Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Introducing inBloom: Accessible, Affordable Education Technology

February 05, 2013

In the summer of 2011, a partnership called the Shared Learning Collaborative (SLC) formed among nine states, the Council of Chief State School Officers, Carnegie Corporation and the Gates Foundation to make instructional technology more accessible, affordable and effective for teachers and students. This week, that partnership will transition its work to inBloom—a non-profit organization that will sustain the work of the SLC for the long term.

As teachers begin implementing the Common Core State Standards in their classrooms, they are looking for better content, tools, and information to personalize learning for their students and help them meet the new expectations. But it’s a challenge for them to find and integrate these resources into their classrooms. That’s because the data and content they need often lives in separate places and in different formats. What if all of those great instructional resources and data worked better together, regardless of where they came from? That’s exactly what inBloom will do.

The technical term for this challenge is “interoperability.” Many people thought those of us involved in this project were a little crazy for taking on the issue of K-12 technology interoperability. Some argued that it was an issue for the market to resolve. In principle, we agreed. But, we estimated it could take another 20 years for the market to tackle interoperability in a meaningful way, leaving another generation of students and teachers to struggle with technology products that didn’t work together (and forcing states and districts to keep pouring money into integration costs).That’s just too long.  inBloom offers a way to fix this problem a lot faster, and at a significantly lower cost.

Even those who saw the value of the project were curious about why this group was working on it – wondering how this initiative is linked to all of our broader strategies. We are all committed to making it easier to personalize learning for students, and our support for inBloom is a key building block for this goal. And, as expectations rise and budgets shrink, it is imperative that scarce dollars spent on learning technologies are effective for students and teachers and affordable for schools.  We are united in a common goal. 

Our group accomplished a lot in a short period of time bringing together states, districts and education providers to collaborate and create something that none of them could have done alone. And I continue to be awed by the investment of time and effort by the partner states and districts to support teachers’ efforts to personalize learning for their students.  It feels like we’ve reached a tipping point in the realm of learning technologies, and I look forward to watching inBloom help accelerate positive changes in the marketplace that support teachers in classrooms. 

I don’t pretend to know the future, but v. 1 of the technology services went live in December and is currently in the process of being rolled out in the first pilot states and districts. It’s off to a great start.
 
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