Much of this week’s work and research focus on setting the stage for Enterprise Architecture. Typically, school districts have maintained separate plans for technology and the district. For example, a district creates a “district education plan” and then has a separate “technology plan.” Moving forward, do you think this is still a good practice, or should they be combined? Please provide a rationale for your decision.
It is possible that twenty years ago a district could have two distinct plans - a "district education plan" and a seperate "technology plan." However, today's increasingly digitized world and the prevalence of technological tools being used inside and outside the classroom must cause districts reconsider this approach. Even if a district is not using very much technology, it is now forced to rethink this, since the lack of using technological tools could be putting their students at a great disadvantage in comparison with districts that are leveraging technology to better deliver content and provide for individualized learning plans that can be customized and monitored through increasingly sophisticated technological solutions.
Furthermore, districts where technology is being adopted through a technology plan, will find that if not developed in conjunction with their district education plan, these will often be misaligned and not take full advantage of the resources that technology can provide to teachers and students in relation to classroom education. They will also miss out on opportunities for optimization of the learning experience and of more easily gathering data around learning progress. In conclusion, these two plans may still exist as separate artifacts but should be built out together with clear alignments and foundational architecture between the two plans so they reinforce and complement each other and are based on the same ultimate goals and outcomes, such as success for all students and ease of use for all end users.
Now that I also am aware of the IMS Global Learning Consortia, I plan to get a full list of their partners/members to simplify my search of applications, hardware, etc. for teaching, communications, production, marketing, and delivery and data analytics solutions. With that list in hand, I can hone in on only the applications that use the IMS standards and thus, avoid having to have custom API's and integrations build for us. By joining the IMS Consortia, Conexiones could also benefit from the prior thinking that has already gone into analyzing and choosing the right solutions for the different working parts of an online learning organization. This will help tremendously with filling in the various bricks that we will create.
Reflection: Schools are often working against themselves as there are distinct applications for various needs:
I would unify various systems by looking for a Single sign-on (SSO) solution so that staff and teachers can access all of their platform services in a user-friendly way with a one single sign-on and sign-off feature. This will help make things much more efficient and also safer since a teacher may have multiple tabs open on her computer and forget to sign off properly.
I would also seek to make sure that data is readily accessible for teachers, staff, and for transfer to the respective stakeholders, such as the state's departments of education. This is one of the challenges many school districts have and was discussed in the Arizona Education Learning and Accountability System (AELAS) Business Case. Being able to export reports on all platform services in a way that is migratable and importable to other systems (i.e. csv file), is key and vital when choosing a platform service. A Software solution that that can export reports that are draw from various applications and platform services would be ideal and I would look for a software solution that helps with this.
I would also search for redundancies and anywhere where there is an unneeded duplication of data entry. This could potentially help save lots of time and money, especially if there is an overarching software that can draw reports from various platform services. Having said that, there are often ways for applications and platform services to be synced and thus, when one field or value is updated in one system, it automatically updates it in the other systems that use that same information.
I would seek out solutions of this kind to make teaching and learning systems, administrative systems, back office systems, and supplemental systems more efficient, accessible, and useful for all users.
As you have researched Data standards, please reflect on your discoveries. What are the three most critical factors that you would cite to a colleague about this architecture? Discuss why data standards are critical for educational organizations to employ.
I did not know that the Common Education Data Standards existed and can clearly see the importance of having a common language or vocabulary between schools and the state and federal departments of education.
The three most critical factors I would cite to a colleague are:
1 - We need to make sure our own vocabulary and language matches the Common Education Data Standards architecture.
2 - That we need to be more strategic about using big data in the same way that other sectors of society and the business sector are using it to continually improve practice for successful student performance, while making sure student privacy is protected by focusing on aggregate data.
3- Educational Enterprise Architecture initiatives do not have to be large in scale. We can start with a smaller scope that is more manageable and on target with immediate goals, and incrementally increase the scope over time (Education Enterprise Architecture Guidebook, p. 8).
