ERIC Number: EJ790075
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Mar
Reference Count: N/A
Waters, John K.
T.H.E. Journal, v35 n3 p32-34, 36, 38 Mar 2008
Data integration is one of the single most challenging tasks any district can face. Fortunately for school districts throughout the country with data scattered in disparate systems, an open specification known as the Schools Interoperability Framework (SIF) is mitigating that challenge. SIF has emerged as a cornerstone of K-12 data warehousing, enabling once-isolated information to be shared among diverse systems. First proposed in 1997, SIF is a set of open software and data specs that describes how information can be exchanged among applications in a K-12 setting. It's based on the Extensible Markup Language (XML) and service-oriented architecture (SOA). XML is a platform-neutral, general-purpose markup language; SOA refers to an architectural approach that loosely couples software systems to provide a set of linked, repeatable business tasks, or "services." The Schools Interoperability Framework Association (SIFA) is the nonprofit, independent standards body that advocates for, and maintains, the SIF spec. Though it started as a vendor-dominated organization, 75 to 80 percent of its members are now end users. The group's membership roster includes schools, states, K-12 software vendors, systems integrators, and others interested in helping advance interoperability in the K-12 space. One of the reasons SIF has survived and thrived for so long is that it holds the support of an active and involved community, or ecosystem. It's one of the keys to the success of any open specification. The SIF ecosystem consists of individuals and organizations investing time and resources to refine and improve the spec-essentially, the SIFA membership. Within SIFA, there's also a subcommunity called EdSTART (Educational Software and Technology Application Registry Tool) which offers SIFA members and non-members listings of requests for proposals, school software vendors, and vendors' products. The SIF data model is large and expanding. The recent addition of organizational profiles to that model allows the set of data elements to be virtually as large as a school needs. According to SIFA's 2006-2007 activities report, district-level implementations of SIF-based solutions now number in the thousands. As of the publication of that report, five states are implementing the spec statewide.
Descriptors: Elementary Secondary Education, Computer Software, School Districts, Educational Cooperation, Educational Technology, Data, Internet, Standards, Programming Languages, Organizations (Groups), Management Information Systems, Computer Uses in Education, Information Management, Computer System Design, Information Technology
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Illinois