Knowledge Management: Do I Really Have to Plant My Flag in Just One World?

It isn’t unusual for music educators to be singletons…to be the only ones teaching our discipline in our buildings. If we’re fortunate, there might be one of us assigned to direct choral ensembles, one of us responsible for instrumental groups, and somewhere along the powers that be who builds a class schedule, the responsibilities for classroom-based instruction are split between the two. This year, my teaching assignment includes Advanced Placement Music Theory (APMuTh). This is very much a “unicorn” course…an offering that appeals to a typically, small group of students with a very specific focus. Since the beginning of this academic year, my four students and I have been working on developing an academic community with one another. While I enjoy the environment we have established and appreciate the opportunity to individualize instruction according to their strengths and needs, I know that we would all benefit from opportunities to share with a community of teachers and learners greater than what we have in our immediate reach.

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to participate in an AP Workshop along with approximately 10 other music educators. Our presenter was a college professor who has served as a head reader for the APMuTh exam. We were there to learn, but not just from the presenter. I found the opportunity to exchange thoughts with my peers to be a most energizing experience. Just ask my students about the energy level during class the day I returned to campus (those poor kids). My day away equipped me with a renewed commitment to contextual listening and finding ways to engage my students in finding samples that will be used throughout our year together. This is especially valuable since approximately 50% of the exam includes aural skills (harmonic and melodic dictation, sight singing, chord qualities). Collectively, my fellow AP teachers and I are faced with the challenge of taking a knowledge base that we typically take for granted (in this case, the music innately within and surrounding us) and breaking it down to reveal its elements in a theoretical (and potentially non-artistic) way. We are teaching them to communicate in a language other than their mother tongues.

In its great wisdom, the College Board recognizes that AP teachers don’t always have easy access to colleagues who speak the same “teacher talk” common to our distinct classroom environments. Not all AP teachers can get away to participate in professional development opportunities, especially those sponsored by College Board. While it isn’t brain surgery (no offense to neurosurgeons), it does require a unique skill set and, yes, mindset to effectively teach APMuTh. In support of this, the College Board offers us a number of resources, not the least of which is APCentral. In addition to having access to question banks and soft assessments, we have the opportunity to participate in the AP Teacher Community As one of the aforementioned “unicorns,” I have found this to be especially helpful. Since we are all required to submit our curricula, textbooks, and other supportive materials prior to being allowed to actually teach AP, this has permitted me to confirm best practices while having access to resources and strategies that are tried and tested in the field. AP Central and the AP Teacher Community, both forms of Knowledge Management (KM), are evidence of (what I view as) an increasing amount of common ground between education, corporate organizations, and non-profits. Walls between each of these “domains” are coming down…and for the better. When comparing the APMuTh format from when I first taught it in 2002 and its present iteration, I’m able to recognize the many changes made on both sides of the teacher-student equation. The extra gift

This week, I had the chance to consider the APMuTh experience through several lenses. It isn’t difficult for me to recognize how the overall APMuTh has moved through Nancy Dixon’s Three Eras of Knowledge Management during the past 18 years. The eras illustrate times of (a) gathering elements contributing to knowledge (Leveraging Explicit Knowledge); (b) a physical development of communities made up of practitioners (Leveraging Experiential Knowledge); (c) expansion of conversation past geographic limitations by social media (Leveraging Collective Knowledge) Harold Jarche’s concept of Social Learning resonated within me in a similar ways, but especially for its dependence upon the development of relationships to further desired communication. As I read it, Social Learning works because it calls for a breaking down of walls permitting a freer exchange of ideas between community members. All of this is wonderful. KM is certainly aligned with the leadership style and organizational structure that I prefer…one that is based upon trust, encourages collaboration and creativity, and develops leadership from the middle vs. top-down. As a result, I am attracted to taking advantage of KM and actively using it in my teaching and conducting.

As I write this blogpost, my brain is full of the benchmarks my students need during the coming year and the goldmine of strategies I received at this week’s workshop. I’m trying to view the progress made in KM in the most objective way possible. I feel as if I’m straddling two worlds. One foot is securely rooted in the traditions that have framed my chosen art form for centuries. The other is happy to be standing in an environment giving my students access to far more resources than I can give them on my own via hard copy, and encourages me to network with colleagues across the country and around the world. Here are my questions: Do I need to plant my flag in just one world? Does KM necessarily have to be an issue of leaving one “era” for another, or is there a way to encourage a bidirectional flow between Dixon’s Three Eras? Personally, I aspire to closing the loop of learning, as described by Jarche, so that each era or “state” can benefit from the others. My thought is that we will benefit from participating in Work Teams, Communities of Practitioners, and Social Networks without necessarily making any one exclusive of the others.

From a much earlier Era…the Guidonian Hand: an early “resource” for teaching music.

Published by Just call me Nan.

