A culture of inquiry and evidence to unlock critical thinking and creativity based on an exchange of ideas and research around common themes and phenomenon learning.
 Improving learning outcomes through education technology and innovative assessment methods that support and inform instruction, provide accurate information
about what students know and can do, and measure student achievement to bridge gender and achievement gaps, preparing students for college readiness. 

Bereiter, C. (2002). Education and Mind in the Knowledge Age (Second ed.): Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Bereiter, C., & Scardamalia, M. (2003). Learning to work creatively with knowledge. In E. De Corte, L. Verschaffel, N. Entwistle, & J. van Merriënboer (Eds.), Unravelling basic components and dimensions of powerful learning environments. EARLI Advances in Learning and Instruction Series. Pergamon.

Bereiter, C., Scardamalia, M., Cassells, C., & Hewitt, J. (1997). Postmodernism, knowledge building, and elementary science. Elementary School Journal. (97) 4, 329-340.

Hakkarainen & De Jong, Toward practices of knowledge building. (symposium). Proceedings of the 8th European biennial meeting for research on learning and instruction, (Göteborg, Sweden), 1999.

Chiaratto, Loraine. Natural Curiosity:  Building Children’s Understanding of the World through Environmental Inquiry / A Resource for Teachers. University of Toronto/The Laboratory School at The Dr. Eric Jackman

Institute of Child Study. 

Kai Hakkarainen, A knowledge-practice perspective on technology-mediated learning, International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 2009, 4, 2, 213

Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (1994). Computer support for knowledge-building communities. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 3(3), 265-283. [3]

Scardamalia, M. (2002). Collective cognitive responsibility for the advancement of knowledge. In B. Smith (Ed.), Liberal education in a knowledge society (pp. 67-98). Chicago: Open Court.

Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (2003). Knowledge Building. In J. W. Guthrie (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Education, Second Edition (pp.). New York: Macmillan Reference, USA.

Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (2006) FCL and Knowledge Building: A Continuing Dialogue. PDF. (A nice introduction that opposed "belief mode" and "design mode".

Swan, K., Shea, P., Fredericksen, E., Pickett, A, Pelz, W. & Maher, G. (2000). “Building knowledge building communities: consistency, contact and communication in the virtual classroom.”

Journal of Educational Computing Research, 23(4), 389-413.

Zhang, Jianwei; Marlene Scardamalia, Mary Lamon, Richard Messina and Richard Reeve (2007). Socio-cognitive dynamics of knowledge building in the work of 9- and 10-year-olds, 

ETR&D, 55 (2), 117.145 http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11423-006-9019-0.

Zhang, Jianwei; Huang-Yao Hong, Marlene Scardamalia, Chew Lee Teo, Elizabeth A. Morley, Sustaining Knowledge Building as a Principle-Based Innovation at an Elementary School,

Journal of the Learning Sciences, 2011, 20, 2, 262

Zhang Jianwei; Marlene Scardamalia, Richard Reeve, Richard Messina, Designs for Collective Cognitive Responsibility in Knowledge-Building Communities, Journal of the Learning Sciences, 2009, 18, 1, 7

Bielaczyc, K., Kapur, M. & Collins, A. (2013) Cultivating a community of learners in K-12 classrooms. In C. E. Hmelo-Silver, A. M. O’Donnell, C. Chan, & C. A. Chinn (Eds.), International Handbook of Collaborative

Learning (pp. 233 – 249). Taylor & Francis, Inc. http://www.academia.edu/3207977/Cultivating_a_Community_of_Learners_in_K-12_Classrooms

​​​​​​How does knowledge building support the acquisition

of 21st Century skills?

Knowledge-building learning environments - in the K-12 classroom or

in alternative learning environments - train students ​to become better

information seekers, analysts, problem solvers and communicators

through the use of technology. Knowledge-building pedagogy supports

strategies that cover important academic skills and active learning 

needed for success in the education process, in the workforce and

in life:

​- CRITICAL THINKING.... With knowledge building, students are

given the tools to learn and understand information to experiment with

different outcomes by playing with ideas and formulating theories.

