It’s Great to Share

Last night, I was keeping one eye on the Twitter stream while working on another project and I saw this Twitter message fly by.

Now, I don’t know @ColleenKR but I do know @fryed so I figured, what the hey – Donna won’t mind if I try to help.  Why not jump in?

After all, I had run into a similar problem with my university classes and quickly had to find a solution to stop me from going nuts.  How do you collect assignments in this digital day and age?  I had just expected that the assignments would be emailed to me.  After all, I had given the class my university email account and we had practiced in class how to send attachments.

Not so.

I got some printed on laser; some on ink jet; a couple handed to me on memory key; one burned to CD; one burned to DVD; a number successfully emailed as attachments; and one that was only half finished an upload as an attachment.  Marking that first assignment took forever.  As I was marking and kicking myself for not being totally explicit, I vowed never to let it happen again.  Since the student assignments were done at their home at the university computer labs, they were coming from all locations.  I figured that I would give Dropbox a shot and never looked back.  It wasn’t just having a Dropbox account that did it, it was the accompanying application Dropittome that put it over the top.

So, back to @ColleenKR, I sent this reply…

The first is a shortener to the Dropittome site and the second was a blog post that I had written to describe the process.

A few hours later and I was delighted to read…

And, of course, celebrations are in order…

The moral of the story?  And, if this isn’t a reason to blog, I don’t know what is.  We all are constantly learning.  My university students know about Dropbox and Dropittome but I sure as heck didn’t when I was at teacher’s college.  It’s just part of the ongoing learning that we all do and it’s important to share what you’ve learned to help others.  I hope that @ColleenKR continues to have success with this technique and shares it with others that are interested in how her workflow works.  If someone comes along with a better idea, I think we all would be appreciative if they would share it.

Below, is a copy of my original post.

Dropbox as a Hand-in Folder

Dropbox is a terrific utility for storing files online.  It’s accessible with any computer that can connect to the internet.  (Don’t ignore the fact that your portable device is also a computer…)  If you’re interested in cloud storage, this is the real deal.  Just upload to your Dropbox account and access it from anywhere.  It should come as no surprise that you can share those files with others as well.

But, that’s not the story here.  Cloud is cloud.  But, I’m thinking now of real-world classroom applications.  Many systems will have centralized storage so that students can hand in their work.  The problem, though, is that they typically have to be using a school computer attached to the school network at school.  There’s a lot of school there!  If you’re moving to a more open approach to assignments, this sort of logic is old school.  Consider the following scenarios that just spring to mind.

1)     A student is using her own personal device and is attached to a guest network at school;
2)     A student is using her own personal device and is attached to the wireless at her favourite restaurant or her network at home.

Old school logic says to email it to the teacher (which means giving out your email address to students) or put it on a memory key, remember to put it in her backpack, plug the memory key into a computer at school and then submit it.

Now, if you’re using a wiki or learning management system, uploading of files is typically built into them so run with that.  But, what if you don’t want the hassle or don’t need the functionality of managing that?  Head back to Dropbox and see what else you can do with it.

This is one sweet working web application.  It integrates so nicely with your existing Dropbox and you can be up and running literally in minutes.

1)     Create a Dropbox account.  (If you haven’t done this already, do it now.  Even if you don’t go further, you’ll thank yourself)

2)     Create a account.

3)     Connect the two accounts.  When you create your account, you’ll be asked by Dropbox to authorize this new service so that it has permission to upload to your account.  Of course, you’ll want to do this – you don’t want just anyone uploading to your cloud storage.  At this time, you’ll also set an upload password.  This password, you’ll give to your students so that they can hand their work in from whatever computer or whatever network they happen to be connected to when they finally get their work done.

4)     Give the students the URL to your handin folder or just make it a link in your class wiki.  It should come as no surprise that mine is  Remind them one last time what the upload password is…  and then get ready to mark.  When the students enter the URL that you’ve provided, they’re challenged for the password and then asked to locate the file to upload.

They find the file and send it.  Work is submitted.  It’s honestly and truthfully as simple as that.

5)     On your end, a new folder called Dropittome is created in your Dropbox space and uploads are time and date stamped.  You’ll know exactly whether or not assignments or documents are submitted on time.  You just open the document like you would any other file on your computer to see the work.

Besides the techy approach here, consider some of the other aspects.

If you’re interested in going paperless, you’re potentially there.  I shudder when I see the assignments that take half a sheet of paper, or assignments that are one page and one line, or computer science printouts that are pages and pages long, or Photoshop documents that run through toner like water or the excess pages printed and recycled because the user wasn’t patient and whacked the print key many times.

It’s a great opportunity to talk about the cloud.  This is a wonderful and practical example for students to try to come to grips conceptually with just where their documents go when they’re sent “out there” and magically arrive to the teacher.

I see it also as a great opportunity to talk about security of documents.  What are the implications of sending files this way?  How can we ensure that the document is only viewable by the teacher?  Could you talk about file sizes and how to optimize or compress the file to speed up the process on the students’ end?  When ready, you could even talk about adding a password to a zip or tar file to achieve both security and size concerns.

But, is it always about the students?  Would you care to know how many times I drove back to school after supper to pick up marking that I forgot to take home?  Or, thinking that I’ve got it all done and arriving at school the next morning to find more to mark in my mailbox or slid under my classroom door?  In a culture where handins are all electronic and cloud based, all of this goes away.

I would encourage you to give this a shot.  You’ll be amazed at how quickly and effortlessly you and your students are firing files around.

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2 thoughts on “It’s Great to Share

  1. I still tell @colleenkr and the rest of my staff how you rescued our Remembrance Day assembly at the last minute with your suggestions (Jaycut) last year.

    Thanks for all of your just-in-time tech rescues. Jump into the conversation any time!


  2. Oh, it was that line about the printer user who wasn’t patient enough to wait, and kept hitting the print button (can we talk about my colleagues who do this, let alone the kids in elementary?). And, it also means that my kids who are using their devices to do assignments in French class don’t have to print them anymore. How did I miss this the first time.

    Just wanted you to know that there are times I wish I was back at teachers’ college at UW, so I could be in your class. 🙂


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