A musician/educator who is sustained by the love of a great family and wonderful friends. Lover of peace and animals.

11 thoughts on “Knowledge Management: Do I Really Have to Plant My Flag in Just One World?

  1. I really liked reading your thoughts on knowledge management this week, and I also find your style of writing to be very eloquent and fun! I thought you made an excellent point that you and your fellow AP teachers typically take your knowledge base for granted, as I think we all experience the curse of knowledge relative to our own line of work!

    I was also pleased to hear that your opportunity to get away and participate in a professional development workshop was valuable and rejuvenating. It seems that this was due to a willingness from you and others in attendance to exchange genuine thoughts and ideas and learn from each other’s shared, yet separate, experiences. This speaks to Dixon’s (2009) notion regarding the benefits of psychologically safe environments enabling individuals to engage in interpersonal risks without fear of negative consequence. If so, what factors do you think may have assisted everyone in attendance to be so honest and willing to share information? The reason I ask is because in my line of work with professional baseball, sharing internal knowledge or information with others in different organizations rarely happens – often due to a fear of exposing potential secrets that might give away a competitive advantage. But I also suppose there is no threat of competition between you and your peers in the field, right? You also mentioned the primary purpose of the workshop was to learn from the presenter, but there was more value in conversation with peers. Were those who presented also peers, or were they considered to be more as leaders or authorities in the field on whatever topics were addressed?

    Although I want to agree with your hope for social learning to break down walls and be a catalyst to close the learning gap, I wonder if this somehow might also promote a shift towards mediocrity and diminish the value of competition, the desire to strive for achievement and stand out from the rest – that is, if learning can still be obtained without effort on one’s own part by relying on others to willingly provide it for us. I realize this might be an over-the-top statement as it pertains to KM, and maybe somewhat similar to the “everyone gets a trophy” notion, but do you think there might be some truth to it? Thanks!


    Dixon, N. (May 02, 2009). Where knowledge management has been and where it is going. Conversation Matters. Retrieved from:

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree that my time at the workshop mirrored Dixon’s (2009) concept of a psychologically safe environment. Some of us in attendance were veteran teachers while others were total newbies. I think the most significant factor contributing to the success of the community we developed in that one day is our shared commitment to seeking the best for our students. On average, we have been communicating as musicians for decades. Speaking for myself, I really don’t remember what it was like for me to look at a piece of music without being able to read and interpret it. Same for analyzing its harmonies or form. As AP teachers, we are challenged with having to rewind our clocks so that we can walk our students through the process of developing a new literacy. After all, music really is a language of its own. The presenter was a leader in our field. I credit him with strongly contributing to our psychologically safe environment to the point that questions that could have been viewed as “simple” were posed without hesitation. Perhaps even more importantly, they were answered (either by presenter and participants) without derision…always with clarity and respect.

      I totally understand what you’ve described relating to exposing secrets. I watch enough games to hear scuttle about “stolen signals,” etc. (BTW, my countdown says 94 days until Pitchers and Catchers report!) Certainly there are areas in our field that cause us to hold thing close to the vest. Ask any director during the competitive marching band season…it can get pretty rough. AP is different, though…at least I see it that way. There are definitely “haves” and “have nots” in our field. This is especially true when we consider which schools have access to more technology (so much is web-based, these days), or even which teachers are comfortable enough with their own voices to be able to coach their students in sight-singing (Yes, they have to sing parts of the exam).

      I’m not a fan of everyone getting a trophy, so I get your point. When it comes to what we do, especially as members of the AP teacher community, I know we all benefit from knowing the best way to guiding our students to a deeper understanding of the discipline. Workshops such as the one I attended this week provide us with additional tools and strategies. That isn’t a guarantee that we will take them back to our classrooms and use them (or even use them correctly). We still have to have our own level of proficiency. For us, there are two distinct proficiencies…first, as musicians and, secondly, as educators. They are two distinctly different domains that need to be brought together. If we cheat one or both of those domains, there is potential for mediocrity to creep into our work. As I said in my original post, this isn’t brain surgery, but I accept the fact that I’m expected to bring my A-game to my students. If I don’t, all of the bells and whistles won’t get the job done.

      Thanks for your kind words. I really enjoy being able to use this writer’s “voice,” especially when it leads to dialogue such as this one!

      Dixon, N. (May 02, 2009). Where knowledge management has been and where it is going. Conversation Matters. Retrieved from:


  2. Just call me Nan,

    You pose an interesting question about being able to operate in the multiple eras of knowledge management. Knowledge is a very different commodity when compared to the evolution of transportation from horse and buggy to cars. Unlike most items where there is a natural decline and extinction of obsolete items, knowledge transforms. I agree in the concept of staying planted in both worlds. However, I believe the challenge will be how to manage data between the different eras. Every year I find both my digital collection and physical collection of books growing, each requiring a different classification system and retrieval process.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My classification system has also evolved over time. I expect that it will continue to do so, especially as the focus of the content and my needs as a reader shift. As I tell my students, “That’s why God made erasers!”


