Recently I had the pleasure of attending a webinar at edchatinteractive.org on the topic of “Managing Digital Resources in the Classroom”, held by Beatriz Arnillas of Houston ISD. A wonderful presentation on how schools and districts can make it easier for teachers to find and use digital resources that engage students and promote learning. The recording of the webinar is now available in the edchatinteractive archives.
There were about 20 attendees and I was very excited to join the discussion. This topic has intrigued me for a long time so I grabbed the chance to hear how one of the largest districts in America has made the transition to using digital resources in their schools.
What have I learned?
Beatriz brought up a number of important points regarding the challenges of implementing digital resources into the curriculum. Some of them are:
Security and Privacy is Paramount
A number of regulations such as FERPA and COPPA have been put in place to ensure the adequate processing, storage and use of students’ information. Many software vendors see these strict regulations as a challenge to overcome, however we at The Mathist welcome the existence of such well defined and formalized regulatory acts.
No matter how strict – rules are rules – and if they are clearly defined, they are easy to follow. After all, it is in our common interest that the students are treated with respect and care, for our future ultimately depends on the generations we strive to educate today.
LTI – Centralized Authentication and Authorization
Schools usually work with multiple software vendors and use many software products. Beatriz pointed out that it is practically infeasible to provision and manage many sets of credentials for each student and for each software product. Human errors are common, and the teacher spends the lions share of their time in the classroom managing students’ accounts and making sure that everyone has access.
This problem can be solved by using LTI-enabled tools. LTI stands for “Learning Tools Interoperability”, and it is a standard which defines how vendor software can interact with the schools Learning Management System (LMS).
In short: the LMS system holds all the students’ roster information. And the third-party learning tool may need a subset of this information to properly function. LTI defines the procedures and ways of communication between the third-party learning tool and the LMS.
The LTI specification is wide in scope. Support includes use-cases from a simple Single Sign-On (SSO) to sophisticated reporting of learning outcomes. It is being actively maintained by the IMS Global organization.
Beatriz mentioned that they use Clever as their SSO provider, often using the terms SSO and LTI interchangeably, which also brings me to a point of confusion. Clever has developed a proprietery standard for accessing students’ roster information, whereas the LTI specification is an open standard. What is the relationship between Clever and LTI is a bit blurry, as they appear to support the same use-case. We at The Mathist will have to investigate this further.
Having had the privilege of attending this very informative webinar, I sincerely recommend that anyone interested in EdTech joins one of the sessions at edchatinteractive.org. Further I will emphasize that the efforts of digital learning experts such is Beatriz to connect to a wider audience greatly impacts education and the EdTech industry.
The LTI standard is seeing wider and wider adoption by the major software vendors of Learning Management Systems, which is a good thing, as it is one of the most important enabling factors for EdTech innovation.