By: Jan Bryan, Ed.D., Vice President, National Education Officer
 

Introduction

A recent superintendents’ summit in the Lower Hudson Valley of New York focused on digital convergence, which brings together existing district networks, hardware, and software for greater stability and efficiency. My task at this summit was to open a dialogue about instructional convergence, i.e., how teaching and learning can flourish in digital environments. Let’s explore.

Convergence

From the Latin convergere—meaning to incline together—convergence describes a tendency for ideas or objects to meet. This meeting results in a common result or conclusion. For example, when warm and cold ocean currents meet, the warm current rises to maintain the earth’s temperature while the cold current stirs up nutrients to fuel the production of phytoplankton blooms that feed fish and marine mammals. The result is a healthy ocean and the equal distribution of the earth’s temperature. The conclusion is clear: we must cherish our oceans.

Digital convergence

Digital convergence is the tendency for different technologies, media, content, services, and applications to become more similar with time and to become available via a single access point. The most obvious example is your smartphone. With it, you can check the weather in Omaha, read your favorite book, compose a piece of music, get directions, join teleconferences, text an acceptance of your upcoming dental appointment, and even make a phone call. Digital convergence results in increased access to information and resources. The conclusion is yet to be determined as smartphones, depending on the context, have made our lives more connected or less so, more seamless or more complex.

Digital convergence in education

Digital convergence in education brings opportunities and challenges. Greater access to devices opens the door to multiple sources of information as easily as it allows for information and resources that disrupt learning. In other ways, digital convergence holds the potential to alter the balance of power in teaching and learning where tradition holds that the teacher controlled what was learned as well as which resources were used to facilitate that learning. Even considering those challenges, the result of digital convergence in education triggers a move away from pre-determined types of adaptive software to software that is more intuitive and responsive to learners’ prior knowledge, levels of progress, and readiness for learning. The conclusion again relies on context. We recognize that our students enter school connected and ready to learn in that mode; however, we know learning is more than the sum of its parts (information, resources, and mastery, just to name a few).

“In other ways, digital convergence holds the potential to alter the balance of power in teaching and learning where tradition holds that the teacher controlled what was learned as well as which resources were used to facilitate that learning.”

Instructional convergence

We’ve explored convergence as collaborations in nature, technology, and educational technology. Now let’s look at convergence in human interaction. In ophthalmology, convergence is the coordinated turning of the eyes to bear upon a nearpoint. In other words, when you gaze at an object, an ocean, or a person, each eye turns slightly enough to bring focus, and then clarity, to what you see. The focus on a nearpoint brings us to instructional convergence.

Simply stated, instructional convergence is the place where data, learning analytics, and teacher expertise meet.

  • Data. With formative assessment processes and skillful use of interim, summative, and curriculum-based data, we learn where students are in the progression of learning and what their next steps are likely to be.

  • Learning analytics. Analyzing massive amounts of data helps us understand how to optimize learning and strengthen learning environments (Siemens, 2010). What Kids are Reading, an annual publication from Renaissance, represents learning analytics in action because it answers the following questions and many more: What do students read most often? How much are they reading? Which reading behaviors lead to the greatest growth?

  • Teacher expertise. A skilled educator also gauges non-cognitive aspects of learning, such as mindset, commitment to persistence, and sense of belonging (or hope for success) within a discipline. Students with a sense of belonging within a discipline thrive. Those without that sense or hope for success often use phrases such as “I hate reading,” “I don’t need to learn this,” or “I’m just not a math person.”

Like convergence in nature and in electronics, there is a result and a conclusion associated with instructional convergence. The result is informed instruction that leads to greater student outcomes. The conclusion is up to you! Please share your conclusion in the comments below.

Interested in more content like this? Explore Renaissance EdWords and stay up-to-date on the most important buzzwords in education today.

 

References

Renaissance EdWords. (2017). Learning analytics. Retrieved from https://www.renaissance.com/edwords/learning-analytics.
Siemens, G. (2010). 1st International Conference on Learning Analytics and Knowledge 2011 call for papers. Retrieved from https://tekri.athabascau.ca/analytics/call-papers.

Jan Bryan, Ed.D., Vice President, National Education Officer
Jan Bryan has over 20 years of classroom and university teaching experience. Her work at Renaissance focuses on formative assessment, exploring data in a growth mindset, and literacy development.
Jan Bryan, Ed.D., Vice President, National Education Officer
Jan Bryan, Ed.D., Vice President, National Education Officer
Jan Bryan has over 20 years of classroom and university teaching experience. Her work at Renaissance focuses on formative assessment, exploring data in a growth mindset, and literacy development.

29 Comments

  1. Kelsie says:

    very interesting

  2. Diane Bunn says:

    I am curious to learn more about digital convergence!

