Elegance in Simplicity

I’ve been thinking about some of the Urban School presentations at the Lausanne Laptop Conference. For their laptop students, for example, they send home a decent-sized external firewire drive at the beginning of the school year. The idea is that students will use the drive to back up their data on their own, and the size of the drives makes it possible for them to back up music and video as well. In return, the school doesn’t provide networked storage space for students on file servers, but the FirstClass email system is used for class file exchanges and is relatively large.

What I find interesting about this approach is the “give/take” nature of the firewire drives, and the provision of a student-based solution. The network (no student fileserver) and image of the laptops is simplified (no auto or manual network backup scripts), but there are still opportunities for file sharing and collaboration.

Overall, I wonder if our technology approaches simply focus too much on input variables instead of output values. Too often, we seem to invest a lot of time on increasing the sophistication of what we offer and what we automate, but we pay far less attention to what others actually achieve. I’m certain that there are Urban students who don’t do a great job of using the firewire drives for back ups, but at least the plan was to enable them and provide a solution for all of their files.

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