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Conceptual knowledge bases


There is a constantly growing pressure from students (from elementary school to master degrees),  technicians, specialists, so many people with different educational goals, formal or informal, knowledge workers, for tools and methods that enable them to overcome their educational shortcomings or simply to expand their knowledge, to extend their cognitive capacities and abilities, in conventional learning or distance learning, lifelong learning and organizational learning as well. 

Improving the quality of personal and organizational learning is a world wide generalized necessity, not only for less developed countries.

 
The most fertile challenge for developed countries consists not only in making learning constantly more efficient, reducing times and creating better structured and better composed curricula, (valorizing the -non indifferent- investment that represents an educational system, public or private) but also to have, at the end, people able to autonomously organize their own learning, with minimum external effort, capable of successful interaction with knowledge and information.
A determinant factor in this trend is the accelerated constant growth of the quantity of matter to learn in conventional educational cycles and business activities and procedures.

The book, in modern learning, because of its conception (still near in its sequential and illustrative structure to medieval manuscripts, not to say papyrus) doesn't seem to be adequate enough for being the main vector for the information to be presented to students, due to its ineluctable sequentiality.

Besides, after some years of closed multimedia the situation hasn't changed too much, notwithstanding the success of  hypermedia / multimedia in changing teachers approach and the students attitude toward new information technologies.

The concept of Conceptual knowledge bases (C.K.B.)

A lot has been said  for many years about knowledge bases; since the very appearance of the concept (or term) many definitions have been given

The known production of knowledge bases goes from simple data bases, organized in  processors of any kind, relational or more evolved models and declarative languages.

The corresponding definitions range from the more elementary to the more specialized or complex, but always applied to an experimental reduced area, or for specific problem solving, what pushes away from the  idea itself of daily use or  from elementary generic solutions, those that solve problems in social scale.

All  known solutions share a common feature: the information / knowledge there contained "constitutes a truth" in a given moment, a point of certain reference, a source of valid and profitable knowledge and information, sometimes defined, sometimes demonstrated. 

 Another essential feature, as in many computer systems, that doesn't  suit its goals, is functional completeness and a simple cognitive interface, that can be used as an "interactive window" between a large social group and knowledge.

The students, it doesn't matter at what level, to reach a deeper insight in learning, to learn, need instruments that render them active and enable them to augment their reflection abilities, to develop critical thinking abilities, to integrate new knowledge, to become themselves responsible agents of their own learning.

A solution that seems very promising is the one that comprises the main features of concept maps, multimedia, and deep interaction: conceptual knowledge bases.

To describe the method with some precision, we must at first detrivialize concept maps, or better use semantic networks:

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keeping their knowledge representation power, the property of incidence in the observer's optical perception (almost photographical).

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creating precise and univocal description of concepts.

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enhancing the conceptual structure with relevant documents: texts, images, animations and multimedia, and Internet linking, as necessary.

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observing rules that hinder ambiguity in their construction.

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extending their interaction power, to augment students activity, rendering them not just observers, but active subjects that build their own knowledge, searching and analyzing, in the form and in the structure and also in contents.

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considering maps not as mere arbitrary designs, in which even irregular logic is allowed, but as categorized concept groups, in a way of raising perception acuteness, keenness of  mind, and to accelerate interaction and visual recognition.

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Associating data tables to map nodes (concepts/ideas) to perform calculations and for searching on numeric data, logical type data and dates.

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Connecting external data bases to the map.

When accessing a C.K.B. the student or analyst approaches in first instance a conceptual interface, that:

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evidences the more important concepts and maybe those of secondary importance, with a clear and direct representation of what is "important" and what is secondary or complementary.

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evidences relations among concepts, that are never unidirectional.

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stimulates him to analyze the analytical network that constitutes the conceptual nucleus of a topic, in order to infer even non explicit, sometimes transitive, but always important relations... he reasons, besides "snapping" the scheme, without which building our knowledge is impossible.

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enables him to connect to precedent experience.

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enables him, moreover, to "see" new relations and to create new relations considered relevant to personal learning, to transform the original platform in his own personal learning/development platform, easing memorization (a must, anyway) of relations among more important concepts.

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encourages to reach a deeper insight in concepts beyond relations, strengthening understanding with texts, images, video, audio, that directly influence the creation of meaningful knowledge, an audiovisual explanation of facts, procedures, evolutions, reference to huge or important information and knowledge references, directly linked to concepts.

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the text becomes a complementary discursive illustration, collateral, (important, but not fundamental).

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enables semantic searching (through relations among concepts), expressing conceptual structure through questions and answers.

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enables searching on numeric, logical and data type fields and do calculations in projects, activities and procedures, satisfying cognitive needs in business activities.

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enables text searching in the descriptive texts of concepts, deepening and recognizing secondary concepts, acquiring, together with conceptual knowledge, holistic knowledge.

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encourages to adapt the "map aspect" to his own conception, to his personal cognitive needs.

 

 
Advantages of using Conceptual Knowledge Bases.
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The main access interface is presented in the human memory format: the access vector to human cognitive structure is precisely a cognitive structure. Knowledge is integrated in a way very close to that of the human mind.

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C.K.B. are very easy to use, with a simple and direct visual interface.

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The student contributes actively in the creation of his own knowledge base, favoring a deeper understanding of the topic and reinforcing background knowledge.

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The interface directly presents a set of options useful in reasoning and for the extraction of meaning.

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Its use displaces the equilibrium and learning responsibility toward the student himself, improving the quality of learning and releasing teacher's efforts, time, energy and abilities to more useful and necessary tasks of the educational activity.

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C.K.B. are easy to develop, their cost is very low; can be built in groups and successively derivate other versions.

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C.K.B. can be easily e-mailed, distributed in CD-ROM, published in the Internet, etc., which enables a very dynamic communication among study groups, faculties and schools/colleges and students.

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Constitutes a reliable resource for preparation to examinations, to attain student "test readiness".

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Stimulates information searching, an indispensable ability in the knowledge and information Era.

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Their use stimulates critical thinking abilities.

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Enables interaction with different kinds of knowledge:

  • declarative (factual knowledge about items)

  • procedural (about how to perform a task)

  • static (knowledge which does not change) 

  • dynamic (which changes or grows rapidly)

  • superficial (abstracted knowledge as one would typically "take for granted")

  • deep (built vertically upon basic first principles of understanding)

  • about facts, events, procedures, projects and many other organizational topics.

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Every C.K.B. is a proven truth, an objective reference point about the knowledge it contains.

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It is a basis for autonomous study, an indispensable ability for distance learning and lifelong learning.

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C.K.B. contain data of experience, propositions and validated models, besides metainformation and metaknowledge.

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Collaborative learning with C.K.B. expands and puts  individual understanding to the test.

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Recognizes knowledge identity also as perceptions, conceptions and  individual models.

 

And everything with absolute simplicity and without the need of specific computer experience.

 

 
 
The subject knowledge bases and data bases is treated with more depth in the online course knowledge management in organizations


Preparing a conceptual knowledge base is an excellent technical and pedagogical exercise for teachers. If we agree to accept the preeminence of
C.K.B. over the book and closed multimedia in a learning environment, the creation of a C.K.B. deserves a record in the teacher's curriculum.

 
   
 

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