Tuesday, January 15

Use Dropbox & Never Email Yourself Again

Scenario #1: It’s late in the day and you've just finalized your PowerPoint presentation that needs to be emailed to your department head ASAP (or sooner). With minutes to spare, you attach your PowerPoint file to your email and with a big sigh of relief, you hit the Send button. But your relief quickly turns to fear as you get a message that politely informs you that you have exceeded your space allocation.

Scenario #2: Your students have been working on a technology-enriched project involving numerous electronic files (Excel, PowerPoint, Photoshop etc.) that need to be assessed.  Your students (all 25 of them) start emailing you their work (files) which for you, turns into an organizational nightmare. In addition, several students can’t send you all their files because they have exceeded their email space allocation and of course, you will eventually exceed your space allocation as well.
Scenario #3: You had planned to stay home all weekend to work on an important report that is due Monday morning. The files that you need to reference are all resident on your laptop – you’re ready to write a report that will even impress your boss’s boss. However, your best friend just invited you to an all-expenses-paid, fun-in-the-sun weekend at a famous resort – flight included. Not to worry says your friend; you’ll be home early enough. Mechanical issues find you stranded (with your iPhone, but unfortunately, not with your laptop) at the airport  thinking of how you’ll ever be able to explain all of this to your boss.
Each of these scenarios above could have been averted by using Dropbox. Dropbox is a free service (although you can upgrade for a fee) that easily allows you to move files between computers and to share files (and folders) with other users. You can use the web-based version of Dropbox or you can download the App.  Dropbox can also be used on the iPhone, the iPad, and on Android devices.
Create an account and see how easy it is to use Dropbox!
Dropbox Resources
The Dropbox Tour
Dropbox: A Superb Classroom Tool
Dropbox for Teachers
Top Tips for Using Dropbox at School
Cloud Storage Face-off: Dropbox vs Google Drive vs SkyDrive  
Dropbox vs Google Drive for iOS: Which is Better For iPhone or iPad Users?

Friday, January 4

Student Blogging 101

I’d like to take this opportunity to brag about my students in my Web Design class. Like any proud teacher, I like to show off their work and share their accomplishments with my colleagues and other interested educators. My students are just finishing a unit on blogging and I must say that they’ve all done an outstanding job. Their assignment (which you can find on my class blog) was to create a blog on a topic of their choosing. Students blogged about many interesting topics such as babies and the elderly (a must read), cake, goldfish, track and field, and iguanas.
As an introduction to the unit, students viewed a few short videos about blogging. We then discussed the differences (and similarities) between blogging and more traditional modes of communication such as PowerPoint, essays, newspapers, magazines etc. We also discussed the potential challenges that they might encounter while blogging. For example, students had to become skilled at how to create effective blog posts. An effective blog post, they learned, is developed as a “conversation starter.” Their posts had to be robust with information and written in such a way as to encourage reader comments and effective online dialogue.  

Learning how to respectfully participate in this form of online “conversation” was another challenge that the students had to consider.  Crafting comments (on their classmates’ blogs) that were both positive and valuable to the online-discussion was certainly a challenge that many students had difficulty with initially. However, with more practice, they soon became quite adept at submitting comments that developed into some very interesting (and respectful) online-conversations.  

Another challenge with blogging (as with any other online medium) is that blogs should be designed to be visually appealing. The more “artsy” students had little difficulty with this requirement but some of the other students were a bit more intimidated. Fortunately, with Google Blogger, adding images and color and making use of the pre-set layouts, makes this challenge fairly easy to master.  Using Animoto, students also created their own "videos" about their topic.

Please take some time to visit a few of my students’ blogs (links are listed below). You’ll find them to be creative, informative, witty and interesting. As you view their sites, please think of how you might be able to incorporate blogging into your curriculum. Might an assignment that typically requires your students to write an essay or to create a PowerPoint lend itself well to blogging? Do you have students that struggle with writing assignments? If so, consider blogging. My experience with these students is that they become completely engaged when blogging. They put a lot of effort into researching their topics and developing the content for their posts.  If you’d like to include blogging in your curriculum and would like help doing so, please let me know and I can help you and your class get started.  

Class Blogs 2012-13 Semester 1