About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Knowledge as currency

I currently am working on the theme that knowledge and expertise is used as currency within the workplace (as part of my dissertation). As I have been analyzing the data from my study, I realized that knowledge and expertise used as currency needs to be identifiable.

This got me to thinking about "identifiable knowledge." Notice I don't say tacit or explicit knowledge. The reason is that knowledge that can be turned into currency might be explicit, but expertise can be identifiable, yet be based upon tacit knowledge. So, by identifiable, knowledge and expertise needs to be identified by both those who have and don't have the knowledge or expertise, need to take a form (finished product, process, written documentation, behavior) that both tracks and measures the knowledge and expertise, and needs to be located in a central place or depository (i.e. computer, file cabinet, employee, group, or department) where it can be accessed.

The value of knowledge

As I mentioned before, I am still thinking through many of these ideas for my dissertation. One factor that keeps coming up in my analysis of this theme is the value of expertise and knowledge. There might be expertise, there might be knowledge. However, when knowledge and expertise is being used as currency, then there needs to be value attached to it by the "consumers" of knowledge and expertise. In the US, that currency has become even more important as the current intellectual property laws place a great economic focus on expertise and knowledge.

Who values the knowledge and expertise? According to Friere, that would be those in position of power. And as long as they are able to devalue knowledge and expertise that might threaten their authority, valued knowledge and expertise will be the currency of education.

What does this mean? It means that concrete knowledge, concrete processes, and knowledge and expertise that is sanctioned by those in power will be the basis for someone to be successful in our culture. Thus, welcome the testing and standardized educational system. As much as the media, policy makers, and politicians extort the "new skills" businesses need for our country to continue to improve in the world economy, what they are really saying is that they need a different currency (different knowledge and expertise than what is already out there). That currency will constantly be changing depending on the needs of the economy. But the system will still be the same in which those with valued expertise and knowledge (at the time) will have the ability to use that currency while those with devalued knowledge and expertise (outdated, undervalued by those in power) will need to follow the dictates of those in power (the market).

New educational model

So as I play the currency game and get credentials that I hoped would be valued, I now find that (as has happened my whole life), my expertise now is no longer valued in our economy/culture. There are no jobs for those who have an understanding of the international knowledge economy, that can teach foreign language and cross cultural communication skills, that can improve team management skills, no jobs for those that can teach better communication or writing skills, no jobs for those in adult and online instructional design (as opposed to technical jobs for elearning of which there are many jobs), and no jobs to create a new educational system.

Whereas my expertise 7 years ago when I started the Ph.D program was in demand, now it is assumed that all faculty are able to integrate technology into their teaching.

But here is the rub: there is a lot of knowledge and expertise that 1)cannot be measured, 2) is lost when it is made into something identifiable, 3) does not ad value, 4) exists but has yet to find value, and 5) is distributed.

This means that the classes that I planned for this week (as I do every week) does not have perceived value, especially in this point in time. My students don't see the amount of preparation I put into the planning of the class, aligning learning goals with class activities. It is hard to measure the amount of time I take thinking about my course and how I can teach it so the students may be able to use the skill and their experience in the future when they are faced with a similar situation.

I have also found that those within my study group who are the most successful are those that know how to identify valued knowledge to multiple groups, how to access resources, knowledge, and expertise when needed, and are flexible in the way in which they align their work with others goals. These are the skills we should be teaching our students. If we continue to focus on the currency of their future rather than how to create currency and use it, then we will end up with a stagnant economy. We will also continue to lose expertise and new knowledge as has happened throughout the ages to those with ideas before their time.


Anonymous said...

I don't know Frier's work but I disagree that the valuation exists in the hands of power. When my pipes are plugged and I need to call a plumber it is the plumber who has the knowledge but it is the customer who pays for that knowledge. I am not sure who has the :power" in this relationship but it is the plumber who has the knowledge and who sets the price.

But that is a small point...

You have identified, although not articulated, that value is contextualized or socially constructed. You knowledge (currency) might have been valuable 7 years ago when the context created value for it. And like all creators of value the "product" (ie knowledge ie currency) needs to evolve to be current with evolving contexts. Therein lies one of the troubles with our education institutions.

Universities are run by collective self governance and peer review that are entrenched in maintaining the current thinking. New or radical thinking is marginalized or leaves the university to be developed. Universities are home to leading thinkers that dig deeper into questions without necessarily getting out in front of them.

Facebook, blackberry, Microsoft were all started by university students who had to leave to get out in front. Even in policy rlevenat areas the greatest advances are made at the community level, sometimes with the help of academic, often with brilliant students or activists (ie Craig Kielburger founding Free the Children while still in public school).

Your knowledge may have greater currency outside of the academy and as one who has the knowledge you also get to apply that in context to create value.

V Yonkers said...

Thanks for the comment. You are absolutely right that the value is socially constructed and contextualized, as is power.

In our economy, the plumber in your example can just say he is not going to fix your pipes. If you have guests coming over in an hour, the value of his knowledge has just increased as has his power over the situation. There is no one there that tell him he HAS to fix your pipes.

On the other hand, if you live in an apartment, there might be a manager there that says he must fix the pipes. If he does not, then the manager will find someone else. Now the power has shifted to the manager.

The nature of universities have been gradually changing in the US over the last 20 years that I have been teaching. A strong centrally controlled administration along with the increased influence of accrediting organizations has taken away the collective self governance and peer review (although I agree that the former system also pushed those out whose ideas did not align with theirs).

The result of this new model is that those deciding on what is relevant or non-relevant ideas now go through two filters: the university and public policy/corporate leaders. This is off-set with social networks that allow those who are "filtered out" a new avenue to broadcast their ideas. However, without the ability to transform those ideas into currency with value to policy makers/corporate leaders, an economic divide will occur (is starting to occur).