They call me Johnny DataPortabilitySeed
Actually, they call me TQ White II (info). I am an old programmer on a mission to free the data. I work in the education business and am very frustrated. It turns out that the information about students, usually our children, is kept in programs that can't talk to each other. It's as if each program speaks a different language. This prevents information about students from coming along with them when they change schools. It makes it so that teachers can barely use online teaching systems because there's no way to enroll students or communicate assignments or grades. It is limiting the ability of students to learn effectively.
There is a solution to this problem and that's why I'm frustrated. It's something called a SIF, a Data Portability Standard. Some awesome people have been working for almost twenty years to define ways for computer programs to talk to each other. In Australia, they have had stunning success. Essentially every school in Australia uses programs that can communicate with each other. In America, not so much and I, frankly, think it's about time for the Land of the Free to get serious about freeing the data.
There are some places in America where the standard is widely used and it's great. In Massachusetts, for example, when a student changes schools, his records follow him or her immediately. Teachers get updates about students, classes and other things as soon as they happen. Administrators can see the state of the world in real time. That is to say, it's possible, even realistic to adopt data portability standards.
Most other places, they are still "studying" the problem and that's just nuts. Were it not for Australia's success, it might be reasonable to doubt the efficacy of this technology but, Australia is real. It serves as a practical, working example of what can happen when an entire society decides to put education first, ahead of corporate profit, state inertia, and technical indecision.
This website is dedicated to collating resources to help people beat back the forces of inaction. Read, act, reach out to me in the right hand column. It's time to Free the Data!!
Access 4 Learning
Access 4 Learning (A4L) is a community non-profit thats serves as the home for an international group of education, technology and privacy professionals dedicated to developing solid, well-researched data standards, specifying protocols for data movement and encouraging the use of data portability technologies.
SIF stands for 'School Interoperability Framework'. The standard dates back to the late nineties and is in use in hundreds of school systems worldwide.
SIF comprises two main aspects, data modeling and data transport. Based on SIF specs, software developers and school tech managers can create data systems that reduce complexity, increase visibility and improve educational outcomes.
The Central Minnesota Educational Research and Development Council (cmERDC) is my employer. As an almost fifty year old company, they have been responsible stewards of school system data since the eighties. This mission continues today with support for SIF, A4L and data portability.