Dropbox: A Powerful synchronization tool

Dropbox is a very useful tool when it comes to managing workload and accessing it via different computers or even via a phone. Files can be text documents, photos, videos, music and even Powerpoint presentations. For instance, Dropbox is an application that is downloaded at www.dropbox.com and that once it is downloaded on every device or computer, it becomes an independent desktop. More precisely, every file is automatically available on every computer and is shared and saved automatically. When creating a new account, Dropbox gives 2 Gig of free store, which is enough to start with for educational purposes. However, for additional storage, there are costs of around 10$ a month or of100 $ a year to consider.

 

As mentioned in this video tutorial on Dropbox (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6tkGSIFsH0 ), one interesting feature to keep track of group work efficiently is that when opening Dropbox, the file on top will always be the most recent one. This is very interesting considering that sometimes with other tools such as Microsoft Word, different documents are saved and they can be easily mixed up with one another when attaching it to an email. With Dropbox, every teammate is absolutely sure of the latest version of the project, which saves time and avoids people to work on the wrong document. In addition, it represents an interesting feature for students who automatically notice that new modification has been done on a certain document because it is at the top of their page. This function is also interesting for teachers who can keep track of assignments that are uploaded on a folder on Dropbox from the most recent one to the less recent one. In other words, Dropbox is effective for organizing documents because both students and teachers are directly directed towards the documents that were last modified, which indirectly sets priorities, as the files on top of the page are the most up to date ones, while files that have been not used for a while do not become an obstacle to finding more recent and pertinent ones.

 

Probably the most important function of Dropbox is that ‘‘Any file you save to Dropbox is automatically synchronized to all your devices–your home computer, your work computer, your phone, and online at dropbox.com. Once you download Dropbox on a device, it syncs with every other device you own. Since it’s saved online, files are backed up automatically.’’ (http://www.billselak.com/2012/dropbox) This synchronization function is a huge advantage for students who are used to sending themselves emails back and forth in order to access documents at home that were created at school, or vice versa. A lot of students were in trouble because they thought they had attached a file to their email, but they had only sent themselves the email without any attached document. In this case, it only creates undesired anxiety. Moreover, Dropbox offers a better solution than the USB key, since the USB key is something that people have to carry all the time with them if they want to access their documents. Therefore, there are risks of losing it and of losing every single document that was on it if it was not backed up on a computer. Again, this creates useless frustration. Dropbox enables students to never lose their documents and to avoid errors of distraction and organization as every file is always synchronized automatically via any device or computer. Dropbox offers students a sense of trustworthiness and accessibility, as files are available everywhere there is an Internet connection.

 

Dropbox is also a great tool for students to hand in assignments directly online and to receive feedback from the teacher. For instance, ‘‘Students […]  can also use it to submit assignments, and store their e-portfolios. Once they finish an assignment, they can share the file with you by sending you a link. The teacher can then read the file, highlight and leave comments on it, and save the annotations for the student to read later’’ (http://www.brighthubeducation.com/teaching-methods-tips/86024-tips-for-using-dropbox-in-schools/).  Correction on hard copies can become quite a big responsibility for teachers as they have to carry all of their students’ assignments with them, especially if they teach more than one group. There is also a risk of losing a students’ copy, which can create a lot of problems. Dropbox also saves time and paper for students, because they only need to share their document with their teacher using their teacher’s email address. In fact, by asking students to download Dropbox at the beginning of the year, teachers can always rely on this tool as a portal for school work, and students will easily become accustomed to it. Finally, individual privacy is respected when using Dropbox, because teachers only send the revised copy to the concerned student, and no other people can access it. It is quite important to respect this convention, even if Dropbox can be used for group work assignments, because it would not be appropriate for students to see their peers’ grades only because it was shared once with them as it happens with Google Doc.

 

When working collaboratively, everyone with whom a document is shared can modify it as much as they want. For this reason, some students can decide to delete something in particular that was not approved by everybody on the team. In fact, Dropbox has a great option to recover deleted data : ‘‘If a file is deleted and you need to recover that particular file, Dropbox keeps it for 30 days. Dropbox also keeps the history of changes to a file so that you are able to undo changes made to the file within 30 days. For those who prefer to keep all of their files, Dropbox has a “pack-rat” option that keeps files for an unlimited amount of time’’ (https://wiki.itap.purdue.edu/display/INSITE/Dropbox). This delay of 30 days is very useful because it allows sufficient time to review what was previously changed and still be able to cancel the deletion. This option can also be of very great use for teachers, because when they share a document with all their students, everyone can modify or delete something in it. Thus, it enables teachers to keep control and keep track of what has been last modified in their document. For example, if they created a file for a collaborative whole-class brainstorming, and that some students erased some ideas that they felt were useless, the teacher can retrieve this data and post it again. Finally, the historic of deleted items helps to keep track of what type of content was deleted in order to be easier to understand why it was actually deleted when discussing it in teams.

All in all, using Dropbox promotes active learning between students with the help of additional articles or reading assignments that go beyond traditional textbooks. In other words, ‘‘Creating assignments that require students to apply real world knowledge and events, involve discussion, and critical thinking about past experiences all contribute to increasing active learning’’ (https://eee.uci.edu/help/dropbox/teaching/). Teachers must take advantage of Dropbox to upload additional content or videos that are directly related to their course material. Students will consider this different approach in learning as interesting and innovative. Discussions can be easily recorded on a written document and saved for every member of a team, and this direct access will encourage collaborative critical thinking as students have the opportunity to modify the document that was shared with them. Once the class is over, students can easily retrieve content that was uploaded in class because teachers can share their document via Dropbox for students to enrich themselves at home. In conclusion, Dropbox promotes personal and collaborative learning that can be applied with the help of innovative projects uploaded on the application and that can be accessed from everywhere where there is Internet connection.

 

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