Is Knowledge Management Relevant?

This week in my course for Creighton University – ILD 831: Technology and Leadership – the students are exploring the concept of knowledge management.  Nancy Dixon had described the three eras of knowledge management back in 2009 as moving from leaders leveraging explicit knowledge, to leaders leveraging experiential knowledge, and finally to leaders leveraging collective knowledge.  I have remixed her graphic some to suggest that we have moved into a fourth ill-defined era:

KM Evolution RevisedHarold Jarche in his post “Loose hierarchies for knowledge management” noted that KM has become contextual, requiring loose hierarchies and strong networks.   This networked concept also surfaces in Weinberger’s (2012) Too Big To Know, which suggested the internet has fundamentally altered how organizations will work and succeed.  According to Weinberger, knowledge in the past was seen as a narrowing pyramid, with those at the top having the most critical knowledge. Yet the web now allows any level of employee to gain information from the vast storehouse of human knowledge, and share that with anyone else at any level of an organization … or outside the organization.  Jay Cross called this “social learning“.


If knowledge is now socially developed, what is the role of leadership in knowledge management…particularly in a world in which, as Clay Shirky suggested, anyone can publish anything…and it is up to us to filter, rather than the previous centuries-old vetting process of filter…then publish?  After all, is not knowledge management a form of filtering?

Thomas Davenport wrote off knowledge management in an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal last year.  He suggested that individuals focused on managing knowledge missed the boat when big data came along.

“Any chance that this idea will come back? I don’t think so. The focus of knowledge-oriented projects has shifted to incorporating it into automated decision systems. The hot technology for managing knowledge is now IBM Corp.’s Watson—very different from the traditional KM model. Big Data and analytics are also much more a focus than KM within organizations. These concepts may be declining a bit in popularity too, but companies are still very focused on making them work.”

The tag line for David Weinberger‘s book is “Rethinking knowledge now that the facts aren’t the facts, experts are everywhere, and the smartest person in the room is the room.”  In this era of machine intelligence and rapidly evolving work structures, we need to rethink knowledge.  Davenport ends his piece suggesting that one should continue to believe in knowledge management, and I agree … but as Weinberger noted, we have to be smart differently.

I am looking forward to hearing what my students make of this evolving concept!


Timesharing Dogs

We had a fruitful faculty brown bag lunch conversation today.  The topic was Building Connections and Communities through the Web.  Ten folks present locally, and since Jeff Nugent was using UStream, another crowd actively joined via the internet.

I used these slides to guide the conversation:

My framing questions revolved around (1) “What is a community?”, (2) “Does building community enhance student learning?’, and (3) “What web tools can now be used to build connections and community?”.  I used three vignettes to illustrate my thoughts on social media and connections.  First, my many connections with Gabriela Grosseck through College 2.0, delicious, Google Reader, our blogs, Slideshare, and Facebook, all of which have informed my own teaching and learning.  Second, the viral reach of Slideshare for one of my presentations from last year.  And finally, a Twitter shoutout by Will Richardson earlier this week and the resultant comments tweeted by others.  These all illustrated connections, but I asked the participants to reflect on how one gets from connections to community (and the image below evolved out of a sketch Jeff made on the back of a notepad):

One participant said that social media to her was like visiting the SPCA.  She could not go in and choose one dog.  All dogs were lovable, all dogs needed to be adopted, and she would leave crying and unfulfilled.  When I suggested that maybe she needed to just rent a dog this week and a different dog next week, she said, that would be like timesharing dogs – an unworkable solution!

The conversation that resulted was rich and nuanced.  It flowed from professional versus personal digital identities, issues of privacy, student misunderstandings on their own digital identity, and time management regarding the tools.  Jeff made an excellent point of differentiating users of social media between broadcasters and instructional.  Broadcasters have to be present in multiple applications and visibly engaged in multiple applications.  Instructional uses suggest more nuanced approaches with clear boundaries.  Bud Deihl illustrated how “conversations” could start in one application and spill over into other applications, such as his networking with his fellow graduate students through LinkedIn.

