Screenshot of @topgold's Dropbox Learning Environment from 2008.
I HAVE USED DROPBOX on our creative multimedia curriculum since 2008 and now expect top students to have accounts on that very powerful service even before they start their first semester.
As a service, Dropbox is invaluable. As a social sharing site, Dropbox is essential. As a business skill, Dropbox is essential.
Nowadays, most students have Dropbox mapped to their laptops and they run the app on their Android, iOS, and Windows Phone devices. It’s quick and flexible. It just works.
You don't have to compare features and prices with Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, iSendIt or SkyDrive. You just need to ask friends what they use. In my straw poll, more than 70% of my colleagues have more than six Dropbox folders. Dropbox as a service is well-established.
The internet is our virtual learning environment. Understanding how Dropbox works helps students prepare for the real world. They learn where things actually sit and feel comfortable about some items being on their local drives and other items sitting in the cloud.
I feel like a heretic when I explain to friends that most of my third level material sites in easily accessible Dropbox folders or in shared Evernote folders. I think I'm failing a third level student when I don't have them upload to Dropbox, share on a Google Doc or download a file from Evernote. All of those systems are flexible and each one of those services have proven they're resilient enough to work year after year. That resiliency has translated into faster academic lesson preparation for me.
But there's another big benefit--students who learn to leverage online storage are actually learning to learn. They have to keep straight in their minds where assets sit. They discover how to expose individual URLs of content attached to their courses.
Teachers don't need hands-on training for Dropbox until they start using apps inside Dropbox folders. For those who think they need step-by-step training, there are scores of lovely videos and blog posts about how to get the most out of shared online folders.
I know why we have virtual K and R drives where I work. But I also know the materials in those locations are more likely to be locked down or deleted by normal housekeeping than the carefully curated files I have in my personal online storage. I also know that I cannot get direct web access to many of those local network assets. So I've become a traveling citizen with my own personal online storage folders and feel much more empowered by it.
[Bernie Goldbach teaches creative multimedia for the Limerick School of Art & Design.]