I have a new hypothesis about why it’s difficult to get people to contribute to knowledge management systems in organizations. Conventional wisdom says it’s because people are worried that someone will steal their ideas. I think that’s a rationalization. I think the real fear is the fear of being ignored. The fear that the knowledge I share is so obvious or trivial that no one will care. What’s the old maxim from Mark Twain? “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”
I can’t tell you how many times I think similar thoughts when posting to this site or others. I always wonder if people will read what I contribute and find it irrelevant. But that pushes me to think hard about what I post and to make it as clear and interesting as possible. I’m more than willing to share my ideas…as long as they make sense, of course.
That works for my students too. Today, as I read through their Web logs, I was thinking about how important it was to provide the audience for their writing. I think without conciously deciding to do so, I’ve been moving in ways that provide more opportunities for them to respond to each other. The working groups that I put them in will serve some of that purpose as they become more and more aware of readers.
I think Jim’s post speaks especially to teachers, however. There is a constant judgement on the part of students, parents, colleagues and supervisors that makes actually publishing our work a very daunting thought. While I truly believe that in a supportive atmosphere such contributions would promote good teaching (for many of the same reasons I believe Web logs promote good writing,) there certainly is a greater perception of risk than when everything is carried out behind closed doors. (And, of course, there are those who will resist because they don’t want to be held more accountable for their work in the first place.)
We’ve talked a lot about the technology in the last couple of years. We’ve come up with some truly creative ways to use Web logs in our classrooms. But as our ideas move from lessons to classrooms to schools to disctricts, I have a feeling we’re going to be talking much more about the implementation and marketing of the technology from here on out.