Telecommunications convergence is a topic with which I’ve grown increasingly familiar over the past few years, and I address frequently in blog posts, workshops, and conference keynote presentations. Convergence has BIG implications for learning. As digital devices become increasingly ubiquitous, people of all ages will have opportunities to access digital content (including video) in more places, at more times, with greater levels of personalization and choice. In addition, an even more disruptive innovation is the ability of individuals to author and publish content for a global audience with connected, digital mobile devices with a few button clicks. As easily as past generations have made phone calls, netizens today and tomorrow are publishing and will increasingly publish media for global distribution and consumption. We live in the day of the prosumer, where the lines between content consumer and content creator will continue to become increasingly blurred.

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In this landscape, marketers will continue to fight for our attention and eyeballs, and I think their challenges will be greater than ever. As Dr. Stephen Heppell commented in the COSN video “Learning to Change – Changing to Learn,” today is a GREAT day to be a learner and be alive. There’s never been a more exciting day to be both a student AND a teacher. Yet amidst these days of dynamic technological change, many of our schools remain rooted in the learning practices of the past. (Heads in the proverbial sand, if you will…)

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The December 14, 2008, PEW Internet and American Life Project report “The Future of the Internet III” (available as a PDF) highlights (again) the trend of continuing convergence (the three screen transformation: Your television becomes your computer which becomes your cell phone) and also brings up some key terms which describe communications dynamics in our era. One of these is “hyperconnectivity.” This word appears seven times in the report.

From page 127:

…the majority of respondents mostly agreed that by 2020 the formalized delineation of social, personal, and work time will be eliminated for knowledge workers in the world’s most-developed areas, and this will generally be a positive change. There was varied response about the pluses and minuses of the “always-on” environment. Most of the people who wrote elaborations spoke of concerns about the potential negatives of hyperconnectivity.

From pages 128-129:

Nicholas Carr, author of “The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google,” noted hyperconnectivity is already reality for some people, writing that it is a net-positive for corporations, and will cause, “the expansion of the work to encompass all time and all space.”

While that may well be perceived as a “net-positive” for THE CORPORATION, in many cases I think this does and will continue to impose HUGE challenges on personal time, attention, and job expectations. How many people TODAY are expected to essentially be “on” their email and cell phone almost 24/7? The expectation and even requirement for constant accessibility/availability has major drawbacks. Many of this study’s respondents highlighted in this report addressed these issues.

From pages 130-131:

Connectivity Infiltrates Nature and Architecture: Existing Human Systems Will Be Transformed – Some respondents looked ahead and imagined how human systems might change as hyperconnectivity becomes more prevalent between now and 2020, with its positives and negatives.

From page 131:

People on both the pro and con sides of hyperconnectivity say it will influence people’s health. While those who fear it say it will cause stress-related illnesses, those who welcome it say the flexibility it offers may improve mental health.

I’m with those who predict more health-related problems with hyperconnectivity than helps. Look how we’re struggling now to keep up with email, SMS messages, blog posts, and other news-related media streams? Discipline is hard. I think digital discipline is only going to get more challenging in the months and years ahead.

From page 132:

HYPERCONNECTIVITY WILL CREATE UNREALISTIC WORK EXPECTATIONS AND STRESS, AND INTRUDE ON LIVES – Many people see hyperconnectivy as a threat. Among the hundreds of elaborations provided by the respondents, only a few people perceived that blending work and personal time would tilt people’s lives toward more time for family, friends, and personal pursuits.

This finding has BIG implications for our need for both digital discipline and digital dialog, topics I address frequently and about which I have strong opinions.

From page 137:

CONNECTIVITY INFILTRATES NATURE AND ARCHITECTURE; EXISTING HUMAN SYSTEMS WILL BE TRANSFORMED – Some respondents looked ahead and imagined how human systems might change as hyperconnectivity becomes more prevalent between now and 2020, with its positives and negatives. “Work will be done everywhere, anytime, the barrier between professional and personal time will be fuzzy, and the notion of time will change,” responded Rafik Dammak, a software engineer for STMicroelectronics in Tunisia.

I am not reading or hearing anyone today who is denying this trend and reality of convergence. I certainly may be living in a personalized echo chamber of my own manufacture, but I don’t think so. To borrow some phrases from Virginia Postrel in her 1989 book “The Future and Its Enemies,” we see the “statists” as well as the “dynamists” all around us struggling to both prevent as well usher in the future. Yet even the most ardent statists are not, as far as I can tell, denying the reality of convergence. While they may protest and resist it, often with good reasons, I haven’t heard any of them suggest an alternate route forward for our socio-economic development.

In this climate, how are many of our schools and school leaders responding? Very slowly, and often very poorly. It’s time to embrace digital media NOW. Netbooks are here. The digital learning revolution is underway. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Too many of them are still committed to Big Chief tablets and chalk slates as preferred tools for pedagogical content transfer.

Herding cats
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Let’s elect and support state and national leaders who understand the vital importance of providing digital tools which support the ethical and responsible CONSUMPTION and CREATION of digital content. The 3 C’s are key: Creation, Communication, and Collaboration.

The December 5, 2008 editorial in the Austin-American Statesman “Making outdated textbooks obsolete: Computers in classrooms would make lessons and learning more reflective of real world” reflected at least part of this needed perspective:

Students today must be prepared for a global community in which information changes very swiftly. “A textbook is a vehicle for content,” said [State Rep. Dan] Branch, a member of the House Public Education Committee. “That vehicle is quickly becoming a horse and buggy.”

The horse and buggy is an apt metaphor in our increasingly hyperconnected world, for those tools which MOST of our schools and political leaders continue to insist we must force upon our students.

Cruisin'...on a Sunday Afternoon
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Add this latest PEW report to your upcoming holiday reading list. I’m sure you don’t have any other digital media you’re planning to consume in the next few weeks, do you?! 🙂

PIP Future Internet 3: The Future of the Internet 2008

Thanks to Judy Breck for
sharing the link to this report.

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3 Responses to Hyperconnectivity and Convergence are coming: Our schools need to embrace digital media NOW

  1. This is an excellent post Wes,and I will be taking my time reading all it’s layers of knowledge and history. And I have a few timely photos I hope to put up soon on my web blog at you might appreciate.

    It is interesting that all my life I wanted to ‘differentiate’ myself from all things American, but I find now that I live online, that I live more in the US ….hmmmm land of the free????? (on internet & Technology anway) – you folks are a few generations beyond ‘US’ way up in the Frozen North. And yes, we in the Frozen North apologize too much too …. it is part of our identity …. I hope I haven’t stepped on any toes this morning.

    Cheers again & Seasons Greetings to All

    GailD in Ottawa, Canada

  2. Jim Cottrell says:

    $105,000 a year employment in “paradise” that hopes to employ hyperconnectivity to promote the Great Barrier Reef. Example of hyperconnectivity becoming ones job. Also shows that blogging skills have value.

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