NB. The following extract will deal with the Knowledge Strategy part of an article that is about much more. If you care to read the whole article, please go to http://www.helsinki.fi/~tella/mep8cc.html.

Reference: Tella, S., Mononen-Aaltonen, M. & Kynäslahti, H. in collaboration with Nummi, T., Passi, A., Ristola, R., Sariola, J., Vahtivuori, S. & Wager, P. 1998. Towards a Communal Curriculum: Strategic Planning and the Emerging Knowledge of Media Education. In Tella, S. (ed.) Aspects of Media Education: Strategic Imperatives in the Information Age. Media Education Centre. Department of Teacher Education. University of Helsinki. Media Education Publications 8, 1–83.

| <Media Education Centre, main page> | <Strategic Knowledge Planning, references> | <Media Education Publication 6> | <Media Education Publication 7> | <Media Education Publication 8> | <Media Education Publication 9> | <OLE Publications> | <Seppo Tella's home page> |

What Are Knowledge Strategies?


Table of Contents (Extracts)

3. What are Knowledge Strategies?

3.1 Definitions and Outlines of Knowledge Strategies
3.2 Different Interpretations of Knowledge Strategies

3.2.1 Background Idea and Thought of Action
3.2.2 Mode of Action
3.2.3 Vision
3.2.4 Strategy

5. Knowledge Strategy as a Mode of Practice, or How is Knowledge Strategy Made?

5.1 Literature Review
5.2 Discussion About Values
5.3 Basic Values
5.4 Developmental Aspects

8. References

(The figures of the whole article are accessible as PDF files.)

3. What Are Knowledge Strategies?

3.1 Definitions and Outlines of Knowledge Strategies

What does ‘knowledge strategy’ mean? How do we understand it? Is knowledge strategy a strategy or strategic thinking about knowledge? How should knowledge be understood in this context and what should it include? If knowledge strategy is a concept on the organisational level, what is its equivalent on the level of individuals? In this article knowledge strategy refers to long-term, methodical reflection on the essential nature of the Media Education Centre and its future action, which finds concrete expression as operational procedures or tactical measures, slogans, goals, forms of operation, working methods arising from discussion about values, and evaluation measures connected with them. Knowledge strategy is also connected with our thoughts on what kind of theoretical material the telelogically defined media education in particular can be approached with. Knowledge strategy may also be described as a meta-level systemic process through which the community, in this case the Media Education Centre, selects, implements, and adapts various modes of work, action, decision-making, and problem-solving. Seen from this macro- or meso-perspective, knowledge strategy can be compared with cognitive strategies on the micro-level, the level of individuals, which people use to select and modify their learning, remembering, and thinking functions . In this context knowledge is understood as mental information structures modified by the individual on the basis of thinking and earlier knowledge, resulting in versatile knowledge.

Knowledge strategy can be approached from various starting points and directions. In Finland a considerable amount of national knowledge strategy has been produced since 1993 when the Government drafted the first strategic documents. The 1993 Government decision regarding measures for the reformation of central and local administration in principle is considered significant for the Finnish information community policy as the decisions made included a decision on the outlining of a knowledge management strategy (completed in 1993) and information society strategy (completed in 1994; "Finland Towards an Information Society—National Guidelines"). The strategies described in the following paragraph are largely based on these two documents (e.g. Lilius 1997, 2).

The "National Strategy on Education, Training and Research", advocated by the Finnish Ministry of Education in 1995, set up some goals to provide every student with the basic skills in acquiring, managing, and communicating information, necessary in the information society if interpreted as an interactive network between people and information systems. The strategy was supplemented in 1996 by another document "Towards a Culture-Oriented Information Society". Both strategic documents aimed at guaranteeing all citizens equal opportunities in the new information environment. Some of the key elements included high-quality education, training, research, and culture, with opportunities for lifelong learning available to everyone. One of the key development projects aims to have all senior secondary schools and vocational institutions networked by 1998, and all comprehensive schools by the year 2000 (The Development of Education 1994—1996). In 1997, 65 % of all schools were already networked. More than 1,000 primary and secondary level schools (out of 4,800) had a home page on the Web in 1997, and new pages appear with increasing speed. This network would open up new opportunities for students to receive high quality teaching regardless of their geographic location. The telematic infrastructure is exceptionally well developed in Finland, so networking schools via telematics and with the aid of various technological tools is not that far-fetched. Sceptics might still ask whether simple physical networking between schools is enough; what would really count is the collaboration between the schools. Networking of schools calls for collaboration likely to lead to organisational integration in which it is difficult to distinguish any geographical, educational or administrative boundaries between schools. At the Media Education Centre, we have already found some new sociologically interesting phenomena taking place when schools get networked, viz. decentralisation, integration, and fragmentation (e.g., Tella & Kynäslahti 1997). Networks of schools are likely to become a constitutive element in the development of schooling in the Finnish information and communication society. We are convinced that networking is one of the ways that help facilitate the uneasy alliance between technology, culture, and communication.

