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December 08, 2006

Access Management in UK schools

I attended Becta's Federated access management showcase in London earlier this week.  The day was primarily targeted at the UK school's sector and was intended to raise awareness of the UK Access Management Federation for Education and Research (UKAMF) and encourage the UK's Regional Broadband Consortia (RBC), Local Authorities (LA) and individual schools to think about the issues related to the roll-out of federated access management (currently in the form of Shibboleth).

Despite some good introductory presentations from a variety of perspectives, the day ended on a slight low note, with very few questions being asked of the assembled panel.  Either this stuff is felt to be so straight-forward that no questions are necessary or people are still at the stage where they don't even know what questions to ask!?

Two related thoughts struck me as I travelled home.  Firstly, the word 'portal' was used several times during the day - primarily, I think, in the context of portals that point people to the resources available to them and that are therefore natural places where part of the access management process can take place.

Now, I don't know if it is just me, but whenever I hear the word portal these days I tend to make the assumption that it comes from a mindset stuck somewhere around two or three years ago.  Yes, I know that one can effectively build portals in the Web 2.0 era - but nobody talks like that anymore do they?

In a similar vein, there seemed to be no recognition, or at least none was articulated, of the general move towards Web 2.0, Learning 2.0, or whatever one wants to call it in the education space.  I blogged a while back about the Web site of the primary school with which I'm involved, now being built almost entirely out of Web 2.0 services.  Images on Flickr, bookmarks on Del.icio.us, blogs on Blogger, ...

For schools like that it is just as important that any attempt to move towards single sign-on encompasses those kinds of services as the more formally published learning content that appears to be the focus of attention currently.  Yet as far as I can tell, those kinds of Web 2.0 services are highly unlikely to ever get Shibbolised?

This is not to suggest that the current activities around the UKAMF are wrong in any way.  But in the context of access and identity management it is important not to lose sight of the bigger picture, the wider perspective of services out there in the wild which are becoming increasingly important in the way that learning is delivered.

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