How to Help Educational Technologies Talk to Each Other
The Consortium for School Networking, CoSN, has launched a toolkit to help school districts improve their ability for systems and applications to easily share content and services, a rising priority for schools due to the expansion of digital content and e-learning technologies.
The "interoperability" toolkit includes a maturity model with self-assessment tools, standard guidelines, interactive and downloadable cost calculators, school district case studies, and Request for Proposal guidelines.
The standard guidelines are a notable addition. According to a 2018 survey by CoSN in partnership with the Education Week Research Center, 46 percent of school district technology leaders say that a lack of common technical standards has made improving data interoperability either extremely or very challenging. CoSN's guidelines are intended to help address the gap in the integration and interfaces between different applications.
The guidelines are also meant to help address cost-effectiveness, which was a barrier for CTOs and CIOs in tackling interoperability because they faced budget constraints, according to the survey.
All the above tools will come at no cost to ed-tech leaders.
"Achieving interoperability can be a complicated process for school districts," said Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN, in a statement about the toolkit. "It's important to reduce that impediment and not discourage the use of e-learning technologies."
Interoperability has caused debate within the world of education technology due to issues such as data use, privacy, and the role of tech in schools.
CoSN encouraged district leaders to sign Project Unicorn's data interoperability pledge, which addresses those issues. The pledge is a commitment by districts to provide secure access to student data, educate families about student data privacy, promote equity, and make sure districts are making financially sound choices for education technology purchases.
Schools will be able to complete an online self-assessment, a quiz available in the toolkit, to determine how they measure up on the CoSN interoperability maturity model. Based on the results, districts can consider their next steps in their data interoperability choices through case studies also available in the toolkit, according to CoSN.
For more on interoperability issues in K-12 schools, see Education Week's special report, SPECIAL REPORT: UNCHAINING DIGITAL DATA: K-12 INTEROPERABILITY.