My love of Dropbox led me to try to use it as a means of sharing work with students and having them submit work to me when we went to a 'required device' program. The premise seemed simple: create some shared folders that would link the students work with my computer and voila we'd be super connected, right?
Problem #1: Folder Overload
I soon realized that the number of shared folders was going to be large. With 40 students that I teach 2 subjects to, it was going to take 80 folders. On top of that I was going to need to name them so that we could both decipher them (ie- Science_Name of Student). Then I had to share each individual folder with the students.
Problem #2: Where's the Final Work?
The next problem I encountered was trying to figure out which file in the students' folders was the final assignment. I was clicking through 40 folders looking for files, and having to have students confirm whether it was Project_Final.doc or Copy Project_Final2.doc. It was taking longer to verify than if I had asked them all to put their work 40 flash drives. Forget about coming back the next day and remembering which file it was! (All this despite being a hardcore file namer, who required proper names. It just overwhelmed me, and I'm able to handle a lot of data at once usually). The solution? Another folder to put final work in . . . see Problem #1!
Problem #3: We've Digitized The Messy Backpack
I can't count the number of times this conversation has occurred:
Me: "Where's Your Work?"
Student: "It's There."
Me: "No It's Not."
Me: "Get out your computer"
Maybe this wouldn't be a problem with Grade 12 students, but oh man, Grade 7 students have HORRIBLE file organization skills. I'm sure they've learned some valuable lessons this year in organizing files, but I have lost days of my life to tracking down the files they are SURE are in the right place, but aren't. If they can't find papers in their bags and lockers, they will not be able to find them on their computer even though there is a search function that should be able to find anything. Anything that is labelled properly that is!
Problem #4: I Moved My Folder
Dropbox is pretty smart about letting you move shared folders around, but it's not perfect. Invariable somebody moves their folder and it gets un-synced, which is a major pain because you often end up re-sharing the folder, which invariable creates a double folder for someone. . . see Problem #3!
Final Thoughts: What's Dropbox Good For?
1. It's great for staying personally organized. Won't be switching anytime soon!
2. It's great for students to "foolproof" their data storage. Students will lose, break, or forget their devices. Those who use dropbox for all their school files are much more able to adapt to unforeseen changes.
3. Sharing files and hosting videos. Students have been able to host their videos via Dropbox and not worry about needing to use YouTube when making websites with Weebly.
4. Accessing files via your mobile device. I love Dropbox because I can access all my files on my smartphone. Students are always amazed when you can bring up a PDF on your phone to show them, and never seem to remember they can do the same!
If you want to share large amounts of files and folders with students and keep it all synced up, then I'd probably suggest Google Docs and really focus on shared folder permissions. That, or at a school level you need to invest in a larger service such as ManageBac (if you're an IB school).