Technology Tools for Academics: Dropbox

If you need to share a big file, or have access to your files from anywhere, or share a bunch of photos or videos, or are paranoid about backing up, Dropbox is for you. I don’t want to spend too much time going over how to use it–it’s not that complicated. What I’d like to do is talk about how I’ve used it, or seen it used.

Dropbox allows you to store files online, but also–more usefully–to basically sync these with your computers so they also exist on there. In other words, if I have a Dropbox folder on my desktop at work, and another one on my laptop at home, and I can pretty much move between them and change files. When Dropbox syncs, it updates the changed files. It’s just that simple. Here’s a great post from Ryan Cordell at ProfHacker on using Dropbox as backup. It’s about two years old, but still holds good.

I’ve seen different uses. Someone once emailed the ling anth listserv to ask us to help identify languages on video clips they were using for a class (excellent crowdsourcing skills). The files were set up in a public Dropbox folder. They sent us a link, we clicked on it, and bam! We were in the folder.

I’ve used the same function to share large files, such as a presentation, my dissertation, and anything too big for my email to handle. It works sweetly. I recently shared a downloaded Prezi (as a zip file) that was too big to email via my Dropbox public folder. Just put the file in your Dropbox folder, right click to generate a link, and email the link to the person you want to share the file with. When they click on the link, they will get a download window with the zip file in it.

There are also Dropbox apps for iPhone and iPad.

I haven’t yet used it for teaching, but I like Moodle and it does pretty much anything I need it do. However, if you don’t have (or don’t like) your e-learning platform, Dropbox would work as a place to share files with students, or a way for them to share files with you via their public folders.

I used Dropbox recently (Oct 2012) to collaborate with a colleague on something we were working on together. I simply created a folder with all the files we were using, then shared the folder with him. It worked excellently. We both worked on the same files, and the folder sat on our desktops, so we didn’t have to log into Dropbox each time. It worked just like any other desktop folder. We were able to keep track of changes to the documents through the website–if you log into Dropbox, it will tell you when the file was last changed. So if you are collaborating with someone on work, Dropbox is a very good collaborative tool.

The even shorter version:

  1. Dropbox is cool
  2. Dropbox syncs between computers and is great backup for that dissertation/journal article/book chapter
  3. You can easily share files that are too big to mail
  4. Potentially a useful teaching tool
  5. Apps
  6. Collaborative work made easier

And if you click the link in the first paragraph, I get some free space 😉

Do try it. Unlike a lot of services out there, this one’s actually useful. And it’s free!*

*The basic version.

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One Response to Technology Tools for Academics: Dropbox

  1. Pingback: Technology Tools for Academics: Prezi « anthrocharya

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