Teacher Knowledge: Part 2

The process of collecting my knowledge (which I discussed in the previous post) naturally led me to my own teaching practices. One of the core ideas of knowledge management is to capture more then mere documents within a database. It involves recording the information that makes documents and factual information more relevant and useful – really, to record the human experience with the knowledge.

Teachers must collect vast amounts of knowledge, including lesson plans, useful strategies, reflections, and the content itself. Having taught world history for eight years, I have collected shelves of books, file cabinets of readings and handouts, and gigabytes of digital media (ranging from pdfs to PowerPoints to video clips). While I like to think I have a general handle on all of these resources, the reality is that I forget what I have. Once I finish a unit of study, a year passes before I visit those items again. While I attempt to take notes on how specific lessons went and what I need to do differently, I many times find them only after I have implemented the lesson a year or two later.

Most teachers develop some sort of system that allows them to organize their materials. I have used manila folders, massive binders, and a file hierarchy on my hard drive. However, I argue that curriculum, especially within the social studies, should be in some sort of flux. There are always new resources available, different perspectives to be found, new strategies to try, new technologies to be used to help transfer this information to students, and new needs to be met with the changing times. How can we keep track of all of this information? How do we not forget what we already do? How can we share our lessons, ideas, and links with colleagues without committing to hours of face-to-face meetings? Why are new teachers expected to create curriculum that already exists?

Within the business world, knowledge management is not a new idea. Technological advances have streamlined the process and broadened the ability for companies to share more and share it further. Why does it seem that education, most notability K-12 education, always seems to be just out of the loop or years behind?

In the next few months, I am going to be exploring these questions. On a personal level, I hope to bring my vast collection of resources (books, articles, links, lessons, lesson strategies) together in a manner that when I want to see my lessons on Totalitarianism in Europe, they will all be easily accessible. On a school level, I want to create a collaborative world history knowledge base with my colleagues. We already share lessons, but we do not have a lot of time to sit down and discuss how we individually implement the lessons. On a larger educational level, I want to explore methods and tools that might help other teachers tackle their mountain of information and hopefully, create very specific collaborative communities.

Any ideas?

3 thoughts on “Teacher Knowledge: Part 2”

  1. Like you I also have shelves and selves of resources, binders of plans and strategies covered in sticky notes that remind me of typos I need to correct or the best way to implement something. At the elementary level I don’t think there is enough content information to help the younger grades. Plenty of strategies to teach certain elementary topics are around—-make a stove pipe hat when you teach Lincoln, etc. but not enough information on teaching the actual content. The hat is cute, but was the objective mastered. That’s the goal I’ve set for myself because I come across so many teachers who don’t know the content and ask for my help. I look forward to reading your posts and observing your journey with your compilation.

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  2. This is a very interesting question, something that I am also dealing with. I have only been teaching for a couple of years now at a community college in North Carolina. While I was trained in U.S. history, I have had to also teach world history. I am truly glad to do it, but I am still in the learning and knowledge procurement phase for many subjects. I understand this is an ongoing phase, but for some subjects such as Ancient India or the history of the Kush Kingdom, I was truly starting from scratch. The one thing I did to keep all my information together was a kind of electric folder system or heirarchy. Subjects are divided by continents, then country, then time periods. For instance, Asia, then China, then outlines for the different dynasties. My college offers Blackboard software for students, so I can upload these files for the students to read. Many subjects are simply not covered well in the book, such as the Neolithic revolution. This makes it much easier to disseminate. I also try to footnote each outline with references to books and articles. My dream for my books is to label them all with the Library of Congress numbering system to create a keyword searchable, electroning catalogue.

    GP Ritter

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  3. I struggle with the same thing too. But I had a soolution present itself to me today– I have other teachers “borrowing” my activities that I have created from the photocopying room, making their own classroom sets, and handing them out to their students. Today, I saw one of my activities on World War I in the hands of three different teachers’ students in my academic lab– one teacher had left my name on it, at least.

    I had to laugh. I’ll never lose that activity, even if my hard drive melts down. I’ll just steal it back from my colleagues!

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