Encouraging Knowmads

I learned an interesting turn of phrase today while reading Steve Wheeler’s new book Digital Learning in Organizations: Help Your Workforce Capitalize on Technology (2019).


I am about a third of the way through this book…and I am enjoying it.  I have followed Steve Wheeler (a.k.a. @Timbuckteeth) for a decade now on both his blog and tweets.  A professor at the University of Plymouth, Steve brings a UK perspective to digital learning that I find refreshing.

One such perspective is that those of us in the learning field should see ourselves not as “teachers” but as “change agents.”  Steve works with corporate learning and development teams, so change agent makes sense…but it also makes sense in the education sector.

Another perspective that surfaced in his book is the idea of knowmads.  Steve used this term originally coined by John Moravec in his 2013 book Knowmad Society.  In this book, Moravec noted:

Knowmads are nomadic knowledge workers: Creative, imaginative, and innovative people who can work with almost anybody, anytime, and anywhere. The jobs associated with 21st century knowledge and innovation workers have become much less specific concerning task and place, but require more value-generative applications of what they know. The office as we know it is gone. Schools and other learning spaces will follow next.”

Now that I am retired, the idea of a nomadic life resonates with me!

Or if one Google’s “digital nomads”…a more idyllic image emerges…

In my courses, I work with educators at Northeastern University and Merrimack College, as well as with doctoral students in an interdisciplinary study of leadership at Creighton University.  Some are classroom teachers, some are school administrators, some are in corporate training, and some are in senior leadership positions.

All are change agents!

And to riff off of another of Steve’s perspectives, all are “prosumers,” where the line between consuming content and creating it blur.  Two of my classes are currently blogging each week, and all three are on Twitter.  Through their blog posts and their tweets, they effectively help each other learn…and I learn from them!

The fact that I do this “work” from Virginia with students scattered coast to coast…and still get to play with my woodworking power tools… suggests that the term “knowmad” fits!

Going back to Moravec’s definition, any of us in education or leadership would want to foster “creative, imaginative, and innovative people who can work with almost anybody, anytime, and anywhere”…which increasingly means via digital means.  How do you encourage the knowmads in your organization?

As for today’s woodworking – a planter for my wife.

{Graphics: Kogan Page, Richard Torres, Bhati, Watwood}

4 thoughts on “Encouraging Knowmads

  1. Oooh, nice planter. While I’m not a huge fan of today’s coined terms, I certainly like the idea of people who can learn anywhere!

  2. Love the planter! I attended a workshop held by State Department of Education and he said the number one reason people lose their jobs is because they cannot get along with coworkers. Social skills so under rated! #6303

  3. I prefer the more idyllic image of a “digital nomad” offered by Google. The only thing missing is your mitre saw which you clearly know how to use. Beautiful planter!

    Given your class schedule and continued engagement in higher education, “retired” is not a word that readily comes to mind but you are definitely a change agent!

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