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Personal Knowledge Management: a Learning Layer?

October 2nd, 2012 by Graham Attwell

I like the ideas put forward by Harold Jarche on personal knowledge management (PKM) in the workplace. Jarche says the idea of personal knowledge management “questions our basic, Taylorist, assumptions about work; assumptions like:

  • JOB can be described as a series of competencies that can be “filled” by the best qualified person.
  • Somebody in a classroom, separate from the work environment, can “teach” you all you need to know.
  • The higher you are on the “org chart”, the more you know (one of the underlying premises of job competency models).”

Personal knowledge management, he says, ” is a framework that enables the re-integration of learning and work and can help to increase our potential for innovation.

Jarche puts forward a Seek-Sense-Share framework. “Seeking includes observation through effective filters and diverse sources of information. Sense-making starts with questioning our observations and includes experimenting, or probing (Probe-Sense-Respond). Sharing through our networks helps to develop better feedback loops.”

Such a framework corresponds with the aims of the Learning layers project, due to start on November 1st. through Learning layers we are attempting to develop technologies to support informal learning in clusters of Small and Medium Enterprises, initially in north Germany in the building and construction industries and in north east England in the medical profession. In my experience SMEs are far less convinced of the Taylorist assumptions about work than large companies. And certainly the managers I have been talking to are well aware of the challenge of how to embed learning in working practices and to redesign work environments to support learning. However it is not just in the design of workplaces that we make assumptions. Educational technology also has embodies a series of assumptions around learning – such as learning takes place through courses and learning is dependent on the transmission of ideas and practices form an expert to a novice.

Our idea in Learning layers is to develop lightweight apps which can be used in the work process and which support both working and learning. We see learning materials being generated through the work process and shared though networks of organisations.

In teh course of this we hope to reshape both workplace design and learning designs.

2 Responses to “Personal Knowledge Management: a Learning Layer?”

  1. Steven Flinn says:

    Hi Graham,
    Just wanted to make you aware that the title of my book published in 2010 is “The Learning Layer,” and, in fact, Harold Jarche was kind enough to review the book ( Learning Layer(R) is also a registered trademark of ManyWorlds, Inc., relating to auto-learning systems that provide adaptive discovery capabilities (
    Steve Flinn

  2. This sounds like a most interesting project, Graham. I hope you will be able to share some of your findings.

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