Learning In The Clouds

No, I’m not talking about daydreaming although I have previously expressed my love for and interest in daydreaming as a necessary practice. But here, I’m talking about education and the internet.

It is well understood that education as a discipline has made positive strides in recent decades, but still has many leaps to take. There exists an issue of a profound educational gap between demographics, an issue of comprehensive standards through which student understanding can be measured, and an issue of standards and processes by which teachers can be evaluated for feedback and professional growth, to name a few.

But for this topic, let’s set these issues aside and assume internet access is available for all students and schools. How can the internet be leveraged as an enabler of quality education? How does the existing cyber framework and status of collaborative tools enable efficient and effective education?

Key Themes

  1. Writing/typing enables memory and understanding: As stated in my previous post “Spectrum Logic”: “To put something on paper and organize the information as to make visual sense – in words, lines, colors, and curves – is to recognize some understanding and to create a basis for new insight and discovery.”
  2. Differing opinions and verbiage, on any topic, provide full-spectrum input, fuel discussion, and parallel what’s to be expected in the professional world.
  3. Technical skills are essential. This includes understanding technical concepts, the digital organization of information, social networking, and collaboration.
  4. Relationships are a key to happiness and provide a medium for professional growth. Digital relationships formalize relationships and provide concrete structure between multiple people, enabling this growth in an organized manner.
  5. Exploring and understanding the depths of the internet and related technologies forges new intellectual connections, and more importantly, personal interests.

Core Components

Blogs – As a central medium for information exchange, blogs can be used as a fantastic teaching tool. Imagine a class where after each lesson, different students memorialize class notes, in their own words, in blog posts for the rest of the class to see. Posts can be categorized, commented on, and used as a fantastic medium for discussion. Come test time, the notes are in there for all to see and use as study material.

Wikis – At their core, wikis provide a semi-structured environment for the capture of knowledge. Yes, Wikipedia seems complete, but that’s not the point. Imagine a class that started with a blank wiki, and had an objective to create a new knowledge framework around class material. This would not only prove to be great study material, but would also teach students a good deal about Web 2.0, digital organization of information, and parallel the growth and interconnectedness of new knowledge through links, references, and version control.

Social Networking – Private and/or public, social networks establish relationships, organize contact information, and provide a framework through which individuals can learn about other individuals and interact with them. Whether on a similar interest or topical matter, social networking for a class could be incredibly useful for building new relationships, and easier interaction with peers and professors. You can never replace a hallway conversation or a whiteboard tutorial, but this could better enable those circumstances to take place.

Personal/Team Websites – Personal and/or team websites enable individuals to provide some level of scope to their interests and personal attributes while teaching hands-on technical skills. Building a website teaches organization, visualization, data management, marketing, and a whole boat load of other concepts. Whether as a class or as individuals, website creation forges new intellectual connections and practical skills that directly translate to the professional world.

In the end, there’s a world of opportunity on the web, and as education tackles its outstanding issues as a whole, it’s only beneficial to use and leverage the internet as a medium to foster new learning and create new opportunity for students across the US and the world.


the DIS cycle

Every organization has something to learn. Every organization has data. There is always something to learn from data. Therefore, every organization has something to learn from its data.
A painful problem? Organizations that DO NOT learn from their data.
A more painful problem? Organizations that DO learn from their data but DO NOT build those insights into strategy.
A most painful problem? Organizations that DO learn from their data and DO build those insights into strategy but DO NOT feed the strategy back into the data structuring, collection, and integration processes.
The idea here is that the collection and creation of data has become central to most managerial, informational, and strategic practices in today’s world. Organizations must understand how each data element is to be used in order to optimize the information and insights gained along the way. Organizations must also know what to do with the insights once those insights have been made. Building them into strategy is critical – as long as they are built into the right strategies. In particular, it is imperative for that information to feed back into the original source of the information: the data structure itself. How can new data be created (and old data be refined) to provide new insights and analyses moving forward?
The process needs to be cyclical. Organizations must turn historically linear processes into innovative cyclical ones. Cyclical processes are self-fueling and renewable, whereas linear processes are expensive and always run out of gas. It is that self-sustaining nature of cycles that enables perpetual growth for individuals, teams, departments, companies, and industries.
So how can strategy feed back into the data structure and collection systems?
  • Create new data.
  • Refresh old data.
  • Determine the value of each data element based on where, how, when, and why it is used.
  • Compare internal data to external data sources and data standards.
  • Ride the DIS Cycle backwards to see how data can supplement new, desired insights.
  • Question your data. Love your data. Hate your data. Ask why it works. Ask why it doesn’t.
  • Build quality control and oversight processes to ensure data is used properly.
  • Insert data into your everyday workflow. Build a dependency on your data.
  • Quantify elements of your marketing, product development, customer support, and managerial strategies.
If you create the cyclical process correctly, the data will provide valuable insight that will serve as a self-sustaining support mechanism for your organizational growth and success strategy.

knowledge management and organizational learning

Organizations are built and sustained by the collective brain power of its members. But that collective brain power is only as good as the memory that serves it up. And so was defined knowledge management.

Fundamentally, knowledge management (KM) is the effective administration of people, processes, technology, and information.* In encapsulates the concept of organizational knowledge/learning, which is the collection of facts, methods, and expertise by a group of people for dissemination and use. These days, the wide scope of new organizational knowledge coupled with the speed at which it gets developed leads to a distinct requirement to capture and centralize the knowledge. As a result, innovators and thinkers will be enabled to collectively work toward building new products and technologies while feeding back into the cycle of strategic thought.

Knowledge is king. Storing, sharing, and learning from it is royalty. This realization has progressed over the past decade or so into a “google”plex dollar business (“googolplex” is my favorite number – i’ll post on it at some point). But why are some organizations and some people so resistant to implementing proper KM practices?
Knowledge management needs to be part of every company strategy and needs to be ingrained in each of its four main components: people, processes, technology, and information. It should branch into all departments – and for each become the engine of collaboration and the backbone of innovative thought. Whatever technology is implemented to enable effective knowledge management, it should have dedicated support, alignment with existing security protocols, and proper branding and marketability as an engaging tool to use.

The benefits must also be made visible. Incentivize users to contribute knowledge in a semi-structured form. Make it something that is talked about in meetings, used in positive performance evaluations, built into non-work related worlds (as a place to “escape”), and an activity that is comforting and welcome amongst all levels of employees.

Within specific job functions, it’ll open up opportunities for valuable feedback. Jeff Lash, from his “How To Be A Good Product Manager” blog, has a good post on knowledge sharing and its benefits within Product Management. Everyone has “lessons to share, but even more to learn” he says. This philosophy is applicable to everyone and every job function – technical development, analysis, sales, marketing, management, etc. That’s why KM is necessary for innovation and success and as part of an over-arching business strategy. The improvement of learning across the organization will be measurable in every day communication, work efficiency, and eventually, revenues. 

Lastly, it’s worth noting that with KM, the design and implementation effort is a topic of its own (of which I’m quite fond). But hey, strategize first.

*Other definitions can be found on the KM Forum.