  3. carly says:

    My conclusion is that data is the driver of instruction and learning analytics is the road map.

  4. P R says:

    We use data to gauge the progress of our students’ academic growth as well as to plan our instruction in order to meet the needs of our students. The analytics of AR and AM allow us to create interesting lessons and methods to help our students grasp the concepts and goals. So, we have informed instruction which leads to greater student outcomes. With these aspects interlocking to create a classroom environment that is conducive to learning, we hope to see that the students begin to internalize the methods and grow a sincere appreciation for education in itself. Most of all, we expect to see students who are successful in their academic pursuits which creates a sense of self-confidence.

    • Jan Bryan, Ed.D., Vice President, National Education Officer Jan Bryan, Ed.D., Vice President, National Education Officer says:

      Thank you, P. R. Your use of “interlocking” was evocative. It sounds like your classroom becomes a super-efficient, yet purely organic mechanism—lessons, goals, student confidence, and teacher expertise all working together to create growth.

  5. Denisse Ochoa says:

    Wow, very interesting!

  6. Lloyd Goldberg says:

    The concept of digital convergence is very appealing. All schools and districts have the problem of multiple systems that are so uniquely specialized that they cannot communicate with each other. At my school we have separate software for math, reading, writing, and the Google classroom on top of that. Now the software is outpacing the abilities of the hardware and there is no money for upgrades. For one stop shopping like Renaissance provides is a great tool.

    • Jan Bryan, Ed.D., Vice President, National Education Officer Jan Bryan, Ed.D., Vice President, National Education Officer says:

      Most insightful, Lloyd! When I was in the Lower Hudson Valley of NY in mid-march, the school leaders spoke of this very situation. We most focus on getting all tools to interface and work in the same direction. Love the “one-stop shop” idea.

  7. Melissa Robles says:

    Thank you for sharing this great information!

  8. Rita Platt says:

    I am so glad to see teacher expertise included. More and more, this is left off the table and it is a true shame. Thanks, Renaissance for respecting teachers and teacher-knowledge.

  9. Narda Lugo says:

    Digital convergence informed success based by data that allows collaboration between teacher and student.

  10. David Keech says:

    Instructional convergence can be tied to differentiation and data analysis. The landscape of education is ever-changing, with technology enabling the modification of learning to what each student needs. Personalized learning is not just a buzz word, it is what schools must do to best prepare kids for the future. One size fits all is a thing of the past.

    • Jan Bryan, Ed.D., Vice President, National Education Officer Jan Bryan, Ed.D., Vice President, National Education Officer says:

      Hi, David! Absolutely agree with you that personalized learning in not just a buzzword—it is education in its purest form. The first recorded attempt at personalization in US schools was around 1898 when the focus was on students moving at their own pace, but it likely failed to thrive due to lack of high-quality resources. I can’t think of any other “buzzword” that’s had a 119-year impact on education. We are poised to make personalization the “way of doing business” in our schools.

  11. Renee Graham says:

    Well, thankful that there is research to prove this equation!

  12. Laura Quiroz says:

    Neat!

  13. Jody Steinhaus says:

    At times it seems those who are in the trenches have little say when it comes to offering their expertise and input on student learning. I appreciate Renaissance acknowledging that teacher expertise is essential to student learning and growth. I love that Renaissance STAR gives immediate feedback that guides AR goal-setting that also includes students, staff, and data.

  14. Fatima Peters says:

    Great read!

  15. Lisa Capon says:

    Interesting article!! Thanks!

  16. Ami Edwards says:

    Very interesting!

  17. Alecia Walkuski says:

    Are all types of digital access equal when students use them? How does accessing information through a computer or a phone or a tablet affect the process by which students consume that information? What might this look like in the future when digital representations of information grow more complex and more realistic?

    • Jan Bryan, Ed.D., Vice President, National Education Officer Jan Bryan, Ed.D., Vice President, National Education Officer says:

      These are great questions, Alecia. Access to information will only grow and I’m curious how we are going to prepare students to sort through and vet the information available. It may become a stronger focus for digital access as we moving forward. If the information our students access is inaccurate or biased, the tool that delivers it is irrelevant. We must prepare students to recognize bias, check for accuracy, and seek the same information from multiple sources. Seems like the move to digital information requires lessons in developing a healthy dose of skepticism.

  18. S.Bellomo says:

    When data, technology, and expertise is combined new and exciting ways to teach begin to blossom.

  19. Liana Ferrer says:

    Great article. I learned many new things about convergence.

  20. Dvawn Maza says:

    Interesting view!

  21. Darrell Baty says:

    Interesting!

  22. Joanna Brown says:

    Very interesting article! Thank you!

  23. Teresa Brock says:

    Interesting!

  24. Carolina says:

    Seems like something that I would like to learn more about

  25. janice raby neely says:

    This is very interesting material.

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