Knowledge Management Cases in Asia/A case study of how knowledge management be applied in a school environment in Hong Kong
Wat Sin Tung, Wendy; Tam Shuk Ying, Rebecca; Leung Man Shan, Shanny; Chan Shuk Wah, Ada; Chung Shing Kit, Timothy
Although there has been a great deal of recognition in the business world that information and knowledge management can be vital tools in organizations, it is only recently that educational administrators and teachers have begun to look at how they might use information systems to assist in creating effective learning environments. This chapter explores how knowledge management can be applied into school environment. We will use a secondary school in Hong Kong as a case study to see how KM support learning and teaching.
Although there has been a great deal of recognition in the business world that information and knowledge management can be vital tools in organizations, it is only recently that educational administrators and teachers have begun to look at how they might use information systems to assist in creating effective learning environments. In the business research environment, the evolution from data to information and from information to knowledge plays a leading role in shaping how organizations develop strategies and plans for the future. (Petrides & Guiney, 2002).
In Learner-centered e-Schools, all school members, including the principal, teachers, staff, students and parents, are regarded as learners, and learning opportunities are provided for each and every single one of them to enhance their learning ability and knowledge; it is expected that learners will become autonomous and lifelong learners, critical thinkers, and knowledge-producers. To this end, schools must become Knowledge-Creating Schools. Thus, schools need to become boundaryless organizations, reinvent school curriculums and adopt knowledge management (KM) for teaching and learning. This will enhance learners' learning motivation and learning ability, as well as encourage them to share and disseminate knowledge, and undertake knowledge management. (Yip, 2004)
This chapter explores how knowledge management can be applied into school environment. We will use a secondary school in Hong Kong, as a case study to see how KM support learning and teaching.
Definition of Knowledge Management
What is knowledge? In The Knowledge Management Toolkit, Tiwana (2000) states that knowledge is a “fluid mix of framed experience, values, contextual information, expert insight, and grounded intuition that provides an environment and framework for evaluating new experiences and information” (p.5).
Rosenberg (2001) defines Knowledge Management as the “creation, archiving and sharing of valued information, expertise and insight within and across communities of people and organizations with similar interests and needs’ (p.66)”, KM can include the “key documents expertise directories, lessons-learned databases, best practices and communities of practice that reflect and deliver knowledge to learners at a particular time of need” (Bielawski & Metcalk, 2003, p71).
The management of knowledge goes far beyond the storage and manipulation of data, or even of information. It is the attempt to recognize what is essentially a human asset buried in the minds of individuals, and leverage it into an organizational asset that can be accessed and used by a broader set of individual on whose decisions the firm depends (Marshall et al., 1997, p. 229).
An organization’s success is greatly influenced by its ability to mobilize and capitalize on internally held tacit knowledge (Fullan, 2001) Conversion of tacit knowledge occurs between individuals and may involve verbal and/or non-verbal communication. Examples of non-verbal communication include observation, modeling, imitation and job shadowing. (Edge, 2005)
Business shift to education
Petrides & Guiney (2002) stated that the idea of knowledge management has been recognized in the business world but the literature regarding information management to support education learning is scarce. It is time for educational administrators to look for information system to assist in creating effective learning environment, which in turn supports teaching and learning.
Business organizations need to capture, manage and store knowledge from materials and resources accumulated by information technology. Schools have also gathered a lot of files, documents and materials since 1990s. Their effective management and utilization has become an important issue. Knowledge management principles may be employed to make them easily available to users for retrieval and sharing (Tan, 2005).
There has been little discussion of knowledge management as a strategy for improving organizational practice, program implementation and teaching and learning within education (Fullan, 2001). “Knowledge management within public and education sectors can contribute to improvements in both individual and organizational performance.”
EMB (2004) mentions that in enriching digital resources for schools, knowledge management strategies will be adopted to facilitate the usage and sharing of resources and experiences.
Knowledge Management Strategies
Petries & Guiney (2002) identified four steps that can be taken for school to apply an ecological for knowledge management to adapt external demands.
- Evaluating the current availability of information.
- Determining information needed to support decision making.
- Operating within the context and perspective of the school’s organization processes.
- Assessing the schools information culture and politics.
