The concept of digital convergence refers to the merging of previously discrete and separately used technologies, as well as the almost ‘invisible’ integration and use of technologies as a part of our everyday life. Key drivers here are the ubiquitous reach and presence of the internet, and our ability to access it via an increasingly broad range of devices. In addition, the ‘intelligence’ of both the devices we use and the services they connect to presents opportunities for us to engage with our surroundings in ways not previously imagined.
This can be recognised in the almost everyday acceptance of things like Google Maps which presents you with not only a map of where you are, but locates you within it based on the geolocation of the device you are using - and then highlights facilities and events close to you based on a profile of your needs and preferences built up over time. The rapid advancement of the ‘Internet of Things” is another example of this. Here everyday items are connected to the Internet - from fridges and microwaves in our homes, to cameras and traffic controls linked to sensors in roads in our streets. The data that is feed to and from these things helps build a web of information that is available to us, and frequently fed to us on an individual basis, depending on our needs at the time.
The concept of digital convergence will bring both challenges and opportunities to those working in education. On the one hand, the proliferation of individually owned devices, be they smart phones or watches for example, means that students can now access information at any time they wish - whether that be something that supports their learning, or something that may be a distraction to their learning. This will inevitably change the balance of power in regular classrooms where teachers have traditionally been the ones who have ‘controlled’ the flow of knowledge and what is learned. Another significant impact for educators may be in the development of personalised learning pathways, not the pre-determined sorts of ‘adaptive’ software we’ve seen in the past, but more intuitive and responsive to the mix of the learners current location, level of progress, availability of support etc. upon which a highly tailored set of outcomes and feedback may be established and monitored.