There was some concern about how we as educators advise our younger students when we are just trying to figure out the – as Michael Wesch calls it – mediascape ourselves.  Conversations like we had today are one way – and commenting via blogs is another.  I would be interested in the thoughts of my readers on how you visualize using the Read/Write web to build connections and community, both professionally for yourself and instructionally for your students.

Of course, one benefit from today’s session was that I did pick up several new “friends” in Facebook!  🙂

ps – One unrelated and yet relevant event today.  I posted the above powerpoint in Slideshare last night so that I could embed it in our wiki and here in this blog.  Overnight, I got an email from Slideshare noting that the editorial team had selected it to be showcased on their Education page.  I also got tweeted by Gabriela saying that she had seen it there,  Another example of connections and community.

Communities and Tools

A week from tomorrow, I am scheduled to lead a Brown Bag lunch session on “Building Community and Connections Through the Web.”

Bud Deihl and I were brainstorming this session (and he earlier also blogged about it).  As we talked, we realized that “community” is very nuanced.  The following slide emerged from our white board doodling:

So that got me wondering.  I belong to many communities.  Some of those communities overlap and others do not.  I use different tools with different communities.  In discussing the tools and their use to build connections, I thought I would tap into my blogging community to see how you would list tools matrixed with communities?  Does one tool suffice?  Do conversations in one tool spill over into other tools?  Are certain tools optimized for certain communities?

Some obvious tools that could be discussed as part of building community and connections include:

  • Twitter
  • Yammer
  • Blogs
  • Delicious / Diigo
  • LinkedIn
  • Google Apps (Reader / Docs / Sites)
  • Ning
  • Wikis
  • Netvibes
  • YouTube
  • Flickr
  • Slideshare
  • Jott

What am I overlooking?  Be interested in your thoughts.

Photo Credit: Dietmar Offenhuber, Judith Donath, MIT Sociable Media Group

Annual Report Reflections

I should be working on my annual report – it is due in a week…but I am reflecting instead on the bigger picture. Last year, I reported on the number of faculty served, the number of consultations conducted, the number of workshops presented, the number of conference presentations conducted…all good stuff and all typical in our line of work.

And I’ll be able to list numbers again this year. I have done workshops, presentations, published an article, consulted, and served a number of faculty.

Yet this year feels different.

Since submitting my annual report last June, I have begun using delicious as a communication and networking tool, placed material on SlideShare and received feedback from people I have never met. shifted from reading blogs to active blogging, and become an active Twitter user. It has been a transformative year for me. For more than a dozen years, I have been enamored with the technology. Now suddenly, I have become enamored with the connections and this network that has accepted me.

This “social” stuff has become a big part of my life and my job…and I am struggling with how to capture that in the bureaucratic necessity of an annual report!

Clay Shirky, in a video presentation, made an interesting statement about the context of his recent book Here Comes Everybody. He said:

“We’ve reached an age…where this stuff is technologically boring enough to be socially interesting.”

He goes on to explain that the technology – whether computer or mobile – has become so ubiquitous as to be taken for granted, and as that tipping point was reached, the social effects began to manifest themselves.


I could cite numbers – I follow and am followed by 138 people in Twitter (or 137 plus the Mars Phoenix lander). I have 45 people in my delicious network. My blog has had 1,900 visits in the past four months. I worked with 10 other faculty in a year-long Faculty Learning Community exploring engaged online learners. But, I am increasingly aware of the people behind those numbers.

I value my colleagues here in our Center – Jeff Nugent and Bud Deihl, who swim in these waters with me.

I value my students, who dive in to these same waters and grow to see the relevance. At a dinner last night, I met up with some of my grad students from last Fall, and the first thing they started talking about was how much they continue to use delicious!

I value some connections made a year ago, such as Eduardo Peirano (Uruguay) and Gabriela Grosseck (Romania) – who opened my eyes to an international perspective…yet a perspective similar in many respects to my local one. Closer to home, I added John Krutsch and Barry Dahl to my networks after meeting them at eLearning 2008, and continue to connect with them almost daily four months later.