As regards these national strategic documents and documents prepared by the different Ministries in particular, it can be said that technological development has in some cases progressed more rapidly than envisioned by the various committees. For example, the Internet and use of global networks and different levels of networking have progressed more quickly than expected. Different universities and their faculties may also have their own strategic plans and documents. Probably some of the most important strategic documents prepared by the Department of Teacher Education are by Meisalo & Lavonen (1995) and Tella (1996). Indeed, we hold the opinion that the planning of knowledge strategy should be included in the important operations at each school and institution. Instead of simply reforming their curriculum, we think schools and municipalities should progress towards developing their knowledge strategic thinking. One of the aims of this article and the entire publication is to provide viewpoints for such thinking.

This article emphasises the view adopted by the Media Education Centre towards knowledge strategic thinking. The aim is not to create a general knowledge strategy for the Faculty of Education or the Department of Teacher Education but to consider the matter from the point of view of our own Centre. However, corresponding trains of thought are also likely to emerge on other organisational levels. The ideas would probably be related to the development of organisations and the basic nature of a learning organisation in particular.

3.2 Different Interpretations of Knowledge Strategy

Knowledge strategy can be understood as different interpretations, for instance the background idea of a community or the thought of action, mode of action, vision, strategy, and also as information on or information structure of what is done and why. These viewpoints are discussed briefly in the following.

Figure 2. Different Interpretations of Knowledge Strategy.

3.2.1 Background Idea and Thought of Action

Knowledge strategy can be seen as the background idea of a community or an idea of what the community does, what it should do, and how the community's actions, structure, and tasks are placed among those of other communities. Knowledge strategy can thus be understood as the functional philosophy of the community or practical philosophy.

3.2.2 Mode of Action

Understood as the mode of action or operational idea of a community, knowledge strategy is associated with structural or systemic claims through which it is possible for those outside the community to perceive the target-oriented dimension of the community's action. The basic structure of the mode of action may be more concrete and practical that that of the background idea or thought or action, which include a larger amount of philosophical reflection on values, goals, and objectives. The finality of the mode of action (rationale) is more pragmatic, and it often leads more naturally to a continuous reform and analysis of communal action. The mode of action may be regarded as a theory on communal practice.

3.2.3 Vision

The interpretation of knowledge strategy as a vision arises from the idea that the development of a community requires withdrawal from everyday routines and facing the future. The importance of visions is reflected in many sayings, for example, "Don’t do what's most important, do what's most urgent." Unfortunately, the just in time principle, typical of our times, often leads to a deviation of such principles. However, the importance of visions to the development of the community and for an individual's mental growth is undeniable. In his book on the great leaders of the world, Gardner (1997) describes a phenomenon which focuses on people who make important decisions. He considers how several successful leaders have every now and then almost forcibly attempted and managed brief respites from the ‘rat-race’ to be able to think about various issues and the future policies of the communities they direct.

An analysis of the work of teachers and teacher educators easily leads to the impression that their work is so hectic and exhausting that it leaves no time for visions. The most important thing is to do one's job well, often only a day at a time. Should not attention be paid to the planning of the future, however, to what we want our work community to move towards? In this respect visions as part of knowledge strategic thinking are connected with the idea of development, the attempt to work for the realisation of one's vision. Vision has connotations of looking ahead, of anticipating. An English dictionary defines vision as power of seeing or imagining, looking ahead, grasping the truth that underlies facts. A French dictionary contains the following definition: << perception du monde extérieur par les organes de la vue; action de voir; façon de voir; conception >>. This definition is based on seeing as a concrete action and proceeds towards a more personal seeing, a view of something. It has sometimes been said (e.g. Tella 1993) that in the school world vision has been less evident than revision, division, and supervision. The importance of visions in education has not been overly emphasised; for instance, the famous handbook by Wittrock (1986) does not list vision as an entry (nor strategy). Having studied the development of the school community in Finland, Leppilampi (1991, 149) maintains that visions have been more common in the business community where the operations of a successful enterprise must be guided by a vision accepted and internalised by as many members of the work community as possible. If the vision is integrated as part of the knowledge strategy, it may be said that it serves as a developmental idea of the community, a state-of-the-art ideal on which the community is developed like any thinking, collegial community which reflects its actions and opportunities.

