So the Monday night I was doing the dishes and thinking about a few things techy related but also thinking about students woe’s if they don’t have MS Word on a PC/laptop. This then lead onto me thinking a well worn idea; “if only Google Doc formatted well when downloaded to MS Word, people wouldn’t have to worry – work in Google Docs then download in Uni/college and print off.” This time though I went one step further, let’s take Google Docs out of the equation and bring in my new little friend.

Friends and random readers, meet Dropbox. (Read blog to the end then head over).

From their site:

Dropbox is the easiest way to share and store your files online.

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Dropbox Logo

Dropbox Logo

[edit] If you are wondering why I’m aiming this at school education, it is purely because at University (and possibly) we have tools which carry about similar functions to Dropbox. At Abertay we have electronic submission or coursework, VPN access etc but if you’re interested in Dropbox then please sign up using to referral link. I’m not sure if you can install the Dropbox folder as I mainly use the web interface and VPN.

When I was at school, we used paper and pencil/pen to do the majority of our homework and class work, Computing related subjects were the only ones to use computers (obviously).

What I’m blogging about, to get back to my original point is this: school pupils are moving to typed documents/essays, more online working, and have free (as in thought) access to computers and technology so why not utilise this in the class room more. What we have right now is this: school pupil does English essay at home on computer, they then do either one of a few things, they print out finished document, they email to get in school or they put it on removable media: USB stick or CD.

Basically my idea is this, each pupil has a Dropbox account. They are at home, they do what they want to said piece of work, they put it the document into a folder on their internet connected computer that is just like any other but this folder is “special” it’s their Dropbox folder. This folder syncs with their Dropbox account, they then go into school and go on the library PC or one in the teacher’s class room and go to the Dropbox website, sign in and there is their document. Or ideally if each pupil has a Windows LAN ID (you use a username and password to get into the computer) and they have a Dropbox folder on their desktop/My Documents folder.

So lets look at the benefits:

  • No paper getting ruined in pupils bag (I have personal experience)
  • No corrupted Flash drives, USB sticks (again personal experience)
  • No wasted CDs: you use a CD-R instead of a CD-RW, wasting 700MB of CD on a couple of KB English essay (again personal experience)
  • Possibly if this makes their things easier, reduced forgotten homework? I for one would have had homework and coursework in on time or earlier if I had this in school!
  • As you’ll see in the screencat, Dropbox is also a backup, it save file revisions

So the downsides?

  • School IT policy restricts access to the website, or they don’t want to allow the installation of any programs they can’t control.
  • Pupil forgets to put document in thier dropbox folder.

I can’t think of any others right now. As usual I’ve possibly rambled for a bit, but I think I may be onto something here, espeically after a quick Google search to see if this’s been done before and an encouraging GTalk chat with Mrs Blethers.

One of the few things I find like it are teachers using it for file acces like this post by Mark Warner, a primary teacher. And as he twittered me back

Thanks for the comment. Great idea. Student could also save in a shared area for teacher to access / review before next session.

(I’ll have to have a look into that shared area idea. Not sure if you could have a shared folder without someone thinking it’s “funny” to delete another pupils work!)

Head to the site, view the screencast, have a poke about the Tour as they can explain what Dropbox actually does better than I can without my own screencast. If you want to get an account the please use this link: referral as I’ll get a bit extra storage and I think the deal is you do to!
You get 2GB for free, that’s brilliant! As a comparison I have almost 9000 (well 8968) emails in my GMail, some with attachments or .pdfs, word docs etc and I’m currently only using 578MB, that’s just over 0.5GB!

If people like the idea, I will make up a quick questionnaire on Google Docs and link to it, facebook/twitter it, for pupils to give their feedback on. Can people pass this into teachers, IT admins please? Even it’s to shoot this idea down, I would like people to give it a chance.

[*I actually wanted to be a computer networking engineer until I moved schools in 4th year, dropped my computing grade and went the science route, but that’s another blog entry]




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