I value the encouragement I received from superstars like Will Richardson and Wes Fryer, and up and coming stars like Sue Waters and Michele Martin. These four, along with Jeff and Bud, had more to do with my sustaining my blogging now for six months.

I value recent connections such as Ken Allan (a New Zealander who I met through the 31 Day Challenge) and Jon Becker, a fellow VCU faculty who also blogs and Twitters (and his blog is one of the best designed I have seen).

There are dozens of others I could name and I would still leave some out. Suffice it to say that the effects flowing from all of these varied social connections definitely manifest themselves daily in my life and work, and I think I am better for it – I know I am different because of it.

Am I making a mountain out of a virtual molehill, or is transformation occurring to others besides me? I would be interested in your thoughts and comments.

The Impact of Social Media


I passed a milestone today, in that I tweeted my one-thousandth tweet in Twitter. As I thought about that fact, it reminded me that last Friday, I saw a blog post from Karyn Romeis, who said she was exploring the impact of the use of social media on the professional practice of learning professionals for her dissertation. She wanted to know educators’ stories, and in particular:

  • How did you get started with social media?
  • What was your introduction, and how did the journey unfold?
  • What difference has it made in your professional practice?

A milestone day is a good day to tell my story.

If I had to entitle the last year of my life, it would be the year of social media. In January of 2007, I was teaching online, but I was not using any of the social media tools that I now take for granted. I had just recently joined the Center for Teaching Excellence here at VCU. Part of what helped my journey unfold was the job transition. I am not sure I would have been able to adopt these tools to the degree that I had if I had remained an administrator and faculty at my former college. I would have been using the same “no time” excuses I routinely hear from faculty. So part of how I got started was simply by moving in to a new position that gave me the freedom to explore Web 2.0 as part of my job description.

Social MediaThe second factor that helped my journey get started and unfold is that I was not doing it alone. My colleagues here at the Center, Jeff Nugent and Bud Deihl, cajoled me, prodded me, (or “poked”in Facebook terms), and certainly mutually supported me as I began my journey. It is easier to use “we” rather than “I” in discussing “our” journey. The first one that stuck was social bookmarking and We also were trying out some of the new Ning social networking sites such as Classroom 2.0 and College 2.0. Through these connections, we began to build a network of colleagues worldwide. We began to use RSS feeds to aggregate feeds from various blogs, Ning sites, and delicious networks…and we would frequently discuss what each of us was seeing and feeling around coffee each Monday morning. As we became increasingly connected with others virtually, we grew to cherish our physical connections here in our office, and so our weekly coffee conversations remain important to us.

For about six months, we were fine at this level but did little to add to the global conversation ourselves. However, Jeff suggested to us that we needed to model blogging ourselves if we were to effectively sell it to our colleagues, so Learning in a Flat World was born (as were techne and Exploratory Learner). Again, it was a mutually supportive effort in shifting from lurker to producer. It was good timing, as Sue Waters was launching her Edublogger blog at about the same time, and her tips and advice helped us craft our blogs and improve our delivery through this spring.

Jeff talked often about Twitter and whether that was something we should also examine. About three months ago, he sent me a short email that basically said – I dare you to start Twittering! He knows me too well! I dove in, built a network (based again on my blog companions and THEIR Twitter followers), and in three short months, have a small but respectable following of over a hundred colleagues leading to my thousandth tweet today.

Karyn importantly asks what difference all this makes to my professional practice. I have found it transformative. I was working with some faculty last week and they noted that one had to be physically present with people to form any type of relationship. I strongly disagreed and noted that I had friends in Australia, Uruguay and Romania that I have never met and may never meet – yet I consider them friends. I share laughs with Sue Waters (Australia) and know that her husband is fishing-challenged (something we share). I also admire how she effectively uses technology for adult education. Gabriela Grosseck (Romania) helped me set up my classroom use of I have seen the passion with which Wes Fryer (Oklahoma), Michele Martin (Pennsylvania), Jeff Utecht (Shanghai), or Vicki Davis (Georgia) attack global problems and have added my voice to theirs. In a sense, the impact lies in the fact that I now see myself not as a player on one campus but a player on a flat world – contributing to the scholarship of teaching and learning on a scale I would not have conceptualized several years ago.


