Tech for Teach

DROPitTOme: a convenient alternative for the “Cloudless” hitchhiker.

Of all the emerging technologies that are revolutionizing the way we approach teaching and learning, which would you say is your number one tool that has the greatest impact on your day-to-day teaching now? Would it be MOOCs? Tablet computing?  Or even the smartphone?  Well, being an iPad fanatic myself, I would be really tempted to choose tablets over any other technology out there.  However, an iPad is only as good at the apps that are installed on it.  And for every model I pick up, the first couple of apps I install are Dropbox and Evernote.  And what do those two apps have in common? – Cloud Computing.  In fact, when I had my iPhone 4s “knicked” at a public square in Phnom Penh this year, not only was it a good excuse to get the iPhone 5, but I realized all I really lost was the hardware (and a touch of pride).  After all, everything I really needed was already “backed up” in some “cloud” somewhere.

Although there are a plethora of cloud services to choose from such as Google Drive, Apple’s iCloud, SugarSync and the more recent Copy, the one API that most apps sync their services to seems to be Dropbox, which is a testament to its popularity if not it’s usefulness.  Even though, I have used Dropbox for what seems like forever, I am still a little surprised to find out that roughly 70% of my students in my university classes in Japan are not even familiar with it.  Inevitably any assignment I receive from a student gets backed up in Dropbox.  In the past semester, I have been taking advantage of creating shared folders with my writing classes.  However, there are those kind of classes where I don’t feel it’s necessary to do that. Yet, there is the odd file the needs to be handed in. For example, in my speaking class each student had to produce a PowerPoint presentation.  I’ll be honest, there is a learning curve with setting up shared folders in Dropbox that I don’t feel is worth going through for just one or two files.  Yet, the alternative method of having students email me the file makes me shudder when I think of all the work that it entails (i.e. weeding out the student’s email from my other mail and then downloading/moving each file to a Dropbox folder.

ImageBelieve it or not (you might want to be sitting down for this one), we finally have a new service called Dropittome (read: Drop-it-to-me) that allows a student to “drop” a file directly into a folder in your Dropbox account.  Getting started: you set up a Dropittome account and authorize it to set up a folder in your Dropbox account. It’s going to be generically labeled “DROPitTOme”. It’s as simple as that and it’s free! (They accept donations). How it works: You create a URL link that you share with someone from whom you want a file.  When that person uses that URL link, they are given an opportunity to upload a file (maximum 75 MB) and they complete the upload with a password that you have created and also shared.  If you act now, you can create a customized URL with your preferred moniker at the end.  I’ve tried it and it is amazing!!! However, having been in the ed-tech biz for some time, I see a couple of problems using this service.  While my students are very adept at using SMS text messaging services such as Line or killing my high score on Candy Crush in record timing, the common sense of labeling files with their own names/student numbers still eludes them. So I can see the odd file being unlabeled properly and I have to track down said student. Still, the advantages of using Dropittome, more than make up for that. Some critics see the 75 MB limit per file as problematic, I don’t.  However,  you will want to pay attention to your cloud storage capacity to make sure there is enough room to accept files. Finally, I think it would be wise to change the password frequently so that you don’t end up singing the Stones “Get off of my cloud” as you deal with unwanted clutter.  As for setting up passwords, I would suggest using one that matches the name of class in question so that it would be easy for all to remember.

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