The problem

Despite ambitious promises current education technology suites and products are antiquated, proprietary, and expensive. A lack of interoperability means schools have been forced to make due with overpriced “one size fits all” products that offer little in the way of customization or control. Slate was built with these struggles in mind and represents a paradigm shift in education technology.

The solution

Slate is an open source education integration platform that allows schools to create and purchase innovative software, own their own data, and have quick and easy access to a competitive marketplace of developers building their own ed-tech tools. Slate was first rolled out in the Science Leadership Academy, and is currently powering 7 Philly schools, including all three New District School Models: Uschool, LINC, and Building21.

Slate allows schools to save time by centralizing data for easier access and analysis. Save money by replacing expensive proprietary technologies with cheaper open solutions, while opening the door for collaboration and co-investment between schools and districts. Finally schools gain control of their software and data. Unlike older solutions where vendors maintain and control the data, Slate empowers schools by giving them ownership of their solutions.

Development

Slate is built from the ground up to be an open-source infrastructure that provides a more powerful learning environment for schools. Jarvus developed Slate alongside Building21’s innovative competency based learning environment, that gives educators an explorable intuitive front end that is powered by a data-heavy backend interface. Slate was built to facilitate seamless transition by interfacing with legacy ed-tech solutions via ETL (extract, transform, and load) to consume and organize existing student data.

Jarvus built the entire stack and designed Slate to be forked into many flavors by different users of different skill levels. The challenge was in presenting a data-heavy backend in an easily explorable user frontend user interface. Modern schools require device agnostic frontends for accessibility & ease of use from any device. At Building21, Jarvus converted a real problem into a tangible interface, while consulting at the top level for a technologically progressive charter school on 5-10 year plan.

Building21

In 2013, The School District of Philadelphia became one of four districts nationwide to be awarded the Opportunity by Design Challenge grant to support research and new school design efforts. Building21 utilizes the competency-based education model, in which students progress towards a degree or certification based on their ability to demonstrate mastery of a comprehensive set of skills, knowledge, behaviors and mindsets at multiple times in multiple ways. This type of learning environment requires robust, flexible technology, and Slate delivered.