June 7, 2021 - Education at its core is all about the attainment of knowledge and developing that as a useful "tool" in our personal and business lives. Especially today, the more knowledge gained the more opportunities will open up to allow individuals to achieve better possibilities in career and personal growth. One of the key elements that feed the process of educational growth is the availability and quality of information and data. Historically the amount and variety of information and data has been increasing year upon year but has been impeded and limited in available ways to create, share, and access information.
As the turn of the century progressed, we have all witnessed (and benefited by) a wide variety of technological advancements but the most significant for business and education was the opening of the floodgates of information and data, its creation and availability. This has had a profound effect on the accessibility and sharing of knowledge in all areas but education in particular.
Suffice it to say that over the last decade we have truly entered the era of what can accurately be called big data. Just how big is big data you ask? To provide a point of reference, in 2020 we generated 2.5 quintillion bytes of data daily. Another way to put it is in 2020 every person online will create roughly 1.7 megabytes of new data every second of every day, and that’s on top of the 44 zettabytes (or 44 trillion gigabytes) of data that now exist in the digital universe. IDC forecasts the global datasphere will reach 175 zettabytes by 2025. One expert put it in context. "To help you understand how big it is, let’s measure this amount in 128GB tablets. In 2013, the stack of tablets would have stretched two-thirds of the distance from the Earth to the Moon. By 2025, this stack would have grown 26 times longer."
One statistic that is most interesting came from an IBM study. It suggested that 90% of all the data in the world from old to new had been created in the last couple of years. This is astonishing but makes sense when you look at connectivity and access to the internet. According to Statistica, in 2012, we had 2.5 billion internet users but as of January 2021 there were 4.66 billion active internet users worldwide – 59.5 percent of the global population. Of this total, 92.6 percent (4.32 billion) accessed the internet via mobile devices.
As noted earlier, connectivity and accessibility had been limitations to the expansion of knowledge. This is being addressed with the rapid expansion of the internet of things or IoT for short. This goes literally hand in hand with facilitating the growth in big data. The coincident results are exponential in nature. In basic terms, IoT is the explosive growth of "machines and devices" that connect to one another and connect to the internet. IoT devices perform various functions, depending on what they are designed for and the kind of information they are meant to collect. From education to business to science and beyond the IoT helps institutions enhance their functionality and increase their reach. The number of IoT devices could rise to 41.6 billion by 2025. Every second, all over the world, it is estimated that there are 127 new devices connected to the internet. These connected devices produce 5 quintillion bytes of data daily, which could amount to 79.4 Zettabytes of data by 2025.
Now that we have looked at big data and the devices this leaves us with accessibility and more specifically the search for data. There are several search engines, but Google remains the highest shareholder of the search engine market, with 87.35% of the global search engine market share as of January 2020. Big data stats for 2020 show that this translates into 1.2 trillion searches yearly, and more than 40,000 search queries per second. A fascinating statistic from Google is that 15% of all new Google searches have never been typed before! So, it is not a case of repeating the requests for the same sets of information rather it is unique sets of data that are generated continually. This all translates into an exponential expansion of knowledge fed by the insatiable concept that "inquiring minds want to know".
Data is the raw material of the expansion of knowledge, but it must be in the right form. Data comes in two varieties, structured and unstructured. Structured data is highly organized and formatted so that it’s easily searchable in relational databases i.e. spreadsheets. Unstructured data has no predefined format or organization, making it much more difficult to collect, process, and analyze i.e. texts, videos, social media, etc. Data must be analyzed and put in the proper silos of accessibility if it is to have value.
The analysis of data has become a field unto itself. According to big data statistics from IDC, in 2012 only 22% of all the data had the potential for analysis. This includes data from different fields such as education, surveillance, entertainment, and social media, etc. The same source said that by 2020, the percentage of useful data, i.e., the information that has the potential for analysis, has jumped to 37%. As this number continues to rise we can correlate this to an expansion of knowledge.
We have broken the heretofore impediments to the expansion of knowledge with the coming of the age of big data, IoT, and the expansion of analytics. In the world of education, this means the ability for many to accelerate the rates of teaching and learning. There are more tools to help teachers accomplish their tasks and more ways for students to learn. The digital world of IoT and the cloud makes education more accessible. At its best students can learn at their own pace with any time, any place, and any device accessibility to knowledge. Furthermore, they can share in real-time one-on-one or one to many.
Is it all perfect? Of course not and refinements are necessary not to mention making all these new capabilities available to all who want to use them to teach and learn. That being said it is fair to say that we are entering a new Renaissance of knowledge, teaching, and learning.