- COLLABORATION....  in a safe, closed learning environment 

supported by knowledge building, collaborative learning takes place

when students can explore a topic with contributions of ideas from

their peers and small group members solving complex problems.

- COMMUNICATION.... The small group learning environments

of knowledge-building learning environments support discourse,

where discussions can also help clear the tense atmosphere in a

classroom, and small group learning contributes to improved classroom

management. Students preparing results of their research utilizing a

range of multi-media tools also acquire a different set of communication

skills that prepare them with audio-visual communication capabilities.

They also acquire self-esteem and confidence with improved speaking

and language capabilities when getting in from of the webcam to

present their findings to their partnered classrooms or simply introducing

themselves to their peers during videoconferencing sessions.
 -  GLOBAL COMPETENCE.... Partnering students with other

students across the globe is also very exciting for knowledge-building

students, allowing a glimpse into other cultures and nurturing empathy

that is so vital for international relations.  ​Young learners require and

want interaction with other people to fully attain their potential. Older

students find it most interesting and exciting where there is talking 

involved. All students can communicate with their peers as global


How does ALTE address the objectives of  world-class

thinking regarding innovation-driven societies for economic


Knowledge-building activity fits within the framework of the Organization

for Economic Co-operation and Development - OECD Innovation Strategy 

for Education and Training project, viewing innovation as a driver of

growth toward better lives. OECD states that innovation will not blossom

unless employees have the skills needed to adapt to changing workplaces,

workers and consumers, the skills to suggest improvements, and creative

minds, scientists, and entrepreneurs, the skills to produce new knowledge

and invent new things. In innovation-driven societies, education and

training systems must empower people to innovate and quickly respond

to new skills needs generated by innovations, Confronting these challenges

will require policies that encourage innovation and improvement in the . 

education system itself, which positions knowledge building to take the

lead. Innovative know-how is also required to deal with increasingly

serious problems (Thomas Homer-Dixon). Peter Drucker states that

innovation is becoming "part and parcel of the ordinary", where knowledge-based innovation is the hardest, but has the greatest potential benefits. These objectives are important to arrest a widening economic and cultural gap between educational haves and have-nots, and we have an opportunity of bringing proven tools that spark creativity toward innovation down to the

K-12 level, beginning with students as young as 12 years of age.

How does ALTE support educators in acquiring and

mastering their technology-based teaching skills?

ALTE leverages Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs)

in unique ways. The model utilizes education technology tooled specifically

for hosting an electronic work-space for students to discuss, synthesize

and analyze information about specific topics in the curriculum. The

platform contains robust tools and applications that support collaborative

exploration and building of knowledge to maximize students’ explanation

and understanding of topics in conjunction with subject-based teaching of

mainstream education. It also provides a lens through which to integrate

ICT into teacher training, especially those aligned with the UNESCO

framework for ICT competencies.  This framework outlines the

competencies that teachers need to integrate ICTs into their professional

practice, emphasizing the role that ICTs can play in supporting major education focus across growth phases of knowledge acquisition. 

​How is testing done in knowledge-building classrooms?
Testing is still controlled and mandated by each state according to standards

established by education policies, so standardized testing is not replaced but

rather enhanced through knowledge building. This is due to several factors:

students engaging in knowledge building are better informed through deep

learning. They understand the material being tested because they have

studied it with critical thinking skills and have gained mastery of the subject

matter. And, they are constantly reading and writing, so tests are not

challenging for them. Java-base applets are embedded in the platform to

give a universal view as well as a student-specific view of contributions to

the electronic workspace and a review of research and multi-media

presentations completed in class.

