The World is Flat

Monday, July 8, 2013 -- Kristin Flynn

Why technology and mobile learning will change everything

In 2005, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman published a book called The World is Flat. He explains the inspiration for the title in the first chapter as he describes a visit to a tech company in Bangalore, India. In a conversation with Nandan Nelekani, the CEO of Infosys, Nelekani described how technology had “created a platform where intellectual work, intellectual capital, could be delivered from anywhere. It could be disaggregated, delivered, distributed, produced, and put back together again,” allowing Infosys to “compete for global knowledge work as never before.” In other words, Nelekani told Friedman, “The playing field is being leveled.” Or, as Friedman then put it, the world had been flattened.  Friedman then writes, “I scribbled down four words in my notebook: The world is flat.”

There is a remarkable parallel to that situation occurring in education. It's a revolution that levels the playing field for learners everywhere. Because of mobile learning, the world – the education world – is becoming flat. In other words, access and opportunity are becoming universal for students, almost regardless of circumstance, demographics, and other factors that were previously hindering their progress. Anywhere, anytime mobile learning will empower learners and teachers to raise student achievement, because it removes barriers that at one time couldn't be overcome.

While technology trends in general have been flattening the education world for some time, it is the advances being made in mobile learning that may very well complete the process. Online education providers are evolving beyond mobile-friendly courses and content that are available on mobile devices. That evolution is moving past mobile-enabled courses that have specific mobile-embedded functionality, to mobile-optimized courses and content that are specifically designed for mobile devices.

As the 21st century classroom is being redefined, it is clear that more and more often that will mean learning that doesn't occur in a traditional classroom at all. What makes mobile learning so powerful is that, in addition to the technology that enables full-time, on-demand learning, it is also a paradigm that is in sync with the lifestyles of today's learners.

We will use this space frequently to comment on, and hopefully engage you in, trends and developments in mobile learning. As technology and mobile learning continue to flatten the education world by delivering ever-improving content that is device-indifferent and that is optimized for mobility, our product road map specifically commits us to driving and leading those changes. Because a world made flat by mobility will lead to improved achievement for all students, because there will no longer be the traditional barriers to access and opportunity. because students will learn when, where, and how they want, and teachers will be able to create learning experiences unconstrained by location or device.

And so with mobile learning, over 500 years after Columbus, it turns out that – at least when it comes to education – the world is flat after all.