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The True Value of Standards for K-12 EdTech

Article by Timothy Beakman crossposted from LinkedIn with permission.

Interoperability standards have played an integral part in advancements in edtech over the past decade-plus, from providing a more simplistic digital teaching and learning environment for teachers and students to streamlining data inputs and outputs for administrative staff. However, there are still many improvements that the K-12 edtech community should keep striving to achieve. The value of standards far exceeds the idea that it enable easy integration between tools and resources. Let’s talk about how standards can help K-12 digital learning solutions achieve greater impact.

The idea of teachers, students and administrators creating high-quality, standards-based resources, in addition to purchasing standards-based content, presents a greater opportunity to truly personalize the learning experience for all students. When creating their own resources, educators can personalize the resources, from language to different learning styles, to help fully engage students in the learning process. Additionally, the idea that one vendor’s resources can meet all of a school district’s needs goes away once we open the door to easily integrating and customizing resources from many vendors using standards.

Chicago Public Schools’ Skyline – a culturally relevant PK-12 digital curriculum voluntarily adopted within 91% of the district's 530 schools – is a great example of how to successfully leverage standards to create and customize resources. Achieving their vision for a custom-built curriculum would not have been possible without adopting standards and ensuring compliance from all of their content providers. Standards provided the district with a path for reaching their desired outcome; however, although standards opened the door for CPS, how they were utilized and what they achieved still comes down to the district's vision.

Fulton County Schools’ Curriculum Hub – a public portal designed to provide parents with resources to support their student’s learning – is another great example of how to effectively use standards. By building their instructional resources using standards, the district was able to easily populate their parent portal with their existing resources without having to rework the content.

In both of these cases, the districts achieved success by building support from all community stakeholders. Teachers were engaged in creating personalized resources and, as a result, students were better engaged in the process via personalized learning opportunities. Both projects also provided administrative staff with data across all platforms in a single pane of glass, enabling them to accurately assess student progress and identify ways to help them improve. Districts need standards to help them design and build functional and effective models in which teachers, administrators and parents all have access to view a student's academic progress in real time.

As more K-12 edtech solutions continue to advance in terms of providing concurrent data and interoperability standards continue to evolve, all stakeholders should soon have the ability to view what really works in real-time. This will enable districts to better identify the right resources and tools to help keep students engaged and on track to achieve their intended learning outcomes.

There will always be challenges with standards due to the fact that vendors must commit to being open with their design and implementation. However, my hope is that, as a community, we will listen to the needs of students and keep building standards-based solutions that improve the learning experience for students and provide plug and play capability across all platforms.

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