I remember witnessing the launch of inBloom at the SXSWedu conference in 2013. As we all know, their efforts failed to build “the” single platform for all education tools. But, as the excellent and thorough research report from Data & Society, “The Legacy of inBloom,” points out, they did succeed in catalyzing a national conversation about student data privacy. Since then, a number of important safe guards, as well as organizations dedicated to the appropriate use of student data, have emerged. And for this foundation, deeper understanding and honest conversations, we should all be grateful.  

Unfortunately, one of the problems inBloom was trying to solve still exists – the underlying challenge of moving foundational pieces of information (such as quiz scores or gradebooks) between systems. Lack of interoperability continues to be a roadblock for teachers and principals, when it could be transformed into a powerful tool to enable teaching and learning. This is also a fundamental frustration for those of us that are technologists. We see the sheer determination and dedication of our teachers and administrators, and while we have the tools to make their jobs exponentially more efficient, we are on a long uphill journey to do so, as the research report documents.

Our dispersed school system, various stages of technology adoption, resources, time and perhaps even the legacy of inBloom have all become roadblocks on the pathway to equip America’s schools with technology that can help a teacher do their job instead of being another item on their already lengthy to-do list.

As the authors of the research paper points out, “to date, no large-scale educational technology initiative has succeeded in American K-12 schools,” because there is neither a single solution, nor a one-size-fits-all answer to our fundamental challenge – how to equip teachers with real and useful information to improve student outcomes? Of course, my belief is that it should start with a data standard, but more importantly, it will require a million points of light. That is to say, many people working on this issue and locally controlled solutions that meet the needs of the sector where it is, rather than where we think or wanted it to be.

Each day, members of the Ed-Fi Alliance endeavor to keep working diligently and beating the drum of interoperability and open systems. As Bill Fitzgerald points out in his blog about the Data & Society report, handling data more effectively “isn’t exciting, but excellence in education often consists of a large number of unexciting things done well.”  

It is our belief that excelling at the sometimes “unexciting” things will undoubtedly lead to excellence in edtech and ultimately lasting meaningful impact on student outcomes.