So parents and students don't have to wait until the course or

school year  is over to get testing results?
Sorry, we can't fix the system and the process for announcing testing results

remain the same. What is different for knowledge-building students is that

assessment of learning takes place throughout the school year. Teachers

can tell which students need help by the universal overview supported by

tools embedded in the Knowledge Forum ​platform, and assessment is done

in real time. This allows formative assessment with course correction on

the fly if needed while being able to adhere to the academic standards and

curriculum guidelines imposed by the state and school districts.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​What is in the knowledge-building curriculum?
Because knowledge building pedagogy supports a culture of inquiry and evidence to unlock critical thinking and

creativity based on an exchange of ideas and researchthere is no set curriculum of pre-determined content. 

Each teacher utilizing the Knowledge Forum to support the research students do around common themes and

contextualized phenomenon learning in small groups is creating a supporting learning for exploring and discovery

through the knowledge-building principles: students access authoritative sources of information through books,

newspapers, and magazines, and takes advantage of readily-available digital content, especially the Internet. 

This allows exposure to a broad range of ideas and models of how things work, be it the mechanics of a machine, 

the tenets of open government climate change or countless other subjects, viewed through a multidisciplinary lens.

The Internet is a good source of updated information that the hard-copy publishing industry for textbooks cannot

compete. With the gaining popularity and growing importance of the Internet of Everything (IoE), more resources

are made available for research from the networked connection of people, data, processes and things.

What subjects and grade-levels are appropriate for knowledge building?

Knowledge-building in K-12 is modeled after scientific research centers, where problem redefinition is based

onsocial process and where everyone in small-group learning benefits from the ideas of others. Scientists,

researchers and businesses working on problem solving improve their theories with the advances of others

and a continual interplay of findings. What makes knowledge building a realistic approach to K-12 education is

the discovery that children as early as primary school can engage in it; knowledge building methodology is 

appropriate for students from middle school through high school. Any subject that can be investigated, explored

or researched is a good subject for a knowledge-building learning environment, leading to "phenomenon

learning, or topic-centric small group discussions. Subject matters can become multi-disciplinary when

incorporating research around various aspects. 

What is contextualized "phenomenon learning" ?

Contextualization, or "phenomenon learning"  centers around common themes, subjects or issues that can be

studied from a multidisciplinary perspective, where collaborative learning strategies focus teaching and learning

squarely on concrete applications in a specific context that is of interest to students and relevant to their lives. Some

examples of phenomenon learning include sea level rising, climactic change, water, sustainability, 'Smart' cities,

communities and schools, and others. Phenomenon learning has formed the basis for education reform in countries

such as Finland and Singapore that have consistently topped the ranking of global  academic achievement assess-

ments such as PISA. Through education technology proven to improve learning outcomes, the learning continues

and expands, as students share the experience with their friends, family and neighbors, and teachers become the

facilitators of learning through critical thinking and creativity rather than the transmitters of pre-determined content.

Learn more at our PHENOMENON LEARNING page. 

What is the significance of the model?  

Learning from a 20+ year success of the BCCI (Building Cultural Capacity for Innovation) Network, a multi-nation

design research project, we have designed an innovative K-12 pathway to address the needs of a knowledge

society with a replicable, scalable and cost-effective model for collaborative contextualized phenomenon learning

around topics through research and an exchange of ideas. The ALTE Learning and Teaching Ecosystem brings

together elements that are well-designed, highly-researched and easily scalable and affordable to support all

students in their learning, with the goals of improving student achievements and outcomes while impacting student

growth. The model also supports the acquisition of information and communication technology competencies

required for effective teaching, and arming students and teachers alike with skills to become global citizens in

knowledge-based and innovation-driven societies. ALTE also fits within several international frameworks for

effective teaching and learning toward improving lives, as noted on our SIGNIFICANCE page.

Tell us more about democratizing knowledge by sharing ideas.

