Tag Archives: DropBox

5 Great Tech Tools to Prep for the School Year

It’s the end of July and the school year is just around the corner (T-minus 19 days for me). Here are some great apps to help you organize in preparation of the school year.


Courtesy of Pixabay

Courtesy of Pixabay

Evernote (Free & Paid) – A great tool to organize your lessons, resources, notes, to do lists, and more. Evernote is a highly versatile tool for organizing your life.

Google Calendar (Free) – If you have a Google Account, you can easily create a Google Calendar. With calendar you can organize your personal and professional life, create shared calendars for collaborative projects, and keep specialized calendars for your classes.

Socrative (Free) – Build great bell ringer activities and exit tickets with this student response system. With the release of Socrative 2 has come a series of robust upgrades including Google Drive integration, Common Core tagging, individual student reports, and so much more.

ShopSavvy (Free) –  A barcode and QR code scanner, ShopSavvy allows you to scan the barcode of an item in store and will return price checks of stores in the area as well as online deals. This is a great way to hunt down back to school deals!

Genius Scan (Free & Paid) – This is my favorite camera scanner app. If you are looking to digitize your handouts or reading lists, this tool will allow you to create digital documents (PDF, JPEG, etc) using only your camera and then transfer documents via email, DropBox, Google Drive, Evernote, and more.

There are a lot more tools out there that can help you organize and prep for the school year. However, don’t forget the most vital element in gearing up for Fall – rest up and recharge!

How to Use iPads for Personal Professional Development

This article is reblogged from my post on Edudemic.

This post is adapted from a talk that I gave at the iPad Summit in Atlanta. The Boston iPad Summit 2013 is now accepting proposals and offers discounts for early bird registration!

As an educator, when I am given a new tool my first thought is “how can I use this in the classroom? How will I roll this out?” However, I have learned over the years that I need to pause, step back, and think, “Okay, how is this tool going to make my life and job easier? How can I use iPad to make me a better teacher?” Before I rush ahead with how I am going to roll out this device in my classrooms, I need to effectively incorporate it into my life and figure out how to use iPads to make me a better teacher.

iPad for Consumption


It is true that iPad is a great device for consumption. You can easily use your iPad to listen to pertinent podcasts, read news and blog articles, and share what you have learned with the broader educational community. Here are some ways that I use my iPad for consumption professionally.


Podcasts are simply online radio shows. Some are broadcast by professional organizations (likeNPR or Harvard University), whereas others are created by individuals with a particular passion and/or expertise (like Mobile Reach, hosted by educators). Browsing the Apple iTunes Store or using the Podcasting App, you can easily find shows that relate to your professional interests and needs. You can listen at your leisure, pause, fast-forward, rewind, and share! I even assembled a brief list of great Podcasts for Educators to help get you started.

News Readers

News Readers (commonly called RSS feeds) allow you to keep up with your favorite news sites, blogs, and more. They’re pretty easy to navigate and allow you to browse all of your content in one place. With the recent death of Google Reader (I am still in mourning), there are a lot of services that have popped up to fill the void. They’re also free! Try out Feedly or, for a magazine-type interface, Flipboard. By using an RSS service, you don’t have to keep up with a hundred bookmarks or subscribe to numerous email lists. Instead, you have one single way to access a lot of different sources. Better yet, you can share these with your PLN (Facebook, Twitter, and other Social Media tools are built right in)! Here’s a brief list of blogs/news sources for educators to help get you started.

Social Media/PLN

In a previous article, I wrote about how to kickstart your PLN this summer. Social Media mobile apps for iPad are sleek, intuitive, and often integrated with many of your other apps (like your RSS Reader). Building and sharing with your PLN on iPad is simpler than you can imagine. Download your favorite tools (TwitterFacebook, and others) to get started. This is a great way to keep in communication with your PLN on the go.

