‘Personalized’ Reality

Nonprofit brings together data, content and tools for educators.

INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero

Iwan Streichenberger“To succeed in today’s global economy, students need learning experiences that meet their individual needs, engage them deeply and let them learn at their own pace,” says Iwan Streichenberger (pictured), CEO of inBloom, a non-profit organization created in response to a request from states and school districts to simplify how they record student information, administer tests, analyze performance, train teachers, and share lesson plans to support personalized learning. “This requires teachers to have an up-to-date picture of a student’s progress, an understanding of where he or she needs extra attention, and access to materials that will help progress their students’ learning,” says Iwan. Originally, back in 2011, an advisory group with a range of expertise committed significant time to advising those leading a project under the name of the Shared Learning Collaborative (SLC), the forerunner of inBloom, on the design and long-term governance and future organizational structure. Those experts included:

-Michael Horn, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Education, Innosight Institute

-Michael Lomax, President and CEO, United Negro College Fund

-David Riley, President, Alembic Foundation

-Andrew Rotherham, Co-Founder and Partner, Bellwether Education Partners

-Cheryl Vedoe, President and CEO, Apex Learning

-Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers

The SLC received initial philanthropic support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Carnegie Corporation of New York. inBloom was established as an independent, nonprofit organization to carry forward the mission of the SLC. “inBloom is helping to make this possible by providing an efficient and cost-effective means for school districts to provide teachers with the information and tools necessary to strengthen their connection with each student,” Iwan says. In this EdTech Digest interview, Iwan explains just how this is accomplished, what’s wrong with the current system, and how this solution helps educators and parents.

Victor: How does inBloom work?

inBloom logoIwan: inBloom replaces the multiple incompatible – and often outdated – systems school districts currently use to store student information and provides a secure, single-access point where teachers can access the student data they need to do their jobs more effectively.

Victor: What’s wrong with the current systems being used by districts?

Iwan: In many districts today, existing systems are incompatible with instructional tools because of inconsistent technical requirements. inBloom connects the many disparate systems and standardizes the connection between education tools and teachers. This allows districts to easily pilot and procure great instructional tools without spending unnecessary time and expense on making those tools work with outdated systems.

How do districts benefit by working with inBloom?

Iwan: With inBloom’s technology in place, districts will be able to:

  • Enable teachers to more easily tailor education to the developmental needs, skill levels and learning pace of each individual student
  • Engage parents more deeply in the learning process;
  • Save time and money; and,
  • House student information more safely and securely.

Victor: How does inBloom help teachers?

inBloom 2Iwan: inBloom makes it easier for teachers to see a more complete picture of individual student progress than what most currently have access to through its secure, single-access point. With this information teachers are able to better identify where each student needs extra attention, and to tailor education materials that maximize the one-on-one time they spend with students.

Further, currently it’s difficult for teachers to find the many valuable instructional materials that exist across the country or even in their own school districts. Additionally, teachers in most school districts are burdened by having to gather student information from multiple databases in order to track student progress. Through its resource index, inBloom saves teachers valuable time by helping them more easily search for and share these materials.

Victor: How does inBloom help parents to better engage in their child’s education?

inBloom 3Iwan: Through inBloom, districts can provide parents with user-friendly dashboards that show real-time updates on their child’s grades, assignments and academic progress. In this way teachers and parents can more easily communicate regarding each child’s progress, allowing them to engage each other and the child’s learning progress more deeply.

Victor: How does inBloom securely store student information?

Iwan: inBloom provides districts access to a secure cloud-based data system, which meets the most stringent federal government standards. Each participating school district has its own protected storage space and will continue to own, manage and control access to its data, just as it always has. In no way will the student information stored using inBloom be shared nationally.

inBloom 1In addition, inBloom uses the latest in encryption technology, which separates the information districts choose to store into small pieces across multiple servers to prevent unauthorized access.

Victor: What data is collected by inBloom?

Iwan: Participating states and districts decide how much data will be collected and stored in the system, and the states and districts maintain control over that data at all times.

Victor: Will inBloom sell student data to vendors or anyone?

Iwan: No. inBloom does not and will never sell any student data to anyone.

Victor: Alright, thanks Iwan!

Iwan: Thank you, Victor.

Victor Rivero is the Editor in Chief of EdTech Digest. Are you an edtech leader, trendsetter, or the creator of a cool edtech tool? The 2014 EdTech Digest Awards extended entry period runs until October 18, 2013. There is still time to enter. For full details, write to: victor@edtechdigest.com

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