Computer Supported Intentional Learning Environment

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  • CSILE is name of a research project, an educational computer environment and a generic kind of educational technology. It can be associated with instructional design model that we discuss in knowledge-building community model article.
  • “The Computer Supported Intentional Learning Environment (CSILE) is a network system that provides a communal database for student use. It was designed to function as an environment for collaborative learning (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1993). Students create their own nodes (text or graphics) and enter them on the database. Other students access the nodes and make comments, and the system notifies an author when comments have been received. As a result, students obtain practice in refining their own thoughts by reading and commenting upon the responses of others.” ( [1], 14:34, 21 July 2006 (MEST) )


The origins of CSILE (Computer Supported Intentional Learning Environments) are in research on knowledge building, on the nature of expertise, and on the socio-cultural dynamics of innovation. CSILE was designed to (a) make advanced knowledge processes accessible to all participants, including children, (b) foster the creation and continual improvement of public artifacts or community knowledge (Scardamalia, 2002), and (c) provide a community space for carrying out this knowledge building work collaboratives. [....]

The term "knowledge building" (as a definable educational enterprise) originated with CSILE and accompanying scholarly works, and represents an integrated framework for knowledge building pedagogies, practices, and environments (Bereiter, C., 2002; Bereiter and Scardamalia, 1989, 1993; Scardamalia et al, 1989; Scardamalia, 2002). CSILE was first prototyped in a university course in 1983. By 1986 a fully-functioning networked version was in daily use in an elementary school. In 1995 it was re-engineered, with its affordances for knowledge building substantially enhanced, and published as Knowledge Forum ( by Learning in Motion.

(Scardamalia, 2004:1).


Clearly, CSILE was produced with educational reform in mind that can be summarized with three postulates:

  • Intentional learning: Students should actively try to achieve cognitive objectives.
  • Expertise as a process: reinvestment of mental resources that become available as a result of pattern learning and automaticity into increasing levels of complexity.
  • Restructuring schools as knowledge-building communities: The process of expertise is effortful it requires social support. In addition, "second-order environments" like business or research require continuous adaptation and continuously redefine what knowledge is.

The conceptual bases of computer-supported intentional learning environments (CSILE) come from research on intentional learning, process aspects of expertise, and discourse in knowledge-building communities. These bases combine to support the following propositions: Schools need to be restructured as communities in which the construction of knowledge is supported as a collective goal, and the role of educational technology should be to replace classroom discourse patterns with those having more immediate and natural extensions to knowledge-building communities outside school walls. CSILE is described as a means for reframing classroom discourse to support knowledge building in ways extensible to out-of-school knowledge-advancing enterprises. Some of the most fundamental problems are logistic, and it is in solving these logistic problems that we see the greatest potential for educational technology.

(Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1994)

System and software

  • CSILE is a sopisticated forum where learners can post notes on different topics and then comment on each other's notes.
  • It's particular “was its scaffolding feature: built-in structure which guides students to focus on particular knowledge building aspects of their discussions. These scaffolds include prompts that encourage students to clarify problem statements, develop theories, state difficulties in understanding certain issues, tag new information on a topic, and summarize what they have learned. Scaffolds are designed to structure the students' discourse to replicate the work of a scientific research team or a research community.” (Mor 2005).
  • While some copies of CSILE still "float around" it's probably a dead thing. Its successor is knowledge forum and available commercially.



Online texts

  • Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (1994). Computer support for knowledge-building communities. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 3(3), 265-283. HTML
  • Scardamalia, M. (2004). CSILE/Knowledge Forum. In Education and technology: An Encyclopedia (pp. 183-192). Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO. PDF Preprint
  • Mor, Y, J. Tholander & J. Holmberg (2005), Designing for cross-cultural web-based knowledge building. Presented at 10th anniversary Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) conference, 30 May - 4 June 2005, Taipei, Taiwan. Reprint

Further reading

  • Bereiter, C. (2002). Education and mind in the knowledge age. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • Bereiter, C., & Scardamalia, M. (1989). Intentional learning as a goal of instruction. In L. B. Resnick (Ed.), Knowing, learning, and instruction: Essays in honor of Robert Glaser (pp. 361-392). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
  • Bereiter, C., & Scardamalia, M. (1993). Surpassing ourselves: An inquiry into the nature and implications of expertise. Chicago and La Salle, IL: Open Court.
  • Brett, C., & Oliver, H. (Eds.). (1991). CSILE. Computer Supported Intentional Learning Environments. CSILE in the Classroom: An Introduction for Teachers. Toronto: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Centre for Applied Cognitive Science.
  • Scardamalia, M, and Bereiter, Carl. 1996. "Engaging Students in a Knowledge Society." Educational Leadership, 54 no. 3:6-10.
  • Scardamalia, M. & Bereiter, C. (1994). The CSILE project: Trying to bring the classroom into world 3. In K. McGilly, ed., Classroom Lessons: Integrating Cognitive Theory and Classroom Practice (pp. 201-228). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press/Bradford Books.
  • Scardamalia, M. (2002). Collective cognitive responsibility for the advancement of knowledge. In B. Smith (Eds.), Liberal education in a knowledge society (pp. 76-98). Chicago: Open Court.
  • Scardamalia, M. (2003). Knowledge Forum (Advances beyond CSILE). Journal of Distance Education, 17 (Suppl. 3, Learning Technology Innovation in Canada), 23-28.
  • Scardamalia, M. (2004a). CSILE/Knowledge Forum. In Education and technology: An Encyclopedia (pp. 183-192). Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.
  • Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (1983). The development of evaluative, diagnostic, and remedial capabilities in children's composing. In M. Martlew (Ed.), The psychology of written language: Developmental and educational perspectives (pp. 67-95). London: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (in press). Knowledge Building. In Encyclopedia of Education, Second Edition. New York: Macmillan Reference, USA.
  • Scardamalia, M., Bereiter, C., & Lamon, M. (1994). The CSILE project: Trying to bring the classroom into world 3. In K. McGilly (Ed.), Classroom lessons: Integrating cognitive theory & classroom practice. (pp.201-228). MA: MIT Press.
  • Scardamalia, M., Bereiter, C., McLean, R. S., Swallow, J., & Woodruff, E. (1989). Computer supported intentional learning environments. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 5, 51-68.