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inBloom Aims to Increase Data Flow Despite Controversy

Scottsdale, Ariz.

The nonprofit organization inBloom hopes to create a vast personalized learning environment for every student through the aggregation of student and teacher data. The organization itself does not produce apps or software—but rather the infrastructure necessary to create those products, said Iwan Streichenberger, the chief executive officer of the organization.

"We provide the plumbing in the back to connect with vendors to make this happen," said Streichenberger in a session earlier today at the ASU/GSV Education Innovation Summit in Scottsdale, Ariz.

inBloom, which was previously called the Shared Learning Collaborative, has come under fire from certain groups (including the ACLU of Massachusetts, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, Citizens for Public Schools, and the Massachusetts PTA) which expressed concern about the privacy of the data shared through the project.

In a letter to the Massachusetts Board of Education, which planned to share student and teacher data with inBloom, those groups urged board members to reconsider their decision, pointing to the organization's privacy policy which states "inBloom, Inc cannot guarantee the security of the information stored in inBloom or that the information will not be intercepted when it is being transmitted."

However, in his presentation, Streichenberger assured attendees that inBloom itself does not actually see the data shared by schools and districts but merely provides the capability to store and share it.

inBloom describes itself as an inter-operability organization that helps aggregate student and school data from a variety of sources to make it quicker, easier, and cheaper to develop applications and software that will help teachers personalize learning for students. Many teachers view technology as an impediment to educating students, said Streichenberger, partly because of how many different systems they have to log into in order to get a comprehensive picture of how their students are doing.

The organization, which releases its products as open source, was initially funded through grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, though they are now hoping to move toward sustainable business model that charges states and districts a fee to access the service, said Streichenberger.

School and student data locked up in silos is a significant barrier to the implementation of new technologies for many schools and has prevented some districts and states from sharing and using data in transformative ways, some technology advocates argue. For more information about interoperability challenges, check out a recent story that appeared in the latest issue of Technology Counts for more details.

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