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the ones that had been deleted [from the school network], and that was the main saver for them was not having to go find them and restore deleted data or files. It's extremely cost-effective; it's like $1 per user. For unlimited storage, you couldn't buy everybody memory sticks to carry around for that. Cost-wise, it was the best option for us."

Students and Teachers Adapt

School Web Lockers spawned its "digital lockers" solution in 2004, when Networld Solutions Inc. collaborated on a pilot with the Riverside Unified School District in Southern California. Today the system is used in 19 states among 200,000 users, Agrelius said.

Jason Sewell, a teacher with the Paramount Unified School District in Los Angeles County, Calif., has been using digital lockers for his world history students for the last three years. Sewell said he uses the service to post PowerPoint slides and worksheets, and only as a supplemental means of accessing homework assignments because some of his students don't have Internet access at home. "I use it for the kids who have to miss [class] because of family vacations or emergencies," he explained.

Web Lockers are used by at least seven Texas school districts, including Lytle ISD; London ISD, in Corpus Christi; Beckville ISD, located 25 miles southeast of Longview; Holy Family Catholic School in Austin; and Millsap ISD in Millsap.

"I don't know that it's a solution for everybody," Harris said. "It kind of depends on how the networks are set up and if I would say, honestly, probably on-site storage for kids might be a little bit easier for them to get to. But kids will learn anything you teach them."

Harris said it's important to train students - and teachers - before rolling out a Web-based storage product, no matter the vendor. The biggest problem for her district was user error. "[The students] kept trying to open [files] out of School Web Lockers instead of downloading the file and working with it on the desktop or on the computer. They were just trying to open it from there and work on it, and we kept telling them, 'It's like a locker. You can't read a book if it's still in your locker.'"

Setting a maximum file size for the system can also be tricky, Harris said. Initially Lytle ISD had a maximum file size for uploads of 10 MB that was set by the district's technology director. But teachers quickly discovered it wasn't large enough because the digital storage was being used for Microsoft Photo Story 3 projects and large PowerPoint presentations. Since then, the district has set the file limit to 20 MB, which has mostly solved the problem. "It was more lack of training for the kids and the teachers than anything [last year]," Harris said. "We didn't have any real formal training; we will when we start back to school this year."

Harris said although Lytle ISD adopted the product districtwide, the decision to use it ultimately rests with the teachers. "One or two of the teachers, some of the more tech-savvy teachers, allowed students to submit their work to them digitally through the school program. Other teachers didn't touch it at all. It's just like anything with technology and school - it depends on the teacher. Some will use it and some of them, about two years down the road, they'll go, 'This is the neatest thing.'"

Matt Williams Matt Williams  |  Contributing Writer

Matt Williams was previously the news editor of Govtech.com, and is now a contributor to Government Technology and Public CIO magazines.