It is argued that knowledge driven schools will not emerge until affordable information tools are readily available in schools and prove their value to administrator and boards of education (Streifer, 1999)
Three areas which IT contributes to KM are: information resources management, creating knowledge bases, and collaborative technologies (Skyrme, 2000).
In Toronto, The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board of Ontario, mentioned by encourage its staff as experts in their chosen field. Good models are profiled regularly in an in-house newsletter distributed to all employees. Because the practice promotes a sense of pride and of being valued, workers are more likely to pass along knowledge if they know they will get positive feedback from colleagues. This is also applicable for resource-limited public organizations like schools. (Chiem, 2001)
Knowledge Management Tools
School which is recognized as an organization should also better utilize “portal” as a tool in KM. But, the portal is the interface, the place where information exchange and knowledge transfer takes place, but it is only one component of successful KM (Ifrah, 2001). KM other than the portal also needs attention.
A portal act as a platform for sharing knowledge, as mentioned inside an organization, for example, “Enterprise Portals” are applications that enable companies to unlock internally and externally stored information, and provide users a single gateway to personalized information needed to make informed business decisions. The Enterprise Portals facilitates human capital creation by consolidating, integrating, enhancing and connecting to the knowledge people have within an organization. It enables structural capital to be shared, used, re-used, acquired, retained, identified, received, transmitted, applied and networked within an organization. (Cloete, 2003)
It is suggested that Portal is suitable for higher education to implement KM. It is a gateway to applications that integrate collaborative tools, business intelligence, and unstructured text search capabilities. Portals started as a way to organize a variety of Web-based information sources on one desktop interface: a search tool, news feeds, links to favorite Web sites, content organized by topic, and so forth. It allows users to customize their desktops to show information from a variety of sources within the organization. (Kidwell, Vander Linde, & Johnson 2000) Portal can be used for organizing teaching resources and collecting assignments.
- Community of Practice
The concept of communities of practice is a useful tool in understanding the diverse ways in which all learners develop competencies and understanding of self through interactions with others. Teachers can facilitate their own professional transformations by constructing and participating in communities of practice. (Van Sluys, 2007) Online forum to some extent can be a form of Community of Practice because there are different interest groups.
Benefits of using KM in school
Using knowledge management techniques and technologies in higher education is as vital as it is in the corporate sector. If done effectively, it can lead to better decision-making capabilities, reduced “product” development cycle time (for example, curriculum development and research), improved academic and administrative services, and reduced costs.
Coe (2000) stated several pros of using KM in education:
- As a shared resource available to all, it will allow instructors to both submit their ideas and also draw on the curriculum development expertise of their colleagues across the institution.
- Another benefit of the shared database is its interdisciplinary nature. Tertiary institutions can break down disciplinary walls and ensure that the reality of this convergence in industry is reflected in the form and content of student curriculum.
- Students will not abide the over-crowded, time-and-place-dependant lecture theatre when new technologies can just as readily facilitate the lecture-based form of information transfer. Rather, students will look to instructors and peers for activities that will facilitate learning in a collaborative environment.
- Teachers interacting with students will observe the nuances of their cognitive growth and development over time, their individual strengths and weaknesses.
As Kelogg (1999) mentioned, the entire academic community must work together to place more of an emphasis on student learning and to create a seamless learning environment between in- and out-of-class experiences for students. In a seamless learning environment, students will have opportunities for learning both in the classroom and out-of-the classroom through co-curricular activities. Students will work with and get to know faculty and staff while taking courses and participating in non-classroom learning activities. All of these learning experiences will contribute to personal growth and development in students. The more students are involved in a variety of activities inside and outside the classroom, the more they gain.
Some of the benefits of KM are the following (Sallis & Jones, 2002; ASTD Research, 2002; Wheatley, 2001; Bielawski & Metcalf, 2003):
- forming relationships and knowing whom to contact for help
- promoting enthusiasm and commitment to the job
- increasing problem-solving capability and ability to make improvements
- avoiding reinventing the wheel
- developing an organizational memory
- improving the likelihood that the organization will survive
A report released by the half Moon Bay, Calif. based Institute for the study of knowledge Management in Education (ISKME) urged college leaders and school administrators to balance their investments in technology infrastructure with equally important effects to integrate data and information into decision making. The report also cited that knowledge management is being used to examine more effective ways to teach particulars subjects and to track student grades, attendance patterns, and even suspension data. On the other hand, it is also suggested that school officials should connect knowledge management approaches to education outcomes and to more clearly distinguish knowledge management approaches from technology implementation and information systems management.
