Knowing Knowledge – Review by Landy M

I found this interesting review by Landy M of the book Knowing Knowledge by George Siemens (which I confess I still need to read). I wanted to reproduce some striking comments:

If Siemens is correct in asserting that the skills of ‘know where’ and ‘know who’ are now more important than the ‘what’ and ‘how’, we must ask: what then are the implications of this position for the role the teacher, and the place of content/curriculum in education today?

To put it another way: what is the nature of the relationship between learning about things – the bodies of knowledge – and learning how to learn about those things? Perhaps the relationship between content and the learning process has always been a problematic one, but it does seem that the impact of the digital technologies in education is bringing this issue into the foreground like never before.

On the one hand, I agree with his observations about the changing nature of the world, the significance of networks, and so on, but I also feel rather uneasy about his point that the ‘know where’ and the ‘know who’ are more important today than the ‘what’ and the ‘how’.

For example, might we find lurking in the Siemens’ position a tendency to over emphasise the technical wherewithal required to work with and manipulate digital technologies and data, at the expense of a learner acquiring a deep knowing about the world and his/her place in it?

Obviously, becoming digitally savvy is a vital skill for all to learn, but I also believe we need an informed citizenry that can also understand the world at a deep critical – interpretive level.
(emphasis added)

This really is my understanding too. The emphasis of technology is important, but so is the imperative for citizenry to be informed and understand the world at a deep critical – interpretive level. Stephen has made that point many times too.

Landy also evokes similarities with Manuel Castells, a social science thinker and sociologist, and I quote from Landy’s review, a quote from Castells’ 2001 book, The Internet Galaxy, Reflections on the Internet, Business and Society, Oxford University Press, New York: 

A network is a series of interconnected nodes. Networks are very old forms of human practice, but they have taken on a new life in our time by becoming information networks, powered by the internet. Networks have extraordinary advantages as organising tools as because of their inherent flexibility and adaptability, critical features in order to survive in a fast-changing environment. This is why networks are proliferating in all domains of the economy and society, out competing and outperforming vertically organised corporations and centralised bureaucracies…

Networks were primarily the preserve of private life; centralised hierarchies were the fiefdoms of power and production. Now, however, the introduction of computer-based information and communication technologies, and particularly the Internet, enables networks to employ their flexibility and adaptability.

Landy also looks at Section 2 of Knowing Knowledge where George talks about an implementation model. I have a great interest here in evolving an implementation model and applying it to different situations relevant today as I believe, has George.

Siemens gets straight to the point in this section by posing the following question:

 How can an organisation adopt ecologies when their goal is to drive out chaos and messiness, not embrace it? (2006:90)

 It’s a good question, especially pertinent for those of us that work in bureaucracies and education systems, and he responds with a rather conventional solution – and onethat’s hard to disagree with: change the organisational mindset and re-frame the organisational structures around networks. His call for organisational flexibility and adaptability and the creation of a work environment that is conducive to learning, is a refrain that will be familiar to anyone who has kept pace with the literature on Knowledge Management and/or organisational change, for example, Peter Senge is one amongst many who have written about this.

…An implementation schema provides the holistic overview, and then the five domains are unpacked and explained in sequence. The schema is useful, but I’m not sure how comprehensively the discussion in this section resolves the tension between entrenched organisational rigidity and the need to create adaptive and flexible work environments.

An interesting and provocative read. Thanks, Landy!

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