U.S. K-12: Wake Up and Smell the Roses – Going Digital Is Looking A Lot More Tractable – And Your District – Regardless of Size – Can Play a Leadership Role

Personalized learning, closed loop learning, instructional improvement – it goes by many names but the core goal is the same – match educational resources and experiences to better fit the needs of students and teachers working with those students.

IMS has been working with a leading set of U.S. school districts and suppliers to put in place interoperability of digital content and apps in educational settings that can reduce the friction of making closed loop learning a reality.

There has been a couple recent announcements from large suppliers to the U.S. K-12 market that are notable because this means that the IMS standards will soon be in a majority of districts. See SAFARI Montage announcement and Compass Learning announcement

Leading suppliers, while realizing that they are cutting into a source of revenues for custom integrations, are also realizing that the wasted effort on such integrations is literally holding the industry back.  If every automobile had custom tires and custom mounts for tires it would really slow down the adoption of automobiles. That is what is happening in education today. Luckily, leading suppliers are getting this and voluntarily moving to IMS.

But, there is also great benefit to the school districts and higher education institutions.

In fact at a recent IMS meeting – August 2012 – New York City Department of Education – largest school district in the U.S. serving over 1 million students – said that they had calculated a savings of 8-10x per integration by using the IMS standards in iLearnNYC. But, this is not just for large districts. In fact, the greatest potential is in smaller districts who can not afford the IT expense associated with product integration and maintenance.

So, at one level this is simply about removing cost – both in terms of dollars for custom integrations and the unnecessary “clunkiness” of having myriad products and platforms that are all standalone. If we want digital education to be “better” than paper education, well, both of those barriers need to be removed.  At this level the IMS standards are all about enabling a digital education revolution (or evolution if that is how you would like to characterize it).  Basically you “Don’t  want to go digital without leveraging the work of IMS.” It will be too costly, not user friendly and ultimately be perceived as more difficult than what you had prior with little or no gain in results.

Getting standards in place as the foundation of a market (as opposed to just one alternative) requires leadership. Folks like to point to the Web and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) as an example of where standards are at the foundation of a market. It would be difficult to imagine “web bowsers” and “web servers” as possible without the W3C standards. It took some strong leadership to make the web happen. Well, the challenge for the education segment in terms of leadership are even greater in that the web was a new market opportunity from scratch. Education is an existing market that is used to operating without standards. To change a market to being based on standards is a tall order!

Examples of how two K-12 districts in the U.S. are leading is documented nicely in this Tech & Learning blog interview with Keller Independent School District and Forsyth County Schools – see A New Acronym in Education: LTI, Part 2.

But, sometimes standardizing on ball bearings not just takes cost out of the equation but also enables a focus on more innovative things. There is that little thing that all nations around the world are focused on: Getting better educational results.

The clear trend is toward instructional improvement, personalized learning, closed loop learning, analytics, big data, open data, open content, open source, etc. etc. etc.

How is this all going to happen without standards?

For one thing, districts are going to need to leverage content across many forms of  systems: e-Learning platforms, collaboration software, classroom video platforms, interactive whiteboards, instructional management systems, professional development systems, assessment systems, e-books, e-Portfolios and a wide variety of learning tools on a wide variety of computing devices.

For another thing, ditto with respect to getting data out of all these applications and to a place where it can be synthesized rapidly for the benefit of the student.

Well, if you look at the suppliers who are getting IMS certified,  including the latest set if LTI tools and platformsyou will see – for the first time anywhere – the type of mixture of products that need to work together to enable the closed loop learning scenario of the future.

Is this a breakthrough? Absolutely!

This is a historic collaboration across suppliers in the education marketplace that has been enabled by great leadership from the 75 institutions, districts, states and government organizations among the IMS membership.

Where does it go from here?  See a recent interview with Tech & Learning to read more.

The nicest thing about this collaboration is that so many districts can literally just “wake up and smell the roses” and benefit from all the great work of the IMS members.

Districts can also join in explicitly via our Instructional innovation through Interoperability Leadership Committee (I3LC).  This is the community of like-minded district leaders collaborating on how to lead the revolution while receiving help from IMS (the first step is understanding how to best gradually evolve to standards to fit your situation and learning how to ask for the standards in a way that guarantees the results you are looking for).

2 thoughts on “U.S. K-12: Wake Up and Smell the Roses – Going Digital Is Looking A Lot More Tractable – And Your District – Regardless of Size – Can Play a Leadership Role

  1. Pingback: Readers: Digital textbook implementation just a dream | eSchool News

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