Two years ago, I would have had a hard time conceptualizing that I would connect with and interact with hundreds on a daily basis, yet I now find delicious, blogging, Twitter, and Ning part of my life. These connections have added a richness to my professional life that makes the “before” life seem dull and single-dimensional. The challenge is to remember that the vast majority of faculty have not (yet) discovered this transformation, and so to work towards facilitating their journey.

How has your experience differed (or not) from mine? Let me (and more importantly – Karyn) know.

[Photo Credit: janusz]

The Facets of Social Networks

David Warlick was live blogging in David Gratton’s session, where he drew an interesting picture from Gene Smith of the features of social networks. David said:


“The Internet has been about community all along, Usenet, forums, chat rooms, geocities Home page and webring and e-mail. To say that things have changed is wrong. What’s changed is that the barriers are gone. What’s changed is the syndication process — RSS.”

Interestingly, I had just commented to Jon Becker in his blog post about “How To Digitally Supplement a PLC” that the key was using the power of RSS to bring the conversation to the faculty.

David went on to note that social networks are all different. Using Gene Smith’s diagram, they are all about:

SN Facets

  • Identity,
  • Presence,
  • Relationships,
  • Conversations,
  • Groups,
  • Reputation, and
  • Sharing

I like this breakdown and am adding to David’s comments. Linkedin and Plaxo are all about identity. Wither and Bebo are about presence. Relationships are in many of the tools and conversations such as MySpace, Facebook, and Ning. Twitter is entirely about conversations (and can be addictive!). Groups are a major part of Flickr, Ning, Facebook and Basecamp. Reputation comes out of forums and followings – the number of posts, replies and ranking. Delicious and Diigo are built on sharing.

David asked how this might apply to education. He noted that students and teachers can ask questions and give directions, with other students and teachers responding. The whole thing turns into content, driving discussion which builds more content.

To me, the key lies in the learning outcomes. If one goes back to Chickering and Gamson’s Seven Principles of Good Practice, one sees connections between the seven principles and Smith’s building blocks:

Good practice in undergraduate education:

1. Encourages student-faculty contact.

– Tools that encourage relationships and communication work here, including Twitter, Facebook, and even learning management systems such as Blackboard or Desire2Learn. The key is the two-way routine contact.

2. Encourages cooperation among students.

– Groups and sharing help in the collaborative efforts needed for cooperation. Setting up a Ning site can be a useful way to not only build cooperation within a class, but with the global community as well.

3. Encourages active learning.

– The Read-Write web is not a passive environment. As students and teachers learn together through exploration of the web resources, they build knowledge and capacity to effectively compete in global markets.

4. Gives prompt feedback.

– The Read-Write web not only offers 24/7 connectivity, but fosters peer-review and formative assessment. Through the relationships build online, trust is developed and students learn to analyze and critique their own work and that of their peers, driving quality up.

5. Emphasizes time on task.

– The good news (and the bad) is that these technologies and processes expand the time for student work beyond the simple dictates of the course catalog. One of the challenges might become helping students find balance in this always on world, as Jeff Nugent noted last night.

6. Communicates high expectations.

– Through identity, presence, and reputation, faculty can model expected behavior and drive expectations. I have always found that students rise to the expectations set no matter how high, and the new social media gives students the tools to achieve those high expectations.

7. Respects diverse talents and ways of learning.

– One of the positive aspects of social media is the exposure students receive to other cultures and other ways of thinking. This in turn can help drive their creativity and desire to explore new avenues outside the rigid curricula in place in most schools.

Much of the literature seems to paint social media with the same broad brush. David Warlick, David Gratton, and Gene Smith are helping me see the many facets that make up social media, and the multiple opportunities these open for students.