Self Directed Learning

There is a lot of content out there to help you learn about new tools and techniques. I love to use the new YouTube app  to watch videos that I need for my professional learning. I may want to explore a new iMovie technique, learn about the new Evernote tools, or watch a great webinar. Here’s a great, short list of YouTube Channels for educators that can help you get started.

iPad for Curation

ipad free online course

The next key step is learning how to store, organize, and access content and material on your iPad. As iPad is highly portable, it is more reliant on cloud computing and sharing than other devices. There are numerous tools out there that you can use to help keep yourself organized on the go. The benefit of learning how to use these tools is that you can then turn around and implement them in the classroom – helping you to go paperless (or less paper-y), integrate digital tools, or roll out digital programs. Here are a few of my favorites:


I use Evernote to store so many things in my personal and professional life. You can literally store anything in its databases: documents, images, websites, videos, lists, and more. In fact, I wrote a brief article on using Evernote to help myself and my students stay organized. Also, Evernote works across platforms and devices, so I can access the notes on my iPad on my phone, at school, or at home!


DropBox is another great (and free) cloud computing tool. You can use DropBox to access and edit files across devices and platforms. Throw a presentation in your Dropbox folder at school, take it on your iPad to edit, and then present it on a third device (with your changes in tact). It’s highly versatile (and free). Check out some great ideas for employing DropBox in the classroom.

Google Drive

Google Drive is also a great collaborative tool, allowing you to share and edit documents with an individual or a group. You can use the Google Drive iPad App to create, edit, and share documents on your iPad. Like DropBox, items stored in your Google Drive can be access from any device and across platforms. This is great for me as I’m always on the go!

PDF Editors

PDF really is the format for iPad. With the myriad of PDF editors available for iPad (iAnnotate,PDF ExpertGood Reader, to name a few), you can take virtually any document and make notes, highlight, add voice notes, and more. By the way, all of these services also work with Evernote, DropBox, and Google Drive! You can easily access a document, write up comments, save changes, and share with others. When I first got my iPad, I tried to go as paperless as possible and would import handouts as PDFs so that I could keep and write notes on my portable device.

iPad for Creation

ipads in classrooms

iPad is not simply a consumption tool, it’s a powerful mobile creation device. Before assigning creative projects for your students, start playing with those tools yourself! Once you see how easy it is to be creative on iPad, I know you’ll be eager to adapt it in your classroom. There are many ways to flex your creative muscle on the iPad.

Make a movie

Film creation has a myriad of potential applications (documentaries, sharing experiments, observing a monologue, and more). There are numerous ways to make a movie on iPad, but my favorite tool remains iMovie. Try it out yourself – record a home video for yourself, a lesson for your students, put together a digital story, and more.

Record a podcast

Garage Band will let you record and manipulate sound more easily than you can imagine. Try recording a short podcast, something you could share with your students (such as a lesson when you’re out of town)! If you’re musically creative, write a brief song about a topic you cover in class. It’s a highly flexible and easily learned tool.

Make just about… anything

One of my favorite tools is Explain Everything. It gives you a truly “blank slate,” to createscreencasts, videos, images, sounds, and more. If you want to see some great ways that Explain Everything has been adapted in the classroom, check out Greg Kulowiec’s article, “Explain Everything x 4 Ways.” Throw together a screencast of one of your lessons, a step-by-step process for a science experiment, or anything else that is relevant for your class! You really are only limited by your imagination.

At the end of the day, I want to encourage you to explore how iPad can work for you before you rush to employ it in the classroom. Getting more familiar with hardware and software will ultimately help you to employ these tools more effectively in your classroom!

If you would like to learn more about the creative potential of the iPad, check out EdTechTeacher’s iPad As… page as well as their free webinars that cover tools, tricks, pedagogy and application! You can also take their free online course at Modern Lessons –5 Powerful But Little-Known Ways To Use Your Apple iPad.

Collaborate Online – Conference, Write Notes, Share Docs, Sketch, & Record for Free

logoLMShadowLive Minutes allows users from all over the world to collaborate using computers or tablets. Your interactive conference calls (via Skype or in the US even a mobile or landline phone) allow you to write notes, share documents, sketch out ideas, and the whole process is recorded for later review with up to 9 participants. You can even store and share with Evernote or DropBox. Better yet, it’s actually free! This is a great tool for students to collaborate with one another outside of the school day or teachers to meet with students virtually.

