Using Dropbox in the Classroom [App Review]

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Dropbox is one of those apps that mean different things to different people. In this case it refers to a free service on iOS 4.0 and higher devices that allows people to trade different types of files. It lets users dump photos, documents and videos into the same repository that’s accessible from the Dropbox site. That means that desktop and mobile device users can interface with the same storage area and not have a single problem. Facebook, AirPrint, and Twitter users can also interface their accounts with the Dropbox app.

While this is all well and good for social networking users, the real power of Dropbox comes into play in the classroom. Students can use the program to securely submit assignments to their instructors. While they could also just use email, Dropbox provides a level of security and reliability that few email services can offer. Teachers could place lectures, videos and other objects in a Dropbox storage area. Students could then follow these lesson plans at their leisure.

Online distance learning is becoming a major industry. Virtual classrooms are usually built around complex software packages. This provides a platform that doesn’t have any real system requirements. Teachers could use the app on a regular Apple mobile device and students can access the classroom from whatever device they choose. Web interfaces are extremely flexible.

Students could theoretically write discussion posts and place them into a Dropbox folder that other students could view. Of course, one could just as easily set up a private folder for handing in tests. The software is easy to use, so training students shouldn’t cut into instructional time. Best of all, the Dropbox app doesn’t cost anything.

While the Dropbox service has paid service plans available, the basic service is free to use and that means that cash-strapped educators shouldn’t have any problem adding it to their phones. Since it can take a long time to rebuild lesson plans, some teachers might want to consider backing up their documents to the storage system as well. One could essentially use a private folder as a free offsite data backup service.

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