Following my last post on interoperability, I received an email asking for a plain english explanation of some of the key concepts, so here goes with the first - SIF.
Services Interoperability Framework (SIF) - used to be called School's Interoperability Framework.
Who? - Controlled by SIF Association (US) - SIF Association UK (UK). Designed for the US schools market - very different to the UK market! SIFAUK spends most of its time trying to tailor SIF
for the UK which has much tighter data protection laws than the US.
Why? - "... schools will be enabled to better utilise technology in a manner that leverages the promise and capabilities of interoperability between disparate applications". More importantly, your school Management Information System (MIS) is where school data is stored, SIF can control access to your data and prevent service providers from setting up all sorts of dodgy extractions to get their hands on it!
So! ... personalisation requires personal data - personal data comes from your school management information system (MIS) - you can't send personal data using CD's or USB storage - not all applications need all of the data anyway - SIF offers a means of transferring data between your MIS and a software application from a service provider (or between two points) via the web - SIF provides a specification for the data, and a specification for its transport - (this doesn't exactly match the fields on your MIS, but its close).
What? - SIF provides a specification for schools data and a means of sharing it across the web.
How? - A Zone Integration Server acts as an encrypted exchange between a vendor's (service provider's) software application (eg library software) and your MIS (SIMS etc.) ensuring only relevant personal data is released from your MIS. A SIF Agent, a software program created by a service provider, connects their service to a Zone Integration Server. SIF therefore allows software to securely request data from your MIS and be provided with a response.
Where? The Zone Integration Server can act for a whole district, across a federation, or a single school.
When? - A good question! SIF was heavily supported by BECTA, (which is in a hospice awaiting imminent death). A recent DfE review says SIF doesn't cut the mustard. Numerous vendors are interested, but SIF has not gained much traction other than in some large scale pilots, notably Birmingham. Microsoft seem to like SIF, probably because its a global specification, and they've been working with trusted partners such as Visual SI to perfect it, although demand is poor and the market apathetic.
Why is it important? - because BECTA promoted it as a means of "... rationalising technology in the education sector", and the Information Standards Board (ISB) agree, making it clear to suppliers and service providers that they should use it in their products.
SIF - Wikipedia SIF University - Flash