What is Digital Identity?


Digital identity management focuses on enabling users to create a single digital identity that can be used in any place where a login is required to access a website or service. It is not a single technology, but a group of related technologies and ideas. In the simplest terms, one’s digital identity is a method that allows recognition any place where a log-in is needed. A variety of different systems are being developed, and though they have the same broad purpose of creating a sign-on system that is convenient and secure for an individual rather than a company or organization, ideas about what precisely defines a user-centric identity system and how that would be implemented are still widely varied. Both Google and Facebook are positioning their systems to be the “home” of one’s digital identity.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • When I think of digital identity i think of much more than the notion of single sign-on. I think about things like the personal web, which Horizon has looked at before (I believe in the 2009 report). My comments on this are related to my comments on Personal Learning Environments. Utlimately, as a store of a person's browsing and search history, characteristics, and other information, Digital Identity is probably the key to a uniquely personalized next generation search experience. It should go without saying that identity privacy is a paramount issue.... For K12 (and HE) though, this is wrapped up with other trends and efforts around building more capable longitudinal data systems data systems that include unique student identifiers. Additionally, next generation learning management systems seek to understand the learner better, in real time with adaptive technologies and the development of an evolving learner model. In these contexts, digital identity is of huge importance.- chris.brown chris.brown Feb 8, 2010
  • Digital identity, single sign-on, federated services, this is important for creating the "learning environment" where the digital learner, as well as the teacher and administrators have easy and streamlined access to the "cloud" services. As more and more of the resources are distribuited to the cloud and the administrative boundary of these systems become fragmented the need to seemlessly integrate these systems through a single "digital identity" will be critical to adoption, use and ultimate benefit of the user. This is a huge challenge for schools as replicating "identity" changes and updates based on role, security rights and access as well as tracking the information back to a learning management system or data management system/warehouse is becoming more and more in the thoughts of school district leadership. This usually leads back to the need for a "Portal", the starting point for all digital resources and learning activities supporting 24x7x365 access to the districts user population. In addtion, as more learning activities take place in the decentralized "cloud" a well thought out data model and data governance structure becomes more important as these decentralized services are considered. - jeffrey.bajgot jeffrey.bajgot Feb 9, 2010
  • Digital identity is necessary if the 'personal web' is to be a reality in K-12. If it is approached from the point of view of the learner, then issues of privacy, identity security/duty of care issues can be dealt with in ways that enable rather than repress learners access and use of online content and software. A danger in the work around digital identity is to get too caught up with 'protecting' rather than 'educating' students. ie using it as a way of filtering against 'dangerous' materials on the web, rather than focusing on what students require to venture into the online world in ways that can empower and enable them. Digital identity issues are complex because of the interactions between complex policy issues and technical issues such as single sign on, federated search, trusted zones etc. It is a political issue in Australia at the moment - linked to questions of 'entitlement' to education - a step further down this path would be to link vouchers for education to access to institutions and online environments. The political and policy issues therefore are really important to consider alongside technical ones for digital identity management.- kathryn.moyle kathryn.moyle Feb 9, 2010

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • Funny when I hear the term DI I think of the identity that every user of the Internet are building up every time they are online on e.g. Face book – an issue that I think that the K12 area have the obligation to make the students aware of. I guess that there will be an increasing need for rebuilding a DI….
    - claus.gregersen claus.gregersen Feb 7, 2010
  • The theme of digital identity that includes an open-access learner model. That is, a dynamic, evolving model of how and what the learner learns. It can live in the cloud, with appropriate privacy protections- chris.brown chris.brown Feb 8, 2010
  • OpenID would provide a ready way of connecting and interacting with all online social networked environments. As the Web 2.0 tools continue to abound and students jump onboard with them, digital identity is also about digital connection and standardised access points. - judy.oconnell judy.oconnell Feb 9, 2010
  • I think we have to promote models and strategies for open-access. Strategies for creating and using such models of digital identity would assist in policy conversations.- kathryn.moyle kathryn.moyle Feb 9, 2010
  • What's interesting about DI is that in the web 2.0 world I have multiple usernames/passwords and yet aggregators can bring my digital footprint into the one place. In education, we need to verify one unique identity and applications have to revolve around the one identity (eg portal services, e-portfolios etc). I wonder if a web 2.0 model for education can resolve the issue of verification and authenticity and draw the necessary entitlements (eg accreditation, qualifications) into my space or the educational institutions. - garry.putland garry.putland Feb 9, 2010

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative expression?

  • A dynamic, open-access learner model is a big missing part of today's digital equation. Without it, important learner data and experience is never gathered or is lost, resulting in inefficiency, poor user experience with many programs and unrealized potential. With it, we can finally begin to understand and realize what is means to fully personalize learning. With it, and the longitudinal data sytems that can analyze parts of it, we can build an epistemological capability that can catapult our educational system farther than anything else I can think of.- chris.brown chris.brown Feb 8, 2010
  • If schools used OpenID, they would be able to integrate and nurture the digital identity of students using any/all online tools, whether they are school-based CMS or social networked tools etc online - judy.oconnell judy.oconnell Feb 9, 2010
  • I think policy-makers have a choice at this point about what they want to choose - open or closed models concerning the digital identity of school students. This is largely a philosophical choice and once it's made the technical can achieve the aims. Although the iterative relationships between what can be constructed and what is wanted cannot be underplayed - and models and/or strategies for open access that work in schools will help inform policy - if for no other reason than to show there are open ways of handling identity management.- kathryn.moyle kathryn.moyle Feb 9, 2010

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

On the research side of things, CALDER (Center for Longitudinal Data in Education) is exploring longitudinal data in education. The Data Quality Center is exploring some of these issues in higher ed.- chris.brown chris.brown Feb 8, 2010
More research in the schools sector on this issue would be beneficial. Case studies of successful open practices would assist in the debate about 'how' to do this.- kathryn.moyle kathryn.moyle Feb 9, 2010
Please share information about related projects in our Horizon K-12 Project form.