Indigenous Mnemonics and Personal Knowledge Management

PKM should be as foundational as language and math.

Indigenous Mnemonics and Personal Knowledge Management
Photo by Jaredd Craig / Unsplash

This semester, I’m teaching myself a course! INFO 298 is helping me prepare the bones of a class I’m designing and hope to one day teach at the SJSU’s own iSchool, or even at other Information Science programs around the country.

The subject?

Personal Knowledge Management and Indigenous mnemonics (more broadly known as IKS or “Indigenous Knowledge Systems”).

These are areas that have been of interest to me for years, but my passion for them took off in a whole new way when I began studying the work of Lynne Kelly. Kelly, a memory champion and scholar, has made the study of indigenous memory techniques her life’s work. Since encountering her work, I’ve found other incredible advances in using PKM fused with indigenous practices, like an app for sufferers of traumatic brain injuries who have been let down by the health care system.

As part of this course, I’m creating a bi-weekly video series on aspects of the subject matter, charting the course and sharing what I learn as I go.

Why PKM?

Ulrich Schmitt, a knowledge management researcher, wrote in a 2015 paper that “the most valuable asset in any organization or society is investment in intangible human capital and that the key competitive drivers are knowledge, creativity, and innovation” (Schmitt, 2015), p. 148).

Likewise, in the book The Semantic Sphere 1: Computation, Cognition, and Information Theory, Pierre Levy stresses that fomenting autonomous personal knowledge management capacities in students is “one of the most important functions of teaching, from elementary school to the different levels of university” (2011, p. 116).

Even more boldly stated is this line from Sönke Ahrens’ How to Take Smart Notes: “Writing is not what follows research, learning or studying, it is the medium of all this work” (Ahrens, 2022, Introduction pp. 5).

My thesis is simple:

PKM should be taught alongside foundational literacy in mathematics and language, and treated as the most fundamental of all learning environments.

And in my course (and this video series), I dig into the proof of why.

Ahrens, S. (2022). How to take smart notes: One simple technique to boost writing, learning and thinking (2nd edition, revised and expanded edition). Sönke Ahrens.

Levy, P. (2011). The semantic sphere 1: Computation, cognition and information economy. ISTE Ltd and John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Schmitt, U. (2015). Putting personal knowledge management under the macroscope of informing science. Informing Science: The International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline, 18, 145–176.

Hi there! I’m Odin Halvorson, a librarian, independent scholar, film fanatic, fiction author, and tech enthusiast. If you like my work and want to support me, please consider becoming a paid subscriber for as little as $2.50 a month!

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