Contrails of Learning: Using New Technologies for Vertical Knowledge-building

Chris M. Anson, Susan K. Miller-Cochran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Higher education is still dominated by objectivist models of learning involving experts who convey information to novices. Educational research has shown that this model is less effective than more active, constructivist approaches that help learners to build new knowledge on existing knowledge. Although to a lesser extent, the objectivist model is perpetuated in graduate education, a context where students are, ironically, assumed to be working alongside their mentors and becoming part of the culture of research in their fields. Using a recent report issued by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, The Responsive Ph.D.: Innovations in Doctoral Education (2005), we argue that emerging technologies can help to create constructivist learning environments that challenge students to participate more actively in their own education. As illustration, we consider a graduate seminar on educational technologies that uses a wiki not only to engage students in knowledge-building but to link subsequent sections of the course into an ongoing, purposeful activity that functions both within and beyond the classroom. We explore some of the challenges we faced in getting students to take control of the wiki and overcome their existing assumptions about power and authority in graduate education.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)38-48
Number of pages11
JournalComputers and Composition
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Active learning
  • Adventurous scholarship
  • Constructivism
  • Graduate education
  • The Responsive Ph.D.
  • Wiki

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Computer Science
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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