Using Dropbox.com in Schools

As many of you know I have a school leadership newsletter that can be accessed by clicking here. It shares tips on a variety of topics from PLCs to data analysis to action research. One of my editions includes the use of Dropbox.com in schools. Because I received a slew responses on its usefulness, I thought it would be appropriate to share in my blog as well.

Dropbox can be a tremendous tool for schools. It has been, without doubt, a great help in my own school. Not only do I use Dropbox for my day-to-day dealings, but it has also given classroom teachers a vehicle to collaborate in a unique manner.

What is Dropbox?

Dropbox.com is a free software tool that allows you to sync your files online and across multiple computers automatically. It also has capabilities for sharing files and folders with multiple users, allowing several people to work collaboratively on the same files.

How can you use it in your school?

There are several ways schools can use Dropbox.com in a school. Here are a few examples.

Teachers and administrators can access all school-related files on multiple computers.

Most of us have multiple computers that we work with from work desktops to home desktops to laptops…and more. It can get a little bit cumbersome carrying flash drives around everywhere, or emailing documents back and forth to yourself. Many files, when using this method, can get lost in the shuffle. Dropbox helps keep all your files located in one central location and can be accessed from any computer with a download of the software. Because all the files are stored on the Dropbox server, the cloud so to speak, you will never lose files if one of your computers is lost, stolen, or damaged.

Here is a scenario where, after the fact, one teacher kicked herself for not using Dropbox. This particular teacher was charged with the development of the school’s yearbook. Every single one of the yearbook pictures were actually only saved on one of the school computer hard drives. We are talking about thousands of pictures. Then one weekend the school was broken into and this exact computer was stolen, along with the hundreds of hours that accompanied the slew of snapshots of various school events. It was devastating! If the pictures, on the other hand, were saved within Dropbox then the damage would be minimal. Although this is an extreme example, we all have stories of losing important files.

Teachers and administrators can also share documents that outline events, calendars, and so forth with others.
How often do families call the office to inquire about school events? Yes, all the time! And if an efficient system of communication (between the office staff and everyone else) is not in place then, oftentimes, the office staff answering phones is stumped, not having any idea if there is basketball practice on Friday or a school dance next week, to name a few. This same frustration is commonplace and shared by staffs and families across the Nation. To remedy this anti-customer service nuisance, just have the office staff share a Dropbox folder with the rest of the staff. Now anytime a staff member sends out a calendar or flyer that particular document is also placed in the office staff’s shared folder. Now the questions have answers.

Teachers and administrators can collectively develop, and access, files like common assessments, documentation, and so forth.

Over the past few years, there has been a big push for teachers to work collectively on lesson planning, assessment development, and other classroom activities. These are especially vital structures for the learning community concept, the whole “we are smarter than me” mentality. One of the problems though is the lack of time for teachers to come together face-to-face and collaborate. With Dropbox’s file-sharing capabilities, two or more people can work on one or documents from their own computers (and on their own time is they so choose).

Let’s say for example Teacher A and Teacher B are creating an assessment that will be given to each of their students. Of course, they each want to try their own distinct strategies and come together in the end to see which strategy, based on the results, was most effective. Teacher A can start the assessment within a Dropbox shared folder and then Teacher B can revise the assessment within that same folder. This process can go back and forth until the document is sound. Perhaps Teacher A and Teacher B do not necessarily teach within the same school; maybe they don’t even teach in the same state. Not only can they access the document in real time, but these documents can also be stored in the shared folder and accessed at any time. There are a myriad of ways in which classroom teachers can use Dropbox.

Administrators too can use Dropbox. Let’s say, for example, multiple site administrators want to be on the same page when documenting employees, making effective use of progressive discipline. This can be tough sometimes with the day-to-day grind of leadership. Here is a solution: Just add a simple Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to a shared folder in Dropbox and there it is, a document that is easily accessed and up-to-date and at your fingertips. Here is an example. Let’s say Administrator A observes a teacher late to a staff meeting and he or she adds it to the spreadsheet. Then two weeks later Administrator B notices the same behavior for that particular teacher, documenting it in the shared spreadsheet, seeing that this same behavior was addressed two weeks prior. It is time for the second step in progressive discipline. It is as easy as that…1-2-3.

Teachers and administrators can use it to write memos, articles, or books.
Other uses for Dropbox are writing projects that consist of two or more authors. Again, share a folder and work on the project from the luxury of your office or home. It is quite simple. Here is an article that one of my colleagues and wrote. Here are a few words of advice when tackling a joint writing venture with a partner. It is important to establish norms or agreements prior to starting the project. We all have differing writing styles and perspectives and it may cause interpersonal conflict when supporting (or supplanting) one another’s prose.

Try out Dropbox! You sure will be happy that you did.
Cheers!
Perry

 

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4 thoughts on “Using Dropbox.com in Schools

  1. I also have a class dropbox account and have set the default documents on my classroom computers to a folder inside dropbox. This is one that I’ve shared from my personal dropbox to my class dropbox. This makes it easy for me to conference with students – they don’t need to print out their work – I can just open it on my laptop. I can also access and comment on their work from home or anywhere else. Another thing I can do is create documents for them to access for their work.

    Dropbox rocks!

    • @Jo That is great! I bet your students appreciate the ease of submitting their work and receiving feedback. Question: Do you have individual folders for each student contained in the classroom folder?

      Here is a neat idea. Let’s say you want to have students work interdependently towards a common goal. Perhaps you taught punctuation, spelling, organization, structure, and so forth. You could place a horrible piece of work in a folder that is shared by a handful of students. One student would be responsible for all spelling errors; another student could correct all punctuation; and on and on. Then they receive a grade for their individual piece, as well as a grade for their collective level of work.
      Perry

  2. Pingback: Web 2.0 Productivity Tool – DropBox | Quick Resources in Special Education

  3. Pingback: Campus Dropbox « bridgebuildersblog

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