Using DropBox in the Classroom

This is a reblog of my post at PLP Voices

Dropbox: A Superb Classroom Tool

Posted by  on Aug 10, 2012 in The How of 21st Century TeachingVoicesWeb Tools That Deepen Learning | 26 comments

When I mention Dropbox to friends and colleagues, I usually get one of two responses – a knowing smile and nod, or a puzzled and quizzical look. Whether you know what the program is, you have likely heard the name. But really, what is Dropbox?

Dropbox is many things — a multifaceted tool that’s so powerful, you’ll continue to discover new ways to use it. But the short and sweet of it is this: you can use it to store and sync documents and files across computers, tablets, and smart phones. I can write a lecture or lesson plan on my computer at home, put it in my Dropbox folder, and whoosh – it’s synced with my work computer. During my free period at school, I can open that file, make a few changes, and the changes are automatically synced with my home computer. It’s seamless, fast and free. Watch this and then read on to learn some of the ways I’m putting Dropbox to work in my classroom.

How Dropbox works

So, how can you use Dropbox as an educator? There are many ways that you can do this. One is to just manage your own material and make it more readily accessible. My PowerPoint presentations are very image intensive and quickly get over 20MB – not an emailable size (my server limits email space to 5MB). Rushing around in the morning, it’s easy to forgot to copy the new version of a big file onto my flash-drive. By keeping my lectures and other school materials on Dropbox, I always have access to the most recent changes.

Additionally, many applications that you likely use (Evernote, Things, 1Password, Elements, to name a few) have a Dropbox sync option. Check your favorite applications to see if they have a “save to Dropbox” feature. Since Dropbox works across platforms and devices, you can use a Mac at home, a PC at work (which I do), a Blackberry phone and an iPad, and you will have access to your documents on *all* of them (there are also Dropbox apps for iPhone, Android and Linux). Thanks to Dropbox’s syncing magic, your documents will be up to date at all timeson all devices.

Using Dropbox with students

In addition to making your life a lot easier, Dropbox can be a great teaching/learning tool – and this is why I introduce it to my students. The first thing to do is to create a sharing folder for each class you teach so you can make information available to your students (PowerPoints, hand-outs, reading assignments, whatever).

You can call this folder anything. For my history classes, I usually use the word “share” and create folders with names like “Ancient History Share.” When you go to your Dropbox page on the web, this screenshot gives you some idea of what you will see.

Next step: Put your mouse over the folder and click on the arrow to the right – a drop-down menu will appear. Select “Invite to Folder.”

Next, you will get the window shown below. Input the email addresses of your students (this will also invite them to join Dropbox, giving you and them the free 250MB). You can also input a message like: “Accept this invitation to have access to our course materials.”

Once you have invited students, this becomes a “Shared Folder.” Whoever has access to this folder (everyone who has been invited and accepted the invitation) can add files, download content, and (whether you like it or not) delete content. However, only *you* (as the owner of the folder) can delete or edit out content permanently. If you want to check and see if there have been any inappropriate changes, click on the folder in Dropbox and then click on “Show Deleted Files.”

As the owner of this Dropbox account, you’ll be able to see what was deleted, when, and by whom. You can restore any deleted file or (if a student modified it) revert to an earlier version. I try to upload only locked PDF files to prevent students from accidentally altering content.

How do I employ Dropbox in my classroom?

I use Dropbox in a number of ways. Here are several:

  • To store additional copies of hand-outs. Students know to re-download and print on their own here if they missed a hand-out due to an absence or simply lost it (no one ever asks me for another copy).
  • To distribute PowerPoint presentations – most are too large for email.
  • As a way for students to turn in homework assignments. It’s an easy electronic homework drop (compared to email) and will time stamp submissions.

Dropbox can also be a useful tool in managing student projects and presentations. In my classes students use Dropbox to submit the visual components of class presentations, for instance. It’s a huge time saver, as it otherwise takes several minutes for students to log in/out of their school accounts to access presentations. If you don’t have individual accounts, you’ll quickly find ways to let Dropbox help you work around that issue.