All participants are considered legitimate contributors to shared goals. Therefore, every member of a small group

learning environment must contribute his or her own idea to the discussion. To fully understand an idea is to

understand the ideas that surround it, including those that stand in contrast to it. An environment of diverse ideas

and perspectives enables new and more refined ideas to evolve. This is how knowledge building democratizes

knowledge. The ALTE Learning and Teaching Ecosystem supports a culture of inquiry and evidence to unlock

critical thinking and creativity based on an exchange of ideas and research around common themes and

phenomenon learning. Improving learning outcomes through education technology and innovative assessment

methods to bridge gender and achievement gaps while preparing students for college readiness. 

What tools can STUDENTS use in knowledge building?

Knowledge-building students are able to use information and technology at their fingertips. A knowledge-building

classroom prepares them to interpret the world around them, identify problems that impact their community,

and collaborate with others to find solutions through innovation and creativity based on deep learning. These

activities are facilitated through the use of the Knowledge Forum platform, an electronic workspace accessed

through the Internet or from a server-hosted platform. Here, students are able to apply what they have learned

in one subject area or with a multi-disciplinary approach to another, in the process acquiring invaluable knowledge

and skills. The process of presenting multi-media presentations for videoconferencing with their partnered class-

rooms not only builds skills but also supports ongoing communication with their peers in classrooms across the

street or around the world. 

What tools can TEACHERS use in knowledge building?

​Scaffolds help users frame their ideas and present them to the community. Individual ideas are contributed to a

communal database, where notes are stored on the Knowledge Forum platform, designed specifically to support

high-level knowledge processes; analytic tools can be called up on demand, enabling participants to see at a

glance the discourse and participation patterns, growth in semantic content and other aspects of discourse and

participation. These tools, referred to as applets, are distinguished not only by their flexibility and depth of analysis

but also by their rendering of results automatically in dramatic graphical form to quickly make clear what is

happening in a group’s work. Teachers can tell immediately if all of their students are participating; they can

identify the extent to which students are referencing, reading, and building on each others’ notes. These learning

assessment tools allow teachers to see an increase in vocabulary (both quantity and difficulty level) and amount

of writing done on the path toward subject mastery. Embedded formative assessment tools allow teachers to

course correct in real time.

How does the knowledge-building model deviate from current teaching methodologies?

The computer-supported collaborative learning model supports a sound education setting where teachers are no

long simply transmitters of information in isolated classrooms. In a knowledge-building classroom, students form

small groups to propose theories about the subject matter of their research and discourse takes place among

members of the group, with the teacher serving as moderator, facilitator and coach.

What are the college-readiness goals of the ALTE Global Learning Ecosystem?

The knowledge-building model supports active learning, designed to break the cycle of passive learning and

education that teaches to the test through root learning. Active learning and the previously-mentioned 21st Century

skills are important skills key to being successful in college. ALTE Global Learning Ecosystem helps educators bring

their students to the levels where they must be when applying for post-secondary education paths of learning,

having acquired important skills and knowledge that will allow them to enroll in college courses. It also bridges the

college readiness gap, virtually eliminating the needs for remedial reading and writing courses currently offered by

community colleges. 

Who can benefit from the ALTE Global Learning Ecosystem?
To say society in general will greatly benefit from implementing the ALTe Global Learning Ecosystem in K-12

education is quite a claim. Consider how In everyone can benefit:

- Educators..... teachers, principals, technology staff and teachers aides belong to a Community of Practice

with immeasurable benefits:  networking with their peers, access to resources such as shared curricula and

best-practice case studies, ongoing professional development, and an enhancement of ICT-related skills that

fall in line with UNESCO standards.

​- Students..... the model supports the acquisition of important academic skills for education success and

preparation for entering a global workforce with the skills and capacities employers seek - being able to work in

teams and collaborate for problem solving; ways of thinking including creativity and innovation, critical thinking

and decision making; tools for working, including information literacy and being able to use technology; living in

the worldincluding local and global citizenship, personal and social responsibility, and global competence that

encompasses cultural awareness.