  3. I was having a little difficulty with the Dixon reading this week but your succinct breakdown of some of its elements has helped bridge some gaps in my knowledge. I think your take regarding in perhaps having a foot in both worlds is well taken. I think that this is probably a good approach for most situations as it gives us the flexibility to allow new information to change our knowledge and also not be so rooted in one side to be unaffected by it. People too often become too entrenched in their own opinions and beliefs that it can be difficult sometimes to see the world in any other way. I once saw a debate on global warming featuring Bill Nye. Bill asked his opponent at some point, what evidence or information would he have to be presented with in order to reconsider his beliefs. His opponent immediately replied that there is no such information and it made me realize that this wasn’t a debate, it was a man talking to a wall. Opening our beliefs and opinions to change is a very vulnerable space to operate in, so I understand why many of us have pockets of knowledge we simply do not want to change, but at the same time how much better would we be, and the world, if we were all open to change without the looming specter of shame and guilt?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for citing the vulnerability we exhibit when we open ourselves up to others’ opinions and beliefs. One of my professors advised me to be careful about what I ask since I might not welcome the answer. There is a difference between an answer that we don’t like (not our taste) and one that is based on incorrect information. I reread your final question and was reminded of my day at the AP conference. One of the first-years posed a question that warranted a pretty basic response. He prefaced it with something akin to “I know this should be simple, but…” and I could hear an apologetic tone in his voice. I’m fairly sure that a younger “me” would have said and felt the same. Fortunately for us all, the environment in the room was exemplary to the point that his question was answered validly, and gently, and with some good-hearted humor. Your point is well taken. Our world (even our little corners of it) would be well-served if we could just erase fear, shame, and guilt from our conversations.
      Have a great Sunday and start to week 4 (oh my goodness)!


  4. I appreciated your post and your premise that it would be nice to be able to reside in multiple generations of KM. In my other interactions on blog posts today, I am wondering something similar in the sense that there seems to be a place for the first, document-style generation of KM, while still using the people and systems based generations of KM as well. I also appreciated your real-life example of KM with the resources available to you and your students in the classroom. It is helpful to see examples of KM in practice as I’m still having a bit of trouble conceptualizing the different generations of KM. Do you have a reason to think we can’t work back and forth between the various forms of KM?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Speaking from my corner of the world, I don’t see a reason why my “people” (aka music educators) can’t move between KM forms. With that said, I can’t say if that mindset is practical for other disciplines. The nature of what I do requires me to study scores, mark bowings, and other tasks that have always required me to actually put pencil to paper. None of these tasks is anything like editing a paper. I use Finale, a notation software that allows me to compose and arrange. It results in a score, allows me to separate pages for individual parts, and gives me mp3’s of completed projects. I convert the pages to pdf’s so that I can send them to other musicians (including my students), but that is a courtesy for advance review. Even when I send them to my students, they express a preference for a hard copy. Is this just a habit? Would they be able to get used to having it on a tablet? I can’t answer that. I do know that there are many musicians who gig with all of their music on tablets. This week’s discussion encouraged me to ask them their reactions to this type of KM, especially how long it took them to get used to using such a system.
      Enjoy the rest of the weekend!


  5. Your thoughts this week on knowledge management are fascinating. I like the perspective of having a foot in both worlds. As a music educator you touched a few points that stuck in my mind. Unlike most advances in technology where the new product drives the extinction of an old one (i.e. cars replace horse carriages), knowledge management sometime requires individuals to balance multiple catalogues of information on the same product . I completely see how music education would require both physical and digital repositories to management the information, each requiring its own cataloguing system. As a music educator, how do you balance your digital and physical libraries of information?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for joining this thread. As music educators and conductors, library work is one of the biggest banes of our existence. If you were to look at my personal library (and I know you get what is in it), books are shelved in alpha order by author. That’s the easiest way for me to do it.
      I’m sure I”m not the only one to typically refer to books as, “You know…in the Babbie…”, etc. I Tweeted (@turtledoveictus) the system I use for sets of music for repertoire (full sets = packets with all of the individual parts, including conductor’s score). I needed a system that will allow me to quickly identify the intended ensemble, composer, and a file number. There are some directors who have digitized their entire repertoire library. God bless their efforts, but I view that as labor-intensive considering the fact that they need to have hard copies to hand out to their ensembles. That is unless everyone is uploading their parts to tablets. Citing the extinction of an old product/system is spot on. Walking into our school’s library confirms that, for sure. When I speak with pre-service music ed majors about library nuts and bolts, I tell them that any number of music teachers will yield that same number of variations on the theme of library systems.

      Thank you for using my favorite word: Balance. Enjoy what’s left of the weekend!


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