Virtual storage offers security, space

As Pennsylvania schools begin to embrace new one-to-one computing initiatives, students and teachers are gaining valuable technology experience through the use of next-generation Web "lockers" that are simplifying the way they access and store electronic files.

Conestoga Valley School District, based in Lancaster, Penn., tops the list of five districts in the state that are now employing School Web Lockers, a "cloud-based" computing service that combines Web-based storage, backup, collaboration and file sharing in a single system designed for K-12 education. Students can create work on one computer, and then stash files in their personal, password-protected Web locker for completion later, either on the same computer, or on another one at home or elsewhere.

According to Doug Stoner, manager of technology services for Conestoga Valley School District, School Web Lockers eliminates data access issues for students and teachers, while also setting the stage for one-to-one computing initiatives such as those advanced by the Pennsylvania Department of Education's Classrooms for the Future (CFF) program.

"When one-to-one computing takes off, the model that we follow for education will change dramatically," Stoner says. "School Web Lockers is not only valuable because it improves productivity and saves data storage costs, but also because it is getting our students and teachers trained to manage their data online-much in the same way that it will need to be done when we are fully entrenched with one-to-one initiatives."

The Web lockers offers unlimited storage capacity and complete firewall protection, while eliminating traditional security issues related to file sharing in K-12 schools. Districts can avoid the purchase of on-site storage systems, which can cost upwards of $20,000.

Paperless Homework System
Web lockers also contribute to "green" practices. When teachers upload documents and post them directly into students' Web lockers, there is no paper involved in the exchange. Instead of making multiple handout copies, a teacher can simply upload one document and post it in all student lockers. In turn, students can complete an assignment on the computer and upload the document into the "homework due" folder, from which it is then sent directly to the teacher as an electronic file.

Currently, up to 2,000 students and 200 teachers at Conestoga Valley are making use of School Web Lockers, resulting in substantial paper savings for the district, Stoner says.

The other Pennsylvania schools and districts using the technology include: Morrisville School District (Bucks County), Palmyra Area School District (Lebanon County), Independence Charter School (Philadelphia County) and Meyersdale Area School District (Somerset County).