Data standards are critical for educational organizations to employ because schools need to be able to send understandable data to the district, who then sends it to the state department. If the data is not recognizable or readable by these other stakeholders, then those responsible for tasked with assuring student success will not know if students are succeeding in our school or know what tools and resources would be the best to implement to improve student success. They would also not be able to determine if public funds are actually helping students and the public would not have the data it is entitled to as the funders of our school. And as the video narrator of the video, "Who Uses Student Data," says: "When parents, teachers and leaders have access to quality data, students do better."
What have you discovered about systems or processes in your current organization that would help define the Business Architecture? What are they and how would they help with your development of a Business Architecture? Discuss the value of the work to document the Current and Desired States for the organization.
I am embarrassed to say that as a small grassroots educational organization, Conexiones Institute does not have any set systems or processes in place for defining business architecture. Through what I have learned in this course so far, business architecture is very much needed, but due to lack of human resources and expertise, it has never been done and I personally was adding platforms and software solutions in an ad hoc way as the need came up.
With regards to the value of the work to document the current and desired states for the organization, I find this to be of significant value to help guide the transition of this small educational organization from one providing direct services to students to providing educational services to childcare providers and teachers with a publishing arm to share educational materials that are trainees can access. The organic and underfunded way that Conexiones Institute grew in its first 15 years caused us to lose a lot of data, to have a matrix of ad hoc applications and platforms that did not speak to each other, to have large amounts of digital assets in a hard-to-retrieve fashion, and a general inability to quickly run meaningful reports to help us understand our reach, our impact, and our results.
Going through the process of documenting our current state and then strategizing and building a tailored enterprise architecture for this desired state will go a long way to setting things up properly from the beginning for scalable growth without getting overwhelmed or losing many hours of time later. It is also helping me develop the appropriate budget so I know exactly how much investment is needed to relaunch. This time around, I plan to secure funding for the relaunch rather than try to piece it together little by little and grow organically. Having a strong enterprise architecture plan in place attached to our business plan will show lenders and social investors that we have done important planning to assure our success and they will know that we will be prepared with the right systems needed to report back to them the results and economic sustainability that they will surely want to see.
Prior to this class, I knew that technology is an integral part of almost any enterprise and organization. I know that there needs to be a strategy and planning with regards to technology implementation and that adopting new technologies without a strategy can become a huge problem later for stakeholders and users who are forced to learn and log in to various different tools. I also know that technology changes quickly and today’s tools often become obsolete, causing problems in organizations that have invested a lot of time in a technological solution that seemed the best fit at the time, but which becomes an inferior choice over time. I also know that there is a digital divide that is important to always consider when any tools are public facing, especially if serving historically marginalized groups.
I do not work for a school or district. I run a small independent educational social enterprise, Conexiones Institute, that is dedicated to advancing peace through various education publications and outdoor education, arts, culture, and language education programs for children, youth, and families.
However, Conexiones Institute is transitioning from being a direct provider of camps, after-school classes, and early childhood programs, into an online training center for early childhood educators and child care providers so they can replicate our bilingual peace education and programs as independent practitioners (similar to what Montessori and Waldorf have done). We stopped offering our direct educational services a couple of years ago so I could focus on restructuring the organization and this ended up with my enrolling in this master's program specifically to support and guide this process.
Enterprise architecture is just the thing that is needed in this restructuring stage. I need to know the projected enterprise architecture that this new rendition of Conexiones Institute will need to be successful and scale sustainably. Enterprise Architecture will give me the tools to understand how to undergo this transition and what worked well and didn't in our old architecture, or lack thereof. Thus, my work through Conexiones is very applicable with regards to enterprise architecture.
I also work for a start-up medical clinic part time as their communications and marketing manager. We are currently exactly at the point where we need an enterprise architecture process since our front desk and medical staff are overwhelmed by the numerous software programs they need to access and update regarding patient communications, tracking marketing referral sources, maintaining protected medical records, etc. It is within my job duties to assist with simplifying the current processes and train the staff. Enterprise architecture and its frameworks will be a very good tools to use in this process.