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Stay late at work? Always wish there was a bit more time to put together lesson plans at school? Try to take those plans home to hopefully finish them, only to realize you left the portable USB thumb drive back in the classroom? Worse yet, have you ever lost a boat load of plans after your shows you the "blue screen of death?" Feel a bit disorganized and just wish there was something like a personal electronic filing cabinet? Then Dropbox might be the best program teachers are not yet using.
What is Dropbox? Essentially the program is a "cloud program," or a flash drive that travels with you everywhere. One can download the program from the company website and then add an icon to any computer desktop(s). Yes, one can use Dropbox on both my home and school computer. There's also an app to download to your smart phone or your portable tablets. Lastly, if your personal computers or devices aren't handy at the moment, anyone can login to the company website to access personal files.
How might a teacher use Dropbox? Well, I personally use my Dropbox solely for my teacher-related documents. On there I have a copy of my curriculum for 7th grade social studies, ready to be tweaked at a minute's notice - whether from my school computer, personal computer, or my iPhone. This is perfect for those midnight "ah-ha" moments that everyone of us occasionally wakes to. Now you can just login and change what needs to be changed.
On another note, teachers can share their files with one another. This is much like Google Docs, but a very cleaner sharing of documents. Once a folder is shared, teachers can collaborate on things together and be alerted when they change (a bubble pops up in the system tray bar at the bottom right corner of the screen). Students can also submit essays and homework on your Dropbox.
That sounds nice, but what's the catch? There really is no catch. Buy signing up, people score 2 GB of free space, which I've found to be about the perfect amount of space needed to house my .PDF, Word, PowerPoint, Excel, SmartBoard, and other files for my classroom. Once one reaches the limit, however, that's it.
What, it's free? While there will always be the old adage that "nothing's ever free," Dropbox is free. However, if you run out of space, there's another option. The next choice is to purchase the larger 100 GB package, which is $99 for the year - still a reasonable fee.
What's with the whole invite portion? People earn 500 MB for each person that is invited and uses Dropbox themselves. The more users that join, the larger the free Dropbox size increases to (up to 16GB). As one can ascertain, having a a class of 30 students use the teacher as a reference, that teacher will quickly soar to the maximum free size of 16 GB.
Does Dropbox offer better plans for educators - like Prezi? Not at the moment, but it's something I've contact the company in regards to doing. I think it would be great to have those 16 GB of free space just because of our profession.
Are there any security / privacy issues? Not at the moment. While the NSA has begun discussions of targeting Dropbox for its controversial PRISM program, the password protected site is being promoted as a very secure one.
How do I sign up? Go to their website - https://www.dropbox.com/
Now do you use dropbox in your classroom?
Editor's Note: This essay are the complete and fair comments of the journalist, and he and his opinions have no connection to this web service.