Knowledge management in education and the role of VLEs

Mar 31, 2006

Miles Berry

I’ve just received my copy of NAACE’s Computer Education journal, with my paper on the above. The paper started life in the literature review of my MBA dissertation, before being submitted as a ‘discussion paper’ for NAACE’s data in schools think-tank, and thence to the journal.

I’ve focussed on the contribution which integrated virtual learning environments (VLEs) could make to knowledge management in education. Knowledge management is an increasingly important discipline in business management, but has received relatively little attention in education. I believe that MISs have had little impact on classroom practice because they have largely ignored the knowledge and information actually used by teachers, and because, unlike in open source software, developers have generally failed to involve teachers in the development process.

VLEs however have the potential to make much that pertains to teachers’ tacit knowledge, such as lesson planning, online resources, assessment data, and even pupil-teacher discussions capable of electronic codification and storage, perhaps incorporating some form of curricular metadata tagging using social taxonomies.  Furthermore, network technologies make it possible to share these aspects of teachers’ working knowledge throughout anad beyond the organization, once content transfer and reusability systems have been established. Such knowledge transfer would provide a mechanism for validating knowledge by turning it into practice which demonstrably and repeatedly works. The wealth of data and information, both quantitative and qualitative, that a fully populated VLE contains would allow new knowledge to be isolated through data mining techniques, facilitating better-informed decision-making. Interoperability, and perhaps ultimately integration, with MIS software is important, and Becta’s proposal for some form of UK Schools Interoperability Framework is to be welcomed, although concerns over control and privacy would need to be addressed. The interactive learning which a VLE might support is conducive to knowledge creation, and the social constructivist paradigm prevalent in VLE usage is applicable to teachers’ CPD as well as pupils’ learning. Finally, a case can be made for VLEs providing enhanced accountability mechanisms.

I conclude by proposing a number of objectives for integrated Managed learning Environments, combining both MIS and VLE functionality. They should:

  • give priority to teaching and learning by integrating timetabling, planning, assessment and resources;
  • facilitate the sharing of pupil information between all those teaching a pupil;
  • allow planning and assessment to be readily monitored;
  • provide a single integrated view of all the data held on any given pupil;
  • incorporate tools to support teachers’ and managers’ analysis of performance at fine-grained levels, and assess the effect of interventions;
  • improve communication within the school and between school and home;
  • facilitate opportunities for pupils to take greater responsibility for their learning; and
  • be accessible from home.

The fourth of these points being of crucial importance if personalized learning is to be a reality.

I’ve uploaded a pdf of my original text.