256GB Flash Drives – How Will They Impact Education?

By Guy Inaba
Educational Support Specialist
Kapi’olani Community College Library

[Editor’s note: One of the drawbacks of teaching completely online is that I seldom have an opportunity to drop in on Guy Inaba at our college library. He’s one of those who’s always at least three steps ahead of everyone else when it comes to advances in technology. I never leave our informal sessions without learning something new. In his first ETCJ article, Guy shares an email exchange that we had recently. -js]

On Jan. 11, 2011, at 12:31 PM, I emailed Jim Shimabukuro about a workshop presentation that we had worked on. I signed off with “Power of digital media – Nice!”

On Jan. 14 at 10:19 AM, Jim replied: Speaking of tech — I remember your introducing me to flash drives years ago. Yesterday, I picked up an 8GB flash drive for under $20 at Don Quijote.

On Jan. 19 at 6:11 PM, I replied: Hi Jimmy. Just got some interesting info from CES  (2011 International Consumer Electronics Show) — Victorinox Swiss Army will put it out in a few months. Click on the pictures for the various styles. Don’t have a price on these but nice design for the tech person. Tech is really moving forward. -Guy

On Jan. 19 at 7:14 PM, Jim replied: Guy, am I reading the ads correctly? 128/256GB in these Swiss Army flash drives? If yes, this is a huge breakthrough! OMG! -Jimmy

On Jan. 20 at 11:50 AM, I replied: Yes, 128 and 256 GBs. The connections are also eSATA and USB for even faster interface. I believe the new standard will be USB3 and eSATA by late next year. One model has a death ray (laser pointer). I will try to have something for you in a few weeks. Have gotten sidetracked by the accreditation process. Our first draft is due Feb. 1, pushed forward from Feb. 14.  Will get back to the ETC blog after that.

On Jan. 20 at 3:14 PM, Jim replied: Guy, what’s your guess re price for 128/256 flash drives? Will the early ones cost an arm and a leg? After the supply catches up with demand, then the prices will probably drop. Hopefully. And faster is always better so USB3/eSATA will probably be costly at first. It’ll be interesting to see how computer manufacturers incorporate the new bus. They’ll also need to come up with adapters so the older machines can use them, too. I’m so glad to be able to work in education at a time when technology is developing so rapidly that constant and blindingly fast change is almost the norm — at least for the innovators. We tend to focus on obstacles to change, but I’d rather focus on those who are on the edge, who are looking forward and don’t spend too much time looking backwards. Aloha, Jimmy

On Jan. 20 at 3:59 PM, I replied: Did a fast search in Google shopping. From what I’m gathering 128 GB = $250-300 and the 256 GB around $700+. This is way out of my and most people’s price range. Probably will take about 2-3 years for them to get to the general consumer range. But when they do become commonplace, I’m sure they’ll have an impact on teaching and learning.

On another note: Fast and dirty on what I’m doing: (1) Playing with QR Codes — have it on all the SOS (Secrets of Success) college success workshop flyers so people who have smart phones can download data/information to their hand held device. No need to type in the URL etc. This started in Japan and Europe but has been slow in catching on in the US.  US phones are not as smart as in some other places. (2) Looking into Augmented Reality for 2011 (summer) and trying to apply it to SOS and the library for fall 2011. Trying to see if I can do video attachments on a given symbol or picture. Guy :)

3 Responses

  1. Welcome on board and thanks for that thought-provoking post, Guy.
    In February 2009, on Innovate’s I-Blog, we had a discussion about Sakshat. Since then, I-Blog has been deleted, but its content was imported here. So for that discussion of Sakshat, see etcjournal.com/2009/02/13/the-10-indian-laptop-implications.
    Back then, the $10 thing was a storage device of much smaller capacity than the ones you describe, which had unfortunately been touted as a “$10 dollar laptop: hence a mocking brouhaha in international specialized media.
    However Sakshat per se was an educational project with a web platform where Indian educators (and students) could store and share their resources. In this project, the $10 device was meant for using these resources in schools that did not have yet an internet connection at all, or a fast enough one to give them direct access to the platform: teachers could have downloaded what they wanted from a telecentre, then use the material in their schools, even print it if there were not enough computers for all students.
    Therefore this storage device made a lot of sense, even if international reviewers did not bother to go beyond its misnomer as a laptop(1).

