There are a variety of ways that paperless text/electronic resources can be stored or saved.  Screen Shot 2012-09-06 at 12.40.24 PMHowever, there are two important considerations in choosing the resources we use to create and store paperless text for the sake of efficiency and organization: first, that the resource is not stored in one physical location; and second, that the resource should offer access across a variety of digital devices: smartphones, tablets, and computers.

At the dawn of modern computing, some digital information was stored by punching holes in either pieces of card or on paper ticker tapes.  These cards or tapes could be fed into a reader that would then convert them back into binary code that could be read and edited.  Magnetic tape was also used to save data, and this technology evolved into forms that were the first available for use by the general public: eight-inch, then five-inch, then three-inch floppy discs.  The next developmental stage was the storage of data on Compact Discs, followed by the much greater capacity DVDs.  More recently, electronic storage has been available on the USB flash drive, most commonly, a thumb-sized stick that plugs into a computer’s USB port and provides storage of up to 64 gigabytes.

What all of these storage formats have in common, however, are that they are physical objects that need to be inserted into a computer which then reads the information.  If you lose or do not have the storage device, you do not have access to the data.  Thus, when a student comes to class without the USB key on which he has saved his presentation, he does not have access to his presentation in the classroom.

The other ‘traditional’ way of saving digital information has been on the computer’s hard drive; that is, on the computer’s built-in storage system.  While there are ways of accessing computers remotely, this requires some set up and planning.  So again, if a student has created and saved her presentation on her computer at home (or even the one in the library), she does not have access to it in class.

Fortunately, for the past several years there has been a storage alternative: cloud computing.  Named after an abstract diagram symbolizing its infrastructure, the ‘cloud’ allows users to store data on remote servers so that, effectively, they are storing their digital information in a non-physical or ‘virtual’ location.  Essentially, wherever the user can access the internet, they can access both their own notes and the teacher’s resources for the class.  Thus, when a student stores his presentation in the cloud, he does have access to it in class if he can access the internet.  Furthermore, many cloud-based storage applications – the most prominent of which are discussed on the next page – offer access across a variety of devices: phones, tablets, and desktops.

When documents are stored in the cloud and are accessible across a variety of digital platforms, there is the opportunity for the following scenarios in the classroom:

  • All documents, presentations, videos, assignments, and information for a course can be accessed from anywhere there is an internet connection;
  • Students can read an article at home on their laptops, but can refer to it in class on a phone or tablet;
  • Students go on a field trip, and are able to access primary source historical documents on their phones;
  • Students take notes in class on their iPads; these notes are now available anywhere they can get online;
  • The teacher posts assignments on a class calendar and the students receive texts on their phones.

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Beyond the Paperless Classroom by David Doherty is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.