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Knowledge Management as Affective Learning

In non-traditional education, experience and language should be seen as parts of the learning process, not vehicles to deliver learning. Image supplied by Walter Smith.

The fundamental principle for applying knowledge management systems in education is the consideration of learning as a natural multidimensional affective process.  This is particularly useful in non-traditional adult education because new education and training must be an integral part of the lifestyle and work of adults who lead highly committed lives and cannot always afford to put their activities on hold and go into expensive full-time education programs.

Education is traditionally seen as academic or experiential and we focus on language and experience as the primary vehicles for communicating ideas.  As educators, we sometimes have difficulty in communication with language alone (especially when it is highly technical or specialized language).  We can also have difficulty using open-ended experience alone to communicate ideas.  But when we integrate abstract learning with organized experience, we get dynamic affective self-motivated learning.  We can frame learning not only in terms of words, but also in terms of structure and process. By creating a structure for ideas and a cyclical knowledge acquisition process to communicate them effectively, we can make formal learning a natural interactive activity.

The Dimensions of an Idea

We need to see language development and experience as parts of the learning process, not the vehicles for learning.  Knowledge management is managing what happens in our minds.  It is the management of multidimensional ideas.  I believe that ideas have nine dimensions.

First, our ideas are informative.  They originate in information coming from the environment through the senses.  This information comes in many ways and is not dependent on language.  It happens through experience without language, through experience and language, and through language without experience.  It could be a taste, a feel, a smell, a sound or a sight or a combination of sensing.  Sound includes spoken language.  Sight includes written language.

Second, our ideas have value.  The value will be on a positive/negative scale depending on how it relates to other ideas that we already have.  We can create new value by modifying ideas and merging them to create new ideas.  This is the logical side of thinking.

Third, our ideas have expression.  This is the creative dimension and is driven by our values.  It is manifested in our artistic and recreational activities, in both simple and complex ways.

Fourth, our ideas have language.  Ideas can be represented through language but we must recognize the limitations of the medium.  How well can we describe the things we sense and how well can we explain the things we think?  We are forever expanding and inventing new words and phrases in our attempts to answer this question.  We must realize that words alone cannot always do the job.  By recognizing that language is only one dimension of an idea, we realize that we need to use the other dimensions of the idea to become effective and efficient communicators.

Fifth, our ideas have perspective.  Ideas are not only part of our internal thoughts they are also part of the thoughts of the world.  We need the world to test the validity and usefulness of our ideas.  How do they fit what our friends and family thinks, what our co-workers think, what the community thinks, what the world thinks?  It is important to ground ideas to use them properly.

Sixth, our ideas have attitude.  They give us feelings such as confidence and self-esteem.  They propel what we do.  They give us reason to live and work.  But they can also have a negative effect.  Success and failure are not the result of some innate ability, they depend on attitude.  They come from our feelings, the ability to see beyond our daily failures and our willingness to pursue our dreams.

Seventh, our ideas are strategic.  They contain the plan to use resources and procedures to give ideas practical value.  As we put our ideas into practice, the plan changes to accommodate new information and consequently, the whole idea is continuously modified and improved.

Eight, our ideas are useful.  We can apply our ideas to provide and modify products and services to attend to the needs of others and ourselves.  Through application, we test the practicality of our ideas and continuously develop our ability to put them into action.

Ninth, our ideas have quality.  All the dimensions of ideas are reflected in the quality of the things we do.  We know what we do well and it drives everything else we do.  The quality of our work and play determines our status within our families, within the community and in the world.

Using the Dimensions of Ideas

The dimensions of an idea are an important thing to understand as we pass ideas on to others as teachers, mentors, coaches, etc.  We must consider all the ways we develop knowledge.  Using any one dimension in isolation skews the process of learning.  Everything must always be considered because the dimensions of ideas are not mutually exclusive, they are interrelated and interdependent.  If we do not consider all the dimensions of an idea in communication, we run the risk of inadvertently conveying messages that may have unintended impacts on learners.  A student who sits in a class and is overwhelmed by the language may decide that they are incapable of doing the subject and develop a dislike for it.

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