Thursday, 28 June 2012

Data Portability for Students and Teachers

As students and teachers make use of new technologies to create and share, one of the interesting issues that comes up is "What happens to all of that work?"  When we create digital products, they may "live" in a variety of places.  It can be stuck on a specific piece of hardware like an iPad, or on an account tied to the school board, or in the cloud.  I think that this is something that many of us don't think about when we use a specific piece of software or an app.  To be fair, we should, both for ourselves and our students.

Audrey Watters (Hack Education) has a great post that considers this question from both the anecdotal and technical perspective. 

We can cheer for the end of the paper-oriented classroom all we want; and much of the reams of papers that kids bring home at the end of the year probably just gets tossed away. But at least with paper we have that option. In an increasingly digital world – and a world without data portability – we don’t have that option. Students and their families have very little control. And we aren’t asking enough hard questions when we adopt technology tools in the classroom about this: how do students get their data out? Is data stored in the cloud, and is it accessible via a Web interface?

What does this mean for us as teachers making decisions about what apps we use?  Well, for software that is installed on school board owned, networked computers (at our schools the Windows XP imaged computers), the products can generally be accessed from any school board computers, and so, at least while students are enrolled in our schools, they can access the data.  However, when our students use Macs, iPad, iPod touches, or other devices that aren't a part of the networked storage solution, we should think about whether that work is valuable and worth accessing when the students don't have access to the particular devices the work was created on.  

When selecting Apps, it is important to think about selecting apps that can be used across the curriculum, rather than just for one specific concept.  Usually data, student creations, etc., may be "stuck" in these apps unless they are tied to some type of "cloud storage".  Apps that integrate with Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, Evernote, YouTube, etc., usually offer a way to get your work off a specific device and into the cloud so that you can access it from another device.