KM on a dollar a day

Musing on knowledge management, aid and development with limited resources

Our future knowledge workers

with 8 comments


This morning I attended an event at my son’s school. The pupils – 4th graders i.e. 9-10 years old were each to make a short presentation on a topic that interests them and which they had researched.

A few things struck me as being quite different from my own school days at that age. In particular:

– All the presentations were done using Powerpoint and through a microphone

– They were asked NOT just to read what they had written but talk to and elaborate on the slides. For the most part they did this surprisingly well – something I wish we could teach more grownups to do.

– They were asked to cite references – almost all of them used wikipedia. All sources cited were from the web.

– about half chose “serious” topics including George VI, Pablo Picasso and Dinosaurs. About half were popular culture topics including Jennifer Lopez and a lacrosse player and a football palyer that I’d never heard of! All were incredibly detailed.

Maybe I shouldn’t be struck by any of this  – but I found it very interesting how relatively comfortable they all already were in public speaking, using powerpoint and using the internet for research. I also saw how popular culture, especially sports and music already fills up a lot of children’s passion and mind-space.

Don’t get me wrong – I wouldn’t put any of the presenters up in front of a business audience to present just yet – but they’ve certainly got a big head start over where my generation were in school or even in college and our early working lives. I can barely imagine what they will be able to do when they join the workplace and how they will challenge our exisiting ways of thinking and working.


Written by Ian Thorpe

June 10, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

8 Responses

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  1. thanks for sharing this. I’m also struck watching my kids learn at how the quantity and level of content has progressed and increased for their generation as well; and how knowledge management is going to become increasingly important. Good that some of the knowledge management skills are being taught as well!

    Bonnie Koenig

    June 10, 2011 at 12:33 pm

  2. This is an interesting observation and like you, I mostly see the positive aspects re public speaking, doing research and engaging with sources. However, I am less enthusiastic about your conclusion. So how exactly will googling/Wikipedia and Powerpoint ‘challenge our exisiting ways of thinking and working’? Couldn’t it be as well that many of those pupils will only learn corporate bubble-speak, because college education prepares them very narrowly for professional expectations in the famous real, i.e. corporate world? These sound like great kids, I’m just a bit less optimistic about future working and learning arrangements. Isn’t half of the business world still using IE 6, software to block facebook and faxed memos?!


    June 10, 2011 at 1:27 pm

  3. you know using power point, prepares a child and builds self confidence in that kid, its really interesting and it removes shyness from that kid its really good but it is not easy in African countries for example in Uganda were some schools don’t have computers thus it is not applicable in such countries. but otherwise it is so good because by the time the kid grows he can present without shyness

    Luvuma Ronald

    June 11, 2011 at 4:11 am

  4. “They were asked NOT just to read what they had written but talk to and elaborate on the slides. For the most part they did this surprisingly well – something I wish we could teach more grownups to do.”



    June 11, 2011 at 4:23 am

  5. These kids are growing up in a (part of the) world where internet connectivity hangs in the air. Remember Morpheus? “The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room…” He was speaking metaphorically but when it comes to 3G signal, I think it has already become very literal.

    I think the instinctive information-seeking behaviours of this generation are going to be a huge boost to productivity of all organisations that live in this environment. But despite advances in mobile networks there are still huge swathes of the world we work in, without this at their fingertips (and if its there at a price they can’t afford to access). I am worried for organisations like my own where the HQ and its staff grow up inside, and then sit and work and live immersed in this always-online world, and all the instincts and assumptions they have now and will develop further as a result. Because the national staff in field offices don’t and won’t have that in very many places, not for a long time yet. And so the kinds of work that HQ puts into supporting these folks, won’t be the right kind of work and right kind of resources that really understand what they need, where they’ve come from and how they most effectively work.


    June 11, 2011 at 6:14 am

  6. Thanks Ian, this is an interesting observation.


    June 11, 2011 at 9:55 pm

  7. Even in South Africa I have been blown away by what my 7 year old has to do for school – ok, so they don’t do powerpoint presentations with a microphone as they don’t have the tech in the classroom yet (and at her school most of the kids don’t have the tech at home), but the depth of detail in their presentations and their confidence in standing up to do those presentations, and the excitement with which they share knowledge (recently they all did a project on a bird of their choice) is just mindblowing. Also when they do have computer class, they’re doing layout, with cute borders, big headings, pictures from the net, etc etc – it’s quite utterly mindblowing!

    However, I note with distress that they don’t seem to do needlework, knitting and other crafts so much *sigh*

    Rebecca M.E. Pointer

    June 18, 2011 at 1:33 am

  8. Same here! I remember how my classmate fainted at her first presentation in class at 11 years. For my daughters it is almost boring to do a presentation..

    Joitske Hulsebosch

    June 22, 2011 at 4:49 pm

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