Image courtesy of tigger11th at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
For a long time I have been encouraging the schools I work with to develop a plan, a strategy to manage their digital heritage. The ease with which we can create and distribute data digitally these days is wonderful. But this ease is also its Achilles Heel. By its very nature, digital data is ephemeral and in reality only really "exists" as binary code and increasingly the location of this data is not even in the same country! Which is why I encourage schools to devise a strategy to archive the best of each year in images, video, audio and documents that the students have created. I advise them to back up to DVD all this data, so that they have a copy or copies in school in a cupboard on a physical medium. I encourage them to envisage and then plan for their next big jubilee event so that they will have some digital data to share at the big event to illustrate what teaching and learning was like back in 2015.
If schools do not start to consider the importance of their digital heritage for their future community and then plan for archiving, they run the risk of losing track of their data or worse still deleting it. By its very nature the Internet is bubble and fad driven, companies come and companies go. We find it easy to upload our data in small packets on a daily basis, but try to download that accumulated data quickly! The demise of Bubbleshare a few years ago should act as reminder to us all that tech companies come and they will all go all to be replaced by something bigger and better. As our data volumes increase exponentially so does the headache of downloading and archiving this content, especially if we have to do it in rush, because our chosen online repository has gone belly up. Remember MySpace? What happened to all that data and who owns it now? (Answer: Justin Timberlake) Getting to our data in a rush as a company closes its doors is not the best archiving policy.
Two articles have been published this week that highlight the issue of archiving our digital heritage and the concerns highlighted in these articles are about the technology to read the historical data! The concern raised is one of digital obsolescence and a looming digital dark age. Consider this. How many CDs or DVDs might a school have that are full of images that record key events in a school year? How many of the new laptops that are currently on sale have CD/DVD drives in them? How long will it be before as school will not have any devices that have CD or DVD drives in them. How many VHS tapes are tucked away gathering dust in cupboards waiting for a VHS player to be put into? So the issue for schools is not just one of ensuring that there is an archiving strategy and a person or team allocated to archiving key audio, video, images and documents generated by the students, but that there is a "grandfathering" strategy in place where old formats are copied onto new formats to ensure that there will indeed be something of the 2000's and the elearning revolution in learning to share at the next jubilee. Extinction, after all, is for ever.