Santo (2005) recommended that launching a knowledge management program to make improvements within one’s own organization should be a primary consideration, especially for schools of education whose emphasis is learning. knowledge repository should be provided to allow are easy way to enter and retrieve information, such as course materials, best practices, research findings and tips for success. Leadership, communication and collaboration, technology issues and evaluation issues must be considered when planning knowledge management program.
In addition, the portal will improve the efficiency of knowledge exchange and deliver a set of shared business objectives that include communications around best practices, a gateway to research on the use of teaching and learning through technology, professional development, policy development and review, and resource development. The portal also provides the faculty members at the individual campuses with efficient, direct links to current knowledge about teaching and learning through technology among the campuses of the university system, nationally, and internationally. (Kidwell, Vander Linde, & Johnson 2000)
Senge (1990) fifty discipline “through learning we recreate ourselves...This, then, is the meaning of a learning organization an organization that is continually expanding its capacity to create its future”.
Barriers for KM in education
According to Rowley (2000), the greater challenge lies with the two elements of knowledge management: in the creation of a knowledge environment, and the recognition of knowledge as intellectual capital, there is still scope for considerable progress. Although knowledge based organizations might seem to have the most to gain through knowledge management, effective knowledge management may require significant change in culture and values, organizational structures and reward systems.
Thorn (2001) believed that school information systems are one of the most difficult to harness because they often lack any overall rationality for cooperation and compliance. Differences in data needs and uses across different organizational levels present significant barriers to the collaboration necessary for innovation in knowledge management.
N.Protheroe (2001) believed there would be a few barriers for KM in education, (1) change management strategies will have to be developed and implemented to support the drive toward these new capabilities. (2) And, of course, the people issues will be enormous. The new technologies are designed to devolve power and authority to the individual. To accomplish this, the (3) hundreds of campus central and distributed units will have to develop and conform to certain uniform standards of practice and design. This will not be easy. The issues raised here will also be about (4) how one creates loyalty to an institution in environments that are completely tailored to the individual.
Some of the barriers to KM include (Sallis & Jones, 2002; Bielawski & Metcalf, 2003; Goman, 2002; Wheatley, 2001):
- an organizational culture that values control of information and sees employees as being expendable
- lack of upper management support
- an effort that is not organization-wide
- lack of trust and fear of negative consequences for revealing knowledge
- encouragement of employee competition and secrecy, with reward systems that discourage knowledge sharing
- no time available for sharing and reflection
According to Chiem (2001), sharing can always be encouraged and rewarded financially in the private sector, but this may not be an option for the resource-limited public organizations.
Schmetz (2002) believed that most people shared the view that sharing knowledge meant losing power. Therefore, knowledge sharing can only be promoted with compensating the loss of power with the disclosure of information needed by others.
Yiu and Lin (2002) pointed out that Asian cultures seem to understand that effective knowledge sharing depended more on natural relationships among people than retrieving information from databases. However, knowledge cannot be widely and effectively disseminated with only natural relationships. Staff members who did not have close relationships with other colleagues and were less open might be relatively disadvantaged in acquiring knowledge.
Future development of KM in school
Several trends will shape the field knowledge management in the not-too-distant future:
- Emerging technology solutions
- The convergence of knowledge management with e-business
- The movement from limited knowledge management projects to more enterprisewide projects
- Increasing use of knowledge management to enhance innovation
- Increasing use of tacit knowledge (rather than explicit knowledge)
(Kidwell, Vander Linde, & Johnson 2000)
From their primary school days onward, students will be increasingly exposed to technologies such as the Internet that facilitate independent learning and self-inquiry. These will be confident and technologically literate individuals who will demand learning that meets their personal requirements. (Coe, 2000)
While at the same time, R. N. Katz and Associates (2002) empathized that in the future, these systems need to be secure and to handily recognize an individual’s authorizations, based on roles and other personal attributes.