Like strategies in general, vision is also directed towards the future. It is a future-oriented view, an abstraction which can be made concrete through goals and targets and tactical measures. Leppilampi (1991, 150) defines vision (according to Bennis, Nanus & Berman 1985) as simple, easily understandable, clearly desirable, desired, and energetic, while a target is concrete, measurable and scheduled so that it can be achieved by a given time. Visions should take into account the different strata of the community. A vision must be made known to and internalised by all key operators. If this is done, visions also promote democracy in the work community. It may be claimed that a shared vision increases shared communalism and partnership in the community. A more closer analysis of how visions are compared with beliefs, [pre]conceptions, and knowledge (see e.g. Tella 1993) is not possible in this context. Let us note briefly that Pajares (1992), for instance, makes references to researchers who maintain that beliefs may finally prove to be the most valuable psychological constructs in teacher education. Little research has been done on the understanding of beliefs, however. Another problem is where to draw the line between knowledge and belief (e.g. Pajares (1992). However, according to a generally accepted definition, knowledge equals a justifiable, true belief. We are thus justified in concluding that knowledge is based on belief. What is more difficult is to define what is a true (and what a false) belief. This reasoning leads to the assumption that vision is not only based on beliefs, but also on knowledge to some extent, since knowledge is by definition included in the area of beliefs.

3.2.4 Strategy

The etymology of strategy conveys an idea of action directed towards a common target. According to Webster's Dictionary, strategy is the science and art of using all the forces of a nation to execute plans as effectively as possible during peace or war. On a more concrete level the same source defines it as a plan of action resulting from strategy or intended to accomplish a specific goal. It is a question of a deep, far-reaching goal, the achievement of which calls for the harnessing of a considerable amount of common resources. As indicated by this etymology, strategy also involves conscious reflection on the practical measures needed to reach the goals.

The potential goals created through visions are achieved through strategy. It is a tool for determining the issues which must be taken into account in order to reach the desired goals. Strategy provides a framework for the plan of action, which concerns the acts carried out within the strategic framework. Not only are one's own actions taken into account, but the importance of other, closely connected areas are also calculated. Thus knowledge strategic planning in media education also includes reflection on the importance of closely related disciplines, such as education as a major science, other disciplines, and the various aspects of society which affect media education (for a closer analysis, cf. Tella 1998).

Strategy involves an analysis of one's own strengths and areas requiring development. Attention is also paid to the corresponding factors on the above-mentioned related areas. For the strategy to succeed, potential threats which may hinder the achievement of goals must also be evaluated. For the evaluation of the strategy to succeed, the achievement of goals must be measurable, for example, on the basis of a temporal dimension or effectiveness. Such measurability must be taken into account at the planning stage. It is of primary importance that those involved in the outlining of a common strategy are unanimous enough on and committed to its methods and goals. This requires strategic design to take place through dialogue which leads to a common discourse between all partners.

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5. Knowledge Strategy as a Mode of Practice, or How is Knowledge Strategy Made?

The outlining of knowledge strategy requires continuous evaluation of both the contents and form of the strategy and the directions and tactical methods it requires. We are aware here of the difficulties related to the validation of the evaluation of knowledge strategic thinking. Actually, the most important validation criteria must be time. The validity of the strategic and tactical decisions we make now is only visible when their concrete effects are observable, which in some cases may take years. On the other hand, this brings a long-term dimension to the action both vertically and horizontally. For this reason, the evaluation of strategic thinking is connected with the effectiveness of the action and its analysis.

Figure 3. Knowledge Strategy as a Mode of Action.

This chapter contains a preliminary discussion on the phases needed when a school or another community sets out to establish its own knowledge strategy. At the same time the chapter reflects the mode of analysis the writers of this article used in particular in spring 1998 when knowledge strategy was analysed together as an object of joint thinking and co-authoring.

Knowledge strategy may be developed as follows:

5.1 Literature Review

Knowledge strategic thinking can be seen to arise from the knowledge of existing literature. In this respect, literature includes a variety of sources, for example the national strategic documents commissioned by the Government, European Union documents and action plans, and other more general literature connected with strategic thinking. The viewpoints of the learning organisation and life-long learning should also be borne in mind. A fairly new yet important source are the digital strategic documents found on the World Wide Web.

