I heard about Drop.io last year and immediately thought of a dozen ways to use it in my personal life. In fact, it just came in handy when I needed to get a huge slideshow to a friend for use in his wedding. However, the more I thought about it the more I realized just how useful a tool Drop.io could be in my classroom.
First let me back-up a few months… Sometime last Spring I read a blog (I am SO sorry I don’t remember the blogger’s name) whereby the author/teacher discusses her idea for a paperless classroom. Well, the more I read, and the more I pondered, I realized this was something I too wanted to achieve. So I set about in search of the tools I would need to accomplish this goal.
Now at this point I had already been using my (old) blog to post announcements and homework, and our Ning (sorry it’s a private community) to post discussions. I am also lucky enough to have a school subscription to Turnitin.com (something I cannot recommend enough if your school can swing it) for major essays and peer editing, but I knew there had to be a better way for students to submit their daily homework. Until this point they had been bringing in the questions/answers to class in hard copy form. One thing I frequently noticed was how many students were typing their homework. So it seemed like a natural progression to offer some sort of online submission venue.
I did a bit of research and found Moodle. Now you must know that I am extremely lucky to be married to a computer programmer. That means that I have access to many things most teachers do not. So when I approached my husband about setting up Moodle on our server he said no problem. On a Sunday morning he and a programmer friend set-up the entire system on our server. Wow. How much do we love open source code? Unfortunately when I started playing with the system I realized how complex it is, so much so that I knew my students would not navigate it with ease (more on the myths of gen Y’s computers literacy, or lack there of, in a later post). So once again, my search continued to find a better, easier way for students to submit daily homework.
That’s where Drop.io comes in. With Drop.io I am able to set-up “drops” where files can be uploaded. They allow file uploads of up to 100 MB!! That’s huge and something you will rarely ever use in the education community. They offer so many good features, but for my purposes the best part is that I can have “secret” drops, and taking that even further, simply embed the upload link into my student’s site. Go here for an example. Why is this important? When I first explained to my husband (remember, non-educator) what I wanted to do, his reaction was “now you are going to make it even simpler for them to copy each other? Right, if I simply let them post their homework to a site where they all know the address, each of them has access to everyone’s paper. With Drop.io’s system none of them even knows the site address. It’s really a beautiful thing.
Some of you are probably scratching your heads, asking why don’t I just use Turnitin.com for all of this. Well, sure I could, however Turnitin.com’s system is complex (in a good/bad way). Unfortunately I would be spending at least 30 min. per day setting up assignments Turnitin’s system, EACH day. I would have to remember the assignment title, due date, etc., etc. With Drop.io the onus is on the student. All I do is sit back and watch the assignments get uploaded. It has really simplified my classroom.
Ok, so what about students who don’t have super easy access to computer or the Internet. Look, honestly, I teach at a Title 1 school, and even there it is very rare for students not to have some access. But in those rare instances there are a number of computers available at school. My students know that I rarely leave my classroom and they are always welcome to use the couple of computers I have. No, it isn’t the best situation for them, however, they need to get used to it now, because technology, and the need for basic computer skills, are not going to go away.
I’ll be writing more about my paperless classroom ideas/progress in the future. At this point however I must say that Drop.io has been an incredible tool helping me achieve that goal.