Twitter Balance


I have to admit that I am still trying to find balance in my life with my Web 2.0 processes. Having embraced social bookmarking, social networking, Google applications and RSS feeds, it seemed a good time to jump in to the Twitter pool. So I did…following 29 colleagues who I respect and being followed myself by 16 of them (thanks!). You can find me here.

But…as I am sure others have found, Twitter can be a real time-sucker! Even with a relatively small group to follow, I am seeing fascinating sides to their lives…and feeling compelled to tweet myself. Of course, my buddy, colleague and “real Deihl” Bud Deihl chose this week to dive in himself…and we have been reinforcing each other all week. Eduardo Peirano recommended MadTwitter so that I could have a feed automatically refreshed, but error messsages began appearing after one day, so I switched to Twhirl, which seems to work fine.

My challenge is to find the balance so that Twitter adds value to my work and practice without tying me up from completing my work and practice! There are several good blog suggestions out there…and I am learning. Any suggestions from you readers would be greatly appreciated!!!

Twitter Poster by catepol

[Photo Credits: gilest and catepol]

Is Education In Sync?

ReflectionThanks to my background in quality, I try to stay current with some of the business blogs in addition to education blogs. One that I like is Guy Kawasaki’s blog, so when he suggested businesses look at Penelope Trunk’s advice, that is worth checking out.

Penelope was advising businesses on the best ways to hire in this flat world. Guy summarized as follows:

  • Tell people where they’ll go next. No one works at one company forever, so if you can show how a candidate can get ready for a career leap, you’ll make your company attractive.
    • {It seems that we in education are still locked in the industrial-age model of preparing students for a single career…when all the evidence suggests our students will have multiple careers through their working life. Are we developing a nimble, agile workforce or are we just focused on our three-credit course?}
  • Use your public relations team to prop up the manager. By this Penelope means that you should advertise that the job reports to a cool/great/influential manager. (Hopefully, this is true.)
  • Get some respect for speciality recruiters. Good employees develop loyalty to recruiters. These recruiters place the same candidate in ever better jobs. Ergo, make nice with recruiters.
    • {Are program directors LinkedIn with the top recruiters for their fields and guiding students to network with these people?}
  • Advertise in niche communities. Here’s an example: Want to catch women as they return to the workplace after child raising? Duh, advertise in mommy blogs via Blogher.
    • {Both Guy and Penelope suggest that businesses should be using the social networking tools that students use. Should not faculty also? Should not faculty model blogging, help students craft their voice, and network with those in their discipline that can help their students?}
  • Leverage social media. There’s no doubt in my mind, for example, that you can recruit using Twitter. You can do a lot with 140 characters if you know what you’re doing. If you want a quick introduction to the best of Twitter, click here. Just being on social media sites says something about your company.
    • {Just being on social media says something about your course as well.}

There have been several notable edtech bloggers this past month lamenting about the slow pace of faculty adoption of Web 2.0 tools. One lesson from these business blogs (good or bad) is that many businesses lag in their adoption as well. However, education can not stand on its laurels. Tom Peters pointed out something interesting his book Re-Imagine! (2003)

Peters looked at the companies listed in Forbes 100 in 1917. Seventy years later, 61 gone; and of the 39 left, only 18 still ranked among the top 100. Of those 18, 16 underperformed the stock market by 20%. After seventy years, only 2 companies outperformed the market– and one of those was Kodak – now on its way out. GE was the sole winner.

Likewise, he examined the Standard and Poor’s 500 list for 1957. Forty years later, only 74 of the 500 listed were still alive; and of the 74, only 12 (or 2.4%) outperformed the market.

Networked World

The reason Penelope’s and Guy’s advise resonates with me is that they are looking forward, not basing their business (or education) by looking at what worked in the past. As Peters demonstrated, superior performance in the past is not a hallmark towards future performance. The flat world requires new skills. Sharp entrepreneurs are using those skills and seeking a workforce that is likewise trained (and likewise agile). We as faculty must prepare our students for this wired world…and that means adoption of these skills ourselves.

