The Case for Democratizing Links in Education

The Bridgit Chrome browser extension enables users to organize, share, and ultimately monetize their research. The Bridgit extension enables browser users to create bridges that connect ideas on web pages (represented by content snippets) as an alternative to the link (or hyperlink), which simply connects a piece of text or an image unidirectionally to another page.

Links are centralized in that only the page author can create links from a webpage they authored. The content provider controls the linking, as the link is embedded in the html content they provide. (Culham, 2002) The content provider specifies where on the page the link is active and to what page it links. The user can follow the hyperlink by clicking on the active area but they cannot create links on the pages they are visiting.

As a result, today’s Internet of pages is sparsely-connected with few outbound links. Commercial sites want to keep users on their site to continue serving ads and extracting data.

Beyond the lack of context, today’s web pages are not well suited for trust or non-linear reading not only because of the paucity of outbound links on commercial sites, but also the nature of the links themselves. Commercial web pages avoid outbound links in favor of internal links that connect to pages on the same site. Outbound links that do exist may be self-serving such as affiliate and pay for placement links.

The advent of bridges augments the Internet so that any Internet user can connect information on an idea-to-idea basis that aggregates into an Internet of ideas, thereby creating the possibility of 360° context for any idea on the Internet.

A bridge is a bi-directional, co-locatable conceptual link between ideas (i.e., content snippets) with a semantic relationship. Primary relationships including supports, contradicts, and cites. Users will be able to specify additional relationships. Such a co-locatable link was first introduced in a 2002 patent for a method of linking web pages with supplementary links from the content on a primary web page (Culham, 2002).

A more democratized Internet will result in greater transparency, less piracy, less false news, and more robust knowledge and sensemaking and will therefore create tremendous value once network effects have been achieved for people and content.

Today’s investors, however, are generally not interested in financing systemic change. To bring this possibility to reality, there needs to be an initial market that benefits from the process of making bridges. Our hypothesis is that learners can benefit from building bridges themselves and having access to bridges related to their classwork.

This paper evaluates the importance and educational benefits of connecting information on web pages with bridges.

Connecting Information for Learning, Education, and Sense-Making

Sensemaking is the procedure by which people give meaning to their collaborative experiences. In this regard, it is the process of building an explanation to resolve a perceived gap or conflict in knowledge (Odden & Russ, 2019). Sensemaking is an essential task in any learning activity because it promotes deep learning and allows students to create connections between perceived knowledge and new information, thus increasing their interest in the subject matter under study. Sensemaking requires deep understanding in a dynamically changing world to illuminate change. In education, making a connection between ideas is essential in that it helps the learner understand how ideas are related to each other and how the physical world works. Therefore, in making conceptions, learners can identify the similarities, differences, and relationships between ideas and concepts. Connections in information help learners create relevance and a sense of fulfillment for themselves (National Research Council, 2000). Connections of various ideas within a specific context pave the way for critical thinking and evaluation.

Figure 1. Bloom’s Taxonomy (Jessica Shabatura, U of A TIPS)

As shown in Figure 1, Bloom’s Taxonomy classifies the different objectives and skills that educators set for their students into learning levels. According to Bloom’s Taxonomy, connections between information can help students at each learning level (Forehand, 2010). At the lowest level of learning, learners are required to recall basic facts and concepts. The process of connecting information on web pages helps learners remember the details of specific facts and furthermore the bridges as artifacts provide effortless memory and retrieval. To understand information, learners need to be able to explain ideas and concepts. Building bridges enables the users to create knowledge artifacts that concretize aspects of their understanding and support their ability to explain their thought process. A constellation of existing bridges can support the learner’s understanding. Connected information supports the learner’s ability to apply the information to new situations. A key aspect of the Analysis learning level is to draw connections among ideas, which is exactly what bridges do. A relevant constellation of supporting and contradicting bridges can support the learner’s ability to judge the value of information or ideas. Fully understanding the relevant information ecology provides the learner with a powerful foundation for the highest level of learning, which is creating knowledge and producing an original piece of work.

