Dropbox

I’m sure many of you are aware of Dropbox, so I’m not really going to spend much time explaining how to set it up, but I really felt that I needed to include a quick post extolling it’s many virtues in order to slot it into my Top 5 #edtech tools!  If you’d like to sign up for Dropbox, then head on over to Dropbox.com.

If you want a full run down on how to use Dropbox, from the simple to the very advanced, then I suggest that you head over to The Ultimate Dropbox Toolkit & Guide.

If you’re not already using Dropbox for your #edtech life here are some reasons I suggest you investigate it!

  • Great way to have access to all your files from any computer at school, home, and your mobile devices.
  • Host your own class website (I use mac iWeb to create my site, and Dropbox to host it.  You can check out my G7 Maths page here if you like)
  • Keep important documents synced to your phone or iPad for easy access.  I keep my daily schedule as a PDF synced and ready to go!
  • Use it with a PDF annotator on your iPad to grade student work and send it back.
  • Share files by sending simple links rather than attaching files.  This is great for sharing files too large to email.
  • Use sendtodropbox.com to create a virtual inbox that students can submit attachments to via email.
  • Syncing just about anything you can think of!  The Ultimate Dropbox Toolkit & Guide has a ton of ideas.

 

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Posterous: Class blog with no logins!

I have 2 rules for using technology in my classroom:

  1. send students to as few external sites as possible, and
  2. no new usernames and passwords!

That’s why I love embedding so much.  However, what are you supposed to do when you want students to share blog posts and comment?  Surely you must need to have them sign up to a blog service?  No longer!  Posterous steps in and fills this void nicely with a simple, but elegant solution that allows users to manage a blog that others can post to via email.  As a teacher, you can manage what Posterous calls a Space, and invite students via email to post blog entries.  Students simply send an email to a simple email (yourblogtitle@posterous.com).  Students can even include pictures and videos in their posts which will show up on the post.

To get started, head over to Posterous.com, where you will be asked to sign up.

Once you have created a login, you will see the following menu on the left side of the screen.  Select MANAGE SPACES.

This will bring up a list of all of your spaces, and on the right hand side you will see the option to create a new space.  You can choose to create Public Spaces that are open for everyone to see, or Private Spaces.  Private spaces will even allow you to password protect your site should you choose to.

When you create your site you will give it a name, and it will then create a suitable URL.  Your URL will be linked to the email students will use to post, so you may want to keep it as simple and easy to remember as possible.  You can always change the URL later through the setting menu though.

Once you have create a space, you might want to fiddle around with the settings.  If you select manage spaces you should get a screen that allows you to change the basic settings.  There are about 40 different themes to choose from, and you can select the options you want for posting and comments.  If you are setting this up as a student blog, then I suggest that you have CONTRIBUTORS CAN POST, and ANYONE CAN COMMENT selected.  MAKE SURE you have checked the  MANAGE COMMENTS tick box though to prevent spam and any other outside sources commenting on your class blog.

After you have set up your Space, you can invite students, parents, teachers, etc to post to your blog.  Click on the MANAGE MEMBERS tab on the right side of the page.

You will be asked to ADD PEOPLE TO YOUR SITE.  Simply copy/paste in your students emails, and select the CONTRIBUTORS tab.  I might suggest adding parents as FOLLOWERS so that they can see their student’s work, but not interfere in the discussion.

Students will receive an email, and be able to start posting via email immediately!

If you’d like, you can go to my G7 Math blog, where I have a specific post for my students explaining how to post using email.  (NOTE: This site will be up and running Term 2, so currently there are no student posts!  They’ll be there around mid-January if you’d like to check back then).

I have successfully posted from Gmail, my iPhone with a photo attached, and my iPad with a video attached.  My class webpage simply has a link to the blog, so students still only need one website, and one login (their emails).

If your not interested in starting a class blog without logins, but want students to make some simple webpages, you might want to check out my recent post on CHECK THIS.

CheckThis: Student websites without a login.

Have you ever wanted to have students create a website, but either a) students did not have accounts on an appropriate hosting site (i.e. wordpress, blogger, google sites, wikispaces, etc), or b) you don’t want students to waste time on complex coding or layout?  If so, then CheckThis.com might be what you’re looking for.

This site is a simple tool for creating websites for quick feedback, but without the hassle of having to log in.  It’s as simple as heading over to CheckThis.com and clicking the Start a page now tab.

You or your students will be directed to a blank slate ready to insert information and links quickly.  Add a title, and then select one of the green tab options to insert text, a link, or a video.  Unfortunately there is no content uploading feature, so images and videos need to be hosted on Flickr or YouTube rather directly on the page.

Once you have inserted your content, then in the top right corner of the page you can select from a few options before publishing.

Selecting the Settings Gear will allow you to mark the page public/private/hidden, as well as how long the page will last.  This second feature is great for concerns of privacy.  Students work can be marked Hidden and to expire in One Week.  This will give you time to assess the information, but greatly reduce the chances of someone maliciously finding your students.  This combined with the anonymous nature of publishing provides parameters for strong protection of students that other publishing platforms cannot provide.

The Paint Drop will bring up various Appearance options such as the background image and basic color selections.  This will allow you to customize your page, but not provide so many distractions for students needing to quickly publish their information.

When the page is completed, selecting the Publish option will allow students to publish their site without a sign-in or opt to use Twitter, Facebook, or Google to save their work.  If work is published without a sign in, a link is given to bookmark for future editing if modifications are needed.

Suggested Student Uses:

  • Quick 1-2 period websites to present research
  • Share group brainstorms with the rest of class
  • Create a website instead of a report and include video and images

Suggested Teacher Uses:

  • Create quick web portals for various learning topics
  • Create quizzes that will expire in one week
  • Make a simple class website