With Dropbox, I also can visually determine that students have completed a particular portion of a project or presentation assignment. Best of all, since all presentations are “turned in” to same same virtual place, every student can access his or her presentation via one log-in (a huge time saver when you’re trying to get through many presentations in a single 50-minute class).

Students catch on quickly

I began using Dropbox during the first weeks of school. By the end of the school year, I noticed that more and more students were using Dropbox on their own. They would store homework assignments there for easy access (many of my students have at least two homes, rotating between parents, and also need quick access to material while in school. Synching makes keeping up simple).

Students can use Dropbox on their phones to review handouts (rather than a print-out, ultimately saving paper). And many of them have begun to sync their files across multiple computers outside of school. A few have even demonstrated Dropbox’s features to their parents.

This isn’t a program you will have to teach your students to use. Don’t be surprised if in a few weeks, they’re showing you some tricks you haven’t even considered. That’s something I always encourage. (Any student who can show me a new ed-tech trick gets 5 points of extra credit.)

Dropbox is more of a mega-utility than a simple tool. It begs you to think up new ways to use it, in and out of the classroom. If you download a free copy of Dropbox via this link, you’ll get an extra 250mb of storage space for free. Install it on your computers and any other compatible devices. Play with it and see what it has to offer!

Teaching Students to Use Technology to stay Organized & Study – a Case Study

This past weekend my school, Trinity Valley, gave me the opportunity to teach a one day Saturday enrichment course for students that focused on using technology to help them stay organized, manage their materials, and take their work on the go. The course was entirely voluntary and students could attend portions of the day. I organized it into three sections:

9-11 Organization

11-1 Study Skills & Tools

1-3 Mobile Tools, taking it on the go!

I was pleasantly surprised about the interest. I had 19 students sign up for the class and ultimately 16 attended. Additionally, there was a sports conflict. I had numerous students message me asking for a second offering as they could not attend. Interest was high (especially as there was no extra credit or mandatory attendance).

I built a Google Site (that you can see here) for the course, telling students the programs that I would be using and requesting that they sign up for accounts and download applications in advance.

Many of the programs had some overlap for organization and study. Largely, I wanted students to get familiar with a variety of powerful tools and then choose one or two that they could then focus on and, hopefully, implement in their own studies and daily life.

Applications I Highlighted

install_graphic-vflx6Z89XDropBox –  It is an excellent cloud storage program that you can use to sync content across devices and platforms. If you would like more information on DropBox, see:

Evernote – Evernote is a program that will allow you to ‘remember everything,’ – you can input notes by hand, pictures, voice notes, to do lists, clips from websites, and more. Evernote syncs logoacross platforms and devices. For more information on Evernote, see:

imagesGoogle Calendar – A free calendar resources that allows you to sync across platforms, collaborative calendar, set reminders (that will even pop up on your cell phones), and more. For help on how to get started on Google Calendar, see:

unnamedGoogle Drive – Incorporating Google Docs as well as 5GB of free Cloud storage, create and collaborate on documents, spreadsheets, and more. To learn more about using Google Drive, see:

MindMeister – MindMeister is a collaborative, online mind mapping tool that has recently been merged with Google Drive! It is one of my favorite classroom tools. To learn more about MindMeister, see:

In addition to these specific tools, I discussed other mobile options for students to use on their Smart Phones or Tablets such as Electronic Student Planners and Smart Phone Document Scanners as well as Flash Card makers. All of these tools can help to further empower your Smart Phone as a truly comprehensive and malleable computing device.

The Scavenger Hunt

To help students learn about each of these programs, I devised an interactive scavenger hunt. The winner of which would get a prize (iTunes card, Evernote Premium Subscription, etc). If you are interested in looking at those further, I will post them below.

DropBox Scavenger Hunt

Evernote Scavenger Hunt

Calendar Scavenger Hunt

Google Drive Scavenger Hunt

MindMeister Scavenger Hunt

What I Will Change Going Forward (aka – What Did I Learn?)

The first thing that I learned is that six straight hours of work shop teaching is way too much! I think that if I offer the course again, I will limit it to four hours. The mobile element can really be incorporated into the rest of the lessons and doesn’t need its own unit.

