A (drop)box of tricks
Monday, April 12th, 2010 | Author:

How many memory sticks do you own? I’ve got about 6 and I’d say they have all been used regularly. My first was 128mb and I got it in my first year at Uni and loved it, I then gradually went up in size and my current 8gb has been used constantly for about 2 1/2 years. Well…until now. Now it sits on my desk as I have a new way of storing files instead. Dropbox.

Have you tried it? It’s fantastic. You sign up to a free account for 2gb of storage which is plenty for most people unless you start using pictures in bulk or videos. Once signed up, you install it on your PC/laptop etc and link the machine to your account. Dropbox will then synchronise the files on all machines. This is great for me, I have some files stored in my Dropbox and I can access them from my PC in the study, my laptop while watching football or if I am in a random school doing some training, I can also access them online from Dropbox.com – I used it at BETT for my presentation instead of taking/remembering my memory stick.

So far, so Google. With Google Docs I can access files from anywhere, so what’s the difference?

With Google, I’d have to log in, upload my file to Google and then work on it. If I want it to be a .doc or .xls then I’d need to export it. With Dropbox, you have 1 folder within Windows that works like a normal folder and you just drag files to it, save them in there or just right-click and add new doc/xls/ppt or whatever. Like I said, it behaves as a normal Windows folder which is great for beginners. There isn’t the collaboration of Google Docs, but I don’t always want to collaborate, sometimes I just want to have access to certain files wherever I am.

For me, the best part of Dropbox is the Public folder. I make a lot of ‘How-to’ guides for our VLE. I have a lot of them stored in my Public Dropbox folder. I can create the guide, get a URL for the file and put this into our VLE or share it with people. If I then change the document, the URL remains the same and I don’t need to keep uploading the new guide with every update. Very useful for me at the moment!

Ok…so it’s cool, but what could schools use it for? How about planning? What if there were a number of teachers in the same school/year group that all used the same Dropbox account. They could then access the planning docs for that term on their laptops, in the suite or wherever they wanted. They can all add their planning when they are ready. I don’t know about you, but I used to get to school after a weekend or evening of planning, then upload the documents into the shared drive and have to tell most people where they were (despite a sensible folder structure). With Dropbox, they wouldn’t have to wait until Monday morning. Most schools I know can’t access their server remotely, so why not store the useful stuff like planning on Dropbox?

With the above example, Google Docs would be the ideal, but most schools are not at this stage yet, so Dropbox could be a small step before the large leap into the Cloud! In Hampshire we enter the Cloud in a big way from September 2010, but I’m not sure how many schools will be ready for this, but that is another blog post.

So why not give Dropbox a go? If you sign-up using this link, we will both get an extra 250mb of space on our accounts. If you already use Dropbox, please leave a comment below so others can see the benefit. Or…do you use a different/better system? Let me know!

NB – If you are in a Hampshire school, we have tested Dropbox on an Edict and an Agile system and it will work, but you may need to contact Edict or your provider for a bit of help setting it up to go through the proxy servers etc.

Just out of interest, 50GB on Dropbox is £6.50 a month. a 16gb Memory Stick is £20 (www.7dayshop.com)