Interoperability—the ability of software programs to seamlessly connect to one another by seamlessly exchanging information and common language—is something we’ve been steadily working towards in edtech. Plenty of progress has been made, but in many ways it feels like we’re only starting to scratch the surface of what’s possible, and the work that needs to be done to get there.
At the same time the interoperability conversation continues, we’re also smack-dab in the middle of a new era of teaching and learning in K12 schools. More learning is happening outside of school buildings than ever before. Teacher happiness and retention continue to be a high priority, with a big part of that happiness focused on cutting down and streamlining tedious administrative tasks so teachers can maximize their time.
A strong student information system (SIS) can be a cornerstone of your district’s educational data, creating ways to communicate with parents, monitor progress, manage remote learning, and support staff all in one swoop. However, we also know that your SIS is just one piece of the edtech interoperability puzzle. So, let’s explore the current discussion and increasing importance around the need for edtech interoperability in K12 schools:
Interoperability and Remote Learning: The Continued Push for Open Standards
Remote learning—in some form—is here to stay, and to prepare for the classroom of the future, many schools and districts invested heavily in edtech platforms to engage students and fill in learning gaps. However, more edtech often leads to an increase in siloed information—unless the platforms have made it their mission to adopt open standards for interoperability.
The call for edtech that prioritizes interoperability has been louder than ever before, with a national snapshot from the IMS Global Learning Consortium showing that schools and districts that prioritized interoperability open standards when choosing digital tools and resources were able to make a more seamless shift to remote learning. In March 2021, IMS took the facilitation of open standards to the next level with the launch of their Standards First program. Educational institutions and edtech suppliers alike are encouraged to sign the pledge, which demonstrates advocacy, transparency, and trust over the shared goal of open standards.
By Maureen Wentworth, manager of strategic partnerships, Ed-Fi.
Last year flew by in the blink of an eye. We had some things to get excited about like unprecedented federal funding, tiptoeing back into offices, and limited in person convenings. We also faced some challenges and anxieties . . . like unprecedented federal funding, tiptoeing back into offices, and limited in person convenings.
With 2022 off to an eerily familiar start in some ways, we find ourselves better positioned to take on the challenges ahead. As a community, we’ve responded in big and small ways to the unprecedented need for data and technology to meet the needs of our students and educators.
We’ve identified three prevailing themes that state education agencies should keep in mind while mapping out priorities in this new year.
The urgency to modernize our data systems is again on display in 2022.
Over the course of the last year, about $190 billion in federal support was allocated through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds and to be spent within the next two to three years. The Data Quality Campaign reports that “over half of all states’ ESSER plans proposed using these funds to strengthen data systems or promote effective data use “and 29 state plans describe state efforts to create new education data systems or modernize existing ones.”
We have seen firsthand the commitment to systems modernization in the strength and growth of the Ed-Fi Community. The year 2021 saw new projects and pilots launching in eleven states, and seven statewide implementations leading the way to new use cases and expanded opportunities for connected data.
In 2022, states will continue to push the Ed-Fi data model to support efforts in early childhood education, graduation pathways, educator preparation, and expanded analytics capabilities. The SEA Modernization Starter Kit, will help jump start efforts for states looking to implement real time data collection while leveraging the Ed-Fi Data Model and open-source technology tools that support students across their states.
By Eric Jansson, who leads Ed-Fi’s data standards works and manages other Ed-Fi software development efforts.
The pandemic has reshaped the school experience. From how students learn to how teachers teach, and just about everything in between, has changed in some way or another since March 2020. In the edtech space we saw massive investments in instructional systems, devices, and basic connectivity infrastructure as schools scrambled to get creative and extend instruction into remote contexts.
Those tools and process still largely remain in place, and the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSR) Fund spending promises to bring a new wave of investment in similar tools.
While educational organizations may have the right individual (read: siloed) resources, we must rethink how to use them together as systems, in order to support educators with real-time, secure data.
First, Carefully Consider Your Options
In response to the pandemic, the federal government is attempting to help schools and the larger education ecosystem recover by providing an unprecedented amount, $190 billion, of funding from multiple grants, including the American Rescue Plan. The money can be used at each districts’ discretion and in various ways, for example: providing extra health and safety options, additional staff, technology enhancements, and additional extracurricular programs.
Budget decision makers will likely be inundated with products and suggestions as edtech companies vie for their attention and partnership. As these funds start to deploy, it’s crucial for school leaders to work with their IT leaders to create a smart, tactical approach to their spending strategy and decisions.
The education system is at a critical juncture. Now is when schools can and should focus on laying a better foundation to connect our classrooms and modernize our technology infrastructure. And part of this foundation must be comprehensive strategic data visions, including strategic plans to implement data standards.
By making these considerations now, before solutions become adopted piecemeal, districts can ensure that the software platforms they invest in can work together and achieve data interoperability. The effort to create this data vision and plan won’t be small, but the results would have an enormous positive impact.