Transparency as an ideal

Sharing knowledge = sawing off your own branch?

Some people might consider it stupid to tell the world everything you know. Those people would probably argue, that as knowledge is an important and valuable asset in society today, why should you give away your knowledge for free? They might even posit that doing so would be like sawing off the branch, on which you yourself are sitting comfortably. If everybody knows what you know, how can you make a living?

Well, these are just possible positions based on common assumptions, but assumptions with which I passionately disagree.

In line with the “open source” movement within the world of software, I believe in open sourced knowledge.  I would rather tell it all to everybody than know things just for myself. Where’s the fun in that?

Transparency as a business model

This is not (only) because I am a naïve idealist trying to make a difference, even though it is probably part of the explanation. Idealists are somewhat egoistic, too, and on a personal level it is just immensely satisfying to see problems solved by the knowledge and ideas you share. In addition, it is simply easier to manage in day-to-day activities if I am not required to withhold some things, while strategically distributing others.

I live to share!

At the same time, though, I whole-heartedly believe that sharing everything is the best way to position yourself as someone relevant and valuable. In a way it has become my business model; the way I do business. Right from the beginning I was convinced that – in the long run – I would benefit the most by not focusing on earning money fast, but by distributing solid and relevant knowledge. This is not to say that all my activities are top notch, far from, but I allways aim for them to be. My ambition is to distinguish myself, make it clear what I can and do, and how I can possibly contribute to various projects.

But am I not just making myself expendable by constantly giving it all away? Well, no, it doesn’t seem so. The explanation is probably that knowledge as a commodity, something you can “give away”, is static and not in itself what makes the difference. Everybody can find most of what I know right here on the internet, and much of it is probably even on Wikipedia. I focus on the dynamics, on bringing knowledge and ideas into play in new contexts, thus trying to solve problems in new and creative ways. I am always trying to be analytic, looking for patterns and areas to be combined. These things I can’t just hand over, and thus I am not putting myself out of business by sharing and striving for transparency. Well, it might be part of the explanation, at least.

Examples on this “school of thought” are ample, and an increasing number of people are adopting this way of working and sharing in one continuous process. Transparency in communication, leadership and organizations is becoming an increasingly popular dogma, and digital media (especially the internet) is reinforcing this tendency.

Sharing in education?

In continuation of this line of thought, I am always arguing for increased sharing and transparency in the world of education. Many highly competent teachers, instructors, consultants and researchers are working hard, doing experiments and achieving great things, yet these achievements are rarely sufficiently shared with the greater community. I would claim that we could move forward faster if sharing was more widespread, and if everybody pooled in their valuable experiences.

I am always trying to provide different ressources to promote the ability to share ideas, but inertia is strong, and things are moving quite slowly. Too slowly for my impatient taste, in any case. It is very hard inspiring people to comment on blogs, participate in forums etc.

Got good experiences? Tell the world!

I guess that, in general terms, teachers, practitioners and other “inhabitants” of education are not really used to this approach. This is a rude assumption, I know, as a large number of teachers are great at telling what they do. Many others, however, are never heard, and could perhaps be labelled “the silent majority”. Traditionally, perhaps, the classroom was considered something “private”, and your own practice was…well, your own. Not something for others to nose into. Why would it be someone else’s business what you do?

Because your good experience could actually make a difference for the greater good of education.

Maybe you just had a general discussion about games with your class , maybe you calculated the size of an area in World of Warcraft, maybe you analyzed the story in Heavy Rain or maybe you compared games to other media like books or movies. It might be easy to write off these examples as mere trivialities with no value for anyone but yourself – but this is a serious misunderstanding. The value of sharing can’t really be overstated, as we are in dire need of just the experiences showing how the abstract talk about innovation can be turned into concrete practice.

I want to stress that I am not accusing anyone here. I am just trying to figure out how to further support an ideal of sharing in order to strengthen necessary progression.

How do we nurture a culture of transparency in education? How do we make it not only feasible, but attractive to share?

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