If you are anything like me, you are not the most organized person in the world. I spend more time than I should be looking for things. See if you can identify with this scenario. You are ready to teach and you suddenly realize that the PowerPoint that was to go along with your lecture is on your desktop computer back at home. Bummer! Now, at least in one area of my life, I no longer have to look for computer files because I ALWAYS know where they are. That handy, dandy little tool is called Dropbox.
Dropbox was founded in 2007 by Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi, two MIT students tired of emailing files to themselves to work from more than one computer. Dropbox is a centralized, web based file storage system. It is a home for all of your files. When you upload a file to Dropbox, it will synchronize that file across ALL of your electronic devices as well as keeping a copy on a web based access point. The whole process is automatic and no computer skills are needed for files to update across your devices. That brings real comfort to those whose computers have been lost or damaged in travel or other nefarious methods. Dropbox works on both Windows and Mac based computers, tablets and phones.
A handy feature of Dropbox is that, not only will it store your files; it makes it easy to share and collaborate on projects with others. You simply either share the folder with others, making it public and allowing them access to that folder only or you can email a link to a particular file. You can create a shared file for any class that you might choose and share it with each student. When the need arises, you will now be able to drop files you want students to access easily from my desktop or any other device. When students use the Dropbox app on the iPads, they will be able to log in and access the files. They can edit the files and drop them into their personalized folders.
For a brief introduction to how Dropbox works visit this link.
How do you use Dropbox in the classroom? I’m glad you asked! Now, you have taken one more excuse for students not having their homework. Instead of delivering the assignment to the classroom, either in paper or electronic form, you simply require them to upload it to an assigned location on Dropbox. This won’t help those students who don’t actually get the work done, but it will be of benefit to those who really do have memory problems! In addition, for those assignments that have a deadline, the upload of documents imprints a date and time stamp on the file. No more arguing over whether a student was late with their submission or not.
Another use is the storage of handouts, worksheets and other storage guides. If a student loses their assigned work or if the dog ate it (remind me to tell you of the time my dog ate my Master’s thesis…while it was still in the computer), they can log on find the file and download or print it off for themselves. The savings in paper used in your classroom could be enormous.
Many students want the Powerpoints to follow during the lecture. There are pros and cons to this, but that is another day’s presentation. Most Powerpoints are too large to email due to constraints placed upon school’s email systems. Dropbox resolves this problem in that you can email the link to the students and they will now be able to download the Powerpoints themselves. Isn’t personal responsibility liberating!