Also, it is important to remember that software doesn’t operate in the same way on all of the same platforms. Some of the instructions I gave were not applicable on an iPad or accessible at all on a Microsoft Surface. While it likely is not feasible to be able to prepare a separate lesson for each device, it’s important to realize that a student will not be able to use all of the features on every device.

All in all, I think that the program was a success and I would love to offer it again applying what I learned the first time around.

Preparing & Supporting the iPad Teacher – Tom Daccord

The last talk of the day was entitled: “Preparing & Supporting the iPad Teacher” with Tom Daccord. The focus of the discussion is how to prepare and support iPad teachers in the classroom. He stated that the talk is an adaptation of the article he wrote for Edudemic: “5 Critical Mistakes Schools Make with iPads and how to Correct Them.”

There’s NOT an app for that!

Faculty, staff, students, and parents need to be on board with the goal and the objectives of the iPad program. You need to deliver a compelling and concise message to your community.

iPads are not about content specific applications. Rather, it’s about using the available tools to meet your teaching objectives. EdTech Teacher has a great list of apps for the iPad to meet your various, specific objectives and goals. “What is it that you want to be able to do?” You must identify your learning objectives and then select the tool appropriate for those activities.

Failure is Mandatory

Teachers can, will, and should fail. Exploring and learning by doing is far more effective than disseminating knowledge. Experimenting and experiencing is far more powerful than instruction. Overcoming fear and discomfort leads to growth. With technology, you learn from doing!

©EdTechTeacher, talk by Tom Daccord

iBooks vs. ePub vs. PDF

PDF is the best generic format for all platforms – especially the iPad. You can convert documents to PDFs using a variety of tools – even online with sites like PrintFriendly.com.

PDF’s are especially useful in notation – there are numerous applications out there for annotating PDF (I personally love iAnnotate at $9.99 it’s a bit pricy, Notability is a cheaper alternative).

iPad as a Response System

©EdTechTeacher, talk by Thomas Daccord

Another way to use the iPad is as an instant response system.

You can use your iPad for class polling or quizzing and Thomas highlights the easy tools of Poll Everywhere and Socrative. These free software tools can be useful for gauging the pulse of your classroom, a pop quiz, or a back channel.

The American educational system allows teachers great latitude – it is open to innovation. However, we do not have a clearly understood or concise definition of technological integration. We do not know what it is or understand it.

If we are going to integrate iPads into our classrooms, we need to have an objective mission.

We should also keep in mind that the iPad is a powerful tool for creativity. I, personally, believe that children need to create. Creation is a powerful tool in education and one that is oft overlooked. However, creativity is essential in education, critical thinking, and problem solving.

After we have determined the why, educators need to approach – HOW? How do students submit work for assessment? What does this look like in a 1:1 program vs a shared cart format? There are many tools educators can use, Evernote, DropBox, and Google Drive are the most popular. However, these solutions are not always straight forward (especially in shared environment).

If administrators are going to support their educators, they need to be prepared to provide the framework, training, and administrative support to make these programs successful. It cannot be just “add iPads and stir.”

The iPad Classroom – The Cloud

Another element highlighted in this conference is the value and usability of “the cloud.” Cloud computing alongs syncing and/or sharing across devices and platforms. Some of the most popular programs are DropBox, Evernote, and Google Drive.

Cloud computing makes portability and collaboration much easier as you can access and share information “on the go.” Our presenter cautioned, however, against using cloud computing elements on shared devices as this can cause security risks.

Still, cloud computing programs allow students to share and submit materials to their instructor instantaneously. Some cloud programs permit collaboration. Google Drive is the most famous example, which will allow individuals to collaborate and co-edit the same document. This is a great tool for revisions and edits. I have written extensively about using DropBox in the classroom in an article featured at KQED Mindshift and Voices from the Learning Revolution. I use it as a tool for distributing content to my students as well as for them to submit large, digital projects to me.

For schools more interested in sustainability and conservation, cloud computing can help schools to achieve a goal of going paperless.