As the wise old adage states, "Knowledge is power". Throughout the past century that axiom certainly rang true. Our education systems transmitted bodies of knowledge to its students and mastery of that content held the key to college entrance, successful careers and financial security. Graduates were likely to land solid employment that would last years and even decades. Students had access to one expert - the teacher in their classroom – and there was one reliable source of information – the textbook. The guidelines to success were clear. Pay attention to your teachers, study your textbook and you could be reasonably assured of academic success. Several authors even went so far as to describe teachers and textbook publishers as the "gatekeepers" of knowledge, determining when, how and what knowledge would be released to students.
Nothing stands still however. We live in an era of exponential change. Technology is transforming every aspect of society. It’s changing the way we lead our daily lives, socialize, communicate ... and also how we acquire knowledge. Our "information era" demands that we master vastly expanding amounts of knowledge that continue to increase at lightning speed. Mastery of knowledge is no longer a viable objective. Maybe the time has come to revisit the old "knowledge is power" adage. I'd like to suggest an alternative:
"Access to knowledge is power"
With the computing resources we have available today we can connect to knowledge bases anywhere on the planet. Students are no longer connected to only one expert - they can now connect with thousands. Skills required in the 21st century are morphing from mastery of content to the ability to find, filter, analyze and apply knowledge.
“Hang on while I check that” - the more knowledge access is instantaneous, the more every question becomes a learning opportunity. The key word added is "access". As educators we have awoken to the power of anywhere-anytime learning. We understand that education doesn't solely occur within the four walls of a classroom. Often the best educational moments come at the most unpredictable times and in the most unusual of places. When we reach a state of ubiquitous computing then anywhere-anytime learning will really take off. Access to knowledge is power ... and the more that access is instant, the more powerful it becomes.
There are three factors that are the keys to effective access:
1. Portability. Anytime-anywhere learning requires a device that can be easily carried at all times.
2. Battery life. A sub-category of portability, longer battery life will allow users to take the device on their person and use it without concern.
3. Instant-on. Importantly, a device that powers up instantly is more likely to be used frequently and habitually.
It’s these factors that are attracting so many educators to mobile learning devices such as iPads and iPods.
If access to knowledge really is power then creating conditions of ubiquitous computing is a critical goal for educators. At the press of a button users can answer questions, research knowledge bases, refer to expert opinion and network with colleagues. The benefits are so powerful that mobile learning devices will continue to evolve and play an ever increasing role in the future of education.