Schools are drowning in data. As they adopt more and more technology to support students’ learning, more and more data is generated—and most schools struggle to use this data effectively to improve teaching and learning. A common statement overheard among Chief Technology Officers: “We are data rich and information poor.”
One promising path to address this challenge is data interoperability: the seamless, secure, and controlled exchange of data between applications. The League of Innovative Schools has long championed data interoperability—surfacing it on the Challenge Map of high priority needs, demystifying the term through videos and infographics, and advocating for educators and vendors to take action.
League members have made considerable progress in the last year toward making interoperability a reality by implementing real solutions and creating tangible prototypes. Continue reading to learn about their stories and get started on your own journey to data interoperability!
The road to interoperability is still being paved—schools and vendors who are pioneering this work are blazing a trail for others to follow.
Enter four districts from the League of Innovative Schools: San Diego County Office of Education, Stephenville Independent School District, Uinta School District #1, and Vancouver Public Schools. Together with a team of researchers and developers, this group formed the Assessment Data Interoperability Challenge Collaborative. The Collaborative had one year to prototype solutions that demonstrate how interoperable assessment data can help teachers address important, everyday challenges. Through an iterative R&D process, each school district crafted a needs statement that mattered most to their educators:
|I need to “…analyze data when I am making decisions (e.g., grouping students and meeting on Data Days).”||I need to “…assess strengths/needs of students when I am differentiating instruction or writing report cards.”||I need to “…be efficient when I am communicating evidence of growth to students.”||I need to “…compare data subgroups, graduation requirements, and achievement and benchmark data to evaluate the impact of student learning.”|
|– Focus group of 2nd grade teachers||– Focus group of 3rd grade teachers||– Focus group of 5th grade teachers||– Focus group of school leaders|
In October 2018, more than 30 technology leaders from the League, including representatives from each district in the Challenge Collaborative, gathered in Austin, TX, for a two-day bootcamp on data interoperability. This event trained staff on the specifics of tackling interoperability initiatives, grounding the purpose of this work in improving outcomes for students. Technical training continued through the fall and winter with virtual sessions that took a deep dive into Ed-Fi technology (including security, operational data stores, and APIs) and change management processes (including approaches to data governance and building buy-in).
Through these sessions, participants learned that achieving data interoperability is a multifaceted challenge: It requires technical know-how to establish the seamless, secure, and controlled exchange of data between applications, and it also requires systems for schools to gather, manage, and leverage that data. In an implementation of data interoperability, these technical and nontechnical components happen simultaneously—like tightening the lugnuts on a spare tire, they happen all together, first here and then there, in order for the tire to be secure.
In addition to providing technical training, the Challenge Collaborative hosted focus groups with teachers, facilitated brainstorming sessions with designers, performed quality assurance tests with developers, and engaged in conversations with vendors. The resulting prototypes proved the value and promise of interoperability.
Although the year-long Challenge Collaborative process has wrapped up, each district is continuing their interoperability work in order to move from prototype to broad availability. Stay tuned to this blog to hear more about their stories; we will publish more videos and blog posts over the coming weeks that share their first-hand experiences on the journey to data interoperability.
Are you ready to get rolling on your journey to data interoperability? Check out our resources and opportunities to take action.
You can also follow the hashtag #LetsFigureItOut on Twitter for updates on district progress, data interoperability resources, and ways that you can advance safe and secure data exchange now.