Passion-Based Learning

The January/February issue of Educause Review contains a wonderful article by John Seely Brown and Richard Adler entitled, “Minds on Fire: Open Education, The Long Tail, and Learning 2.0.” The article points out that in this flat world we find ourselves in, a well-educated workforce is needed with requisite competitive (read digital and social here) skills. In fact, this skill set is continually evolving and changing.

The authors focus in on social aspects of learning:

The most profound impact of the Internet, an impact that has yet to be fully realized, is its ability to support and expand the various aspects of social learning. What do we mean by “social learning”? Perhaps the simplest way to explain this concept is to note that social learning is based on the premise that our understanding of content is socially constructed through conversations about that content and through grounded interactions, especially with others, around problems or actions. The focus is not so much on what we are learning but on how we are learning.

They then go on to discuss the dual aspects of learning – “learning about” versus “learning to be” – a full participant in the field. The new online tools give students the opportunity to experience a craft while learning about it, adding a richness to the experience.

Learning to be

This ties in directly with the recent work on PLEs – personal learning environments. The authors note that a great deal of informal learning is taking place both on and off campus through these online social networks. Their example from David Wiley’s Utah State University course where students were required to share their course work through blogs really caught my eye:

Because my goal as a teacher is to bring my students into full legitimate participation in the community of instructional technologists as quickly as possible, all student writing was done on public blogs. The writing students did in the first few weeks was interesting but average. In the fourth week, however, I posted a list of links to all the student blogs and mentioned the list on my own blog. I also encouraged the students to start reading one another’s writing. The difference in the writing that next week was startling. Each student wrote significantly more than they had previously. Each piece was more thoughtful. Students commented on each other’s writing and interlinked their pieces to show related or contradicting thoughts. Then one of the student assignments was commented on and linked to from a very prominent blogger. Many people read the student blogs and subscribed to some of them. When these outside comments showed up, indicating that the students really were plugging into the international community’s discourse, the quality of the writing improved again. The power of peer review had been brought to bear on the assignments.”

Leveraging these social tools into our instruction not only increases student facility with the skills they will need in the workplace, but increases the likelihood of the learning shifting from must-do learning to passion-based learning.  It becomes learning undertaken because the student WANTS to learn and be a participating and contributing member of a community.

One of my mentors once told me that the key to staying positive was to replace the word “Have” with the word “Get” in this context:

I have to write a paper (yuck!)

I get to write a paper (Oh, Boy!!!)

I would suggest that giving students their voice and respecting that voice within the Web 2.0 environment potentially moves assignments from “have to” to “get to”…and adds passion to learning.

Be interested in your thoughts!

Social Tools and Learning

There were several related and yet independent posts last week on some of the blogs I follow that were worthy of reflection. The first was by danah boyd (she likes lower case letters…) who responded to the THE ECONOMIST’s call for discussion on whether social networking would impact education or not. Her comment was:

“I have yet to hear a compelling argument for why social network sites (or networking ones) should be used in the classroom. Those tools are primarily about socializing, with media and information sharing there to prop up the socialization process (much status is gained from knowing about the cool new thing). I haven’t even heard of a good reason why social network site features should be used in the classroom. What is the value of knowing who is friends with who or creating a profile when you already know all of your classmates?”

Wow – that actually elicited a
response from me, as you can see if you check out the comments…and a response from her that she was focusing on K-12 rather than higher education. But it certainly got me (and many others) thinking about the tools versus the learning environment, and how online tools enhance or detract from learning.

The second post that caught my eye last week was from Michele Martin, who discussed the Social Media Spiral of online tools:

Social Media Helix

Her spiral to me really suggests that adoption of creative tools lags way behind passive observation of online activities. I wonder if that is true of our digital students? It appears to me that many youngsters today adopt online tools that allow them to express their creativity…and those same tools are either blocked or discounted by education as a whole. My question to all of us – how do we move ourselves into their world (…or should we?)?