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MERLOT II


    

Peer Review


Dropbox

by Drew Houston
 

Ratings

Overall Rating:

5 stars
Content Quality: 5 stars
Effectiveness: 5 stars
Ease of Use: 5 stars
Reviewed: Jun 26, 2011 by Teacher Education
Overview: Dropbox is a free online file storage service that lets people bring their documents, photos and videos anywhere via their computers, mobile devices, and/or tablets. Any file saved to Dropbox also instantly saves to the user's computer, phone, and online Dropbox website. Dropbox service is available in English, French, German, and Japanese. It is free for Mac, Windows, and Linux.
Learning Goals: The goal of Dropbox is in its motto: "Your life's work, wherever you are." Dropbox organizes and protects file storage across multiple devices providing efficient use of time for users. Students and teachers can upload documents to the web for use on other computers/cell phones/tablets. This saves emailing the files to yourself if you want to work on them and are not at your major computer. Because you can give access to your files to others it can also be used for group work.
Target Student Population: Middle school through university students; All educators preK-university.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: From the dropbox web site: The Dropbox application runs on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux operating systems. To run the Dropbox application on your computer we recommend: •At least 512MB of RAM •Free space on your computer equal to your Dropbox storage quota. •Windows 2003, Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7 (32 and 64-bit). •Mac: OS X Tiger (10.4) or later. •Ubuntu 7.10+ and Fedora Core 9+. We also offer the source code for the Nautilus installer. This way, you can compile and run the installer on many other versions of Linux too. We've had users report success compiling Dropbox on Debian, OpenSUSE, Arch Linux, Gentoo as well as several other distributions of Linux
Type of Material: Social networking tool/utility
Recommended Uses: The main uses for Dropbox include: accessing files while "on the go" or traveling, editing files, uploading photos and videos to a centralized place, and sharing files across devices and, if needed, multiple users. This can be used as a password-protected "super wiki" with student uploading and modifying files. It can also help when students develop work on their home computer and want to use the files at school, or develop files at school that they want to use at home.
Technical Requirements: From the dropbox web site: The Dropbox application runs on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux operating systems. To run the Dropbox application on your computer we recommend: •At least 512MB of RAM •Free space on your computer equal to your Dropbox storage quota. •Windows 2003, Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7 (32 and 64-bit). •Mac: OS X Tiger (10.4) or later. •Ubuntu 7.10+ and Fedora Core 9+. We also offer the source code for the Nautilus installer. This way, you can compile and run the installer on many other versions of Linux too. We've had users report success compiling Dropbox on Debian, OpenSUSE, Arch Linux, Gentoo as well as several other distributions of Linux

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: The range of mobility across multiple devices (iPhone, iPad, Android, and Blackberry) and compatibility with computer operating systems (Mac, Windows, and Linux) are huge strengths for this storage utility. Furthermore, the security of this utility is strong. Dropbox keeps a one-month history of work for the user. Any changes can be undone, and files can be undeleted. All transmission of file data occurs over an encrypted channel (SSL) and all files stored on Dropbox are encrypted (AES-256). Users get 2GB of Dropbox for free, with subscriptions up 100GB available. And, Dropbox works even when the user is offline. Users always have their files whether or not they have a connection. As in all online work, educators using Dropbox would certainly inform students about appropriate files to use with the given assignment.
Concerns: Students should be advised that, although the program strives to make their work available only to those they elect, nothing is 100% secure on the web. No confidental files should be uploaded to the dropbox. There may be a good "teaching moment" to discuss this in the class.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: Sharing and collaboration are the two main strengths of Dropbox for teaching potential. Shared folders can be established within Dropbox for immediate access, use, and viewing by others. For collaborations among educators and/or their students, this is extremely efficient and productive. Users are able to see other people's changes in the shared folders instantly. Photo galleries or electronic portfolio files can be viewed by anyone the viewer chooses. And users have the capability of sending a link to any file in their Dropbox using their Public Folder. As in any education setting, the instructor should establish expectations and parameters for use of this tool at the beginning of its use. Just putting files on the Internet in itself is not a sufficient learning goal. However, used in conjunction with a well-developed lesson plan this utility can take away some of the mechanical problems in working with files.
Concerns: None.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: The Dropbox web site is organized and clear with specific links for what Dropbox is, how to get started, accessing files, sharing, and finding help. Information for pricing, features, tour, and installing is included. Actually setting up an account is very easy and guided. This reviewer would recommend setting up Dropbox on your main computer first and then downloading the apps for your mobile devices second. That way all you need to do is login using the account you established on your main computer. The same procedure works well for creating private folders, too. Having the folders already created on the main computer, allows for quick and immediate use on the mobile devices. Following Dropbox on Facebook, Twitter, and its own wiki allows users to stay current and find answers to questions they may have. Dropbox has been rated one of the top educational apps for the iPad. It makes file sharing between home and school, and among different computers and mobile devices very easy.
Concerns: On the iPad, it is a little more difficult to make private folders because there is no mouse. Once the private folders are made, then the rest is easy.

Other Issues and Comments: This has been rated one of the top educational apps for the iPad. It can make file sharing between home and school, and among different computers, very easy.