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What is convergence?

From the Latin word convergere—meaning “to incline together”—convergence describes a tendency for phenomena or objects to meet.

This tendency to meet (convergence) results in a common result or conclusion. We see convergence in nature as the location where airflows or ocean currents meet. When airflows meet, the result can be anything from a cloudy day to a raging storm. The meeting of warm and cold ocean currents results in an equal distribution of temperature on earth and plentiful fishing grounds. How? When cold and warm currents come together, the warm current rises, maintaining earth’s temperature, while the cold current stirs up nutrients, fueling the production of phytoplankton blooms that feed fish and marine mammals.

Bottom line: Convergence happens in nature, and the results benefit the earth and its inhabitants.

Digital convergence

Like convergence in nature, digital convergence represents a meeting place that leads to a result or conclusion. Specifically, digital convergence is the tendency for different technologies, media, content, services, and applications to become more similar with time and available via a single access point. The most obvious example is the smartphone. In your hand, you access the World Wide Web, allowing you to check the weather in Omaha, monitor your finances, stay informed, read a favorite book, compose a piece of music, make reservations, get driving directions, calculate a tip, join teleconferences, check your email, text acceptance of your upcoming dental appointment, and even make a phone call. The result is debatable, and conclusions are yet to be drawn. Smartphones have either made our lives more connected or less so; more seamless or more complex.

Bottom line: Digital convergence capitalizes on existing technologies and results in increased access to information. I leave it to you to determine the conclusion. .

Digital convergence in education

Digital convergence brings opportunity and challenge to education. Individual and, in some cases, student-owned devices allows for access to multiple sources of information as easily as it allows for access to information that may 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 garner that learning.

Even in light of those challenges, convergence in education triggers a move away from predetermined sorts of adaptive software to software that is more intuitive and responsive to the learners’ prior knowledge, level of progress, and readiness for learning. For a thorough discussion, please see this article on digital convergence.

Instructional convergence

We’ve explored convergence as collaborations in nature, technology, and educational technology. Now, we look at convergence in human interaction. For example, in ophthalmology, convergence is the coordinated turning of the eyes to bear upon a near point. That focus on a near point brings us to instructional convergence. As any educator will tell you, we have “eyes” in the form of networks, devices, and information. Our work strengthens as we coordinate these “eyes” to bear upon the near point—the drive to move each student forward. Instructional convergence uses multiple information sources, such as technology, data, knowledge of exceptional teaching, and deep understandings about how students learn. Simply stated, instructional convergence is the place where data, learning analytics, and teacher expertise meet. The result of instructional convergence is informed instruction that leads to greater student outcomes. The conclusion is that now is the time to implement it.

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