Teaching with DropBox

DropBox is an incredibly useful tool. In a nutshell, it syncs all of your important files both locally and in the cloud. It has become one of those programs that is essential. It works on Windows, Mac, and Linux. Your files are stored locally on your computer so you can still access even when you are without an Internet connection. It also has Android and iPhone applications, with a BlackBerry application in closed beta.

This is an incredibly useful personal application. But how does it help out students? There are two features that really come in handy. The first is the ability to make any file or folder in DropBox a public link. This makes sharing files a breeze.

Second, thanks to some clever coding by Amit Banerjee, whose work I found via the excellent Lifehacker blog, you can allow students to upload their work. Follow the directions on the site listed above. It should be noted that you need a web server to upload 2 files to; if you have your own website, you probably have a web server.

I made a few changes to make it work better for me. Instead of just linking to it, I like to keep students in one place when on the class website. For example, I would rather embed a video than send them to a video site. In the same vein, I made the dimensions smaller so that it could fit on my blog using the <iframe> command. I also changed the background color to match that on my blog.

In my DropBox, I made a student work folder. Now, whenever students want to give me something, I just have them upload it to the Student Work folder in my DropBox. To make it even more useful, I have the students using a naming convention that makes it very easy for me: period-name-assignment. For example, 3-Bedell-Journal. This way, on any of my computers, I have all of my students’ work organized by period, then by last name, then by assignment.

I can then even leave feedback on the files and send them back to the students with a shareable link. It takes a little tinkering, but it takes an excellent tool and makes it even more useful for students.

Here is an example of what it could look like.

9 comments to Teaching with DropBox

  • Dave Andrade
    Twitter: daveandcori

    I love DropBox. One of the best things about it is it can sync to a network drive on our system at school. Each teacher and student gets space on the network drive. But, you can’t access it at home. No need for flash drives or emailing things home. I have my school drive syncing with my home computer. Students can access their school files at home. It’s great. It also works great on my Palm Pre+ so i can access my files there too.

    Here are some other good ones to use too: http://educationaltechnologyguy.blogspot.com/2010/01/cloud-file-storage-sync-backup.html

  • Chris Franzen
    Twitter: franze98

    I have one teacher using that, but since we just gave our students access to Google Apps for Education I’m thinking it is a much more viable solution with everything it offers.

  • Jason Bedell
    Twitter: jasontbedell

    Thanks Dave. I didn’t realize it worked on WebOS. I love not needing to carry around the flash drive.
    Chris, I agree that GAE is ideal when you can ubiquitously roll it out. Especially since Google Docs can now store any file type and you can also immediately share files and folders amongst students and teachers.

  • Thank goodness for DropBox. I finally have several computers (donated and self-bought) in my art room but only one printer. I added DropBox to each computer last year and students now drop their computer art work in the “art print” folder on DropBox. Then we open it up and print it from the computer that has the printer attached. This was an easy fix to this dilemma. Much easier than switching cables and moving the printer around all of the time. For sites that didn’t have a save option we used Jing to capture the image and then saved that to DropBox. This solution will have to work until we get updated equipment. Thanks for offering other uses. Your way of naming the works is great and I will be using that this year.
    Karen Bolotin´s last blog post ..A nice find from “Cool Cat Teachers

  • ktenkely
    Twitter: ktenkely

    DropBox is SO useful and essential for a paperless classroom! The iPad app is also great!
    ktenkely´s last blog post ..The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That

  • Chuck

    Just as dropbox is an useful tool for syncing, Binfer is another useful tool to transfer large files. It can tranfer large files directly from computer to computer, without uploading to a server. You can send hundreds of files of any size with a simple drag and drop. Binfer will manage the transfers with auto resumes, encryption, notifications etc. Check it out: http://www.binfer.com

  • Stephen Davis
    Twitter: rushtheiceberg


    I have a Dropbox account and, unfortunately, do not use it as much as I could. My issue is that my school district blocks the Dropbox website at school. As a result, I have it in my mind that I can’t fully utilize all the great ideas out there for teachers using Dropbox.

    I have begun moving all of my assignments over to gDocs. However, I do not like having different accounts for personal use and school use (learned the hard way about the visibility of email)…

    All this being said, do you and your readers have any ideas on how to better use Dropbox when my district has the site blocked?



  • Jason Bedell
    Twitter: jasontbedell

    That does limit things somewhat, but you can still get a lot of use out of it. Do you have a smartphone (iPhone/Android/BlackBerry/etc…). DropBox supports most smartphone platforms so you have access to all of your files through the phones 3G connection.
    Also, if you bring your school laptop home, it will download and sync any DropBox files to that computer. Dropbox stores a local copy on the computer so that you still have access to them.

  • Justin Germino
    Twitter: dragonblogger

    I only starting playing with Dropbox yesterday and already find its value, I didn’t even realize the potential it has for teaching and students to share a “classroom” folder. There is lots of potential.
    Justin Germino´s last blog post ..Can WordPress Bloggers Use Dropbox

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