In my classes, my students will create hundreds of digital files, often they are working on multiple computers and mobile devices. This became abundantly clear this week as students were submitting compressed copies of files related to their final projects. Initially, many students found most of their files easily, but as they looked for older files, they couldn’t find them or the files were located in multiple locations on the computer or network. Additionally, students were naming files they were simple calling the files Project 1, Project 2 and so on. They were spending valuable time looking through files. After some questioning, I found the source of the problem was two part, one students had never had any type of computing class in which they learned to name and organize files. Secondly, they simply didn’t see a reason to name files, when they can just look at the preview pictures of their files.
Storage Location: Cloud vs. Personal Storage vs. District Network Storage
I often have students asking me where they should store their files, on Google Drive (which my school uses for student cloud storage) or a personal USB thumb drive/hard drive or on the district provided network drives. This question comes down to three factors for me a savvy digital native: accessibility, reliability, security and capacity.
I think that accessibility is the critical component of these four factors for students and teachers. Accessibility is the ease and flexibility to access your files either from a synchronized folder or from a web-based interface. Files should be accessible from both school and home to allow students to work anywhere. Students have so many different activities and things going on they should be to get work done whenever and wherever they time.
I tend to shy away from flash/thumb drives these days due to the fact that I have had so many fail on me over the years. Reliability is the how often the system fails, either in a short-term or long-term as in equipment failure. In terms of storage reliability cloud storage and network based storage are the most reliable, due to the fact that they are often automatically backed up. This is advantageous because in the event some type of failure your data can/will be restored. While personal flash drives and hard drives are typically less reliable due to hardware failures and loss, many people still prefer these methods because they have a sense of control. The only reason I keep a few flash drives around is for quick file transfer from one computer to another.
When we talk about security, we are referring to how well files are kept private and backed up. While we do want to have the ability to share files with others, you don’t anyone to have free access to your files. Cloud drives and personal hardware are typically going to be the most reliable for security since the could system are maintained by outside professionals and personal hardware will typically limit other’s access to it. While network based storage can be very secure, it depends on the school’s IT staff many districts do not employee knowledgeable enough staff to secure all aspects of a network storage effectively.
When I look at capacity I am looking at the cost per gigabyte of data, I want to find the largest free version as possible or if I am going to pay I want to have the most reasonable price for it. I typically think a student should have around 5GB of space, which should be plenty for school work. Anything more and they start to use it like general storage for music and videos.
USB vs. Cloud: The Verdict
While I always carry around a 2GB USB drive with me for quick transfer or storage of files I am working on, I think that cloud storage is pretty much the way to go for students now. It offers them reliability, ease of access and reasonable amounts of storage. If a student is really using a lot of space, given the number of cloud storage services available it isn’t out of the realm of possibilities that they could use multiple services have up to 10GB of storage. In this case the only problem would be decided what things to store where and stick to the plan.