Tech: Dropbox

Yesterday we started Tech Week with our posts about Evernote (sign up here) and today we are moving on to Dropbox (sign up here).

Evernote is my solution for keeping track of notes and websites that I come across. If I need to make a quick note, jot down notes from a meeting or save articles I use Evernote. However, we all know that notes and articles are not the only files that teachers use, which is what I use Dropbox for.

What is Dropbox?

Dropbox is, essentially, a harddrive that you can access from any device or internet connection. All of the files you add to your Dropbox folder on your device, or upload online, get sent to the Dropbox servers (‘the cloud’). Just like Evernote you can access your files at all times.

Although being able to save your files and access them at any time is a great idea there is something else that makes Dropbox vital to teachers… SHARING!  You can sync all of your files automatically, and share folders or individual files very easily. I have created shared folders for curriculum documents, AQ course work, Yearbook work and a lot more (more on this later).

What does it look like?

Here is what my Dropbox folder on both of my computers looks like (remember, they are both the same because they are shared/synced).

Drop1You can see it looks just like any other folder, because it technically is. The only difference between the Dropbox folder and a regular folder is that once you open the Dropbox app/program it searches this folder for updates and syncs them with your devices.  You can also see that it shows folders, images, videos and any other file type with a little icon on it to indicate the status of that file. For example, all of my files, including the pictures used for the Evernote posts, have a green circle with a check mark, that means they have been successfully synced.  While the files are syncing there will be a blue circle with ‘syncing arrows’

The Dropbox website is just as great as the Evernote one, it does everything you need.

Drop2You can see the simple layout with a left sided menu and some other features/options on the top of the page.  The ‘link’ icon means that those folders are being shared with other people, and you can click the link to see who is sharing them and to allow others to share.

drop3

Here is what the Evernote post pictures look like.  As you can see you have a thumbnail view of images, making it much easier to tell which files are which.

drop4

Finally, the Dropbox mobile app.  This is the Android version but the iOS version is pretty similar.  Something that is very interesting, and another reason I love my BlackBerry 10 phone, is that Dropbox (and a few other similar services) are built right into the OS of the phone. The Android and iOS (Apple) apps make using Dropbox super easy, but the BB10 integration is fantastic because you can share any file directly to Dropbox, or to a friend, with a simple swipe gesture.

How it works?

The reason I love Evernote is because it is incredibly simple, and the same goes for Dropbox.  There are really only a few steps to the basic Dropbox usage, and most of those are on the set-up side.

1. Sign-up for Dropbox

2. Download the Dropbox App for your devices

3. Set-up your Dropbox folder (this is automatic)

4. SAVE & SYNC!

5. Share (if you want to)

That is really it.  There isn’t even any need for pictures or a walk through. Once you sign-up and set everything up all you have to do is just save all the files you want to be synced in your Dropbox folder. Make sure the Dropbox app is running when you want to sync, most people leave the app on at all times but there really isn’t a need to. If you need to save battery or CPU power you can easily close the Dropbox app and just open it when you want to sync files.

How would you use it?

I use Dropbox a lot! I have all of my Curriculum Documents synced through it (I will make a post about that later), all my lesson plans and handouts that I have ever made are also on there.  If I am talking to a teacher about ‘that time’ that I used a certain lesson and they seem interested I can email them the lesson, and all handouts, in about a minute. It is an incredible tool!

Dropbox also makes sharing between your phone, tablet and laptop/desktop effortless.  For example, you have seen screenshots of mobile apps in the Evernote article, and this one, and also pictures I took with my Z10 in the Moleskine Planner Review.  These pictures were taken with the phone, tapped on and ‘shared’ with Dropbox. Within seconds the pictures were uploaded and synced to all of my devices.  There were no wires, no memory cards and zero hassle.  You save it, Dropbox syncs it!

Another great use for Dropbox is just to share large files through email.  Instead of sending the file itself, and the email coming back to you later saying that the mailbox was full, you upload the file to dropbox and just send the link to that file in the email.  You can take hundreds of pictures, upload them to Dropbox and send just the link in the email. You can even mix and match the files you share, so that you can share videos and pictures with one link.

Think of a situation like this:
You set up a Dropbox folder for you class, everything the students need is in there (make sure to update it).  You hand out the Culminating Activity or any major assignment and the students have a few weeks to work on it.  What happens if your student forgets the handout at school over the weekend?  Well, if you added the handout to the Dropbox folder the student can just go to the folder link and download it. Simple! What if a parent says that they never receive handouts? Give them the Dropbox link and add all school memos to it. Done!

Shared Folders:

There are 2 types of folders in Dropbox, Private and Shared. All your folders are set to Private by default, so you dont have to worry about that.  If you wish to share a folder you have two options. You can share a link to the folder, which will mean that the user will only be able to view and download the files, or you can share the folder itself.  If you create a shared folder the recipient(s) of the share request can add or delete any files.

Shared folders are great for collaborative projects, for example if your students are working on a complex group project you can teach them how to set-up shared folders.  Any piece of information that the students find, or create, can be added to that folder and shared with the rest of the group.  You can even set-up a shared folder between a few teachers at the school who want to share resources they come across. When I was in charge of creating the Summer Yearbook at the Summer Camp I work at I created a Shared Folder and all the staff would upload any pictures they wanted in the Yearbook. I went through that folder anytime I needed great pictures. I also uploaded all the pages to my personal Dropox so that I could work on it at home if I wanted to. Anything is possible!

Using Dropbox and Evernote together will make sure that you always have everything you need. Sign-up for Evernote and Dropbox and introduce your class to 21st Century Learning

*If you have any questions just let us know*

Enjoy!
Mr.S

 

 

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