Think of the Ed-Fi Exchange somewhere between an app store, idea lab and R&D outlet. It creates an arena for states and districts to share promising developments they’ve made using Ed-Fi technology that others in the Ed-Fi Community might be able to use to fit their own needs. And it creates a one-stop-shop platform for sharing ideas on what works to actually get educators to use the technology.
Before the Ed-Fi Exchange, it was tough to know who was working on what and what results they were getting. The Exchange offers states and districts a chance to avoid having to constantly reinvent the wheel and learn from others’ experiences. And sharing knowledge more broadly can give states more leverage when working with vendors (if you know vendor X has customized something for one state without massive costs, seemingly it can be done for another.)
For Dan Retzlaff of the Wisconsin education department, the Exchange is a way to pay it forward.
Before the Exchange existed, Retzlaff says, it took jumping through a lot of hoops to get someone else’s code and be able to see what they were doing. “Figure a dozen or so phone calls and months of waiting,” he says.
In this pre-exchange environment, Wisconsin ultimately grabbed ideas on developing a unique ID system from Idaho and on speeding data search from Georgia. “We were able to review that code and not just the code, but their biz requirements around it,” Retzlaff says. “And we stole a ton of ideas.”
What the Ed-Fi Exchange does is formalize an arena for sharing ideas and make the knowledge transfer more seamless.
Wisconsin wound up developing its own in-house solution using the Ed-Fi Data Standard, building it so pieces can be broken off as needed (user interface is one piece, the database another piece). Retzlaff decided to put Wisconsin’s search piece, WISE search, on the Exchange.
“The idea is why don’t we just give this piece back. If the Alliance wants it they can grab it as a building block. If someone wants to grab the code and run with it, they can. Or if they want to take it and do what they want with it to customize for their needs, they can do that too.”
While the Ed-Fi ODS API creates a solid building block, Retzlaff sees many gaps to fill (for example in search and data flow). And he sees the Exchange as a potentially valuable way to surface ideas around data certification and vendor certification on the Ed-Fi ODS API. “The Exchange gives us a way to fill those gaps at the state level. It’s just not a one-size-fits- all.”
Pat Bush of Delaware, an early adopter and contributor to the Ed-Fi Exchange, says he wishes the Exchange was up and running when he was faced with building an early-warning system so he could have used it to piggyback on other states’ efforts.
“I consider that a missed opportunity,” Bush says. “And I think there are a lot of those, given the way we communicate (across states)—or we don’t. We all know the value of those engaging conversations,” but too often they fall at the bottom of the to-do list.
The Exchange makes sense as a repository of ideas and information to avoid duplication of effort, which can suck up valuable resources.
Adds Bush: “There ought not be a heavy cost associated with doing things that ultimately help kids.”
Georgia CIO Bob Swiggum, for his part, would like to see more sharing around the techniques for ensuring teachers, parents and students actually use the technology that’s being built.
“This is a great forum to not just talk about the technology, but about the culture of how you get people to use the technology,” Swiggum says. “It should share states’ knowledge. If you have a pristine architecture but your teachers don’t use it, that’s a failure.”
The Ed-Fi Exchange will only be as valuable as the contributions you make. Please add to the collective wisdom and power of the Ed-Fi Community, whether it’s a finished product, a work in progress, or a call for peers’ input on an issue you’re troubleshooting—from the purely technical to broader concerns about the classroom impact of the tools you’ve built.
Go HERE to request and account and submit contributions to the Ed-Fi Exchange!