Apps in the Classroom – Advanced Dropbox for Teachers

* We have a more recent post that offers a comprehensive guide to cloud storage. *

Hopefully by now you already have a Dropbox account. Even if you do not have an iPad, Dropbox is an invaluable tool for teachers (especially if you have a work computer and a home computer, or a desktop and a laptop). If you don't already have it, use this link to sign up and install it on your PC or Mac and then come back to this post once you are done that step.

Using my referral link will also give me some free space. Thanks!

Okay, so you have a Dropbox account now? Good. Let me show you some of the advanced ways to use it in a classroom (especially if you have an iPad).

The first thing you should do if given an iPad for your classroom is to install the free Dropbox app. This app is really well designed. It lets you browse through your files and folders, preview almost any document type (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, PDF, images, videos, etc.), open the document in a different app (such as opening a PowerPoint presentationn in Keynote), and so on.

The folders and files are on the left, the preview is on the right.

Another cool thing that the Dropbox app will do is automatically upload your iPad photos and videos to a Dropbox folder (called “Camera Uploads”). This is great for having a backup of your camera roll and also easily and quickly transferring photos to your desktop or laptop without using a cable (since your Dropbox folders sync automatically).

A lot of popular classroom apps sync with Dropbox as well. In my class we use neu.annotate to mark up PDF worksheets. It also allows you to save your marked-up sheets to your Dropbox. If I need to scan a piece of paper as a PDF, I take a picture of it using Worldscan. It then saves my PDF to Dropbox. It is not hard to find apps that include this feature.

There are also various Dropbox plugins that can add convenient features. For example, DropItToMe lets students or other teachers deposit files into your Dropbox without having actual access to any of the folders, and SendToDropbox allows students to email you assignments (documents, videos, pictures, Keynote presentations, whatever) and their submission will be put directly into a Dropbox folder. Cool stuff.

There are two other apps I want to point out that make using Dropbox a bit more convenient on an iPad. The first is CloudOn, which is available for free. CloudOn lets you link your Dropbox (or Skydrive, Google Drive, or Box.net) accounts and then edit the original files directly from your iPad.

A list of cloud service I currently have linked to CloudOn. Browsing files is super easy.

This is beneficial because using the normal Dropbox app only allows you to view your files or open copies of them into another app. That means if you load a Word document in Pages and then edit it, the original copy in your Dropbox or on your home computer will remain unchanged. With CloudOn, you edit the original directly and the changes sync across all your devices.

An example of how editing a Word document looks in CloudOn.

But what about documents or presentations that you make in iWorks (Pages, Keynote, and Numbers) on your iPad? Regrettably, Apple does not currently allow you to save these documents directly to Dropbox. You need to use a little workaround to give yourself that option.

That workaround is called iSMEStorage ($4.99). First, install this app, set up an account, and link it to your Dropbox (and Skydrive, Google Drive, etc).

Next, go into Pages, Keynote, or Numbers, click the wrench in the top right corner, and hit “Share and Print”. It should bring a menu that looks like this:

Apple should make this feature standard without the workaround...

If you click “Copy to WebDAV”, you can then input the following address (and your iSMEStorage account name and password): https://webdav.storagemadeeasy.com (more info here).

You can now browse your Dropbox folders and save copies of your iWorks documents directly into the Dropbox. You can also open them via the WebDAV, but that is less critical.

 

Other cloud storage services and apps are also useful, including SkyDrive, Box.net, and Google Drive (remember that some require a PC/Mac install before the app will do any good). I use Dropbox for all my school/work documents and then use SkyDrive for my personal documents and photos. This helps me keep my work and home separate and also spread out the storage requirements across multiple services. But Dropbox is the best and most fully featured of all the options.

 

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17 thoughts on “Apps in the Classroom – Advanced Dropbox for Teachers

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  2. Hey guys, great article. I wanted to let you guys know about a new webapp I just launched that was designed to help teachers integrate Dropbox into their classes. It’s similar to DropItTo.Me but with features designed just for educators. It’s at https://getsubmitbox.com.

    I am a long-time computer programming and technology teacher that always found collecting digital documents a pain, so I decided to make a tool to solve this problem. Hopefully some of your readers will find it useful.

    – Brad

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  6. The use of DropBox has always scared me as a way of collecting documents. I’ve been afraid students would delete other students’ files accidently (or on purpose). However, I can see the collaborative features of having a shared folder to peer edit, review other group work, etc. I’m not so keen on having students email me work. As it is, I receive in excess of thirty emails a day; a few by parents or students, but mostly from co-workers or administration. I don’t need 94 students emailing me too!

    I tried Brad’s SubmitBox. IT IS AWESOME! If you are wanting to collect HW online and you are not using an LMS, this is the way to do it!!! Best of all, students can submit work on an iPad using programs like, iUploader. The teacher can post the assignment template or directions through the web program too. Best of all, SubmitBox creates the student folders under the class assignments. You have to try it…review it…and make suggestions to help improve. It is certainly worth every teacher’s time if they are interested in easily collecting and correcting online submissions.

    –Anthony

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