10. Is the Nature of Knowledge Changing?

10.6. Academic Knowledge and Other Forms of Knowledge

As mentioned earlier, there are many other forms of knowledge that are useful or valued besides academic knowledge. There is increasing emphasis from government and business on the development of vocational or trade skills. Teachers or instructors are responsible for developing these areas of knowledge as well. In particular, skills that require manual dexterity, performance skills in music or drama, production skills in entertainment, skills in sport, or sports management, are all examples of forms of knowledge that have not traditionally been considered ‘academic’.

However, one feature of a digital society is that increasingly these vocational skills are now requiring a much higher proportion of academic knowledge or intellectual and conceptual knowledge as well as performance skills. For example, higher levels of ability in math and/or science are now demanded of many trades and professions such as network engineers, power engineers, auto mechanics, nurses, and other health professionals. The ‘knowledge’ component of their work has increased over recent years.

The nature of the job is also changing. For instance, auto mechanics are now increasingly focused on the diagnosis and problem-solving as the value component of vehicles becomes increasingly digitally based and components are replaced rather than repaired. Nurse practitioners now are undertaking areas of work previously done by doctors or medical specialists. Many workers now also need strong interpersonal skills, especially if they are in front-line contact with the public. At the same time, as more traditional academic areas are needing to focus more on skills development, so the somewhat artificial boundaries between pure and applied knowledge are beginning to break down.

In summary, a majority of jobs now require both academic and skills-based knowledge. Academic and skills-based knowledge also needs to be integrated and contextualized. As a result, the demands on those responsible for teaching and instruction have increased, but above all, these new demands of teachers in a digital age mean that their own skills level needs to be increased to cope with these demands.