a non-linear writing style makes reading through sections of the book easier, encourages reflection, and invites the reader to  "dip in" to refresh your memory on any particular section.


knowing knowledge is available through george’s new site knowing knowledge.   you can download pdf files of the book for free!   the links are found on the blog in the entry entitled knowing knowledge – pdf files.  The various charts in the book are in black and white in the pdf’s.  to link to the full color charts, you can find them on george’s flickr site under the group knowing knowledge.  finally, true to his theory, george has posted the manuscript to a wiki where he’s invited everyone to come and help make knowing knowledge better.

eventually, printed copies will be available for purchase through



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