There is no doubt that Education is critical to the future of the United States economy. Thomas Friedman talks about it extensively in his very popular book, The World is Flat. Therefore, the concepts in this post on Future Education are not only directly applicable to business, but our success in Future Education will have a direct impact on our abilities in Future Business.
I spent 90 minutes last night on the phone with an excellent visionary from the NYC Dept of Education. Arthur VanderVeen is focused on how best to achieve knowledge sharing for NYC educators.
We talked about the difficulty of turning tacit knowledge into explicit and we talked about the challenges of fostering active communities of interest/practice.
Two of the main tenets of our discussion were
- Give them what they want: the sharing needs to have value to the way they work today or want to work today. There are some technologies (eg. Computer, cell phone) that completely change the way we work, but most enhance the way we already work in a more evolutionary fashion rather than revolutionary
- Work bottom-up rather than top-down. Try various programs in schools and see what works. Where there is success, invest more to work out if it can be scaled up.
One thing that has come to mind since our discussion is the 100-10-1 rule of community involvement. In the case of education it is probably 1000-100-10-1 due to the challenge of getting already overworked educators to even view information.
- For every 1000 educators
- 100 will actively or passively browse the knowledge-base
- 10 will comment on or use existing content
- and 1 will contribute something new
That means that for 80,000 teachers you may only have 80 contributors. This is likely not sufficient volume to create a critical mass of content that keeps the 100 coming back and gets more of the 1000 to view. The larger districts may decide to invest in “librarians” who seek out good content and take the time to get it into the knowledge-base, but this is not the most efficient model and is probably not tenable for the smaller districts.
Most web2.0 applications have been able to improve on these numbers by making the sharing ego-centric. Examples are MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn. The contribution ratios are far improved because personal ego is tied up in it: my page, my profile, my network. That may be one way that education KMers can improve upon the activity levels.
Due to the fact that education is more similar district to district than business is company to company, there are tremendous opportunities for best practice and knowledge sharing. Unfortunately, we are not there yet, but I believe we are on the cusp of a major shift (middle school and above) from requiring a teacher to know/do everything to having a teacher become more of a facilitator, a connector, and a tutor rather than a lecturer.