There are a few actions we have to do in promoting KM practices in future within the educational arena. We should continue to refine and communicate to others the value of knowledge management approaches in education, be rigorous in connecting KM approaches to expected outcomes (i.e. improvement in decision making for enhancing student learning), distinguish the KM approaches from technology implementation, assess the extent to which KM practices can continue to transform the classroom experience. (Petrides 2003)
Our research objective is to investigate how knowledge management can be applied into school environment such as its uses in education and its impacts to the students and teachers etc. In order to achieve the objective, we had studied and analyzed a number of books and articles which are relevant to the above topic. Apart from this, a secondary school in Hong Kong, was used as a case study for us to understand how KM support learning and teaching. To further investigate on the topic, we had attended the conference (IT in Education symposium - held on 2 March to 3 March) as well as conducted an interview with the Academic In-charge of the school.
Case Study on a secondary school in Hong KongEdit
Background of the schoolEdit
In 1998, the Government set out a five-year strategy (1998-99 to 2002-03) centered on “Information Technology for Learning in a New Era”, stating that Information Technology (IT) was to be a key component in transforming school education from “a largely textbook-based teacher-centered approach to a more interactive and learner-centered approach” (EMB, 1998). Schools were expected to harness the powers of IT in order to help students “develop an understanding of the pervasive impact of IT on the society and their daily lives, higher order thinking skills, as well as abilities to seek, evaluate, organize and present information”, students would develop a “habit of life-long learning” (EMB, 1998).
The secondary school in this case study is one of the oldest secondary school in Hong Kong. Since 2000, the school began to realize the vision and worked to transform itself from a traditional school into one IT-based, support-active school.
“Our vision is to extend the school's physical boundaries into the virtual space to enable both teachers and students to connect and learn with their counterparts all over the world,” said Mr. Yip, the Principal of the secondary school. (Microsoft, 2007)
Aiming at enhancing student-teachers' relationship as well as supporting students' outside-class learning, it has developed knowledge management in school, for instance, a collaborative learning platform like portal and forum that allow students to post questions and have online-discussion with classmates and teachers.
Findings & Analysis of the Case StudyEdit
Knowledge Management ToolsEdit
Resource Bank is the most official structural platform in the secondary school. Each subject or department has its own hierarchical structure designed by its panel. Access right has been set for students, teachers and super user. The principal, the administrative panel and the academic in change own super user's accounts which can access all the resources in the platform. After logging in, registered users can access different subjects and browse the resources according to their access right. Users can also make good use of the search engine in this platform. Search fields include: Name, Name and Details, File, Link and All resources.
This resource bank is mainly for subjects (curriculum) which include past paper subscribed from the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority (HKEAA), the school's past papers, quizzes and practical tests. From 2000, the school started using the platform; first of all, teachers uploaded a few resources onto the platform. In 2004, the school was aware of the importance of KM, teachers spent their spare time to upload and organize all the resources very well in the platform to fulfill the knowledge sharing purpose. Take Computer Studies as an example, it is easier to manage Form 1 to Form 3's resources because teachers only need to upload the data file (teaching resources) for each course or module. For A-Level or AS-level's Computer Studies, it is more difficult to manage because there are large amount of modules and projects.
Besides curriculum, the Counseling Department and the Academic Affair Department are also aware of the importance of KM and the benefits of using the platform after the external review in September 2006. From then on, they decided to upload all the minutes and useful forms to the platform instead of using folder to keep the records. Take Academic Affair Department as an example, members of Academic Affair Department have discussed the 3+3+4 Educational Reform since 2004. There are a lot of meetings, all the details of the meeting including the curriculum planning and timetables have been recorded down clearly and kept in the platform.
This resource platform can enhance the flow of knowledge and fulfill the knowledge sharing purpose. With this resource bank, it is convenient for the principal to check and see if any panel has difficulties on creating curriculum or any other issues. Principal would like to know: How many people join the meetings? How long did the meeting last? What is the students' performance? Who won a prize? etc. In addition, if one of the staff has left the school, all the document or knowledge which created by him or her can be traced and kept in the platform for reference. Besides subject matters, error reports of facilities and room booking details have also been kept in this platform. They are well-organized so that teachers can make good use of them online.