5.2 Discussion About Values

Knowledge strategic thinking is in reality a discussion about values between the various members of the work community on what kind of future should be valued and which direction taken. We must start from the fact that the future can be influenced and future solutions be considered. Various think tanks and modes of synectic ideation are also needed in discussion about values. It can also be enlivened by inviting ‘outside’ experts to the community to add zest to the thinking. Accordingly, it is possible to study the future scenarios presented by various experts concerning their own fields of expertise (for instance, the articles Top Ten Futures II in the Futura magazine, issue 4/1997).

One of the key requirements of successful discussion about values is adherence to the principles of dialogism, in particular, attention to and respect of other people's opinions (Tella & Mononen-Aaltonen 1998). The discussion must never turn into a debate or aggressive arguing about what should be condemned or called into question. A genuine dialogue involves listening skills, addressivity, and recognition of the fact that dialogic discussion about values requires time. Knowledge strategic thinking is a topic particularly suited to a discussion about values, since on a conceptual level it already involves the contents of two complicated constructs and the claims they give rise to. At the Media Education Centre, a discussion was initiated in December 1997, which evaluated the work done during the past autumn and considered the plan for spring 1998. This is when the first versions of many of the ideas included in our articles first saw light. An organised discussion began towards the beginning of the spring term 1998 and has continued unabated. From the beginning, it was clear that this is a challenging topic which cannot and must not be limited in advance. On the contrary, we found it important that the discussion could be conducted in the constructive spirit of communalism and that the existing modes of thinking could be modified further.

5.3 Basic Values

Discussion about values can, at its best, lead to common basic values (arvopohja), which the members of the community can commit themselves to. Basic values constitute a kind of ‘agreement’ on the key values future action is directed towards. Indirectly, it also implies limitations placed on the values which the community as a whole is not committed to. However, it is not a question of denying or condemning individual values. It is more a question of raising implicit, possibly unconscious values as a subject of conscious thought. Values are always linked with choices and subjectivity. A search for common basic values may actually reinforce the collective subject in the community; at the very least it helps to reinforce a sense of communalism.

5.4 Developmental Aspects

Naturally, knowledge strategic thinking must find concrete expression as action and not remain solely a theoretical structure. By way of comparison it can be noted that the phases defined above from the discussion about values to determining basic values are largely constructivist in nature. Both individuals and the community they comprise construct their own views and organise their own knowledge of the concept ‘knowledge strategy’. Another point of comparison would be provided by reflective action which studies the justification of the action.

Nevertheless, just like constructivism or reflection face the danger of remaining "without spirit" unless made concrete or taken to the level of performance or constructionism (e.g. Papert's comparison of the differences between constructivism and constructionism; also Tella 1994, 33), knowledge strategic thinking and discussion about values and the basic values themselves as parts of the strategy require a concrete expression. Indeed, it is part of our strategy to see this phase as dynamic research, development and experimental action which can be characterised as a cyclic, self-correcting process mode. This phase can include slogans, visions, consolidation of goals, forms of action, working methods, as well as the planning and implementation of evaluation.

To summarise, there are three questions, the answers to which make the mode concrete. The key questions are:

1) What is the current situation?
2) What is the ideal?
3) How can the ideal be reached?

The first question is connected with the analysis of the current situation, the status quo. The second question is connected with a state-of-the-art kind of approach, which outlines the future ideal situation. Usually it is natural to consider several alternative visions. The third question requires thinking about how this new ideal can be reached or how we should move towards it. The questions are simple, yet recurrent. They must be asked time and again as the action continues.

One aspect of the consolidation of action is initiated through the central research and operational principles of the Media Education Centre. Plans and strategies are based on the analysis of the semantic fields of the different components of the operational principles, and the ideas for development and research derived therefrom.

* On a strategic level, planning is based on the synergy and multidimensional benefits acquired through both national and international projects and research co-operation. The planning is based on a pedagogically and didactically meaningful and appropriate development of national and international knowledge resources, based mainly on telematics and telematic solutions, systematic research, and evaluation of its achievements.

* On a tactical level the planning is based on projects carried out both within the Department of Teacher Education and the Faculty of Education and between different faculties and disciplines. The starting point is the synergetic, interdisciplinary research project planning. In the Department of Teacher Education, long-term and medium-term planning arises from the continuous development of virtual-pedagogical ideas which have been under development for years or are currently researched.

As mentioned earlier, this article describes the current phase of our knowledge strategic thinking, mostly theoretical reflection thereon. In the next phase the aim is to find new concrete modes of action, experimentation with which is also part of the implementation of the strategic thinking.

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