"Kids can't remember their usernames and passwords," said
The result, say both educators and ed-tech vendors, is extensive loss of precious instructional time. The rapidly expanding universe of online educational resources, and all the usernames and passwords associated with them, is also creating back-end management headaches for district information-technology officials.
In response, districts such as
Some of the most tech-savvy vendors and school officials are also pursuing the creation of "federated identities" for students, in which a single, authoritative digital profile with consistent information about what a child has learned--rather than just login information--follows students from software program to software program.
"It's doable," said
Saving Instructional Time
Barriers to effective implementation and widespread adoption of such strategies include the rapidly shifting ed-tech landscape and persistent worries about the security and privacy of sensitive student data.
Some fear that centralizing a single set of login information in one service might make it easier for hackers, for example, to target information. The increasingly free flow of other data between software programs has also raised concerns among privacy advocates.
These days, "if it's any more than one or two clicks and you're in, you're losing instructional time and students' attention," said Ms. Ray.
Many smaller schools and districts, however, cannot afford or effectively manage technologies such as active directory. In part to meet their needs, Clever, already in use in about 20,000 schools in
Now, students and teachers will be able to access the 100 or so software programs that partner with Clever via a single username and password. That could help schools reclaim the valuable minutes currently wasted on logging students in--as much as 25 percent of learning time spent on software, according to a recent teacher survey the company commissioned.
"It's one of those problems that if you're not in the classroom, you might not appreciate what a huge deal it is to teachers," Clever CEO
In the education sector, a variety of learning management systems and other digital learning platforms now incorporate related SSO functionality.
The company now provides that service--plus consulting advice on selecting software, organizing classrooms to better incorporate learning technology, and more--to about 25 districts.
"A lot of districts at times get overwhelmed by the amount of contact we get from different [ed-tech] companies," said
In addition to easing the logjam at student login time, Ms. Ambrose said, using Education Elements has helped teachers become more organized and efficient by giving them SSO access to student reports--the result of no longer having to log in to each software program separately, download individual reports, and then merge them manually.
"It's almost like having an air-traffic controller giving your pilots real-time guidance," she said.
On the low-tech end of the spectrum, for example, schools may sometimes seek to manage multiple logins by having students use the same username and password across multiple software programs. From a password-protection and data-security standpoint,
But as schools and companies pursue increasingly wide-ranging software integration strategies, new privacy concerns are also emerging.
In many cases, students are now able--and encouraged by schools--to sign into educational software using their login information for companies such as
Experts say that connecting to educational software using login information from such companies may allow for the transfer of not just authentication information, but other data as well. Many apps, for example, will automatically request access to users' Google contact lists and account information,
"It makes for a quick and seamless process," he said, "but it also makes it simpler to overlook the privacy policies and terms of services" of the software programs that students are using.
Ultimately, the goal for many in the ed-tech community is to build single digital identities that follow each student everywhere they go, as well as a digital infrastructure that relies on a common set of standards for digital authentication and authorization.
The first big hurdle to that vision, observers believe, will be resolving privacy concerns, likely through a combination of new legislation and policy, better contracting procedures, and the development of new industry standards.
From there, said
"A lot of our teachers are accessing hundreds of external resources, from
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