The Assessment Server is a non-structural KM tool. It started from 1999 with the purpose of collecting students' assignments. Nowadays, the school has stored students' assignments dated back to 2000 and recent years' resources are uploaded to the server. It has three databases including databases for different academic years (2004-2006, 2005-2007 and 2006-2008). Students can log on to the server to access the resources.
Structure of the Assessment Server:
- Problem-based learning project
- Assignment area
- Download area
- Curriculum management
- Exam area
- Student management
The Computer subject has the most complete resources among all subjects. Computer teachers of every form also use this server to collect assignments. For example, we can see from Form 2, how many people are in a class, what assignment they have to do in a whole academic year, who handed in assignment on time or late. With this server, the principal can check any pieces of assignment anytime. This year, the school plans to ask all students to digitize their hand-written assignments as well as exam papers and submit them through this server. However, this is still in process and some technological problems have to be solved in the meantime.
For example, Form 5 Computer Science students have to hand in coursework for School-Based Assessment (SBA). It is a long report with topics like programming or others. The Computer teacher has divided the coursework into different phases from one to five, in order to collect students' work in a systematical way. Also, students can handle the project more easily. Other subjects may only collect the final copy of the coursework but the Computer subject collects assignment like this, because students can continue their progress in the summer vocation.
This server was originally a tool for collecting assignments. Why does it become a KM tool? If a new staff comes to the school, he/she may want to know what to teach in the Computer subject. Then, he/she is asked to look at this server, seeing what assignment students are needed to do, as well as notes and other teaching resources. There is also a download area for user to download relevant resources, e.g. materials for HKCEE, assignment, module coursework, answer for textbook, marking schemes, notes, etc. Even students know how to get resources from this server. New teachers can know that how many tests were there in last year also since all tests are uploaded onto the server after they are designed by teachers.
The third function is online exam. For the Computer subject, all past paper are typed into the server and students can do them online. Teachers can view students' performance. In particular, questions that are frequently with wrong answers can be figured out for discussion.
The Assessment Server is a structural teaching tool (for sharing teaching resources and collecting assignments) but a non-structural KM tool (since the original purpose of the server is for collecting assignments but not for KM sharing) according to the interviewee, like online portals using in different universities. Teachers can trace back a few years for the subject activities, but it only depends on which subject. For example, Chinese History would not use this server to collect assignment. The folder of this subject would be empty.
The Students' Server is a non-structural KM tool, which is launched in May 2003. It is a public forum in which members include teachers, students, parents, and outsiders. This discussion forum was surely welcomed by web-citizens since it launched. There are nearly six hundred web-citizens login to the Students' Forum every day. All members take advantages of this e-Communicating Environment to initiate discussions related to current events, personal enquiries, learning problems and any academic issues. Users can also make use of the search engine in this forum to search a specific post.
This Students' Forum serves as a multi-purpose portal. There are different discussion areas, including general issues, academic issues, and club and committee issues.
- Academic discussion
For academic discussion, there are subjects including Physics, Computer Studies, Mathematics, Geography, Chinese Language and English Language. In these academic discussion forums, any member of the school community can post a question, an issue for discussion, or simply share some ideas or thoughts. With these forums, students can acquire different subject knowledge not only in the textbooks, but also through knowledge sharing and learning among schoolmates and teachers.
For example, teacher of the Computer Studies may post exercises to the forum. Students who have difficulties in doing the exercise can post their questions to the forum. Different teachers, classmates or even some past students may help to solve students' enquiries with their knowledge through the forum. In fact, not only students can learn from the discussion, teachers who teach the same subject may also exchange their knowledge and their teaching method with each other. In addition, as all this information will not be deleted, the knowledge can be kept, so the students of the next year can reuse this knowledge. They may also simply refer to the posts when they encounter similar difficulties during revision, by making use of the keyword search function provided in the forum.
From the above examples, we can see that members of the forum are assisting each other to develop their knowledge in this forum. When a member did not understand a concept mentioned in class or during their revision, they can asked for answers. This shows that the forum is not only a place for exchanging information and seeking help, but also a platform for members acquiring and developing knowledge.
