What’s a YottaByte? Discussing the Future of Education in the Information Society

What’s a YottaByte?

It’s something I first asked myself when I stumbled upon Portland’s YottaByte Group. I’d heard of Gigabytes, and even PetaBytes, but not YottaBytes. Fortunately, CEO Derek Brandow was kind enough to answer that question for me, as well as many more, and you’ll see below.

A brief vocabulary lesson . . .

• A bit is the smallest unit of storage for information, the space a computer needs to store a “0” or a “1”.

• A byte is about the size it takes to store a letter of the alphabet.

• A kilobyte is a unit of storage you would need for a HS term paper.

• A popular song would take up about 2 megabytes of storage.

• As of this writing the smallest iPod holds 1 gigabyte and the largest holds
160 gigabytes in text, music and video.

• You could store about 200 DVDs on a 1 terabyte hard disk drive.

• Currently eBay has about 2 petabytes of data.

• It would take about 10 exabytes to store all the telephone calls
in the U.S. this year.

• In 2010 there will be about 1 zettabyte of data that can be
accessed by a computer.

By the time today’s 5th grade students have graduated from college, such as UoP, they
will live in a yottabyte world…a world in which nearly all human knowledge is captured in digital form and instantly available through something as small as a hand-held device.

Where did the idea for The YottaByte Group come from?

While I was teaching fourth grade in West Harlem, NYC, Tom and I stayed in contact with each other and discussed the idea of creating a fourth grade curriculum for the kids of executives who moved around the globe with their families for work (think Exxon people relocating to remote locations of Central America). The need was having a top notch learning experience for kids who did not have access because of geography. That was the start, YottaByte evolved from those conversations.

What does YottaByte do?

The YB Group imagines, designs, creates, and manages educational opportunities for students who will, much too quickly, enter an adult world in which information is completely digital, freely accessible, and measured in YottaBytes. The current model for both public and private schools in “developed” countries has not changed significantly in the last 100 years. The longevity of that “industrial” model is a testament to the greatness of its early 20th century design. However, this model is beginning to crumble worldwide.

What successes and failures has YottaByte experienced in the last year?

We failed to establish The YB Group as a business (so we are trying to start it as a non-profit). We did do some initial work with kids that was quite encouraging. We learned a few things.

1. We must create a system that will allow student to follow their passion. This includes developing a path that they can follow to become a part of existing professional communities.

2. This includes letting them (with the help of teachers and parents), to make decisions about what they will learn. (Instead of having the State and Federal governments do so)

3. As a small group, kids are self-organizing to a great extent.

4. Kids know a lot about using technology to get a date, but very little about using technology to make a future…unless your date ends up marrying you:)

Tell me a little bit about COO Jason Gallic and CIO Tom Layton.

Jason worked for years as the sales and marketing director for Extreme Arts & Sciences, a Eugene-based consultation firm specializing in media messaging, effective use of advancing technologies and strategic planning. While working with Microsoft, and a series of large financial institutions, Jason developed a love of collaborative environments and technology-based innovation.

After many long talks with me and Tom, Jason also discovered an unknown passion for education. It is the blend of that passion, plus first-hand experience with personal learning networks and a flattening world, that landed Jason with us.

Tom pioneered the use of technology to empower learning.

In 1984 he was selected as Electronic Learning Magazine’s Educator of the Year. The following year, his students created the first high school yearbook on a CD and the year after that those same students founded SouthTECH, a student run multimedia production company. In 1994 he founded CyberSchool, the first Internet-based public high school distance learning program. Tom’s students now work for companies like Pixar, Apple, and Intel. Currently, Tom is working with Irkutsk State Linguistic University to create online courses in Russian taught by Russian as a Second Language experts living in Siberia.

He is also developing teacher training courses in Second Life for the Center for Advanced Technology in Education (CATE) at the University of Oregon. Jason and I affectionately refer to Tom as ‘Doc Brown’, the character from Back to the Future. Yottabyte is like his ‘flex capacitor’…and they guy remains to stay ahead of the pack in terms of what he sees as future trends.

What is the hope of YottaByte in the future?

Our ultimate hope is to create an education platform for the 21st century.

Short term, The YB Group is looking to test and prove the educational platform we have been working on.

Currently we have:

• A group of kids to work with

• A space to meet on a weekly basis for some face to face time with kids

• A 10-12 week YB concurrent learning opportunity

• A formula for assessment

• A Google work space at www.YBKidz.com

• A growing cache of professional willing and able to share their expertise and experience with YB Kids

• An application process to allow kids to qualify themselves for this opportunity
Our hope is that we will receive whatever it takes to equip a handful of high school students with a Mac Book lap top, iPod Touch, and a Flip video camera, so we can prove and refine our learning platform.

What can the Portland tech community do to help YottaByte? What can the nation do to help YottaByte?

It is a great social responsibility to recognize problems we are faced with as a country, and now as a global community. However, to ‘recognize’ is only the first step…and more HAS to happen in order for big problems to find resolution.

The loudest proponents of education are shouting, “Give education MORE money!”, “MORE standards!”, “Incorporate a MORE rigorous curriculum!” We are hearing to the wrong voices. We don’t need MORE, We need DIFFERENT!

What can the nation and the Portland tech community do to help YottaByte?

1. Recognize this monumental problem facing us all, AND make whatever commitment possible to help make this change we desperately need. Obama did it by receiving $5 from millions of believers.

2. Support The YB Group, or other companies like it who have what it takes to create attainable and sustainable solutions.

A great big thanks to Derek Brandow for sharing his thoughts with us. If you’re interested in supporting the YottaByte group, check out the YottaByte Group website.

One thought on “What’s a YottaByte? Discussing the Future of Education in the Information Society

  1. “a world in which nearly all human knowledge is captured in digital form and instantly available through something as small as a hand-held device.”

    Captured in digital form would still mean: represented as text, images, videos. Without really advanced information retrieval technology, this entire Pocket Universe (nice album by Yello, btw) would be entirely useless. With really advanced I’m not referring to nowadays’ Google, though. They are advanced, but not intelligent. But then, if information retrieval becomes intelligent, whatever intelligent may be to you, users might have the feeling that it has a mind of its own and attitudes towards them, perhaps hiding information or giving particular results on purpose.

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