Mac Educator :: Data Storage Gets Personal


As digital options abound, students are now using technology to create sophisticated multimedia projects they want to keep.

BEFORE THE DIGITAL AGE dawned, a data storage device was a fancy name for a Pee Chee folder. Since virtually all school work was done on paper, students had noreal need to search out anything else.

Mac Educator

can double as data-saving devices.

New technologies are now at work on both ends: They have helped students produce work worthy of saving, as well as introduced the devices that allow them to save it. In today’s schools, where teachers create technology-rich assignments and students craft elaborate multimedia projects, the act of balling up, say, a returned book report and throwing it in the trash is on the verge of extinction. Digital storage rules the day.

“It used to be we didn’t worry about saving student work, other than a few really interesting assignments for inclusion in a student’s portfolio,” says Corrie Jackson, an English teacher at Sedgwick High School (KS).

Sedgwick students are part of a 1-to-1 laptop initiative, and at the end of each school year have CDs burned with their work from throughout the year.

“Almost all of my assignments are created using a computer, and I like keeping them,” says Emily Kester, a Sedgwick junior.“I save my essays, assignments, papers,iMovies, GarageBand music, and projectsto my iPod Shuffle. Mostof my classmates have some way to savetheir work.”

And to save their work, tech-savvy students know they now have several data storage options to choose from.

Apple solutions. Apple’s famous trio of mp3 players—the iPod, the iPod Nano, and the iPod Shuffle—can each serve as data storage systems. Firewire or USB connections allow for simple transfer of data between the computer and the iPod.

Each player has different capabilities— only the iPod can store video—and varying amounts of storage space, from 512 megabytes (Shuffle) to four gigabytes (Nano), to 60GB (iPod).

USB drive. The size ranges from less than 32MB to more than two gigs. And by any name—whether called a USB drive, a jump drive, a pen drive, a thumb drive, a flash drive, or a memory stick—it’s small, compact, and cheap and can be used to store data, making it a popular item among students and teachers. Not only can USB drives be purchased at electronics stores, they also can be found at supermarkets, discount stores, and even gas stations. Many of them attach to key chains or lanyards.

External hard drive. If you can afford one, an external hard drive offers several options. Storage capacity runs from less than two gigs of space to more than 500GB, some are USB powered, while others require electricity to operate. A good rule of thumb is, the larger the drive is physically (not necessarily its storage capacity), the more likely it will require an external electrical source. Depending upon your needs, you also may want to look at the data transfer speed before making a purchase.

Mac Educator

"I save my essays, assignments, papers,
iMovies, GarageBand music, and projects
to my iPod Shuffle. Most of my classmates
have some way to save their work."
— Emily Kester, Sedgwick High School junior

CD and DVD. CD and DVD storage is a cheap solution. There are two fundamental types of CDs. The CD-R permits the user to burn either one session of music or data; the CDRW allows the user multiple burn sessions. When buying CDs for classroom use, make sure the packaging says “data and music” CD. That will give you more flexibility in how you use them. As with CDs, the DVD-R is a one-time-only burn DVD, and the DVD-RW allows for multiple burn sessions.

District server. Some districts have students store their data on a server, and many put restrictions on the amount of space each student or faculty member can use. Ross Abels, director of instructional services for the Solon Community School District in Coralville, IA, solved his data storage challenges by deciding not to impose size restrictions on either student or staff accounts. Abels prefers purchasing additional server storage rather than trying to manage and work within restrictions. He has 2.3 terabytes of space reserved for student and teacher data storage, with plans to buy more as needed.

E-mail. Bruce Ahlborn, technology coordinator at Northbrook School District 28 (IL), says that in addition to storing their work on servers, iPods, and jump drives, his students also e-mail it to themselves. “We see them e-mail a file from school to home and back again all the time,” says Ahlborn.

Some students use common webmail services such as AOL, MSN, and Gmail to move files from home to school, as well as for storing files. Many webmail providers offer more server space for e-mail than what some school districts can host on their own servers.

Internet. There are many web-based options to choose from. Apple provides one gig of data storage via a .Mac account, giving users the opportunity to purchase additional space at minimal cost. However, there is an annual subscription fee.

Doug Sebring, assistant superintendent of North Olmsted City Schools (OH), says his students use MyEdesk Reference Desk for online data storage. Sebring says students can also use an online “parking space” called DropLoad. “Dropload is a superb way to share large files with others,” he says. “It’s temporary storage only, but a great way to let someone get a 100-meg file.”

A New Attitude

The real upshot of students’ new interest in data storage is what it says about their attitude toward their work. As students use technology to demonstrate their knowledge and abilities, the end product becomes much more personal tothem, thus their desire to save what they’ve done.

“When students add music they have created using GarageBand and create an iMovie that weaves a story that is unique, then they want to keep it and share it with others,” says Darren Crumrine, a Sedgwick High computer applications teacher. “They show it to their friends, other teachers, their parents, and just about anyone who will listen. Kids really get connected to what they are doing.”

Rae Niles is director of curriculum and technology at the Sedgwick Public Schools. For more information, click here.

This article originally appeared in the 09/01/2006 issue of THE Journal.