S.O.A.P.* on a Rope!*Students Own Applications Personally
by Kathy Schrock
One of my big concerns is the digital equity issue in our schools. Many of our students have computers at home, but some do not have a full suite of productivity applications on this computer and may not have the broadband access necessary to utilize the Web 2.0 tools. This precludes them from working on a presentation, a word processing document, or a spreadsheet at home. In addition, much of the work being saved at school or home results in file sizes that are too large to fit on a floppy disk.
Imagine a student carrying a word processing program, spreadsheet program, drawing program, presentation program, Internet browser, Internet e-mail client, data files, voice recordings, an VoIP program, instant messaging client, AND their data! Now there are hardware and no-cost and open source applications available for Windows and Macintosh-based machines to answer all of these needs. In addition, this software will right run off of a USB flash drive (sometimes called a key drive or thumb drive). To gain access to their files, contacts, programs, and music, students simply plug the USB flash drive into any available USB port, navigate to the USB drive, and run the programs right off the drive. This works at school, at home, at a friend's house, and at the public library!
There are two "camps" of portable applications available for the Windows side and other apps, although fewer in number, for the Mac side. The two options for using applications on a Windows-based machine and USB drive are called U3 and Portable Apps.
The U3 flash drives contain a program that needs to be installed on the desktop, and provides a simple interface for launching applications, finding your data files, and installing additional U3 apps. You can view the list of U3 software here.
PortableApps provides a simple interface that can run on any USB drive, and these apps can also be run from the command line on the USB drive, too, without using the interface.
The Mac freeware apps for running on a Mac-formatted USB drive can be found at Freesmug.
Another option is to use many models of the portable MP3 players, most of which have 2+ GB of storage capability, include a voice recorder, and plug directly into the USB drive on a computer. These devices can store students' MP3 files as well as the portable applications, and these "soap on a rope" devices ususally sell for under $50!
©April 25, 2005. Last updated: August 26, 2010. Kathy Schrock. Kathy grants permission to re-post this info on blogs, put it in teachers' mailboxes, tack it up on the faculty room bulletin board, and use it to write grants to get every student in your district their own "SOAP on a rope" device!