Shared knowledge, personal knowledge: not a one-way flow

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Just a quick post today – to pass on a story that is likely to appeal to students. When we discuss personal knowledge and shared knowledge in class, the flow of knowledge may seem to students to be very much in one direction. As they learn immense amounts as IB students, the floodgates are wide open and at times they can feel swamped by a one-way river from knowledge established and shared by others to be assimilated into their own personal learning. When the role of a single individual is usually so small in the shared creation of knowledge, how can they see their own place in it? One way to encourage students as they look for their own place might be to use examples of people who contribute on small scales or in unexpected ways – and so much the better if the person who adds something significant to the shared flow is also a teenager.

Dutch teenager Thomas Van Linge uses social media tools available to anyone and, from his home, has created maps that show what particular fighting groups control parts of Syria, Iraq, and Libya. He aims to inform journalists of which regions are dangerous and to raise awareness of the impact on lives of bomb attacks that are ignored by international media. His maps, which he has shared on social media, have contributed to publicly shared knowledge of the conflict. He provides an excellent example of the back-and-forth flow of shared and personal knowledge – an example that might resonate with many students.

He is reported as saying, regarding his colouring of the maps, “I’m not very sophisticated with computers.”

Story: Lucy Westcott, “The High School Student Who Maps ISIS’s Lightning-Quick Advance”, Newsweek. June 13, 2015.