Saturday, February 12, 2011

No More Printing! Teachers Using Dropbox

I was working with a district this week in Western New York on upgrading their curricular practice. A lot times, when I do work like this, there is an in-the-moment needs analysis that ultimately directs the workshop time.

For this workshop, the teachers had a specific need to update the way in which they deliver resources to students. In the wake of the same financial crunch that everyone is dealing with nationwide, teachers were trying to find opportunities to share resources in an equitable way without continuing to print reams and reams of paper.

I shared the online file sharing and folder syncing Web 2.0 tool “DROPBOX” with the teachers. I explained that it would be an option for sharing resources with their students as well as an option for students to “turn work in” online. (Updating previous technology ‘turn in’ options of using a shared directory on the school’s network and/or using email.)

Instead of printing up a bunch of paper resources, including lab manuals, and hauling all of these papers around every time they needed to be graded, these High School Science teachers were able to construct a plan for using a Web 2.0 tool in an innovative way that suited their particular needs.

Specifically, they planned to create folders in the Dropbox system for each class, including a shared folder that all students could access. (Permission is granted based on the students having Dropbox accounts as well.) Within their framework, each class would have its own folder, and each student would have a shared folder within that class folder. This folder would only be accessible to the student and the teacher. Additionally, all folders would be private to the teacher and the students and not to the Internet at large. (See screenshot.)

Dropbox used in this way gives teachers and students ubiquitous, anytime/anywhere access to materials, from school computers, to home, to their mobile devices, etc. One of the teachers, on that day, also added the DropBox app to his iPad, along with a companion app (Noterize) to make notations on submitted student work and re-drop into the Dropbox folders. (You could also use iAnnotate or Smartnote apps)

We talked about considerations for access, the learning curve for students using the tool, and the reality of using a web 2.0 tool for something like this, since some web tools in this economy have proven to be ephemeral and could disappear at a moment’s notice. In this particular district, most students have access to the internet at home, and those that don’t have regular access to shared computers while at school, and the local libraries also provide access. If needed, students would also have options for getting print copies from the teacher and/or turning work in a traditional way. Additionally, since this application also installs a web-linked folder to a user’s computer; if the tool goes away, the folder still stays, so no resources are ultimately lost.

I thought this was a REALLY good idea and wanted to share. Not only does it save a tree or two, it lets teachers model the 21st Century ways in which we interact with and share information. My hope is that it will make things more convenient for these teachers and their students, and perhaps prompt the students to use web tools for instruction as creatively as their teachers!

1 comment:

  1. I have done file sharing with this and with Google Docs as well. Certainly Dropbox makes it a little easier to share a variety of file types, but I have landed on Google Docs for students to turn in paperless assignments (granted, I am an English teacher so the bulk of the work is writing). I also use Google Docs for providing access to class handouts. Dropbox has been great for sharing political cartoons and other pictures in a much easier fashion than Google Docs.