Rob Abel, Ed.D. | August 2019
"One is the loneliest number." —Harry Nilsson
"Without ongoing leadership and commitment from end-user and supplier partner organizations working together, no amount of standards-making or APIs will achieve the return on investment the education sector requires to lift all stakeholders toward educational innovation and impact." –Rob Abel, Ed.D.
In the last Learning Impact blog ("Commitment and everything that goes with it"), I wrote about how achieving plug-and-play integrations in educational technology is best supported with a "pay to play" committed membership model.
One can be a very lonely number when a single institution or school district faces the daunting task of supporting the innovation needs of all faculty and students while at the same time addressing cost and resource constraints. We often look to our fellow organizations to share knowledge and experiences we can trust. That is the norm. However, is it good enough? Alternatively, are we still mostly alone when it comes to the actual implementation of our institutional ecosystem? So a related question is, are we utterly reactive to developments in the marketplace, or are we helping to influence the developments in the market? It is tough to influence market direction as a single entity acting alone.
However, "one" can be a mighty number in the sense of "E Pluribus Unum," a Greek phrase that means "from many, one." E Pluribus Unum is well known as the motto of the great seal of the United States as they were forming from a set of independent colonies. At that time, the need for one coordinated effort from many colonies was not a nicety, but rather a necessity.
I think it is clear that if we want to propel education innovation and effectiveness for all students to the next level that an "E Pluribus Unum mentality" among the stakeholders is a necessity both in HED and K-12. Without ongoing leadership and commitment from end-user and supplier partner organizations working together, no amount of standards-making or APIs will achieve the return on investment the education sector requires to lift all stakeholders toward educational innovation and impact.
The 1EdTech ecosystem initiative created by the 1EdTech Board of Directors was first announced in concept at the 2018 Learning Impact Leadership Institute in Baltimore. The idea behind 1EdTech is simple. Education leaders care about having a reliable ecosystem of innovative products they can configure to their needs efficiently and effectively. It is the ability to achieve one seamless ecosystem from the many diverse interests of end-users and suppliers that is the goal. 1EdTech focuses on ensuring we collectively achieve the end goal.
While some of us wireheads know that the best way to get interoperability at scale across a highly distributed market (in terms of lack of a dominant set of suppliers) is having a really good set of standards that enable plug-and-play integration and a committed community that makes them a reality in practice. That, of course, is what 1EdTech is all about, but the reality is that most education leaders are not going to care about tech standards. So even if they care enough to ask for standards, it is only a first step because even standards that undergo a rigorous community and testing process (like 1EdTech's, which is the only one of its kind in the education space) have a wide variety of implementation in practice. Some of that variation is built into the standard for flexibility, but even more variability comes from incorrect implementation.
Fifteen months after the announcement, 1EdTech is now becoming a real thing beginning to be used by several of the world's largest edtech providers and by an early adopter set of school districts. All indicators so far are that 1EdTech can provide tremendous value to all stakeholders.
1EdTech right now is software that enables suppliers and institutions to efficiently, accurately, and transparently manage data movement. For school districts, 1EdTech is enabling them to achieve transparency into data movement and supplier requirements for data. For suppliers, it enables them to clearly articulate their requirements for data one time that can be used by all school districts to understand compatibility. For the 1EdTech community, it is enabling us to understand, remediate, and evolve the standards so that they are truly plug-and-play in practice.
1Edtech is also likely to become a services integration strategy for a set of related 1EdTech activities, like the CASE Network. The idea is that 1EdTech has developed and will develop "utilities" that are for the purpose of understanding the fit of a product into a standards-enabled ecosystem. Today a person needs to be an expert on a wide variety of standards and yet the results in terms of plug-and-play integration are not as good as we would hope. Tomorrow, 1EdTech utilities will enable education sector participants to understand which products work together, what data they exchange, what features those data exchanges enable, and whether the exchanges are based on open standards. End-users will not have to be experts on LTI, Caliper Analytics, OneRoster, QTI, CASE, and other standards to get the benefits of a robust ecosystem of interoperable products.
The other area that 1EdTech will have a profound impact on is data privacy. 1EdTech is already providing leadership in privacy through the 1EdTech App Vetting and Privacy program that has been used to vet over 2,000 products so far. 1EdTech provides the transparency of data movement that allows all stakeholders to work together on privacy issues—and for parents and students to protect data as desired.
Wouldn't it be great if taking the high road were also the easy road? The 1EdTech design is based upon input from a broad array of 1EdTech members—and I believe 1Edtech will make the lives of suppliers and institutions much easier than it is today in terms of ensuring digital on day one and instructional impact. At least that is what we see so far.
Something like 1EdTech is only possible because of extraordinary leadership. I especially want to thank the initial set of school districts that are putting in the extra time and effort to help us get this right. We're keeping this pretty low key on purpose to ensure we get it right before scaling it up. So far, it looks like 1EdTech is something that the 1EdTech members will be very proud of and we hope to have all of you benefit from it as soon as possible.