In relation to the Bridgit concept of connecting ideas to ideas within web pages, learners navigating through the Internet will have more significant connections and a more immersive experience with ideas, thus concretizing their knowledge, promoting sensemaking and education. Since multiple bridges can be connected to one idea, additional information can be added, thus incorporating more research. This enables relevant supplementary information to be related to content on any web page so that any webpage can potentially have thousands of supplementary links (Culham, 2002).

Context for Learning, Education, and Sense-Making

Learning context refers to the setting of an event or idea in which it can be fully understood. An online idea’s learning context is the supporting and contradictory web content. This requires concrete formation and connection of ideas that aggregate into a web-like structure of ideas that create a knowledgeable piece of information (Arnoldi, 2007).

Democratizing web links makes web content more valuable because subsequent ideas build upon the evolving base of relevant supporting and contradictory evidence. In the educational context, learners will gather more information because ideas will be based on more concrete knowledge bound together by outbound links to diverse outside sources. Integrating information, just like having an integrated curriculum for students, allows them to express their eagerness, interest, and approval regarding a particular piece of information (Whyte et al., 2013).

Bridgit.io aims to create a platform where its users can easily share and organize information they can find online. Since democratizing links promotes connecting ideas on web pages, the online learning context will be improved one bridge at a time. Learners will easily integrate different ideas, have access to limited information, and share and exchange ideas with other learners. The ever-evolving online learning context facilitates sensemaking, enabling learners to explore the meaning of a certain piece of information by reviewing the 360° context of an idea and crossing bridges to related ideas. Bridgit improves the quality of learning context for researchers by providing a larger pool of information, connected for easy access.

Visible Thinking

Tishman & Palmer (2005) define visible thinking as “any kind of observable representation that documents and supports the development of an individual’s or group’s ongoing thoughts, questions, reasons, and reflections.” Making a learner’s thinking visible requires an organization structure that prompts active processing and enables the learner to create knowledge artifacts that reflect their thoughts. Visual thinking requires participants to be aware of their own thoughts and thought processes and gives them a window into the thoughts of others. Visual thinking in instruction and learning helps students use the thinking skills they have already developed outside the classroom to deepen their understanding of how they think. In building bridges between ideas, Bridgit users can — for a single idea — present diverse sources, supporting ideas and evidence, similar ideas, and different perspectives. Since visible thinking promotes a research-based approach to learning, creating bridges on the internet pages will help learners and researchers improve their research skills by integrating their knowledge with easily accessible interconnected ideas. In education, visual thinking is used to encourage students to use their skills in critical analysis and integration of information. Building bridges that aggregate into a visual web or lattice of knowledge will enhance visual thinking.

Visual thinking also gives the teacher more insight into the student’s thought and learning process so that can help assess and steer the student.

Bridging democratizes linking giving everybody the capability to express and access ideas through the relevant web of connected ideas . Bridges provide unlimited linking to and from a piece of web content, unlike hyperlinks, which cannot co-locate and unidirectionally link to a page. Thus, navigating through bridges promotes visual thinking because the researcher’s thoughts and ideas will easily connect and navigate through bridges.

References

Arnoldi, J. (2007). Informational ideas. Thesis Eleven, 89(1), 58–73.

Culham, E. (2002). U.S. Patent Application №09/988,689. 1–5

Forehand, M. (2010). Bloom’s taxonomy. Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology, 41(4), 47–56.

Odden, T. O. B., & Russ, R. S. (2019). Defining sensemaking: Bringing clarity to a fragmented theoretical construct. Science Education, 103(1), 187–205.

Tishman, S., & Palmer, P. (2005). Visible thinking. Leadership compass, 2(4), 1–3.

Whyte, B., Fraser, D., & Aitken, V. (2013). Connecting Curriculum, Linking Learning. New Zealand Council for Educational Research. PO Box 3237, Wellington 6140 New Zealand, 118–221

National Research Council. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school: Expanded edition. National Academies Press. 51–78

Connecting the World with Context. Bridgit is a web overlay that advances the way the world exchanges information on the web. Try our Chrome extension today!

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