- Clubs and activities
For club and committee issues, details of events or competition of extra-curriculum activities will be posted on the forum. For example, the date, gathering time and venue of a basketball competition, or how many practice sections would be held before the competition etc. can be posted in the forum. Therefore, students who are interested in the competition can get this information from the forum and go to support the teams. Besides, even if the coach or current teacher has to leave the team temporarily, new teachers may know the pattern and frequency of the team practice, as well as how to organize a similar event, and which competition is held during the semester by searching the related topic in the forum.
- Online gallery
In addition to the discussion platform, the forum also includes an online gallery, all photos of the event held in the school was organized and grouped orderly and uploaded to the album.
For example, during the trip to Beijing, students may post their daily events and the photos taken during the trip to the forum, so that parents can know about the situation of their children. And of course, parents are also welcomed to give opinions about the trip through the forum, or to leave some warm messages to their children, like asking them to wear the thinker jackets under the cold weather. This shows that the forum does not only enhance the knowledge sharing among students and teachers, it is also useful to help connecting and maintaining the relationship between parents and children.
To sum up, this forum provides users a couple of pros: first, it allows ideas exchanging among teachers, parents and students. This is undoubtedly vital to enhance and broaden users’ perspectives. Besides, it encourages knowledge sharing which will be beneficial to users to further their knowledge and understandings on any types of issue. Another advantage of the forum is that, users can make use of this platform to keep a closer connection with each other.
Benefits noted by our interviewee of KM in schoolEdit
According to the interviewee from the secondary school, KM can help a lot in both learning for students and management of information for the school. Student assessments or assignments are submitted through Internet, teachers can then easily get access to them at once when it is uploaded. Meanwhile, in such way, teachers or students can trace back the previous works for reference very conveniently.
On the other hand, under the concept of Community of Practice, teachers, through KM, can gain from the process of sharing. What teachers possess can be knowledge in any forms, for example, teaching schemes, assignment and test paper they constructed, schedules of any kind, circulars, information of any extra-curricular activities, etc. They are digitalized and submitted to the web space. Teachers can then be able to look at each other's information and give suggestion or even learn from them.
Moreover, KM also assists more enthusiastic parents to get to know more about their children's learning environment. Parents can receive special notices and newsletter or even actively participate in discussion, for instance, online forum.
KM implementation is welcomed by most of the staff. About 60% of the teachers are not willing to be active in the issue.
We believe culture has the edge. As Schmetz mentioned our traditional culture is in some way discouraging one to share her knowledge, since it is being considered a loss of power. (Schmetz 2002) Fortunately, the interviewee said that this newer generation students are enthusiastic in using the KM tools, including the forum, homework uploading portal, etc. However, for the large portion of the current teaching staff, they are reluctant in embarking in KM’s activities.
Why the teaching staff reacted negatively towards KM? Beside the fright of losing power, they consider KM implementation is going to mount up the workload for them. As many of them have been so familiar with the traditional way, they do not know how to totally shift their work to the computer especially for the older generations. The interviewee also told us that, if teachers are ordered to participate in sharing online notes, a number of them would only upload some worthless materials to the web space.
Future development for KM in the schoolEdit
The interviewee foresees that there will be a lot of effort needed to promote the idea of KM among the staff. The first action to take, he said, is to let all the teachers know how beneficial the implementation of KM can be. It is also considerable to reward staff by regularly profiled in an in-house newsletter sent to all staff according to Chiem. (Chiem 2001)
To conclude, knowledge management in the secondary school is astonishing. The tools and methods the school adopted for the implementation of KM is, in certain extent, successful. For instance, the forum is welcomed by different aspects of users, including students, teachers and even parents. Each group of users can no wonder gain from the sharing of information. They can voice out their ideas and needs, and at the end, this could benefit the school management in creating a sophisticated environment for education.
The only concern is that, knowledge management might be so new to current teaching staff. The changes it brings could be uncomfortable to teachers who prefer sticking with the existing teaching methods. It is vital that the school should encourage more and more staff to take part in the sharing of information by rewards or other reinforcements of similar form. Without full support from the teacher party, the idea of KM would not be able to emerge throughout the whole school.
We would like to thank the Academic In-charge of the secondary school for his detailed and complete information. He is so enthusiastic in helping us to understand how KM is applied in the school environment. Besides, we are grateful to our professor in providing relevant references and advices to our work. Finally, we felt gratitude to our classmates for the amendment of our work.
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