inBloom launches with Gates/Carnegie funds to unify e-learning services

inBloom launches with Gates/Carnegie funds to unify e-learning services

Summary: Despite the recent explosion in ed tech applications and services, adoption and use of data remains a significant challenge. InBloom's new platform just may change that.

TOPICS: Education

As recently as a couple years ago, the biggest problem schools faced with implementing technology tools for students and teachers was the lack of research-based, pedagogically sound, applications. There was plenty of software, some of it good, not much of it great, and very little of it really cranking out usable data for teachers and other stakeholders. The recent explosion of investment in ed tech has yielded some really valuable applications, though, and the challenges have shifted to adoption and ease of use of disparate software and services.

inBloom, which launched this week, is hoping to change that. I had the chance to talk with Iwan Streichenberger, CEO of inBloom, Inc., and couldn't help but be impressed with both the current platform and the future vision of the non-profit. inBloom offers a set of technologies and services, most notably robust APIs, that allow single sign-on and aggregation of data from many web-based educational tools and provide a basis for companies to develop new solutions for schools, teachers, parents, and students that are interoperable without needing to conform to arbitrary standards or conventions. As the company put it in their press release,

The inBloom data integration and content search services enrich learning applications by connecting them to systems and information that currently live in a variety of different places and formats, while helping to reduce costs for states and districts. This comprehensive view into each student’s history can help those involved in education...act quickly to help each student succeed. It also helps educators locate standards-aligned instructional resources from multiple providers and match them with their students’ needs...

Additionally, the inBloom framework enables technology providers to develop and deploy products without having to build custom connections to each state and district data source. This means more developers will have the opportunity to create new and powerful applications to benefit students, with lower implementation costs and faster time-to-market. 

For example, an SIS provider could build a custom dashboard with student data from any application connected to inBloom. 22 such providers have already signed on to connect their applications to inBloom and 9 states are involved in piloting the service. The real goal, though, goes back to the ed tech holy grail of "an IEP for everyone" (my words - inBloom calls it "[integration of] student data and learning applications to support sustainable, cost-effective personalized learning"). If teachers can't easily access data generated by learning applications and stored in SIS/LMS platforms and then quickly find and provide appropriate resources for students based on these data, then we aren't leveraging the tools in which we're investing. Kids are just taking tests on the web and playing computer games at that point and, with 30+ kids in a class, there's no real hope of differentiated instruction.

Although the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation have funded a wide range of educational initiatives, this one (which received initial philanthropic funding from the two organizations) strikes me as one of the most potentially transformative. Nobody benefits if the current unprecedented levels of investor interest in ed tech becomes a bubble that funded lots of applications from which teachers and students derive limited benefit. But if inBloom can harness these applications to develop a meaningful, well-rounded ecosystem, then the potential for ed tech to achieve much of what it has promised in the last 20 years (with only moderate success) increases significantly. It doesn't hurt that companies with great ideas and great products will be able to tap into a ready market, either, eager to adopt strong applications from a unified ecosystem.

There will be more announcements and demonstrations from inBloom at SxSWEdu at the beginning of March where we'll be able to see the system in action.

Topic: Education

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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  • How this differs from SIF ?

    Unifying the communication protocol among e-learning solutions (SIS , LMS ....etc) is an old initiative. SIF aimed to achieve the same objective 3 or 4 years ago. Despite being adopted by edu governments in US & UK, SIF didn't make a big success. How this is expected to deliver a better value?
  • Privacy concerns

    Read about the growing coalition of education, parent & privacy groups protesting this plan to share confidential student information, without parental consent, with the Gates-funded inBloom Inc., which plans to put it on a highly vulnerable data cloud And contrary to what this journalist writes, there is no research showing any of this has pedagogic value. What it does have is commercial potential, for companies to try to make a buck off the personally identifiable, highly sensitive educational records of children.
    • No Privacy Concerns. It's 2013. Res Ipsa Loquitur!

      Beware the luddites. It is conspiracy theorists that impede upon progress in our schools. This is a reason that technology in our public schools is moving at a snails pace compared to the amazing tools we avail in every other sector. How do we find a cure for HIV/AIDS or Cancer without taking risks ? If we continue to fail our students, we prevent them from attaining so many wonderful facets of life and discovery.

      We put our social security numbers, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, etc. in web forms all day long. Though there is some risk, that risk is worth the reward of facilitating efficient, profitable, and beneficial exchange which is the sole material source of growth in our economy - the fact that we trust in the contracts we make. Similarly, allowing student data to be analyzed and compared will carry very low and very marginal risks (it's 2013 - I should hope that every parent is ASSUMING that their child's data is being subjected to life-changing and personalizing technology! This should be the status quo!) but the aggregated reward of facilitating a more meaningful education for countless children will have far-reaching effects. President Obama has promised more college graduates and a more competitive workforce. Tagging that goal along with a meager budget for schools, it is unlikely that we will have 1:1 tutors for each child. InBloom will allow sophisticated and secure technology to do some of the work for teachers - charting for them the strengths and weaknesses of each child, so teachers can spend their time where it really matters, instead of wasting time figuring this all out.

      Education will lead to lower incarceration and delinquency rates, more skilled workers, stronger families, a strong economy, the list goes on.

      We should not be afraid to help the children in our community by allowing technology that we use in every other sector, to finally be THE solution in our schools!