Solving the Plumbing Problem: SLC & Open Questions

Frank Catalano

Yesterday on @MindShiftKQED @FrankCatalano provided an update on the Shared Learning Collaborative and described the problem they are trying to solve:

Right now, all sorts of student data are being kept in everything from testing programs and instructional software to grade books and learning management systems. But the data are often trapped in the program and not easily extracted or combined with other data on the same student, creating the educational equivalent of the Hotel California: data can check in any time it likes, but it can never leave. Or be used effectively by teachers. So a new initiative, supported by state education leaders and funded by prominent foundations, plans to provide a place in the cloud for each state to store all data for every student, using “free” open source software. And, in the process, student achievement information will be connected to instructional apps and web resources. That is, as long as the effort can address concerns about technology, privacy, and whether enough education companies will want to build products for a system that could undermine parts of their own businesses. In a nutshell, this describes the complicated Shared Learning Infrastructure, being built by the near-namesake Shared Learning Collaborative.

Frank described 1) the student data warehouse, 2) the instructional materials library, 3) and APIs connecting the two “leveraging tagging and indexes of the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative.”  Frank continues:

The hope is that schools and students will be able to benefit when these pieces are connected. If a student changes schools, either by moving from one grade to another or simply moving, that student’s data would follow her in a consistent format (assuming the new school is also in a state that uses the SLI). Then, it’s theoretically easier to understand a student’s — or even an entire student group’s — performance over time throughout their educational career, because all of that granular data, regardless of grade, is in one bucket. Teachers and students could also benefit through easier-to-personalize instruction – a holy grail of education technology. Since the bucket of student data is explicitly tied to the Common Core standards, and the second bucket of content in the SLI is also tied to the same Common Core, connecting the two could create a clearer path to what needs to be learned based on what a student has shown he or she (or a group of students with similar learning patterns) does, or doesn’t, understand. As Brandt Redd, senior technology officer for education programs at the Gates Foundation, noted in a presentation at an education industry conference, SLI is part of the cycle, “How did I do? What don’t I know? How do I learn this? … That data isn’t getting back to the teachers and students.”

We’re investigating a couple related questions:
1. How will states and districts provide student access to technology?  In the next few weeks, we’ll release a white paper outlining three strategies states and districts can use to create and sustain high access environments.
2. What data gets stored where?  If students spend time in a half a dozen learning apps during a day, how do we define the data extracts (the achievement data and related keystroke or paradata) that populate the comprehensive learner profiles in the cloud?
3. What data should travel with a student in an electronic student record? How should parents/guardians protect and share student information in this profile?
4. How should matriculation, teacher evaluation, and school accountability policies be updated after making the shift from data poverty to data abundance?
If you’re thinking about any of these question, we’d love to chat.  Stay tuned for an interactive white paper series from Digital Learning Now!  We’ll try to publish a paper a month for the next year on the big implementation issues at the intersection of Common Core and personal digital learning.  In the mean time, check out the SLC alpha release.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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1 Comment

Glen Borda

good info

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