I’m on the point of moving schools, and am needing to store the mountain of resources I have created over the last 12 years of teaching. I have got a portable hard drive which does the job nicely but another way of storing certain things that I need instantly wherever I am in the world is to use Dropbox.
Dropbox is an online store which you can also download to your computer and even as an App on the iPhone (I presume other platforms as well, but can’t confirm. It gives you a certain amount of space into which you can easily upload files from your computer or mobile phone, making it therefore much easier to access rather than having to rely on a memory stick or portable hard drive. To start with you have 2GB of space, but you can add to this by inviting other people to join Dropbox, by linking your account with Twitter and Facebook, and various other means. The maximum you can have is 50GB which you have to upgrade our account through paying!
To begin with go to www.dropbox.com and click on ‘Download Dropbox’. Follow the instructions on your screen to download the program onto your computer and in a short time you will have succesfully registered and you will have installed it onto your computer. You will have icons that you can click on to load dropbox, or you can open the website and sign in as well.
When you are on you will have a screen something like this below, with a list of folders in my case that you can add to that you have created, or that other teachers have shared with you. Here is a screenshot of my current dropbox contents:
Twitter users may be interested in the MFLTwitterati folders.These are dropbox folders set up and used by many wonderful MFL teachers across the world. Apart from the Spanish one that I am a member of, there are also French and German MFL Twitterati folders. To join these, you will need to be invited – I am more than happy to invite you to the MFL Twitterati and Twitterati Spanish folders (send me a direct message on twitter to @pedroelprofesor) but ask on twitter for the others using the #mfltwitterati hashtag and someone will oblige – you get extra mb space if you do so people will be keen! If you aren’t on twitter, send me a message via the comment facility on this blog. The folders contain a great deal of resources and ideas and are well worth joining and contributing to.
From your dropbox homepage you can easily create new folders, upload your documents and share files with others. Just have a look through the various icons at the top of the page (Upload, Create New Folder, Share Folder) or use the left hand left buttons (Sharing, Events, Links and Getting Started). It works much like your normal way of navigating through folders, so it should not be difficult to use successfully.
So how can Dropbox be used in the MFL classroom? For me it could be used as an alternative to a VLE. It could be an easier way to share files, exercises, websites, photos and resources with other teachers in the department plus with your classes as well. Giving pupils access to folders would allow them to access things at home, at school and on holiday which could make things easier for them, particularly for revision and due to illness. Edmodo offers a similar system to this with its library options, but Dropbox has the advantage in terms of how it can be used on smartphones and as a download as well, not just online. Similarly pupils could send preps to you in a similar way, and you can collate best efforts for others to learn from. I may well employ Dropbox for just this purpose in my new school, as it will save me a lot of time uploading files to a VLE when there is another alternative .
As a collaborative device, Dropbox has a lot of advantages, though you have to make sure you don’t exceed your memory quota. As a school or department, it could be worth while investing in premium accounts for teachers (though my new school declined my request for this having sent me the staff handbook via dropbox!) Please do ask to join the MFL twitterati dropbox folder as it is a very useful resource in itself.