Sponsored Links

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tacit Knowledge

Sponsored Links
Tacit Knowledge
Tacit Knowledge and Internet
By John Savageau

Basic and Tacit Knowledge

There are many things we expect our young people to know, and be able to perform upon graduation from the basic education system. We expect them to read, do basic arithmetic, use our language, in addition to the long list of day-to-day tasks we consider routine. Much of the responsibility for building the tacit skills and knowledge to perform day-to-day tasks lies within our education system. You cannot order food at a restaurant without basic reading skills, nor can you pay the restaurant bill without a basis in arithmetic.

The question of how much young people need to know before they are unleashed on society and the workforce is an interesting debate. We need to know more - and different - things than we did 150 years ago. Advances in technology, and the global "village" have driven our generations to learn much more just to survive. 150 years ago the concept of using a microwave oven to warm up a pastry would have been incomprehensible. Today there are few people who could not operate a microwave oven. However you do not take microwave oven training in school - you simply learn how to use the oven, or absorb the task knowledge, such as reading the instruction manual,  needed to use the oven as a result of basic education received during the course of 12 or so years in primary schools.

A young person of 150 years ago was probably very adept at digging a well for fresh water, animal husbandry, and making fire (of course this is a simplification - the point is in tacit skills or knowledge). Young people today would have very poor skills in those tasks, however our generation has different requirements for knowledge and skills. It is a different age. The young people of 150 years ago had no reason to build skills for constructing cliff dwellings as their prior generations may have learned - again, we are in a different age.

Computers and the Internet

Now we rapidly enter a new era in the requirement for basic knowledge, and it is the result of a combination of an emerging global village, Internet, and Internet-enabled applications. The speed at which Internet-enabled applications have changed the way people view their place in the world is unprecedented. While we have had distributed networks since the 19060s, the current paradigm did not emerge until the mid-1990s.

In the past 10 years our perceptions of postal mail, telephone, entertainment, business, and commerce activities have been rewritten. The model continues to change by the day.

Tacit knowledge is that knowledge learned over extended periods of time, through frequent exposure and reinforcement, giving us a depth of knowledge or skills on a topic or concept that is natural, yet difficult to codify into an explicit list of knowledge or skills. Tacit skills and knowledge allow us to go beyond the simple rote learning of a topic or skill, allowing us to understand the theory or concepts behind the task. A person with strong tacit knowledge or skills is able to quickly identify and react to change, respond to emergencies, and use their knowledge to exploit new or emerging opportunities.

Our Students

In the Internet age we are not only competing within our local communities and markets, we are competing within a global economic community. Electronic commerce puts all inefficient business or activity at risk - regardless of the service or geographic location. As an example just look at the impact companies such as Amazon.Com and Travelocity have had on their industries - it is a new world that is very foreign to those of us from prior generations.

To have the knowledge and skills needed to not only compete, but to function in the Internet age, young people need a strong base of tacit knowledge in the concepts and use of computers, networks, Internet, and communications. After a young person enters the work force, requiring special training in basic office automation tools, networks, or Internet skills is simply not acceptable. In the Internet age our young people need these skills as tacit skills before they leave the basic education system - or they will represent a burden on our ability to compete as an economy and society.

Just as we expect our young people to know how to use a telephone or microwave oven without specific training, we also need to ensure the integration of the basic required tacit knowledge needed to function within the Internet age by the time a young person enters the work force. Internet-age skills must be an inherent, an integral part of the basic education curriculum.

If a student does not have the basic skills needed to submit a homework assignment as an email attachment, to do online research for a term paper, to collaborate with students in a distant location on a larger term project, to use basic communication utilities such as instant messaging and an Internet soft phone - then giving initial training to those young people when they enter the workforce will represent an unacceptable burden to the business community. Without those tacit skills as part of every worker's basic contribution to the workforce, we will simply not be able to compete in the global marketplace, and will be left behind in the global village.

Whether you agree with this editorial in whole or not, we can accept this is a reality. As citizens we have an obligation to both support integration of these skills into to core curriculum of our education system, as well as demand our academic leadership build this core skills training into the education system from the earliest possible age. Today we debate the requirement to have computers in schools - we must now debate how computers are an integral part of our life and society, and how we can best eliminate academic deficiencies that prevent our young people from graduating with the intellectual tools they need to contribute to, and be successful in, the global village and marketplace.

John Savageau is a managing director at CRG-West, responsible for managing operations and architecture for several of the largest telecommunications interconnect facilities in the US, including One Wilshire in Los Angeles.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=John_Savageau

No comments:

Post a Comment