    So I can’t help wondering in what a 256 Gb storage device can be useful, especially now that internet connections and online, “in the cloud” storage are even better than in 2009.
    True, it might be useful if you want to co-edit with others heaps of raw sensitive material to make it publishable online without hurting folks: you probably won’t want to have the original floating around the internet (see cablegate, though I don’t know whether wikileaks and the involved journalists used a safe server or a physical external hard drive).
    It might also be useful for sharing really big files, like HD videos, under fair use. The hitch is that copyright watchdogs like MPAA might well say: “Hey, but it can also be used to VIOLATE copyright, so let’s press for full border control, with intimate bodily search, of all travelers”. After all, they already managed to introduce the concept of stronger border controls for copyright violations in ACTA (see the ACTA dossier in English by La Quadrature du Net).
    And maybe not only border controls: the copyright watchdogs might ask for regular searches of all students’ and staff’s bodies and belongings whose schools adopt such devices, just because they might be used to share copyrighted HD videos.
    Are high capacity storage devices worth that risk?

    (1) Since then, the Sakshat storage device has been dropped and India has transformed it into a real tablet computer, though it’s production seems stuck again due to its foreseen vendor not having given the needed bank guarantee: see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sakshat.

  2. How will they affect education? Well, to be perfectly frank and pessimistic, darn little really seems to affect education.  After all, how much have flashdrives affected education so far? Will such a large storage flashdrive now make a difference, even if the price comes way down? The estimated $700 cost could also purchase a decent laptop with twice the storage. Chances are not good, based on past history. I bought my first flashdrive in 2002 – a 32MB flashdrive for $40. Now you can get a 32GB flashdrive for about the same price. I haven’t seen any impact from flashdrives on education in the last nine years, so I don’t have much hope that things will change any time soon. And as Claude alludes to, most everything is going to the cloud. Using flashdrives is so 20th century. All in all, debating the impact of 250GB on education is a bit like asking how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

  3. As long as educators insist on driving by looking into their rearview mirrors, they won’t be able to move forward. The fact that student use of flash drives (FDs) hasn’t impacted “learning” as we define it in traditional classroom settings doesn’t mean that they have not had an impact. The impact may not show up on the radar screens we rely on today, but they may on tomorrow’s.

    But that point may be moot when we consider other variables. For example, I know that FDs facilitate learning. Notice I’ve said “facilitate” rather than “improve.” The computer facilitates writing, but I’m not sure if it improves it. The automobile and jet aircraft facilitate travel, but I’m not sure if they make travel “better.” The cellphone facilitates communication, but I’m not sure if it improves it.

    The point is that “facilitating” anything is usually a good thing in the sense that it makes the task easier.

    Students could and probably will find ways to use massive flash drives (MFDs) to facilitate learning, e.g., to save information for papers and projects they’re working on. Increasingly, those projects involve multimedia — videos, audio, still images. And increasingly, the media are their own, taken on their iPhones or similar handheld communication device.

    The MFDs would be convenient. Students can work on any computer, anywhere, at anytime, and save their sources or drafts on the drives. Yes, they could save them online, but the MFDs are handier. They can be kept on a keychain, and they free students from the need to bring their notebooks with them.

    For a student, videos could be for a paper s/he is writing on shopping problems at grocery stores, photos for a project on moon cycles, and audio for an interview with a veteran for an activity in a political science class. These mutlimedia files require gigabytes of space, and MFDs can provide that.

    MFDs have the potential to change the way we define computers. The notebook unchained the the PC from desktops. The iPad unchains the PC from a keyboard and bulk. In the same way, MFDs have the potential to unchain PCs from massive hardware, allowing unprecedented portability.

    Perhaps entrepreneurs will see the proliferation of MFDs and realize the potential for new kinds of hardware and software that will work with MFDs. In the future, we may be able to set up our applications and utilities — along with our files — on MFDs.

    We’d be able to plug these next generation MFDs into barebones stations or terminals in schools, offices, labs, cafes, libraries, government public service sites, airplanes, buses, automobiles, etc. and immediately have access to all our favorite applications (set up just the way we like them) and utilities, browsers and operating systems.

    These barebone machines would, like the iPad, have on-screen keyboards to reduce cost.

    MFDs could also impact iPhone-like and iPod-like portable devices. They’d serve as removable universal storage for data, including music, and work in all cell phones and players.

    MFDs could be accommodated on TV sets. Plug them into widescreen monitors to view videos and photos; listen to music; or work on papers and projects, essentially turning the TV set into a computer with the addition of a wireless keyboard.

    Educators could use MFDs to facilitate presentations. Entire lectures and presentations on a keychain! Presenters could plug them into projection devices made to accommodate them and — wallah! — they’re off an running.

    Their potential uses in education and other fields are unlimited — that is, if we stop looking behind us and begin looking ahead.

    Yes, the cost for MFDs are high. But that’s today. Like most electronics, the prices will drop as supply grows exponentially to meet universal demand. This is a given.

    How soon will this change occur? My advice is, don’t blink. -Jim S

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