InBloom Educational Data Warehouse Wilts Under Scrutiny
Cloud repository for student records promises big data results and economies of scale, but has stirred privacy fears.
The case for InBloom is essentially the case for cloud computing: the idea that pooling data and resources, including technical talent in disciplines like analytics and data security, can produce better results than an individual business or government agency could achieve on its own. School districts are already gathering all the same data and managing it themselves, often with scarce resources to devote to proper data management or security, Wise pointed out.
While critics often portray InBloom as building a massive data bank subject to commercial data mining, Wise explained that the states and districts that provide data to InBloom will not be giving up control over it. They will still govern how that data is used. When critics say InBloom will share data with commercial entities, the implication is that student data will be for sale. However, schools would be sharing data only with the vendors they trust, Wise said, and for use on behalf of educators, administrators, and students.
In other words, just as businesses trust Salesforce.com to manage their customer data -- without sharing it with their competitors or plundering it for Saleforce.com's own uses -- school systems would trust InBloom to be a responsible custodian of their data.
Similarly, Saleforce.com allows customers to add third-party apps to their accounts that are authorized to access their data, or some subset of it, and provide additional software services. "InBloom can do nothing [with] student data that school policies do not permit. There's a lot of myth about our ability to aggregate data and sell it off," Wise said.
Arguing that it's better to keep the data on school district computers than in a cloud service is like arguing that it's better not to put your money in the bank because the bank might be robbed, Wise said. "Like a bank, a cloud service is a bigger target for those who would break in, but you don't lose a lot of safe deposit boxes compared with putting your money under the bed."
In time, Wise predicted, school systems that are afraid to commit today will find that what InBloom offers is superior to what they have in ease of use and efficiency. "We'll win, over time."
For that to happen, though, InBloom will have to survive long enough to achieve positive results. "I'm feeling good that shortly -- and I'll let our technical folks define 'shortly' -- we will see some success stories," Wise said. "Once you have several districts demonstrating how it's working, and showing that it meets their educational needs as well as security needs, I think you'll see rapid signup."
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