Knowledge in science is a socially constructed phenomena. As Driver et. Al (1994) note, the language of science is not that of observing natural phenomena, but it is instead the language of the constructions which we use to explain it. There is no equation of force sitting out there in nature. It is a construction based on our observations of our environment. More over, it has been negotiated by generations of scientist into the form of F=MA that we see today.
We must acknowledge that such complex social constructions are not available in the environment for our students to simply access. We can lead them to the data that generated them, and they may recognize patterns within it, but the specific language of science must be learned through a process of cognitive apprenticeship and enculturation into the values and language of the discipline. As science educators, we can begin this process by modelling the believes, language, and processes of the scientific community for our students.
Within networked communities, participants engage in the ongoing construction of knowledge and meaning within a discipline. These communities are often a combination of students, amateur enthusiasts, and professionals. Each group can meaningfully contribute to the ongoing dialogue of the field. Students pose questions and may link ideas to novel metaphors and models. Amateur enthusiasts may find novel processes that reduce cost and barriers to entry. Professional have a wealth of knowledge and experience to share but might also be able to crowd source data and ideas to advance a given field.
To illustrate the above, let’s consider the Scratch programming environment. In this free, web-based, programming environment any of the above categories of participants are able to create programs with relative easy by using a drag and drop interface. Projects are readily shared throughout the community and Scratch enables commenting on, favouriting, and remixing of projects. The coding of each project is readily viewable by all participants and often provides scaffolding for more novice programmers to use to create their own projects. Complex projects may be designed by expert programmers but can be explored by novices. Forums allow novices to seek advice or for groups to collaborate together on a single project.
Driver, R., Asoko, H., Leach, J., Scott, P., & Mortimer, E. (1994). Constructing scientific knowledge in the classroom. Educational researcher, 23(7), 5-12.