-  Employers.... workers at all levels need to develop digital skills to grow the economy and be successful. Leading,

managing and selling in the digital economy requires collaboration, continual learning, virtual teaming, agility, a

focus on business outcomes, and a commitment and willingness to innovate. 

-  Governments..... modern societies need educated and informed citizens willing to contribute to the governing

​processes and lend themselves toward a civilization-wide effort to advance knowledge frontiers.

What is inquiry-based learning promoted through knowledge building methodologies?

Inquiry-based learning refers to creating learning environments that spark children’s natural curiosity. Knowledge-

building pedagogy creates equitable, inclusive, engaging and active environments that make students’ thinking

visible and transforms classrooms into communities of learners with ideas at the center of the learning experience.

Knowledge-building students in K-12 collect information through the Knowledge Forum, an electronic workspace

that supports discourse and exchanges by making the knowledge acquired collectively, i.e. contributed by each

student, available for current and future use. Ideas the that come from students’ questions and interests provide the

base for inquiry-based teaching, which is about really listening to and valuing what students have to say and where

the teacher serves more as a facilitator of learning rather than a transmitter of pre-determined knowledge. 

Inquiry-based teaching provides opportunities for deeper and more equitable learning experiences for all students,

as knowledge building success comes when all members of the small group learning environment contribute their

ideas to the discourse thereby increasing students’ engagement and participation and breaking away from passive


What is the expected performances from the use of knowledge-building dynamics? 

​​Dr. Jianwei Zhang is a Professor in the Department of Educational Theory and Practice at the University at

Albany, State University of New York. His research explores technology-enabled learning designs to engage

students in sustained, creative knowledge work across content areas and school years in order to prepare

them for 21st century careers.To measure increase in scientific thinking and knowledge gain, Dr. Zhang has

presented the following table of research questions and analysis resulting from knowledge-building inquiry:



Frequently Asked Questions - FAQs

Knowledge building takes its cue from
communities of researchers and industry

professionals who value ideas as conceptual

artifacts that can be improved by means of 
critique and discourse. Training is a critical 

component of the ALTE model, where educators - 

teachers, principals, and technicians - become

proficient in the use of knowledge-building

​technology, methodologies and assessment

tools. They are also partnered with their

colleagues teaching the same age group or

subject matters, especially important in

personalized, "Phonemenon Learning" around

common themes.

Few school activities provide more excitement

for students than being able to communicate

with their peers. When those peers are in 

another location, especially another country,

the excitement grows and global competence

is enhanced. Regularly-scheduled videocon-

ferences between educators - teachers with

teachers, principals with principals, and tech

staff together, improves networking, access to

best practice and resources, and collegial

​ongoing professional development.

Collaborative Learning


Knowledge Building Pedagogy

The future of education is here today! The ALTE Global Learning Ecosystem is effective on several different

levels in supporting collaborative learning. Our approach is computer-supported inquiry and project-based 

learning that builds knowledge, for students and educators as well.

Sign up for a no-obligation demo

​to join the educators and education

leaders around the world who

connect their students for improved

academic achievement and outcomes.

Small group learning in computer-supported

collaborative learning environments utilizing

the Knowledge Forum electronic workspace

promotes critical thinking, innovation,

communication and creativity, rather than

focusing on memorization techniques and

teaching to the test. Embedded formative

assessment tools allow teachers to course

correct in real time, while identifying those

areas where students need additional help

​to become college ready.

How does it all work?

A complete ecosystem for active learning and teaching in 21st Century Education 

Learning and Teaching Re-imagined  *   Future Education Today 

Visit our page on Technology in K-12 education to learn why we are so committed to

promoting the United Nation's Information & Technology Competency Framework for


ALTE - Alternative Learning & Teaching Ecosystem

Visit our Site 

Read about OECD's efforts to redesign schools and  what schooling through innovation

means in practice -  Schooling Redesigned Towards Innovative Learning Systems

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

UNESCO ICT Competency Framework for Teachers