Learning Standards, Technology, and Interoperability – Part 2

Continuing where we left off… educators now have access to more tools and devices ever, often times no longer needing to check out a laptop cart or walk their students down to a computer lab to participate in digital instruction. Data is aligned to learning standards and available to users of all levels in reports. Great, right? Sometimes there are too many tools available across a multitude of platforms, on too many devices. The challenge this presents comes in aggregating all that data into a performance picture. Having to remember different logins, subscriptions, and user interfaces can quickly become burdensome to educators and students alike, allowing frustration to overshadow their intended purpose. Spending the first 20 minutes in a 50-minute class period trying to get students’ devices distributed, turned on, and logged in can quickly become a distraction, wasting valuable instruction time. There are plenty of examples where technology improves lives, but we all have stories where technology has contributed to even more stress or frustration.

We have discussed several initiatives in past posts designed to create a cohesion in EdTech over the years, with the latest being QTI and standard protocols like IMS Global. This creates an opt-in consortium of tools and guidelines whose goal is to allow for easier cross-communication, standardization, and connectivity, designed to lighten the burden of having and using multiple, effective tools. Empower interfaces with multiple partners using IMS Global standards, including Certica and KDS.

Even still, these standards continue to change and expand over time, requiring configuration by the different players to remain relevant. QTI standards provide basic guidelines and standardization, like a recipe, but because no two systems are the same, there is still further customization required in terms of meta-data that needs to be considered.

Let’s take pizza as an example, one could say the standard for pizza is dough, sauce, cheese and toppings. This provides the groundwork for chefs to construct pizzas that could generally be recognized as such by the general population. However, if you ask people from Chicago, New York, and Italy what a pizza is, you’d get three completely different answers. If these people were in the same room, you may experience a passionate discussion about which best defines a “pizza”. Is it the original, or do regional variations take the lead for innovating and pushing the envelope?  The answer is subjective. Yes, they are all composed of the same elements, but from there, they can be customized to meet individual needs or requests.

Similarly, there are many different systems that adhere to IMS Global, or QTI standards, but we aren’t quite to a place where these tools are configuration-free and provide universal plug and play. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as guidelines that are too restricting and encompassing can stifle the ability to innovate and embrace new technologies. The goal in EdTech is find the happy medium between interoperability, function, and cohesion to produce effective tools or suites of interconnected tools that truly enhance educators and students’ ability to teach, learn and grow. In the end, the goal is to reduce the amount of time spent collecting and interpreting data, so teachers can spend more time teaching and connecting with their students.

Muhammad Wasay
CEO, SchoolSpire, Inc.