Kennedy School Takeaways – Information and Education

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I had a fantastic conversation recently with Don Oppenheimer, Associate Dean and Chief Information Officer at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

Interestingly, his main background and experience is less in education and technology than in knowledge management (KM), and management consulting. Part of his current focus at the Kennedy School is to help with:
•    Internal knowledge management from a research and faculty perspective
•     Providing easy and open access to the intellectual capital created internally at Harvard
•     Educating the faculty and student body on tools and best practices for accessing information to support their studies, work, and research

I approached Don based on his job title which I found very interesting (and based on the fact that we are related, albeit in a labyrinthine way), because I intuited correctly that we shared similar interests and challenges in our work. In both cases, albeit in different levels of education, we are facing myriad challenges at all organizational and cultural levels to bring about organizational change in a way that integrates a forward-looking approach to education and information / knowledge management.

Here are some of the takeaways from our conversation:


1) ON RESEARCH AND INFORMATION LITERACY

Even at this prestigious university, at the masters level, they are finding it necessary to devote resources to raise student skills levels in the areas of finding and evaluating information.
Google as a research tool is doing a disservice to students. More effective research skills are needed, and they need to be taught AS PART OF research projects, not as standalone, context-free training.

2) ON A NEEDED NON_TECHNICAL PARADIGM SHIFT
Too often a paper is assigned and the requirement is a minimum length. A more effective approach is to require a maximum length. This leads to better arguments, clearer and more concise thinking, etc.

3) ON COURSEWARE
Don wonders why – since almost all higher ed uses courseware – high schools do not. Even if the only reason were to prepare students better for college, one would think they would be used more frequently in high school

4) ON INTERDISCIPLINARY LEARNING
Today’s problems can only be solved through interdisciplinary coordination. We need to be training our students to work across disciplines and with other specialists collaboratively to identify and solve complex problems.

5) ON RESOURCES

Use the school librarian as much as possible in working towards information literacy

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