August 13, 2008

Introduction to knowledge

General knowledge system

All our human knowledge comes from experience perceived by our senses. Seeing with our eyes (visual), hearing with our ears (auditory), feeling with our hands, body and internally (kinesthetically), smell with our nose (olfactory) and taste with our mouth and tongue (gustatory). In the past this gathered data and information was classified and determined. Eventually this must have resulted into a language-system by which communication was possible. Preserved knowledge from ancient civilizations is mostly visual in the form of wall-paintings or carvings and later recorded as codified symbols now interpreted as written texts. Archeologists also expose the physical trails and objects of past civilizations and interpret these findings which gives us information about systems they have used.

Most of our currently used knowledge and culture was originated in the old Greek and Roman society. Philosophy is said to be the mother of all (liberal) arts or sciences. Artes liberales is the Latin for liberal arts. The canon of the seven liberal arts dates from the fifth century AD and has its roots in Roman times. The first three sciences, grammatica, rhetorica and dialectica or logics are called the trivium which is the path that leads to wisdom. The remaining four were arithmetica, geometria, astronomia and musica, usually referred to as the quadrivium, the fourfold way. Until around 1200 AD these sciences were the foundation of any study at a university.

The library classification systems (i.e. UDC) and educational systems today still have many similarities and comparisons to these 'original' arts. Although our educational focus has shifted to more pragmatic, and specialized forms related to service professions taught in classical form, there are still craftsmen who learn their trade by tradition from a master.

In general I distinguish three kinds of learning-contexts:

  1. Collective, classical group-presentation, from within an educational system
  2. Individual, (mostly one to one) adaptive learning of crafts or skills, from professional or educational background.
  3. Individual, autodidact learning from personal reading, practice and/or experience, inspired by personal motives.

In the ideal form, al learning is initiated by individual demand and personal motives (in contrast to our conventional linear educational system). Maybe not everyone could handle the needed responsibility and self-activation in today's high-tech information-society. We need to be tremendously curious, perceptive, and on top of that aware of manipulation-techniques of (mass-)media and be able to select and abstract from enormous amounts of (un)wanted audio-visual input. We can distinguish three kinds of literacy:

  1. Language-literacy (spoken and written);
  2. Media-literacy (what kinds of manipulation techniques are used)
  3. Computer-literacy (the ability to work with and use computers)
The most basic didactical distinction in general learning is Benjamin Bloom's three domains:
Cognitive learning (thoughts), such as teaching someone to add fractions.
Affective learning (feelings, values), such as teaching someone to not want to smoke.
Physical or motor learning (actions), such as teaching someone to touch type.

As an underlying principle I would like to add Intentional Learning, or intrinsic manifested curiosity, the really wanting to know, and asking for more as a (auto)didactical principle. By dedicated use of this principle, we create a positive empowered knowledge system in the mind and body. Cognitive learning is the primary focus as everything has to start with a thought.

The major levels of cognitive learning can be classified as memorizing, understanding, and applying. Most content can be learned at any of these three levels of learning.
This is rote learning. It entails learners encoding facts or information in the form of an association between a stimulus and a response, such as a name, date, event, place or symbol. The behavior that indicates that this kind of learning has occurred is stating (or "regurgitating"), usually verbatim.
Understanding; This is meaningful learning. It entails learners relating a new idea to relevant prior knowledge. The behaviors that indicate that this kind of learning has occurred include comparing and contrasting, making analogies, making inferences, elaborating, and analyzing (as to parts and/or kinds), among others.
Application; This is learning to generalize to new situations, or transfer learning. It entails learners identifying critical commonalities across situations, such as predicting the effects of price increases. The behavior that indicates that this kind of learning has occurred is successfully applying a generality (the critical commonalities) to a diversity of previously unencountered situations.

It is useful to identify three types of content that can be learned on the application level:


A concept is a group or class of particulars which have something in common. A procedure is an ordered sequence of steps for accomplishing some goal. A principle is a relationship between two or more changes. It can be a causal, correlational, or natural-order relationship. A good rule for identifying these kinds of content:

Concepts are concerned with grouping things into categories. What?
Procedures are concerned with how to do something. How?
Principles are concerned with predictions and explanations. Why?

It is also helpful to keep in mind that these three types of content can be learned at any of the three levels of learning.

(Source: Methods of instruction by Charles M. Reigeluth)

Education and learning has been one of my primary themes in the past years. With the growing use of Information & Communication Technology (ICT) and new media in education numerous possibilities arise: once the learning-module is produced and digitalized the distribution-costs and multiplication-cost could be theoretically brought down to zero by the use of Internet. Although this is a slightly different subject, thinking about these place- and time-independent opportunities with Internet, and not only related to education!, might just be one of the things to clear away some of our past burdens of the industrial society.

Knowing how we can learn, and using a supportive system of thought strengthening in our environment will bring us closer to fulfilling our dreams. Aspects of manifesting your personal dream is cooping with obstacles and solving 'problems' between the current situation and the (visualized) wanted situation.
It is my intention to provide methods (including reflections and techniques) for these necessary steps to take. The first step of this ambitious plan is my personal research. By publishing and sharing this research and findings in raw form on the Internet I start the process of presenting these ideas in a more tangible form. I hope you (reader) enjoy this and I'm looking forward to see your feedback.

Some Quotes:

There do exist enquiring minds, which long for the truth of the heart, seek it, strive to solve the problems set by life, try to penetrate to the essence of things and phenomena and to penetrate into themselves. If a man reasons and thinks soundly, no matter which path he follows in solving these problems, he must inevitably arrive back at himself, and begin with the solution of the problem of what he is himself and what his place is in the world around him. For without this knowledge, he will have no focal point in his search. Socrates’ words, “Know thyself” remain for all those who seek true knowledge and being. [Gurdjieff]

"Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself."
- George Bernard Shaw

"The marble not yet carved can hold the form of every thought the greatest artist has."
- Michelangelo

"A mediocre idea that generates enthusiasm will go further than a great idea that inspires no one."
- Mary Kay Ash

"If you can dream it, you can do it."
- Walt Disney

"The place to improve the world is first in one's own heart and head and hands."
- Robert M. Pirsig

[Toine Fennis, 2001]

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