Old school or new? Memorize or retrieve?

I’m struggling. Which is most important for a fifth-grader:  1.) to carry in one’s head the obscure facts that unlike the Cherokee Indians, the Iroquois lived in longhouses and ate roots or  2.) to aquire the skill to evaluate and select authoritative online information  from websites like http://www.nativeamericans.com/ in order to access that type of information when needed?

This weekend I waged this mental war while helping my son with a joint social studies and literary art project. I was struck by the number of resources he was asked to find and facts he needed to memorize in order to obtain a satisfactory grade. I found myself clinching my jaw and biting my tongue in opposition to the way he was required to complete his task, knowing full well this old school mentality is totally counter-intuitive to current knowledge base learning and information retrieval. Are we teaching facts or skills? Are we giving our children food or teaching them how to farm?


Metacrap happens

Today has been a surreal graduate student experience about metadata, classification and cataloging… basically how we find information or enable information to be found so we can use it. (Isn’t that just another way to define communication?)

It all started with a Melissa Gross-style imposed query by one of my favorite professors, Dr. Brown, who literally “set us up” to use databases like ProQuest’s ABI/INFORM, OCLC FirstSearch’s ArticleFirst, and EBSCO Host’s Academic Search Elite to find an obscure article from an unnamed source with little “real” information to go on. Of course, the exercise was engineered for us to learn ways to use search terms and limiters and stop words and the like to assist in a search for information. (Did you pick up on those stop words?)

Well, a half hour and a lot of frustration later, I employed my competitive intelligence skills and did a little googling to find the answer. I think many of the legitimate searchers in our class are still searching, and in order to successfully finish my assignment, I’m using the answer to go back and recreate a “legitimate” search.

Is this the way it’s supposed to be?

Does information have to be so properly indexed and classified? Why is “googling” at the academic level a bad thing? Is it the means or the end?

Too many unanswered questions! So I turned to Doc Martens’ focus on “established classification” for a break from the imposed query experience, only to read Cory Doctorow’s article on

“Communication” is often lost in a “to do” list

The word “communication” seems an unusual thread for an entire 2-day symposium addressing the latest research and methods for a combined knowledge and project management initiative. I’m never sure whether it’s because of my experience in mass communication, my belief that knowledge management is really communication management, or just because I love to communicate with others… that I am hypersensitive to when someone “throws out” the word “communication” in their presentation. In retrospect, I wish I would have kept a tally for each time the word was used at the

Knowledge Synthesis

What happens when you mix project management and knowledge management? A super symposium, a room full of bright people and novel ideas, and an awareness that brings organizations to a new level of excitement about how to capitalize on their most important asset: it’s people.

I’m just in from the 2-day conference on knowledge and project management, and I want to knowledge share with you as soon as possible. I’m including the link to the site where most of the presentations have been uploaded as PDFs. I’ll let you sort thru while I catch my breath, then do my own bit of synthesizing about the experience this weekend. Enjoy a McDonald’s vanilla iced coffee and the link below!

Do you know what you know?

Is a little known bit of information significant? Could it be a clue that solves the big picture?

And how do we know what we know? Can we share knowledge if we can’t recognize it… if we think it’s just too insignificant?

Once again, I looked to the “big picture” of the School of Athens for small inspiration. I started this inquiry by wondering why Raphael painted himself into the painting, and why he’s looking out at the viewer. (You can find him on the far right of the painting second from the column.) Answers to this and many more little known facts about the painting are available at The Hellenic World . Once I read through them, I became aware of the significance this painting has in retelling the larger story of both classical wisdom and science, as well is its renaissance by Italian artists. The painting unlocks mystery about Pythagoras’ math and Plato’s idealism.

 What does this have to do with KM? As I learned more about the School of Athens, I understood the bigger picture in that picture… the value of the painting beyond aesthetics.

So it is with communication in an organization. Once the little known facts are found and tacit knowledge is identified as valuable, this new-found awareness becomes a conduit to knowledge sharing. Could something that looks as simple as a lunch conversation between two insurance processors now become significant knowledge sharing? Indeed yes when one becomes aware that exchanging hints about doing their job results in a time-savings of 10%. The simple “picture” of everyday communication becomes significant knowledge sharing.

Knowledge managers are charged with becoming the art critics of their organization: creating awareness and identifying the little things that constitute the big picture.

A Solution to Plato’s problem?

Where did the word “communication” come from? And if our illustrious philosophers could talk to us from the painting above, what would they say? It has been speculated that the field of communication studies grew from the rhetorical study of speech and speakers, a study that stretches back to the days of Plato and Aristotle.

According to the

If communication is the way to knowledge transfer…

then what IS communication?

I was led to this quandary following a class (“Online Research Methods”) I attended yesterday at which the professor concluded with astonishment: “This class should be called Communication Methods.” I smiled. Shouldn’t every KM class have the word “communication” in its title?

I’m enjoying my Sunday morning coffee while at the computer (sorry, homemade, so I can’t offer you a vicarious trip to a Vienna café). I did a quick Google search for “define communication” (not fully utilizing my recently acquired research methods) and found two sites for your consideration: the Society for Technical Communication and How We Communicate. The latter offers the “official” definition of communication as sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Education: “…communication focuses on how people use messages to generate meanings within and across various contexts, cultures, channels, and media.”

As a reader of this blog, do YOU have a definition of communication you would like to share? If so, comment away…